Wednesday, December 27, 2006

AKA Year in Review 2006: The Movies – Part Two

Time for the rest of my dirty dozen. Let’s get on with it:

Snakes on a Plane – The movie that was supposed to change the way that films were marketed, and was then deemed a flop when the massive online push for this modern-day B-movie was not enough to make it a hit. Who gives a shit about box office? This was still great, unashamed popcorn movie-making. Sam Jackson spends a sprightly and hugely-enjoyable 105 minutes getting some motherfucking snakes off a motherfucking plane. It’s time to open some windows…

Thank You For Smoking – Aaron Eckhart at his fast-talking, scumbag best, as the leading spokesman for Big Tobacco, beset on all sides by a stupendous supporting cast made up of Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Maria Bello and Rob Lowe, amongst others. Maybe not as smart and as funny as it thinks it is, but still smart and funny enough to make my Top Twelve.

United 93 – Paul Greengrass’s clinical dissection of the events of 9/11, with the focus on the fourth plane. Never judgmental, and all the more powerful for it. The line between documentary and fiction is blurred to leave a painful exploration of an important moment in recent history. Everyone needs to see this.

V for Vendetta – Comic book adaptations are notoriously hit-and-miss. When you add Alan Moore adaptations to the mix, the misses far outweigh the hits. After all, comics have an unlimited effects budget, and the only limitations are the creative ones in the mind of the writer. I went into V for Vendetta expecting the worst, and ended up being delighted by it. Hugo Weaving is masterful as the titular V, in a performance of subtle physical acting, using his impassive porcelain mask as an asset, rather than being hindered by it, and the subtext of Thatcher’s Britain updated to Blair’s Britain didn’t hurt one bit. Remember, people should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Wolf Creek – A movie I finally caught up with on DVD. Where most horror movies use well-worn variations on long-established genre tropes such as the things hidden in the black of night and the claustrophobic confines of the cabin in the woods, Wolf Creek spins it around to the vast, endless expanses of the Australian outback in the blinding bright light of the brutal sun, and there’s still no-one coming to the rescue. With one single, solitary line of appropriated dialogue, John Jarratt becomes of the great movie monsters. That’s not a knife, this is a knife!

Zatôichi the Fugitive (Zatôichi Kyôjô Tabi)
– Made in 1963, and I finally got to see it in 2006. In the only night of pure self-indulgence I allowed myself this year, I settled in for an evening of cult Japanese movies at the NFT, one of which was this, the fourth entry in the long-running series about the blind swordsman. There are no words to describe the brilliance of Shintaro Katsu as Zatôichi. My face hurt from the perpetual grin I had smeared across my face watching this. Perfection.

And that’s almost a wrap. If everything had gone according to plan, this would have been posted before Christmas, and I would have ended things with the final part of the Sucker Punch Christmas Advent Calendar Funk Nuggets. But everything seems to accelerate out of my control before Christmas, and this got side-lined. And then on Christmas Day, I heard that one of my musical heroes had died. So this final piece of funk history should be given to Soul Brother Number One, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Please Please Please, Minister of the New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Dynamite, The Boss, The Godfather of Soul and a man who was the living embodiment of the funk. Mr. James Brown, take it to the bridge…

Thursday, December 21, 2006

AKA Year in Review 2006: The Movies – Part One

The end of 2006 is almost upon us, so it’s time once again to hurl my body onto the burning embers of another year’s worth of popular culture. I notice that I didn’t do this last year, and that this is the first time I’ve done this since 2004. Then, like now, I’ve opted for a Top Twelve rather than a Top Ten. But, before I unveil the list, a few observations…

This year I saw far, far fewer movies than I have in previous years. There are many reasons for this: I was less enthused with what was available to me at any given moment; I seem to have less time to indulge myself; I’m tired. I don’t know where all my leisure time has evaporated to. Some serious lifestyle changes are needed for 2007, but I’ll save that for a different blog entry.

With that in mind, my Top Twelve is composed of what I have seen this year, without cleaving strictly to release dates. Some of this stuff I caught up with on DVD long after original theatrical release, and there’s a wild card as my twelfth entry on the list, as it was something that was made in 1963. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

As a result of my much-reduced movie-viewing (something I hope to address next year), there are some notable omissions – movies that I would imagine would have had a damn good shot at appearing on my Best of The Year list had I seen them. Missing in action, then, are Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, Joon-ho Bong’s The Host, Kevin Smith’s Clerks II, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver. Well, there’s always next year.

So in alphabetical order, here is the first half of my Top Twelve:

The Black Dahlia – Much-maligned on release, and not without justification, this movie is a colossal mess. The four lead roles are horribly miscast. Fiona Shaw’s manic, mannered performance looks like it has wandered over from another movie entirely. There is far too much plot and story vying for attention that it never really gets. It’s all over the place. That doesn’t stop Brian De Palma’s adaptation of the first part of James Ellroy’s LA Quartet from ending up in my Top Twelve. Audiences looking for noir ended up getting pulp instead, and that’s fine by me. I do so love me some pulp. It may be a mess, but I still loved it.

Casino Royale – Or, as I like to call it, Bond Begins. The icons need rejuvenating now and again. Sometimes it works (Batman Begins, the Doctor Who relaunch) and sometimes it doesn't (Superman Returns, the BBC’s Robin Hood relaunch). Casino Royale worked. Bond films are always entertaining diversions, but they’re rarely rewatchable. You just wander out of the cinema having enjoyed yourself, and forget all about it. Casino Royale strips away all the barnacles that have become encrusted on the 007 mythos over the decades (the gadgets, the girls, the suave debonair one-liners), and takes Bond back to basics. Daniel Craig is phenomenal, playing Bond as a bestial brute of a man. In a neat inversion of the formula, Craig becomes the eye-candy rather than the women, his body a rippling mass of cuts, bruises, cartilage and lethal simian musculature. He fails as often as he succeeds, but fights on with determination and animal cunning. I’d watch it again.

Hidden (Caché) – Michael Haneke’s tale of a middle-class French family terrorised by anonymous videocassettes delivered to their home is both ice-cold and razor-sharp in its forensic dissection of paranoia, guilt, culpability, and personal responsibility. Unsettling and truly brilliant, Hidden would make a nifty double-bill with David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Inside Man – A heist movie to rank up there with the greats like Dog Day Afternoon (an obvious touchstone for this latest Spike Lee joint). To discuss it would be to spoil it, but I will say that Lee manages to create an exhilarating genre piece that still manages to seamlessly weave in dead-on observations about violence, the media, corporate America and living in post-9/11 New York. Glorious.

Little Children
– An examination of middles-class ennui that makes American Beauty look like the over-praised, overly-mannered Plastic Bag Full Of Nothing that I’ve always known it to be. Aside from the irritating and intrusive omniscient narrator that keeps popping up, this is a corker of a film with possibly Kate Winslet’s finest performance ever. So, so good.

Me and You and Everyone We Know – I have grown to loath the word “quirky”. It has become an all-purpose word that has lost its meaning. It’s hurled at anything that dares to be different or shuns formula and cliché. Miranda July’s beautiful look at how people interact and ache for intimacy and love is exactly the sort of movie that has probably been described as “quirky” many, many times. I would rather call it lovely, funny and uplifting.

The other six to follow. But before I leave, it’s time to get on the good foot with the Sucker Punch Christmas Advent Calendar Funk Nuggets! Today, I bring you the manly Minneapolis funk of Morris Day and The Time, the only band that could make Prince quake in his high heels. Everyone knows Jungle Love and The Bird, so I’ve gone instead for Jerk Out. From 1990, when the original line-up was reunited for Graffiti Bridge, here are those magnificent seven shameless hipsters making fools out of themselves and chasing girls. Oh Lawd…

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Peter Boyle 1935 – 2006

Holy crap. Peter Boyle died.

To most people, Peter Boyle will be forever known as the perpetually grumpy Frank, the curmudgeon always prepared to fire off a withering putdown as the patriarch of the dysfunctional Barone clan in Everybody Loves Raymond.

But for me, Frank Barone was just another chapter in the long and wonderful screen career of a fine character actor whose performances have tweaked my pleasure centres for decades. Even his briefest appearances struck a chord and stayed with me. The role of Wizard, the philosophical hackie who passes on his street-corner wisdom to the simmering Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver is a relatively small one, but it remains an unforgettable scene in a movie crammed full of them.

“You get a job. You become the job.”
Peter Boyle as Wizard in Taxi Driver


His broad glistening bald pate with the wisps of hair framing it on the sides, his immense grin, the eyes that could twinkle with either mirth or malevolence (or both at the same time) – whenever Peter Boyle appeared on-screen, you knew that you would be in for something to savour. Personal favourites include the tremendous Seventies caper movie Slither, and his showing as the standard-issue shouty police commander in Walter Hill’s Red Heat. He steals every scene from Bill Murray in Where The Buffalo Roam, despite the fact that Murray is superb as the good Dr. Gonzo himself, Hunter S. Thompson, and Boyle still manages to eclipse his efforts with a manic, wild-eyed, utterly hilarious performance as Carl Lazlo, a thinly-disguised portrayal of Thompson’s friend Oscar Acosta. But there are two films in particular that I can watch again and again and just revel in Boyle’s mastery of comic timing.

“I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me. Out of my way, asshole.”
Peter Boyle as Jack McDermott in The Dream Team


The first is The Dream Team, where he plays Jack McDermott, a former advertising executive with a predilection for undressing at inopportune times and who now believes he is God, set loose on the streets of New York with fellow crazies Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Furst. (All four of them are just terrific in this movie). Truly wonderful stuff.

“This is the body and blood of our saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. And a damned fine Beaujolais!”
Peter Boyle as Jack McDermott in The Dream Team


The other movie is, of course, Young Frankenstein. What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? Nothing at all. So, in a break from the onslaught of funk music I’ve been hurling up here all month, I leave you with this moment of comedy gold. Peter Boyle. Gene Wilder. Putting On The Ritz.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stray Bullet Points

Ola! I’m back with some bits and pieces from Barcelona. It has been harder than I thought to weld all this stuff into something resembling a compelling narrative. The narrative part is easy. Making anyone other than me give a shit has proved much tougher. (This is what happens when you take three months off blogging and retreat to the harmless confines of the just-for-me paper-and-pen journal.)

The last time I left you hanging, I was heading for the airport armed with nothing more than a bagful of essentials and the rudimentary Spanish I’ve picked up watching Dora The Explorer with Buttercup. But there’s not enough meat on the story of my trip to write this out as a travelogue of “I did this, and then I saw that, and you wouldn’t believe what that motherfucker said to me then?”

When in doubt, go for short controlled bursts of easily-digestible highlights. It was a month ago now, so this is just an exercise in sense-memory and deciphering my disjointed notes. Enough of the cons, let’s get on with the prose:

The Schmooze – Years on from my time in the customer-facing world of retail, I thought I had lost the ability to talk unrelenting crap to complete strangers. I was wrong. It was as easy as ever to turn it on and turn it off. I just flicked my Internal Bullshit switch, and the effluent was flowing same as it ever was. I find that a bit disturbing…

Working the stand at the convention, I unleashed the closet carnival barker that must have been hibernating deep inside me for the last decade or so, and I was practically standing on tables shouting “Come and get some free shit!”. I was propping up the stand like a bartender, lubricated with free beer, doing some of that soft sell nonsense.

Man, that made me feel dirty. Never again. Forgive me. Marketing is for scum. I hereby permanently recuse myself from the ranks of the ScumPeople.

First Impressions
– In the spirit of fairness, I decided to give my colleagues a clean slate in Barcelona. No matter what I thought of them, I’d give them a fair shot to prove me wrong.

That was a colossal Waste Of Time. By the end of the week, I was having an internal conversation trying to decide whether Rainbow was a sleazy prick, or was he a scum-sucking fuck bag?

The Wednesday Night Party – More freeloaders eating plates of fried shit that you can only swallow with free beer. Also, the weird disconnect you get when the song on the sound system has nothing to do with the music videos playing on the large screens all over the place. It’s always disconcerting to see the video for We Are The World on mute, looking at Al Jarreau or Daryl Hall crooning earnestly into a microphone, when all you can hear is the thudding bass of Gwen Stefani on Hollaback Girl saying "This my shit" over and over and over again.

In a moment of serendipitous cosmic rebalancing, in the cab back to the hotel, the radio was playing John Denver. As I listened to him singing, I felt very, very homesick. “Take me home, country roads…”

Parting Shot – I did manage to get about five minutes to myself. One evening, I went to the roof of the hotel to take some photos. It was worth it. With all the money spent on so much unnecessary travel and food and software and bullshit, all the R&D, all the focus groups and extensive testing, NOTHING was as perfect and as beautiful as the one, free, pure thing I experienced that week. Sunset over Barcelona:



And we can finally say goodbye to all that. Thank Odin I’ve got that out of the way. Next time, something else. I promise. But before I go, lest we’ve all forgotten, it’s time for the Sucker Punch Christmas Advent Calendar Funk Nuggets! Back from the days when TV shows had the sound of screeching metal interspersed with the glorious madness of the wah-wah pedal, here is Laurie Johnson’s moment of funk immortality, The Professionals:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Too Much Coffee Man

This morning I drank three cups of strong, black coffee followed by a can of Red Bull.

Stupid. Very stupid.

Now I can hear my blood singing as it rockets around my veins, and I’m trying very hard not to grind my teeth. As a result, I’ll get back to that Barcelona stuff tomorrow or something. I can’t hold a thought down long enough to do anything useful today.

But I won’t leave you with nothing. Oh no. Here is the latest exciting instalment of the Sucker Punch Christmas Advent Calendar Funk Nuggets. This one is for my man B to wish him a Happy Birthday for tomorrow, because I know he loves this. Groove on, brother. Here are the Red Hot Chili Peppers with their cover of the Ohio Players’ Love Rollercoaster. Also, this record is the source of one of my favourite urban myths.

You give me that funny feeling in my tummy…

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bus Stop

I’ve been out of the country for the last week, but I’ll get to that some other time. I want to show you this first - this is what was happening in another timezone, right in front of the industrial estate / hellhole where I work.



Some background: In the early hours of last Wednesday, a bus pulled out of the bus station, straight through both lanes of traffic, whacked a car, went through a wall and straight into the offices at the front of our estate. (A tiny bit more detail can be found here).

But that’s not what makes this picture interesting to me. What amuses me is the ad for Saw III on the side of the bus, and the tag line: “This time…he’s pulling out all the stops!”

Juxtaposition – you gotta love it.

Robert Altman 1925 - 2006



"To play it safe is not to play."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

And stay out!



Change is good, isn’t it? Before Donald Rumsfeld leaves the news cycle for ever, let’s remind ourselves of some pearls from the swine:

“I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work.” - House Armed Services Committee hearings on February 15, 2005

“…as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know.” - Department of Defense news briefing, February 12, 2002

“I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty.” - The New Yorker, 17 June 2002

“Look at me! I'm sweet and lovable!” - Foreign Press Centre, 21 June 2002

Right then. Who’s next?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Them’s writin’ words

In the worlds before Monkey, primal chaos reigned.
Heaven sought order.
But the phoenix can fly only when its feathers are grown.
The four worlds formed again and yet again,
As endless aeons wheeled and passed.
Time and the pure essences of Heaven,
The moisture of the Earth,
The powers of the sun and the moon
All worked upon a certain rock, old as creation.
And it became magically fertile.
That first egg was named "Thought".
Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha, said,
"With our thoughts, we make the world."
Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch.
From it then came a stone monkey.
The nature of Monkey was irrepressible!


Maybe some kind of explanation is in order.

So, at some point leading up to June 8 2006, I looked Sucker Punch hard in the eyes and thought “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

I had other things I wanted to do with my words, both online and off, and Sucker Punch was gnawing away at a disproportionate amount of my headmeat, so I pulled the trigger on it, and it was gone. Easy, eh?

Well, no.

One of my plans had been to start another new blog, with a totally different remit. I played with this on and off for months, but the sort of thing I had planned would have been an even bigger timesuck than this was. So that idea died on the vine quite quickly.

The other ideas, though, took fruit. I was a writing machine, frantically chipping away at my latest idea. The working title is Rotten Timing and, the more I think about it, the more I like it. What’s it about? Well, it’s about time paradox and Buddhism and zombies and London and fate and sacrifice and love and kick-ass fight scenes. Amongst other things.

I want it to be a novel, but sometimes you have to let stories take you where they want to go and, despite my best story-wrangling efforts, it is fighting me to become a screenplay. You win this round, Story!

I’ve been reading and writing, writing and reading for the last three months, filling pages, solving problems and building worlds and, slowly, slowly, all the bits and pieces are coalescing into a bigger whole. I’m loving it.

But I can’t do that all the time. Sometimes I need to exercise (and exorcise) other, different writing muscles. And then I realised that there was somewhere where I could do exactly that and it was sitting fallow in a neglected corner of cyberspace. So I pulled open the shutters and threw up the sign reading “I ASSURE YOU, WE'RE OPEN”.

Because I am, and we are. I’m back for the long haul. I hope that you are too. It’s going to be fun. Promise.

One last chunk o’fun today:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

CSI: Cardiff

So, Torchwood

We’re three episodes into the “adult” spin-off of Doctor Who, building on the phenomenal success of Russell T. Davies’s relaunch of the much-loved BBC sci-fi classic, so now is as good a time as any to pin it to the table, stab a scalpel into its guts and see what we can find.

And I’ve been struggling all week to articulate exactly what it is about Torchwood that is bugging me. And I can’t.

It’s not just the lazy pilot episode Everything Changes, which is an uninspired imitation of the Doctor Who relaunch pilot Rose, following exactly the same path: A disenchanted woman (Rose / Gwen) is bored with her mundane life and her dreary boyfriend, until she is unwittingly hurled into the life of a mysterious charismatic stranger (The Doctor / Captain Jack Harkness) and a scary yet exhilarating world of aliens and monsters lurking around every corner.

It’s not just the transparent gimmick of having Gwen saddled with the thankless audience POV role, helping us wade through all that pesky world-building exposition. (Just like Rose in Doctor Who). Good writing should cleave to the maxim of “Show, Don’t Tell”, rather than having the characters sitting around explaining everything.

It’s not just Davies’s self-indulgent insistence on having a different member of the core cast engaged in a same-sex kiss in every episode for no apparent reason.

It’s not just the truly risible second episode Day One, which confirmed all my worst fears of what an “adult” show would mean. The orgasm monster, or whatever the fuck it was, was a horrible idea. The men reduced to little piles of dust after climax was a laughable visual. Silly me, I thought “adult” meant grown-up, intelligent entertainment, as opposed to bolting gratuitous sex onto bog-standard evil alien set-ups.

It’s not just the fact that I think Davies has failed to capitalise on one of his biggest assets in the character of Captain Jack Harkness. In Doctor Who, Jack was the ideal foil for the Doctor. Whilst the Doctor is an adventurer and scientist with a dry wit and unapologetically quirky ways, Jack was his mirror image - a swashbuckling con-man overflowing with charisma and gung-ho machismo. Jack is rampantly pansexual, whilst the Doctor is virtually asexual. In Torchwood, Davies has dumped all of that characterisation, and Jack has become a much darker, brooding figure. Granted, there may be a story-driven reason for this, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

And, in fairness, the show is getting better. It has its moments. It’s OK. It’s thoroughly watchable. But I’m still disappointed by the whole package. And yesterday I finally worked out why that is.

Nigel Kneale, the creator of the Quatermass series, died yesterday. And Warren Ellis posted a small obit on his website on Kneale and the cultural impact of Quatermass. Here’s a small excerpt: “…Britain used to shut down on Quatermass night, and it’s all people would talk about the next day.

And that was down to Nigel Kneale, last of a generation of writers for British television who were determined that this common culture should always be entertaining, intelligent, challenging and groundbreaking.”


Ellis nailed it. That’s my problem with Torchwood. Despite Davies’s claims that the show is “dark, clever, wild, sexy”, it’s just not dark or clever or wild or sexy enough. It’s perfectly serviceable, but it is startlingly unambitious television. What could have been a wonderful opportunity to challenge us with a smart genre piece has been squandered on endless sequences of Men in Black running around the streets of Cardiff, labouring under the weight of an oppressive score and some shonky special effects.

In the pilot episode, Captain Jack proclaims that “The 21st Century is when everything changes, and you gotta be ready.”

Well, I’m ready. And still waiting…

Monday, October 30, 2006

Drunk Man Walking

From my office window, I can see the murky, rancid waters of the Grand Union Canal. It’s awful. It’s just filthy brown water, full of plastic bags and coconuts, topped off with a grimy meniscus of duck feathers stuck in a greasy rainbow of oil that’s trickled down from the car repair place next door.

On the other side of the canal, on a stretch of pavement stained with calcified duck shit and discarded bottles of cheap Polish beer, there is a solitary piece of messily scrawled graffito. It reads “The Truth Is Out There.”

It’s been there for a while now and, due to the combined abuse of the sun, the rain, and the relentless scuffing of feet, it’s starting to fade. But, for now, it’s still there.

This morning, though, there was something different. At about 8.30, there was a human head poking out of the canal, thinning white hair slapping against the brown ripples of the canal.

By 9, the corpse was laid out flat on the pavement, surrounded by a small contingent of TV cameras and policemen. The cops said that it looked like he’d been in the canal between 8 and 10 hours. At a guess, I’d say that he was walking home from the pub last night and fell into the canal, too drunk to get himself out.

I’ve scoured the news sites all day and I can’t find anything. I suppose a drunk drowning doesn’t merit any coverage.

By lunchtime, the body was gone, whisked away to who-knows-where. I walked down there. There wasn’t a trace of the body that had been there mere hours earlier. Just a wet, body-shaped stain slowly drying.

Why am I writing all this down? What does it mean? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe it means “life is short”. Maybe it means “don’t walk by the canal when you’ve been drinking all night”. You can take whatever you want from it.

To me, it means “Make it count. All of it. Make the journey just as important as the destination.”

But what the hell do I know?

Return of the Mack

There are many things I could say. Reasons and excuses, glorious truths and brazen lies, and many, many other things…

I could say that you should never irrevocably close off a valid outlet for the manifold ruminations that skitter across the rippling grey mass between the ears.

I could say that this beats scrawling rude words on the walls of public toilets.

I could say that I’ve been thinking about this for a long, long time.

I could just say that I’ve missed you…

But I’m not going to, because all of that would detract your attention from the most important message I want to impart…

I’m BACK!

Oh yes.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This is the end, my friend

This will be the 236th and final blog posting on Sucker Punch.

This is not an impulsive decision. This is something I have been thinking about for many months. In an attempt to reinvent and streamline my daily life, it was time to shake things up, change things around, and take that jump off a cliff.

Sucker Punch has outlived its usefulness. I don’t need it any more. Neither do you. There are new mountains to climb, instead of trying to plough the same ol’ furrow on an irregular basis.

I hope you’ve enjoyed coming here as much as I have enjoyed writing here. If you have been here more than once, then Thank You for indulging some of my more skewed flights of whimsy and strangeness over the last few years. But we had some fun, didn't we?

I have no doubt that I will blog again at some point in the not-too-distant future. And when I do, it will have my real name slapped on to it. No more hiding behind a flimsy alias. Time to stand by my words with a big badge pinned to my chest, proudly proclaiming who I am once more.

This is not an ending. This is a new beginning. There are other, new, different and exciting words to write. Somewhere else. So keep your eyes open. The Internet is a Small World, and you never know where I might pop up next…

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pain In The Grass

Seasonal allergic rhinitis. Pollinosis. Hay Fever. Call it what you like. Me? I call it a month of neverending discomfort and nasal horrors.

I wake up every morning with my eyes glued shut like the cast of Facial Humiliation after a particularly gruelling shoot. After scraping the gunk away so that I can finally see again, my eyes remain puffy, swollen, itchy and ever so-slightly watery for the rest of the day.

I have to splash my face, hands and hair with water regularly throughout the day to get rid of any stray pollen that has decided to take up residence on my person in an attempt to make my whole body rebel in snotty anguish.

The sides of my nose are forever tender from blowing, wiping and removing the copious amounts of mucus that I seem to be generating. On particularly unlucky days, I get a nosebleed too.

Hay fever sufferers can never really enjoy the good weather of the summer, because of all the unpleasant side-effects.

The pollen forecast for the immediate future remains on High Alert.
And all the anti-histamine in the world isn’t going to save me from a world of pain.

Give me an arctic cold winter, a raging fireplace, a good book and a generous tumbler of bourbon over this bullshit. What have I got instead? A host of physical annoyances, made infinitely worse with the constant intrusion of either Big Fucking Brother or the World Fucking Cup, straddling the popular consciousness of the nation like two over-fed, brain-addled colossi, raining shit down onto our heads at irregular intervals.

Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Devil's Advocate

It is the sum of the squares of the first seven prime numbers.

It is said to be the Number of the Beast, based on the Old Testament Book of Revelation 13:17-18.

It is the sum of all the numbers on a typical roulette wheel.

It is also a marketing hook for the shonky-looking remake of The Omen.

If you suffered from hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, you would probably be hiding under your duvet, shitting yourself violently right now.

But, for all of those sweating from a surfeit of superstition, and who are hobbled by an abiding love of dubious folklore and specious numerology, remember: it’s just a number. Let’s say it again. It. Is. Just. A. Number.

And, today’s date? It is 06/06/2006. Not 666. OK? OK.

Resume your normal daily routines. However, I would recommend avoiding angry crows and large sheets of glass if at all possible.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Desmond Dekker 1941 – 2006



"I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde."

Details here and here.

Speechless and gutted. I know what I'll be listening to for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Final Punch Playlist

OK. Further to my earlier blatherings, and in the Spirit of the New, this is the last Punch Playlist. Far too much of the blog is being devoured by details of my aurgasms these days, and it has to go. In a clutter-clearing exercise, I’m taking this short-lived feature out the back and terminating it with extreme prejudice. In the exceptionally unlikely event that you still care about what I’m listening to on a regular basis, you can refer to the Funk Fiction box halfway down the right-hand side of the page.

And so, here is the Punch Playlist Special Swansong Edition:

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

Projectiles

Be warned: Lots of thinking out loud coming up…

“Learn to write well, or not to write at all.” John Dryden

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last had something published with my name attached to it. My last published article (a film review) was actually a pretty good piece. I can tell by reading it again, though, that I was ready to holster my keyboard and hang up my spurs for a while.

The article was the last in a run of twelve reviews written in the space of about a year for a music website. For that year, I held the title of “Film Editor” for that website, which was just a meaningless euphemism for “The Only Guy Who Really Writes About Film For This Site”.

So, I walked. (Not that anyone noticed). Partly due to circumstance, partly due to personal desire, partly due to changes behind the scenes. I knew I was done with film journalism. Maybe permanently, maybe I only needed a break to get the blood pumping again. Either way, I needed to walk away for a bit. Now, that may sound like an ending to you. To me? Sounds just like a beginning…

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” Cyril Connolly


Nevertheless, a writer writes, right? I can’t not write. I don’t know how to. It’s a compulsion. If I don’t write for a couple of days, I get restless and twitchy and need to get the words out to keep myself sane. A curse or a gift, depending on which way the wind is blowing on any given day.

So, with the film journalism on the shelf indefinitely (maybe even permanently), my mind wandered onto thoughts of What Happens Next. And it didn’t take me long to decide. I was going to take myself out of the game for a while. No pitching, no structure, no editorial constraints, nothing. Just me and words for the foreseeable future. If I just ended up with a shapeless mess of language, all jagged edges and lumpy blobs? No problem. It’s all a writing exercise. Gets the juices running. Gets the synapses sparking.

Hell, it’s all writing exercises. Film reviews? It’s writing to length, to house style, getting to the point, keeping it accessible, try to entertain, try to keep a bit of yourself in there. Blogging? Scribbling on scraps of paper? They’re all writing exercises, if you allow them to be. Nothing is a waste, everything has a purpose.

And it’s been good. I’ve had the freedom to dick around endlessly with whatever takes my fancy. And it’s all just for me. Learnt a few tricks and got a few things out of my system. But I’m getting that gnawing itch again. Time to jump off a cliff and think about What Happens Next again.

The Year of Film Reviewing for a Totally Inappropriate Website is sooooo 2004, and long gone. And now, The Year of Self-Indulgent Word Wankery is also drawing to a close. So, what next?

Well, it’s time for The Year of The Project. Get my name back out there. Impose structure once more. I’ve been playing with the art of writing for long enough. Now is the time to get back into the craft of it.

And ideas? Man, I gotta bunch of ‘em…

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.” Neil Gaiman

So, this is it. Day One of my New Year. Film journalism will be back on my slate of projects for the coming months, but not in the way it has been in the past. Not quite ready to make any announcements about that yet.

Short stories, comic scripts, screenplays, long-form novels….it all starts here. I’ll spend a while pulling together all the disparate threads I’ve cast out over the last year, and when they are nice and taut, twanging with tension, then the work begins. But it’s not really work if you enjoy it so much, is it?

“I am a galley slave to pen and ink.” Honore de Balzac


Something worth mentioning: One of the many things that has inspired me recently, for many reasons, is Monster Island by David Wellington. A novel originally written and published online as blog postings, it has recently been published as a print edition. And it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Want a quick bite-sized one-sentence review? OK: If Charles Dickens was a New Yorker who wrote zombie stories, he’d write Monster Island.

Monster Island bear-hugs every zombie cliché imaginable, before spinning them on their rotting heads and weaving something consistently surprising and original with every inventive twist and turn of the story. As it was published as blog entries over a period of time, almost every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, pushing you forward to the next bit. And, like every true Romero acolyte, Wellington doesn’t use the word “zombie” once. Top man.

And it’s made me think about the nature of serial fiction quite a lot. Monster Island, like the work of Dickens, started out as serialised fiction, which forced the author to think about making every scene and moment count, ensuring that you return for the next bit. So that’s got my wheels turning too…

The best bit? You can read Monster Island in its entirety online right now, for free. And the two sequels in the trilogy. And his latest, currently incomplete story, Thirteen Bullets.

Me? I’m old-school, so I’m forcing myself to wait until Monster Nation is in print later on this year before I dive into the second novel in the series. Also, the man deserves my money for giving me such a damned good read. I’m so tempted to nip into Chapter One though…

Anyway, enough of my yakking. There is work to be done.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Punch Playlist 12/05/06

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

It took me three full listens to get to grips with the Gnarls Barkley album, but I think I’ve finally cracked it. I’m a Danger Mouse fan anyway, so I just had to grab it by the guts and cram it into my ears until I yielded. It is, as they say, a grower. Obviously, I have the loping, heroically infectious pop of Crazy skipping around in my head now, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that...

Also, this seems as good a place as any to talk about my reignited passion for The Ink Spots, with their innovative melange of bluegrass, blues, doo-wop and jazz, swathed in irresistible vocal harmonies, particularly in their early stretch of hits from the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. In addition to the hypnotically mellifluous Whispering Grass, they are the legends behind the best song ever written about coffee ever. Yes. Ever.

Proof? Here’s a snippet of the masterpiece known as Java Jive:

“I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops Mr. Moto, I’m a coffee pot
Shoot the pot and I’ll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Oh slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
And I’ll cut a rug just snug in a jug
A sliced up onion and a raw one
Draw one -
Waiter, waiter, percolator”

Obviously, this is better when you hear them singing it. Honest. No, really. Trust me.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The 'Show

After 26 years, London comic shop Comic Showcase is closing its doors for the last time…



Another London landmark freighted with memories is going to disappear, as my ever-evolving metropolis chews up some more real estate and spits it out looking like, no doubt, another Starbucks or something else the Big Smoke doesn’t really need.

As a young boy, when I was first hypnotically entranced by the monthly adventures of Stan Lee’s radioactive children, like many, many others, I used to depend on the local newsagent for my regular fix of sound effects that could shatter panel borders, with the reassuring sound of a “Thwip!”, a “Snikt!” or a “Bamf!”, or the rallying battle cries of “Avengers Assemble!” or “It’s Clobberin’ Time!”

But newsagents weren’t enough. It was easy to miss issues to the byzantine distribution methods that got American comics into British newsagents. But I discovered an alternative: shops that sold nothing but comics!

Occasionally, I managed to get my Dad to take me to two places that were ceiling to floor, wall to wall, four-colour picture palaces. The original Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street, and the original Comic Showcase on Neal Street, nestled in the margins of Covent Garden. Both stores were slightly crowded, messy, dusty, shambolic and utterly magical. I was always slightly awed by the Comic Showcase logo, a Brian Bolland-designed Joker fanning a deck of cards. I still absolutely love that picture.

Fast forward, and Comic Showcase relocates to its current and final resting place on Charing Cross Road, a prominent strip packed with book shops, and a perfect spot for passing trade, from locals to tourists. At the beginning of the decade, when me and many, many others were making a good living working in what was laughably referred to as “New Media”, before the dotcom bubble burst, Comic Showcase was a perfect central meeting point for lunchtime shenanigans.

Many a Thursday morning was spent with e-mails and IMs fired across London between B and I.

“Meet you 12.30pm at the ‘Show?”

After scooping up a small stack of comics, we would move on for coffee or pizza or maybe even a cheeky beer. But it started with an amble around The ‘Show.

Nowadays, I just don’t have the time to go and hunt down comics on a weekly basis. I just get them delivered to my door. But whenever I was in the vicinity, I always popped in to browse the racks.

And on Saturday, June 17th, it’s all over. By all accounts, the reason for closure is a 50% increase in rent, the leaseholders want to redevelop the area, and the management have decided not to relocate. (Another one of my favourite Charing Cross Road haunts, Murder One, has already moved across the street away from that strip).

Forbidden Planet may be bigger, Orbital may be cheaper, and Gosh! may have a broader selection of indies, but there was always something reassuring about Comic Showcase sitting right there in the middle of them all. I’ll have to make some time to get over there before they close to grab some of their going-out-of-business sale stock.

Farewell, Comic Showcase. Excelsior!

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Punch Playlist 08/05/06

Brand New Words are forthcoming, but I can't weave my addled thoughts together properly at the moment. I have been squeezing this stuff into my head in the meantime, however...

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Punch Playlist 02/05/06

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

Ballsalicious!

A brief interlude from my holiday reminiscences to bring you this tour de force from the weekend, which was far, far too good to ignore.

But first, the set-up (courtesy of Wikipedia): At the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, which was broadcast on C-SPAN and MSNBC, Stephen Colbert delivered a blistering satirical attack on the White House and the journalism establishment that left many of its audience, including President Bush, decisively uncomfortable and silent.

In a world where the news media is increasingly and shamefully timid and toothless, it takes a satirist to stand in front of Dubya and deliver a withering smack-down of ballsalicious proportions. I am awe-stuck and downright delighted.

A full transcript of Stephen Colbert’s routine can be found here.

Don't forget to go and say "Thank you Stephen Colbert!"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Punch Playlist 26/04/06

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

Save The Internet

If you care even the slightest about anything you do online and the future of the Internet, and especially if you are based in the US, I strongly urge you to click on the link below:

SAVE THE INTERNET

Big Brother is watching you. The fucker.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Punch Playlist 24/04/06

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts!

Many Happy Returns

“Don’t call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin’ my peers and puttin’ suckas in fear
Makin’ the tears rain down like a monsoon
Listen to the bass go boom”
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out


I have returned from the balmy embrace of Southern Italy, and I feel relaxed, rejuvenated, refreshed, rebooted and ready for battle.

My Impressions of Italy will follow later in the week, once I have made some time to decipher the scribblings in my notebook, and smashed enough words together to turn them into coherent sentences.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yeah But No But

Overheard on the way home this evening:

A mobile phone chirps.

Teenage Girl #1: (answers phone) Yeah, who is it?
Pause
Teenage Girl #1: Don’t be calling me on my phone, ya facking cunt!
Hangs Up
Teenage Girl #2: Who was that?
Teenage Girl #1: My gran.

Aaaaaand scene.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Unfriendly Fire

I know it’s been quiet around here lately, but the words, they are a-brewing. Oh, yes. Stewing in my brainpot to get nice and strong, bitter and toxic.

Anyway, I just found this article, hyperlinked below. I always think I’m some jaded cynic, but when I read things like this, that make me feel so fucking angry and upset, I realise that I’m probably just a naïve, blind, ignorant idealist who seems to keep forgetting how warped and doomed this world and its stupid people are. Get your rage on:

Gunned down: the teenager who dared to walk across his neighbour's prized lawn

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ev'rybody take it to the top

Wednesday night. I ventured out for a much-needed night in the Big Smoke. The rain was coming down hard and heavy that night. As soon as I strode out of the underground, pushed out into the evening at Piccadilly Circus, it was like putting on a favourite jacket. Comfortable and comforting, baggy and worn, conforming perfectly to my shape from a lifetime of use. Slipping London on over my shoulders, the cold shards of rain whipped at my hair and nipped at my skin, pinching me awake. The air was twitching with vibrating umbrellas, jerking from the onslaught of the rain. I hate umbrellas. Never use them. I like to feel the rain on me, and I always like to be able to see the sky, and get a good sense of the world around and above me.

Striding down Haymarket with water glancing off the leather and soaking into the denim, the superhuman slap-and-pop funk of the Brothers Johnson’s Stomp thrumming in my ears, it was one of those moments of inexplicable perfection when everything feels Just Right, a serendipitous confluence that leads to The Way That Things Should Be.

Five minutes later, and I was drying off in an auditorium in the ICA taking in Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mirrormask, a whimsical confection that riffs on everything from Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to Labyrinth, highly-stylised but lacking the human hook that makes you care about all the intricate and beautiful design work that’s gone into it. An interesting experiment, not without its charms, but I always felt that I was looking at something, and not immersing myself in it.

But the rain and the night and the city and the Stomp? I dissappeared into that like Cleopatra into a pool of luxurious ass milk.

(Do you have any idea how much fun it is to type the words “luxurious ass milk”?)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Gordon Parks 1912 - 2006



Anyone who knows me knows that Shaft is my favourite film of all-time. There are a multitude of reasons why, and I'm positive I've mentioned a handful of them here many times over the years.

Gordon Parks was a hugely talented man, and, along with Ernest Tidyman, Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree, one of the main architects of that iconic piece of pop culture history. But Shaft was only a small part of his life's work. Photographer, writer, director, musician...Parks was endlessly gifted.

"You know, the camera is not meant just to show misery," Parks said in a 1998 interview. "You can show things that you like about the universe, things that you hate about the universe. It's capable of doing both."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It’s Just A Ride

In the early 90s, I was fortunate enough to see Bill Hicks perform live, not once but twice, in the West End. It is not an overstatement to say that both those nights were life-changing experiences for me. Not a month goes by without me slipping on one of his albums and immersing myself in his words.

He was more than a comedian (although I’m sure he would have disputed that), and his routines remain vital and powerful, due to the timelessness of the material: The War in Iraq, the Bush presidency, the corruption of popular culture, the skewed agenda of news media. And, of course, they were damn funny. The world hasn’t come a long way since the days when Bill Hicks was one of our most perceptive and articulate commentators.

I am grateful every day that I got the opportunity to see him weave his magic over a packed house. When he was on fire, he could hold a room in his grasp for hours, luring you in with dick jokes, before seamlessly moving on to more substantial material, the roaring laughter giving way imperceptibly to a hypnotised silence.

He was 32 when he died. I’m going to be 34 this year. I find it hard to reconcile those two facts sometimes. For some reason I can’t quite nail down, the following segment from one of his shows has been gnawing away at me today, and I wanted to share it with you.

“The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, 'Hey – don't worry, don't be afraid ever, because this is just a ride ...' And we ... kill those people. Ha ha, 'Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.' It's just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn't matter, because – it's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Word is a four-letter word

Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realise something. I can’t write properly in February. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the unremittingly grim weather. Maybe the cold atrophies the bit of my brain that strings all the words together. There’s a frozen blockage in my brainpipes that I can’t get through. Every time I try to write something (and this includes blog postings), the words come out all twisted and mangled and broken, and I’m stuck with bad grammar and clumsy phrasing and poorly-selected adjectives, and I struggle to get the pictures in my head out onto the page.

It’s driving me crazy. Mostly because I’m one of those people who actually enjoys the process of writing. A lot of writers hate it. Not me. I like all the research and thinking and wondering and toying with words. Welding together disparate ideas. Solving problems. I love the moment when I can take the stabilisers off the wobbly sentences and watch them sail away confidently, like a proud parent shepherding the malformed offerings and turning them into independent entities that I can hurl out into the world.

Writing this is just another attempt at blasting through the blockage. Let’s hope it worked.

Monday, February 20, 2006

My Friend Flickr

Seeing as I am pathologically incapable of writing anything coherent recently, I’ve been tinkering with the blog again. I’ve scavenged some old photos taken on my mobile phone and uploaded them to my Flickr account – you can find the link under Places and Spaces in the right-hand column.

When I finally get around to buying a memory card for my camera, I can start sticking all kinds of crap there. But for now, it’s just miniscule grainy pics snapped on my phone.

That is all.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

When I'm right, I'm right

An addendum to my earlier post about the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. I just saw this breaking news.

See? I told you. This has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech.

Sometimes I hate being right.

Cartoon Fretwork

Comicbook curmudgeon Harvey Pekar once famously said: "Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures."

You can even set the world on fire.

Much has been written in recent days about the cartoon pictures published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and a huge amount that has been written is either a load of shit, or it just misses the point completely.

Let’s see if I can be the voice of reason for a change. Before I get my rant on, a couple of things to get out of the way: I absolutely, totally and wholeheartedly support Freedom of Speech in all ways, shapes and forms. I might not like what you’ve got to say, but I support your right to say it. But, and it is a huge big ol’ booty of a but, no matter what Jyllands-Posten says, or how they are spinning the hell out of this, this really has very little to do with Freedom of Speech.

Freedom of Speech is the Big Honking Red Herring in all of this. Just because you can publish anything, it doesn’t mean that you should. Or that this Freedom should automatically override other important concerns like sensitivity and quality control, two things lacking in this situation.

Secondly, for the purposes of context, the cartoons can be seen here.

Lastly, let’s have a quick look at the dictionary definition of cartoon. Ready?

1. A drawing depicting a humorous situation, often accompanied by a caption.
2. A drawing representing current public figures or issues symbolically and often satirically
.

OK. Pre-amble over, this is what I think:

The cartoons are a bunch of crap. In every conceivable way. Badly drawn. No discernable satiric intent. And, here’s the kicker: They Just Aren’t Funny. Offensive things can be funny, and vice versa. Just doesn’t happen to apply in this scenario. There’s no getting around this one: the shit ain’t funny.

For a cartoon to succeed on any level, it has to be either Funny or Satirical. Neither of those elements are present here.

I find it nigh on impossible to discern any kind of tangible satirical intent behind the cartoons. And the reason I can’t find any satirical intent is because there is none! I’ll prove it to you:

Imagine a cartoon where there’s a drawing of Jesus Christ stringing up a couple of black guys from a tree, with a burning cross in the background. Offensive, right? Not funny. Or satirical.

But, the cartoonist protests, there are devout Christians in the Ku Klux Klan! At this point, any sane newspaper editor would have shown the cartoonist the door.

Know why? Because it is blatantly offensive in so many ways. Some extremists are Islamic, but not all worshippers of Islam are extremists. See? It may be a subtle distinction for your average Danish newspaper editor, but it’s pretty damn obvious to me.

The most contentious cartoon portrays Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. It paints all Muslims as suicide-bombers, which is a blatant falsehood. Just like my Jesus example, which paints all Christians as white supremacists.

Muslims the world over have every right to be outraged. Obviously, I think death threats and destruction are not a proportional response. It’s excessive and tragic and just continues to perpetuate this solitary skewed image of Muslims, because it’s the only one which gets into the news cycle.

But cartoons attacking any other strata of our Burning Global Village, be it blacks, gays, women, Jews, Christians, whatever, would just not have seen print in newspapers the world over in the same way. No editor would even consider publishing such things.

And that is the great hypocrisy at the heart of this whole situation. In a nutshell: Newspaper prints cartoons. Angry Muslims riot. And people then turn around and go: “See? Those Muslims are violent! The cartoons were right!”

Depressing and dispiriting on so many levels.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bing!

Today is February the 2nd. Which means that it is Groundhog Day. (This is annoyingly apt, seeing as all my days at the moment seem to be depressingly similar to one another. Anyway...)

Punxsutawney Phil has decreed that there will be six more weeks of winter. Little fucker. I’m getting fed up of this weather. Frickin’ brass monkeys out there today.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Call Me Ishmael

Barely three weeks into the New Year, and London is getting decidedly odd very, very quickly.

Celebrity Big Brother
is horrific and compelling viewing – I need a shower after watching the damn thing. Pete Burns and his monkey coat, George Galloway and his cat impersonation, Michael Barrymore’s very public meltdown as he descends into a mire of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, slurred speech that would make Ozzy Ozbourne proud, and a growing repertoire of scary facial tics, whilst, unbeknownst to him, there are people waiting outside to serve him with legal papers. When Dennis Rodman is the voice of reason in such a Melting Point of the Strange, you know that the world has tilted somewhat off its axis.

At the other end of the weird scale, there’s the tragic story of the whale trapped in the Thames. What started as a story picked up for its sheer, downright oddness quickly graduated to wonder, awe, and an inspiring rallying of spirit to try and rescue the whale and return it home. I followed the story all day Saturday, and surprised myself with how gutted I was when the whale died. Amazing pictures here and here.

Also, been dabbling with some more webfuckery on this page, trying to collect things in one place. In the left-hand column, you will now find links to my Bloglines blogroll, collecting all the blogs I check on a daily basis. Plus, I’ve set myself up with a del.icio.us page in which to hurl all my accumulated stray urls that I found shoved in old e-mails, scraps of paper, in my browser history and many, many other places. Probably won’t need access to any of those links in a hurry, but it’s nice to find somewhere to keep them all handy if I need to get hold of them. Feel free to have a dig through them. You can always pretend you are shuffling through the teetering mounds of scrap paper on my desk, whilst jabbing a sharp stick at the disparate preoccupations that gnaw away at my psyche.

At some point, I’ll add a Flickr link, once I finally get around to populating my Flickr page with photos. Sucker Punch, embracing Web 2.0 in 2006!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Chocolate coated, freaky and habit-forming

“Good evening.
Do not attempt to adjust your radio, there is nothing wrong.
We have taken control as to bring you this special show.
We will return it to you as soon as you are grooving.”
Parliament – P-Funk (Want to Get Funked Up)


So, the revitalisation of Sucker Punch begins. If you scroll down the right-hand column, at some point you’ll get to a section called Funk Fiction, and a red box full of the platters that matter I been listening to for the last week on Last FM. Just cracking my head open for y’all to take a peek at the funk in my trunk. I believe that the box is refreshed on a weekly basis listing the noises in my head.

Why Funk Fiction? Well, a long time ago, I can’t remember exactly when, but I’m guessing about twelve years ago, I used to D.J. And I D.J.ed under the name Funk Fiction. We had these beautiful flyers with the words Funk Fiction emblazoned across the top, over that iconic image of Jules and Vincent with their gunarms outstretched and unloading. You know the one.

Underneath that were the words: “Big Funk. Small Funk. All Kinds of Funk. Get Blown Away at…” and the date and location of wherever we were playing.

I didn’t D.J. for long, partly because I already had a day job, partly because we were always getting ripped off and underpaid, but I loved it. I was shameless in my promise of “All Kinds of Funk”. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers would be followed by Miles Davis, and Public Enemy butted up against Earth, Wind and Fire. In the words of James Brown: “Whatsever I play, it’s got to be funky.” And we certainly delivered.

I always used to start the set with a really exclamatory chunk o’ funk, something like Ice Cube’s Bop Gun or the New Power Generation’s The Exodus Has Begun. And the nights always, always ended the same way. With the Staples Singers and Let’s Do It Again, followed by a soundbite from Pulp Fiction where Jules and Vincent unload their guns. Loudly. As the gunshots echoed, the lights would come up and it would all be over. It Was Great.

I would go to bed those nights (mornings?), with white noise and static thrumming in my ears as I tried to decompress, the smell of cigarette smoke in my hair, and a salty stew of alcohol and exhilaration sweat slowly cooling on my skin.

“Sweet love in the midnight
Good sleep, come mornin' light
No worries 'bout nothin'
Just gettin' good, just gettin' good
Just gettin' good love”
Staples Singers – Let’s Do It Again

Thursday, January 05, 2006

4 8 15 16 23 42

I think I must have somehow rewired my DNA over the Christmas break, because I have gained the ability to defy sleep…

The family were away last night and I was left to my own devices (never a good thing), which meant I eventually forced myself to go to bed at around 3.30am…and I struggled to get to sleep even then…and I woke up three hours later to get ready for work and I feel absolutely fine. Invigorated. I can’t decide whether or not this is a Bad Thing.

I’ve got into the habit of watching loads of Lost re-runs over the last week or so. Frickin’ obsessed with that show. I see Hurley’s numbers everywhere, flickering behind my eyelids like Tetris blocks…

So, last night, I dug out the half-bottle of brandy that I bought for Christmas, stretched out on the couch and indulged myself.

Which brings me neatly to Day 3 of the Brain Candy Blow-Out. I feel that my cup may be starting to runneth over:

SEEN: Unleashed – Once upon a time there was a man called Bruce Lee. But he died. And then along came another man, and he was called Jackie Chan. He was known as “The New Bruce Lee.” Until Jet Li came along…and then he was “The New Bruce Lee”. Until last year, when people starting calling Tony Jaa “The New Bruce Lee”… But before I disappear up a Post-Modern Bunghole, let’s backpeddle a step to the Last New Bruce Lee.

Unleashed gives Jet Li the opportunity to do something he doesn’t often get the opportunity to do: act. Sure, he kicks much ass, but in between all the bone-snapping, the gravity-defying critter gets to exercise his thespian chops too. This Is Good. Unleashed reminds me an awful lot of Leon. Unsurprising, because the fingerprints of Luc Besson are all over this thing. Like Leon, this is the story of a killing machine who discovers love and emotions amongst all the crunching cartilage and arcing sprays of blood.

And it’s great. You get a full-on scenery-chewing Bob Hoskins, you get grey, rainy Glasgow, you get Morgan Freeman at his avuncular best, you get Mozart and underground fight clubs and the joys of vanilla ice cream and wire-fu. Also, you get a film that succeeds in convincing you that Violence is Wrong, whilst indulging in some brutal and exciting set pieces. Something for the sensitive adrenalin junkie in your life.

READ: The Pocket Essential Sergio Leone by Michael Carlson – When I started film critiquing years ago, we used to get handed books like this all the time to review. But they’re review-proof. It’s a brief whirlwind tour through a genre / director / actor (delete as applicable) which is readable enough and handy when you need to either research something or you’ve got some time to kill. This book is one of the better entries in the series, but the only truly essential Leone book is Christopher Frayling’s stunning Something To Do With Death which is exhaustive and perfect in all ways. My main gripe with the book is the number of typos. For such a slender volume, there’s a hell of a lot of them. Surely proofreaders aren’t that expensive these days?

CLICKED: So at around 1am, I fired up the laptop for an aimless surf, and I stumbled upon the nexus of all musical realities, Last.FM. I couldn’t leave it alone. Track after track of funky goodness delivered straight to my hungry earholes, from forgotten favourites to new discoveries. All my musical prayers have been answered. Loads of interesting bits to play with, and I’m thinking of adding something to the blog from over there, too.

One of my aims this year is to customise Sucker Punch a bit more, to move away from the feeling of Huge Chunks of Text. There will be The New and The Shiny here this year. Oh yes, there will, as I trick the blog out with lovelinesses. Think of it as Pimp My Site.

And this seems as good a time as any to remind you of the following: You love me. You all love me. I make women swoon, and I make men get all Brokeback on me. Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s time for nominees for the 2006 Bloggies. Go and vote. And spare a thought for the fella who sent you, eh? Just sayin’…

Still got that spring in my step, and that glide in my stride.