07/12/2016

The Father Xmas Dilemma



Warning- don’t read this if you are under the age of 8ish 
It’s a Thing isn’t it? How to explain the complexities of Father Xmas’ gargantuan operation to the overly intelligent child who has suddenly worked out that there is more to the world than just what they experience on a daily basis. For decades parents have struggled with this scenario yet perhaps they need to be more inventive. When you consider it the entire Father Xmas shenenigans makes perfect sense if you modernise it a bit. You can square all those unsquared circles in one glittery swoop. All those niggly questions can be answered with just a little inventiveness. 
"Ho! Ho! Hum..."

04/12/2016

Top of the Pops 26 Nov 1981


Top of the Pops 1981 showing on BBC4. Being watched by Chris Arnsby. 


Mike Read, "Good evening. Welcome to another thrilling, stunning... action packed Top of the Pops and we're going to kick off tonight with The Jets and Yes Tonight Josephine."
The Jets: Yes Tonight Josephine [25]. The 1981 Rockabilly revival cannot be stopped. It has the momentum of lava flow. Unfortunately for The Jets this performance is better known for featuring a pre-Culture Club Boy George bogling away to the rhythm of the Double Bass. Take note of Boy George's stagecraft. He's barely visible in the opening wide shot of the stage (at the far right of shot, he's effectively obscured by the glare of a spotlight on smoke), but he's carefully positioned to be front and centre of the screen when the camera cuts to a side shot of the audience. Although this does mean leaning forwards to avoid being blocked by another audience member. A girl who's dancing with her back to camera. (The poor dear doesn't have the faintest idea of how to be in the Top of the Pops audience. Where is she today? Nowhere). Everything else just seems to be a matter of chutzpah. Gradually he edges forwards- without ever being seen to do something as gauche as stepping into shot- and suddenly he's in the background of every shot of the lead singer; trespassing onto the forbidden dancing area reserved for the professionals of Zoo. Meanwhile at the front of the stage the lead singer of The Jets does something complicated involving playing the Double Bass while laying flat on the floor. Nobody cares. When the song is over Boy George grins, waves his hands in the air, and then turns to move back into the audience before the Floor Manager (Annie Ogden) can shout at him. And that boys and girls is how you get to be a Pop Star.

30/11/2016

Kate Bush Before The Dawn album



More than two years after the event Kate Bush’s acclaimed Before the Dawn show is released in full though only in audio formats.  She’s said in interviews that she feels this is the best way to represent it however the fact that the production was clearly intended to be a rich visual experience and the cd even comes with a booklet of photos showing such a show only underlines how the best way to preserve the performance would surely be visually. 

23/11/2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them



Is the new JK Rowling penned film series as wizard as Harry?

You can never quite reproduce the thrill of something brand new and I recall some 15 years (!) ago emerging from a cinema in London absolutely bowled over by the visualisation of the first of Harry Potter’s adventures. Time and repetition takes its toll and the simple delights of that first film were replaced by harder times for Harry and friends and familiarity for us. Now JK Rowling has started a fresh wizarding franchise (what other word can there be?) in the form of 1920s wizard Newt Scamanger and his capacious case of creatures. Can it once again excite us? Is this just a way of extending the lucrative fiction? Well we’re in different territory and this is a promising if rather uneven start.
If you don’t want to know the plot details then use an obliviator after reading on…


20/11/2016

Top of the Pops 19 Nov 1981



Top of the Pops 1981 showing on BBC4. Being watched by Chris Arnsby.
Steve Wright, "Hello. Good evening. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. I think it's gonna be a mad one tonight. We're gonna start off with Modern Romance.  Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey!"

Modern Romance: Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey [17]. Once again the Top of the Pops studio looks amazing. Ron Bristow is on Lighting and maybe he's illuminating the studio differently because the colours look more vibrant and vivid (although lurid would be a better description for the vile luminous purple shirt the lead singer of Modern Romance is wearing). It's not just the lighting. It's as if someone has tweaked and boosted the colour signal; presumably Vision Mixer Hilary West. The effect reminds me of how I used to play around with the television's colour and brightness because I liked the way it made the picture look. Oh, and someone in the studio (a luckless member of Zoo probably) is dressed in a Moose costume.

18/11/2016

The cuts cont...



Cuts and austerity are so common in the UK now we rarely see them make big headlines. Some people –particularly those living in the South- even appear to think the cuts are over. This week our council started a public consultation about the next round of cuts in which they have to save £90m. Part of this involves a Budget Simulator application on their website in which members of the public can attempt to balance the budget by making cuts across all of the council’s services. This exercise definitely brings home the stark choices that remain after all the so called `fat` has been cut. The fact is that our city’s council tax only accounts for 11% of the council’s budget because most properties are in lower council tax bands. 72% of the council’s budget comes from central government and 58% of that has been cut over the past six years. These new cuts are on top of that. So I had a go at the simulator to see exactly what cuts would be needed to balance the books.

11/11/2016

Ten years ago in New York City

Ten years ago today in November 2006  a group of us went to New York which I'd seen so many times on tv and film yet ever since it's looked different. I suppose it was sort of in between time to go there, pre Obama but five years beyond 9/11. They were still building the memorial then. Having studied weather forecasts warning of bitter American November weather my case was full of woolies and big coats few of which I actually needed as it turned out to be unseasonably mild.



09/11/2016

Trumped



I don’t know much about the details of US politics but then neither does Donald Trump. The idea that such a character is now to be the next President may have filled some people with horror but we should not be too surprised. It’s nothing to do with 2016 being some sort of hexed year more to do with a worldwide distrust of professional politicians and what a certain tranche of people see as failed ideas. The white fifty plus male seems to have seen Trump as the last great hope to enable them to reclaim their pre-eminence, a position of strength they enjoyed in the States until the voices of minorities became louder and those minorities became larger. In every respect dinosaurs appear to have reclaimed the landscape like some Jurassic Park.