Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm having a big clear out at the moment and one of things that is going is a huge pile of home-recorded videos. Stuff I'm never going to watch again - if I ever watched them in the first place - and as I hate throwing things away that might, at some possible future date, be potentially useful it hurts. I can't just dump them in the bin. I can't. I'm a overly conciousness recycler. I sort everything: cans, bottles, plastic bottles, compost, batteries, charity shop stuff, reusable packaging for eBay... I even sort through the contents of the upstairs waste-paper baskets before it goes out. But old videocasettes? No one wants them. Charity shop wouldn't thank me for them, they have a hard job selling legit prerecorded videos at 50p each so why would they want tatty old reusable tapes?

If I lived in a big city, and not a small village like I do, I would write salacious titles like: Aussie Nympho Nurses Go Down Under 7, Big Booby Babes Do Dagenham, and The story of Q (it's a threequel to The Story of O) on the spines then leave them all in a box at the gate knowing that someone would have them away with childish glee within minutes. But I don't. So I can't.

But it would be interesting to see just who picked them up...

...and I could always leave them outside someone else's gate...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another day's floor painting over and done with. Just filling the gaps on the floor under where the furniture currently is (and trying to un-stick the furniture from the floor to get at them) left to do. Because the kids have gone to a friends birthday party I managed to get a lot done done in daylight today which means I might get to bed before midnight. Yeeha!

Musical delights this afternoon included Bill and His Pop Guitar, a disc about which I know nothing except that the only copy for sale on the web is 60 US Dollars and it is brilliant in its trashiness: the best version of Eloise committed to vinyl and a reworking of Scarborough Fair that sounds like it came straight off a Spaghetti Western soundtrack.

And an album of 'Secret Agent Themes' played by a bunch of 'Jazz All-Stars' (some of whom actually appear to deserve the soubriquet). The themes in question being a couple of James Bond title songs, the Man From U.N.C.L.E theme, and, when the money to pay for copyrighted material ran out, bits of classical music 'Spy Themed' up including that bit of Borodin that became Stranger in Paradise and, very oddly, The Sabre Dance - maybe I missed it and it's already been done but 'Khachaturian P.I.' sounds like a great name for a TV show.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I've spent the last two nights getting semi-stoned, varnishing the living room floor. A tedious job made bearable by the fumes and by simultaneously working my way through a pile of charity shop LPs I haven't got round to listening to - and may well never listen to again. Merriol and the kids are staying at someone's house overnight while I punge the place up so I can get away with filling the house with crappy music as well as volatile hydrocarbons.

Highlights of my Listening For Pleasure marathon (so far) include Sam Cooke wanabee and one hit wonder Jewel Akens, an LP I only bought because it had a track called The Vegetable Love Song - which turned out to be far less anything than I hoped.

A rather weirdly nice Japanese album about which I know nothing, except it's Japanese, in Stereo, and copyrighted in 1964, of traditional sounding music gently supported by a western sounding string section. It could be high art or the highest camp. The oriental James Last murders favourite TV tunes? I have no idea. I have no way of knowing. I do know I like it.

Waldo De Los Rios subjecting Mozart to various indignities, most of which seem to have consisted of telling the orchestra to play everything like a Ennio Morricone love theme - and then putting Animal, the mad drummer from The Muppet Show, in front of them. But at least I know I have a copy of the music from the Horse of the Year Show if, under some bizarre set of circumstances*, I should ever need it.

So far I have resisted the temptations of Pinky and Perky's Hit Parade - but am conceiving a plan where I listen to nothing but albums with pictures of girls in bikinis on the front cover. I have enough of them.

STOP PRESS: The new highlight of the night was confirming, after an inspired bit of supposition (good stuff paint fumes), that Bosa Nova percussion sounds exactly like Drum and Bass percussion when you play it at 45 rpm.

STOP STOP PRESS: 'Delilah' - in German!

*Suggestions on a postcard please to the usual address.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another Small Snippet From The Screen-Play of My Life

Daisy is patiently waiting at my side as I finish off a few things on the computer before she can play a game. The last thing I 'have' to do is...


"Yes, Daisy?"

"I know what those dots are for..."


"Yes. They're so blind people can read them."

Had a letter read out on the Radio today on Radio 4's PM program - it was, as you may expect, a joke. And I managed to get another cartoon done. My sense of humour transplant seems to be working at last. I'm not entirely happy with the cartoon so I may do it again tomorrow; I'm playing with some new buttons and short cuts and I'm not sure I have them tweaked right yet. I'm also trying to get away from spending hours and hours at the things: tweaking components a couple of pixels this way, then a couple of pixels that way, then back again, and then up a bit to see if that makes any difference, and then trying to decide which of the 356 million shades of blue available to me are the funniest to colour it - before deciding that the particular bit I have just spent half an hour getting right is in fact superfluous and deleting it all together.
I'm trying to get back to doing quick drawings not getting involved in the the engineering projects that some of them became.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One of the minor pet peeves in my menagerie is:

The Inverted Rainbow Graphic

The red should be on the outside. It's always on the outside. Red on the inside is just wrong. It's almost as annoyingly wrongly wrong as the wrongly used apostrophes that attack you from everywhere these days - and I came across a cracker in Oban last weekend. How on earth anyone managed to think the word 'brings' needed one is beyond comprehension. At the risk of sounding like the grumpy old man I am destined soon to become I think people should be made to pass a literacy test before being allowed to buy or operate any kind of printer capable of producing anything that is likely to be shoved up in a shop window* - or felt pens sold for writing on those pointy edged Day-Glo cards they use in Everything-For-A-Pound shops, the illiteratti do love their Day-Glo cards - sorry, their Day-Glo card's.

The other day Dai'sy and I were wandering through the village, for no other rea'son than it was almo'st a nice day and we felt like a wander, when we came around a corner and I saw a rainbow over the loch stretching acro's's, so it seemed, from one bank to the other.
"Look," I said pointing lochward, "a rainbow! I'sn't it pretty?"
She looked at it for a moment.
"Ye's," she said, "and it's the right way round too."

I love my kids.

*There should be a law requiring a limit to the number of fonts you can use too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tonight I have mainly been amusing myself by watching the (very dull) American cold war science fiction classic I Married a Monster from Outer Space with the sound turned down with the subtitles for the much better 1963 Czechoslovakian SF movie Ikarie XB 1 running underneath it. I didn't intend to this. It was a cock up on my part with the settings of a movie viewer. I'd downloaded the subtitles earlier in the day and had been attempting to get them to work properly - but forgot to turn them off when I started watching I Married a Monster. But it turned out to be oddly interesting as the dialogue on screen quite often matched, if not the mouth movements of the characters then certainly the mood of the moment, or they commented on the action in surreal ways.

This is not original. Stoned students have been playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon while watching the Wizard of Oz for years. And mashup is a well respected art form (well respected by me at least).

After realising how crappily semi-illiterate the subtitles were (words wererun together and homonyms kept razing there ugly heads hear and their), I had a poke about and found they were easily edited in any old text editor. So I tidied a few obvious ones up, saved them and - yep they still worked. So before I sit down to watch Ikarie XB 1 I'll run through and tidy up the rest of them - and resist the temptation to fiddle and make the actors say ridiculous things. The very strong temptation...

[Captain Kirk Mode]




Thursday, September 04, 2008

A new cartoon over on the Cartoonery place. The first one for weeks, I've been bad. But the house is looking a lot less messy and cleaner these days!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I shouldn't laugh.

Many years ago, after a prolonged period of happy unemployment, the government prodded me with a financially pointed stick and made me a filing clerk with the NHS for a while. I spent my days microfilming the medical records of everyone in Hull who hadn't been to hospital for ten years and shoving the microfiche of people's freshly miniaturised medical records around in very small draws. It was a very dull job only occasionally livened up by the discovery of a real cracker of an odd name among the files: 'Robert Gentleman Sword Small' and 'Tina Salmon' being the only ones I remember after all these years.

Tina Salmon, I don't know who you are, or anything about you and I hope you have had a long, fruitful, and happy life but if you ever read this then I'd just like you to know your name has, from time to time over the last twenty plus years, kept me mildly amused.

But you have been replaced in my affections...

A few weeks ago I was starting to read an article on symmetry in the New Scientist when I discovered that King Harold of Norway had just presented a prize to a noted French mathematician who gloried in the name of - Jacques Tits.

I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't. It's puerile and stupid but the thought that there is someone in the world called 'Jacques Tits' cheers me up no end.

Try this for size: Stand confidently before a full length mirror, imagine yourself dressed in black tie and tux, look suavely into the mirror with come-to-bed eyes, smooth an eyebrow with a dampened finger tip and then, in your best Charles Boyer voice, murmur: "Je m'appel Tits - Jacques Tits."

I know I shouldn't laugh but I do - every time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I used to be able to draw. It was one of the few things I felt was really any good at. I haven't done a lot over the last few years. The other day I bought a graphics tablet. Woo-hoo! It was a cheap tablet (£30 from Aldi) but even so I thought it would make drawing the cartons (of which you may have noticed a spectacular dearth recently) a lot, lot easier.

I was wrong.

I make my cartoons in an ancient version of Adobe Illustrator and I just can't get the hang of using the tablet with it. The tablet works. There's no problem with the hardware it's just the chair / input-device interface that's the fucking problem. I can't just draw in Illustrator with it. I can use it in Photoshop, no problem - though it was initially a bit odd seeing what I was drawing with my hand down there ---> appearing on a screen up there ^ - but after a few minutes I got it. It is, after all, no different from the relationship between the mouse and the cursor or pointer. (Even Daisy made that jump of dislocation within a couple of hours playing.) It's no problem in Photoshop. I just can't get the bits of my brain to join whatever dots need joining up to let me get it to work in Illustrator.

Most of the problem is, I suspect, that I have taught myself how to use Illustrator by crashing around fining buttons that do interesting things with one click long after I have worked out laborious ways of doing the same thing using every other tool in the box. I don't so much draw my cartoons, as build them by putting layers of shapes on top of one another, reshaping and merging them and doing stuff that is more like the 'techie drawing' I learned at high school than drawing. It's more like collage and CAD than anything else. (I should have bought a book, it would have saved me a lot of heartache. But been a lot less fun) Whatever it is I'm doing, it isn't drawing. So I have now have to unlearn a lot of these laboriously self-taught techniques or invent some other new ones (or buy a book).

Another reason for the lack of cartoons is the unusually heavy load of high quality crap movies that have consumed my waking (and not so waking) hours this month

  1. Escape To Victory
    -I was tired; it was on the box. I have no excuse.
  2. Born Romantic
    - semi-decent Chick Flick.
  3. TRON
    - a watching (as if I needed an excuse) prompted by the news that some fuckwits are making a sequel, and the presence of a house-guest who wasn't allowed to see it when he was six and has never had the opportunity since. Act One gets crappier every time I watch it. Acts Two and Three just get better and better.
  4. The Incredibles
    - Because I haven't seen Wall-E yet I can still say this is the best thing Pixar have done. This week's Kid's Pizza Night movie.
  5. Silver Bears
    - Dull predictable Michael Caine movie that had 'International Co-Production' stamped alll over it. Apparently it was a comedy.
  6. Attack of the Puppet People
    - brilliant title; dull film in which a psychotic doll maker shrinkifies people and puts them into glass jars to take out and play with when he's lonely. Very set-bound and not a lot happens. Most of the 'enjoyment' to be got from this was admiring some OK (for the
    budget) model work and some really lousy back projection and spotting the joins. Not a lot of attacking goes on either.
  7. The Giant Claw
    - again. I told you I would watch this one again and again. Tonight we have a couple of French Couchsurfers staying with us. They are both, totally unbeknownst to Mrs JM who invited them, afflicted with the same Real Bad Movie bug as I am. I introduced them to The Giant Claw. We laughed like drains in two different languages.
  8. The Incredible Melting Man
    - (MST3K) I also introduced them to Mystery Science Theatre 3000. See, travel does broaden the mind; come to Scotland and discover crappy American movies!
  9. Robot Monster
    - aka 'Is that the one with the Gorilla Suit wearing a diving helmet?' - apparently the director knew a guy with a Gorilla Suit who wasn't working that week and just bunged a helmet on him. Mercifully short at 62 minutes, this is one of the most incomprehensibly awful SF movies of the period. Really. It makes no sense whatsoever - and then turns out
    to have been a dream all along, which might explain some of it but not why our Gorilla-suited Robot Monster falls in weird, bondage-crazed lust for the last nubile human girl on earth, or where the dinosaurs suddenly come from (answer: from One Million Years BC starring Victor Mature), or why the Destroyer of Mankind (the human population of the earth is down to eight at the startof the action) is hanging around Bronson Canyon with his Intergalactic Communicator Thingy sat on a rickety wooden table alongside the world's first automatic bubble machine (it even gets a pre-title credit). It makes Plan 9 From outer Space look classy. Shot in 4 days for $16,000, it somehow managed to take something like a million dollars at the box office its first year - making it a most, commercially, successful bit of ulra-crap. It must have been great being a cheapo movie maker in the 50s.
  10. The 4D Man
    - once more scientists meddle with things 'Man was not meant to know' and once again one of them turns into a rampaging monster who needs to kill to live. But this time it actually nearly worked because of some cracking acting and some halfway decent scripting. (And Lee Merriweather - hubba hubba!) Terrible score though. Randomly placed chunks of loud attacking Crash Jazz does not make for tension, mystery or romance.
  11. Spy Kids 2
    - disappointing sequel to an adequate piece of nonsense.
  12. Young Einstein
    - again, it always makes me laugh.
  13. King Dinosaur
    - (MST3K) A masterful combination of hundreds of feet of stock footage of everything from wildlife footage from several continents, the obligatory V2 taking off, the obligatory Atom Bomb explosions, and about seven thousand four hundred and thirty two individual shots of people flipping switches, inter-cut with four actors walking past the camera a lot, pretending to hide from Very Small Lizards shot in Very Close Up. And one of the best bad lines from a movie in ages:
    "I brought the Atomic Bomb, I think this would be a good time to use it."
    A delight. Another moment of genius was having one of our scientist explorers peering into a microscope while wearing a giant space helmet.
    The second Bert I Gordon movie of the month (he was also 'responsible' for Attack of the Puppet People) - and the second to use footage reused from 'One Million BC' (it cropped up in Robot Monster as well) - two of either would be enough, but two of both is starting to hurt.
  14. Labyrinth
    - better than I remember but I could have done without the bloody songs. Still the kids liked it.
  15. Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) -
    Vastly disappointed. This was the first time I have seen the film and I was bewildered by the crappy, hurried and clumsy editing. It robbed the movie of the magic I remember loving in the book. Turns out the version I have is 30+ minutes short of the original Mexican release (but longer than the US version). I'd love to see the full thing but I doubt if it would live up to the book. Even allowing for the crappy hatchet job there were real problems with the direction.

    Mind you, for some strange reason,
    I really liked this scene

  16. The Lost Continent
    - (MST3K) Dreadful 1951 SF yarn in which a revolutionary prototype atomic rocket (ie the same old stock footage of a V2) crashes on a radio-active island populated by dinosaurs and has to be rescued by Cesar Romero and various other chainsmoking military scientist chappies one of whom, the obligatory Brooklynesque comic relief, has a very weirdly disturbing sexual thing for aeroplanes. Very odd. Unfortunately also very dull.
  17. Howard The Duck
    - I finally got round to seeing Howard the Duck. It took me thirty years and was not as hideously dreadful an experience as I had feared. Despite some really dire music, John Barry at his most syrupy livened up with a couple of Thomas Dolby songs, an opening act which should have killed any movie stone dead (this film cost a fortune and bombed at the cinemas) and some dreadful, dreadful writing- I ended up almost liking bits of it.

    Bits like this.

    Mostly it was the performances of a (very young) Tim Robbins, and a (very sexy) Lea Thompson (Who? I hear you saying. Trust me - she was hot!) and a virtuoso display of scene stealing from Jeffrey Jones as an Evil Overlord of the Universe. When those three were on screen there was some real fun being had. For some reason the script got better
    during the second act. The plodding punning of the first act gave way to some genuinely funny gags in the second. I actually laughed. Still, it's not an experience I will ever want to repeat. The strange sexual relationship between Howard (a three foot two Alien Duck and Beverley, tall sexy white girl) was present in the comics but had been toned down for the movie. By toning it down (instead of eliminating it) they made it even more disturbing than I remember it being on the page. In the comics Howard and Beverley were just boyfriend and girlfriend who happened to be different species. In the movie it verged into the pervily bestial.
  18. Journey to the Seventh Planet
    - written and directed by the wonderfully named Sid Pink (who also produced the deliriously weird Angry Red Planet which I watched last month) is a strange Danish American co-production vaguely reminiscent of Lem's Solyaris and Ray Bradbury story The Third Expedition from The Martian Chronicles. Pink may not have been the best director in the world but the man was trying to do - above and beyond the run-of-the-mill Hollywood dross of the day.There were ideas in both these movies that deserved better. More time would have helped for one thing; this film was shot in a week. I'm off now to track down some of his other SF movies: Reptilicus (1961) sounds good.
    Looking through the IMDB.com reviews of his movies the word that seems to crop up more often than any other is 'odd'. I like odd. Odd is good.
  19. Spy Kids 3
    - A rarity; a threquel that was better than its predecessor. The kids liked it too but I suspect they missed the Tron gags.
  20. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
  21. - Wow! Doc Savage on acid. One of those films that three minutes into it you realise you haven't got a clue what's going on and four minutes later you realise you probably still won't have a clue at the end - so you might as well just lay back and enjoy it. A film so stuffed full of oddities (like Rastafarian aliens, The strange presence of watermelons in engineering labs, a whole planet whose entire population is called John) and so many throwaway jokes that I suspect it will stand several repeat viewings - if only for the scene where John Lithgow attaches electrodes to his tongue for no other reason than to cue a flashback.

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