20/07/2016

Pokémania!


Someone reportedly gave up their job so they could spend their time catching Pokémon according to one website last week. I doubt if this is actually true but even so reflects the current Pokémania happening all over the world. Who would have thought that some oddly proportioned anime creatures based on real animals, birds and insects could cause such a commotion? Pokémon were originally created in 1985 by Satoshi Tajiri and are fictional creatures rounded up by human trainers to battle each other for sport. Yep, it’s a fun franchise whose origins appear to lie in the lineage that gave us bear baiting and dog fighting! There have been animated tv shows, trading cards, video games, comics and probably sponges over the years with a seemingly never ending flow of oddly monikered colourful creatures. In terms of video games, only Mario Bros has been more successful. Now there is Pokémon Go a game that has already taken the world by storm though given how unexpected 2016 has been so far this should not surprise anybody. 

19/07/2016

Looking through my 1986 Diary!



Oh my word 1986 was thirty years ago and I can remember it like it was last week. Or can I? To put this to the test I’ve unearthed my diary from that year - itself a relic from the days when people had diaries. Think of them as blogs that you wrote with a pen and which had- unless you were unlucky- one view. How did all this even start? As you do sometimes, I drift back in time. Not literally of course, that time machine is still in its box in the shed, but I mean in memory. Mostly this seems to be random; it’s amazing what you do or don’t remember almost as if your mind is filtering for you. Anyway the amount of actual tangible stuff I have from my past is fairly limited as I appear to have followed a persistent scorched earth policy when it comes to momentoes and the like. I will clearly never have any valuable antiques. Yet the weird thing is that when you come across something from the past it looks different from what you remember. For a number of years my polling station was my old primary school. The voting booths were in the main hall and they fair filled it up, this supposed hall. There it was with about four polling booths, the polling clerk’s tables and it was full and I thought `we used to get the whole school in here!` How did we do that? 

17/07/2016

Ten exaggerated things we say



We all do it. We all say things that actually make no sense at all. And here are ten of them but there are zillions more.

"They're all on the gravy train." This came up a lot in the recent EU referendum. People griped and moaned about “the EU gravy train” which of course is that well known rail service transporting gravy from Paris to Munich via Brussels. Except it isn’t! There is no such thing as a gravy train. When have you ever seen one? You see; it does not exist. 
“I waited years for the train / bus/ taxi.” Mmm, You didn’t actually did you? You waited a while.  Imagine if you had waited for years, slowly accumulating things like a portable shower and loo, fresh clothes, a foldaway bed etc. When the train /bus/ taxi finally came all of your stuff wouldn’t fit in it. You will wait many years for a gravy train though!

15/07/2016

Now You See Me 2



A refreshing change from the superhero and special effects driven films dominating 2016’s cinemas, this sequel about a team of magicians who use their skills to expose corruption is just as intriguing as the first film. It teases its characters with twists and turns and also its viewers by explaining some but not all of the tricks we see. So for example a scene in which a character appears to have control over the rain is then explained to the audience watching as being a trick involving lights and large fans. Then the character is seen to fall backwards into a puddle and all that is left is his coat. So how did he do that? We never find out. This literal and conceptual sleight of hand means NYSM2 maintains the momentum of it’s predecessor.

10/07/2016

Top of the Pops 23 July 1981



Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby

Richard Skinner: "They always say it, welcome to Top of the Pops. And tonight it's just the same as ever. Great music tonight, starting off with a brand-new hit for The Vapors. It's called Jimmie Jones."
The Vapors: Jimmie Jones [44]. The Vapors (must remember to drop the U) return with a song about the defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. Or possibly the other Jimmie Jones who played defensive end for the New York Jets. Or possibly the other, other Jimmie Jones who was a running back for the Detroit Lions. (John- He was actually a pelican wrangler from Hartlepool)
Sheena Easton: For Your Eyes Only [16]. "A great bit of film now for people who like James Bond, and also have a little spot in their heart for Sheena Easton. For the first time on British television."  The dullest theme song to the dullest Roger Moore James Bond film -myself, I always preferred Moonraker. This is Maurice Binder's title sequence without the credits, and the end result looks oddly like a really high budget Legs & Co dance sequence.

08/07/2016

Mouldy Old Dough



1972’s unlikely classic hit

It’s the oddest single you can imagine but there is something impossibly catchy about `Mouldy Old Dough`. It takes elements that you would never think might make a hit and somehow it works. A bouncy tune led by an old bar room piano, no lyrics except someone growling “mouldy old dough” every so often and a group with the unlikely moniker of Lieutenant Pigeon fronted by someone’s mum. Yet the tune is contagiously memorable and that piano has the slightest echo on it (possibly a result of two pianists) and you keep thinking; is this mouldy dough money or baking related? What is the song about?  Who was Lieutenant Pigeon and is he now promoted to General Pigeon? If you've never heard it, here it is...

04/07/2016

Chips Ahoy!



If you had to name one item of food without which the entire Western world would collapse into complete anarchy and chaos then it would have to be chips. Without chips the community would stutter and stop. Health experts are usually right, if a little prone to panicky outbursts, but they are wrong about chips being unhealthy. They are (as long as you don't cook them in a vat of oil) full of vitamins and energy and they are good for you. Granted, too many chips are not good for you but that is true of anything. Even broccoli. What is important though is what sort of chips you are served. There are a lot of variations on the form, including soggy, dry, fat, thin or crinkled. There are oven chips, straight chips; in fact it's reckoned there are at least sixteen different varieties. Scallops are nearly chips and would be more popular if they were called Nearly Chips. Then there's the salt and vinegar equation. Salt? Vinegar? Both? Neither? A dilemma and a half. 


01/07/2016

Top of the Pops 16 July 1981



Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
BBC1, 7.25pm. Bellamy's Backyard Safari has just finished and now something is about to happen. Something wonderful.
Multi-coloured records fly out of fog towards the camera. The words Top of the Pops flicker on screen. Numbers flash and disappear. More words, like searchlights. Top. Of The. Pops. A large pink tinted record flies to the centre of the screen, again the words Top of the Pops flicker, and the record explodes. All backed by a staccato drum beat, swooping electronic noises, and a weird ethereal voice.
I'm not sure when Top of the Pops last used a proper title sequence. Best guess 13th June 1974. That was the last programme broadcast before a 7 week strike, and when it returned the new format was a DJ introduction followed by the charts backed with Whole Lotta Love. A format which persisted in one form or another until the end of a different strike, the 1980 one by Musician's Union members. Michael Hurll has been producer since then, and he's experimented with different ways to start the show. There was the preview of the night's attractions -ditched along with the doomed dual presenter format- and since then the show has just sort of lurched onto the air with a DJ awkwardly trying to welcome viewers to the programme over the introduction to the first record. I don't doubt that in 1974 it seemed exiting and immediate to cut straight from the continuity announcer to the DJ talking directly to the home audience but by 1981 it was time for a change. A good title sequence should evoke the spirit of a programme and this fifteen second strip of film does that perfectly. It's fast, exciting, a little bit spooky, and it's not about music or bands or instruments; it's about the singles.
(The new title sequence actually premièred last week -1981 relative time- for the 900th edition of Top of the Pops but that can't be shown on BBC4 because of the presenter)