20/12/2014

Christmas Songs


2014 does not seem to have brought us a great Christmas single; in fact the last new modern standard came twenty years ago with  Mariah Carey’s `All I want for Xmas is you` . As Coldplay discovered a couple of years back when they thought inserting the words “Christmas lights” into a song was enough,  penning a surefire xmas hit is not easy. Yes it may scale the charts and gain lots of airplay but the real measure of success is endurance. Is it played every year in public places to the point of public annoyance?  Or is it forgotten and rarely heard after a year or two? Bizarrely for those who make them most Xmas songs are written in the summer which perhaps explains why they can overdo the festiveness of it. In the sunshine it is difficult to put yourself in a Christmas frame of mind. What sounds fine in June is going to sound just too overworked with bells and cringesome lyrics when it comes round to December. What better time then than to look at some memorable Christmas songs and see just how Christmassy they are:
Slade- Merry Xmas Everybody
The quintessential Crimbo song started out with a different lyric before Noddy and co decided to amend the earworm of a tune to meet the festive season. It is timeless because it describes the sort of Xmas that is of its time; the 1970s.  Now more than forty years old it seems as much part of the tradition as Victorian times did in the 70s. The lyric is masterful; conjuring up crowded rooms, homemade decorations, party hats, big dinners and embarrassing relatives and is tied to a bouncy tune that would translate into other genres if someone tried. Imagine a dance version? It’d be fantastic. This is the yardstick against which all post 1973 Xmas songs must be measured and few have matched it. “It’s Christmas!!” yells Nod at the end in case we hadn’t quite got the message. And as soon as you hear this, it is.

Yes, he wore his Xmas decorations everywhere did Dave

19/12/2014

The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies



In cinemas now! Starring Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Evangaline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Malcolm the Moose. Adapted liberally from the book by JRRRR Tolkien by Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guilllermo del Toro. Directed by Peter Jackson
Considering its position at the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s second epic trilogy, this proves to be a surprisingly nimble movie. While delivering on the epic action front (just check the title) it is also rich in smaller character moments paying off several plot lines from the first two films with aplomb. At a comparatively modest two and a quarter hour running time it is so focussed that it may just be the best of all the six films. 
A man on a moose strays into the battle and finds it difficult to hide

17/12/2014

Top of the Pops 1979 6.12.79

Guest Post: Chris Arnsby 
BBC4: Top of the Pops 1979 6/12/79

Simon Bates, "Welcome to Top of the Pops with Que Sera Mi Vida and  The Gibson Brothers."
Simon Bates gets his first go on Top of the Pops. He's been working for Radio 1 since 1975 but this is his first appearance on television. It's not clear why its taken him four years to make the leap from radio to television but until August 1979 he presented the Sunday chart countdown on Radio 1; maybe the BBC didn't want him to become associated with both chart programmes?
Chart music: The Gibson Brothers: Que Sera Mi Vida (If You Should Go) [5].
Darts: Reet Petite [54]. Of course an alternative explanation for Simon Bates' long absence from Top of the Pops might be that no one thought he was any good. Maybe it's first night nerves but he's awkward and uncharismatic and he's wearing a terrible jumper. Mistake number one of the night comes when he describes Darts' unremarkable cover as being "Little Richards' Reet Petite." Surely any fule kno that Jackie Wilson sang Reet Petite?  

15/12/2014

2014: The YouTubers Crisis Year



2014 has not been a good year for the community known as YouTubers. An increasingly large and popular set of video bloggers aka vloggers who now reach millions of followers the Youtubers’ ethos seemed to be one of good clean fun. Some mocked the lack of social comment and detachment from the reality of the world- plus the fact that the majority of them are white and middle class- yet it seemed to be a world built on a new aesthetic and a genuinely vibrant use of online media. Yet this year the cards have come tumbling down in a series of scandals and stories that have left the community shocked at how quickly a brave new world can resembled a flawed old one. 

12/12/2014

Telescreen One



Guest Post: Oliver Wake
Sixty years ago this week, Britain experienced one of its earliest major television drama controversies, when the BBC screened a dramatisation of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984.* In view of this, and recent talk of at least one new film version of the novel in the works, now is a good time to look back at how 1984 has fared in its five television and film adaptations.

10/12/2014

God Help The Girl



2014, available to buy. Written and directed by Stuart Murdoch / Starring Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray
For about seven years while still fronting indie group Belle and Sebastian Stuart Murdoch was also nurturing an idea involving girl singers which evolved into this film released earlier in 2014. As such it is written as a labour of love that marks a directorial debut as well even though as he admits he has no experience in either field.  The result, while inevitably showing occasional flaws, is a surprisingly involving work. It takes a little too long to get started but once it does some charming moments ensue.

08/12/2014

I can't believe there is such a thing as a selfie stick!


Now we spend a percentage of our lives taking selfies, I suppose its inevitable that the act has inspired an aide to help us take even better ones. As we know the distance from which you can take a selfie is entirely dictated by the length of your arms so an enterprising designer has come with a way of extending your reach.  The rather unglamorously named selfie stick is not just a stick of course, that would be too simple.

A selfie stick, yesterday
There are three basic types. One is a Bluetooth enabled design linked to your phone, another can be plugged into your phone’s headphone jack. On both of these you press a button on the handle. The third type are ones without any remote function.
Each are designed to be held at arm’s length dramatically adding to the field of vision that a regular selfie would not encompass, particularly if you’re trying to fit a number of people into the picture. Which, incidentally, is surely not really a selfie? As you can’t really describe it as a group someone needs to think of a different name – what about crowdie? Selfie sticks originated in South East Asia but now sell around the world; in early December Amazon apparently sold out such was the demand. Most brands are made in China and sell for between $14 and $40.
Those in the know don’t recommend the ones without any remote function and say the best one is the make that uses a headphone cable. This means you don’t need to worry about pairing or charging; the button works directly from the headphone jack and is a cheaper option than the Bluetooth one. This is probably only the starts as you can imagine some weird hybrid of a selfie stick and a remote control drone being able to float about your person taking photos on your vocal commands.  No doubt improved functionality of some sort will follow and before too long render the selfie stick obsolete. Then we won’t hear about it again for decades till some tv show lists it amongst the 100 Silliest Products of the 2010s. Probably hosted by Alex Zane.

07/12/2014

In defence of Zoella


Nothing causes disdain quicker than success and in the case of Zoella this has seemed all too true in the past week. In case you didn’t know, Zoella (real name Zoe Sugg) is a YouTube vlogger whose debut novel Girl Online has sold more in its first week of release than any book ever, more even than the likes of JK Rowling. Which is all fine except for the fact that some people seem to resent this fact. Digging around with barely concealed zeal they have unearthed that the book was ghostwritten and made it a big Sunday media story. The subtext of these stories is very much to belittle her achievement.  Zoella’s success seems to have irked people is because she is `only` a vlogger, she is `only` 24 and most of all her `sudden` appearance as if from nowhere.