Category Archives: Entertainment

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Grams

“I wanted Hitchhiker’s to sound like a rock album. I wanted the voices and the effects and the music to be so seamlessly orchestrated as to create a coherent picture of a whole other world – and I said this and many similar sorts of things and waved my hands around a lot, while people nodded patiently and said ‘Yes, Douglas, but what’s it actually about?’” —Douglas Adams

Sound Tracks listing – the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

Journey of the Sorcerer (One of these Nights, The Eagles)
Lonato (A Modern Mass for the Dead, Ligeti)
Melodien (Ligeti)
Volumina (Ligeti)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (Terence Riley)
Poppy No-good and the Phantom Band (Terry Riley)
Another Green World
Over Fire Island
Wind on Water (Evening Star, Fripp and Eno)
Cachaca (Patrick Moraz)
Kotakomben (Einsteig, Gruppe Between)
Volkstanz (Einsteig, Gruppe Between)
Space Theme (Yamashta, Stomu Yamashta)
Oxygene (Jean Michel Jarre)
That’s Entertainment
Miracles of the Gods (In Search of Ancient Gods, Absolute Everywhere)
Mikrophoniet (Stockhausen)
The Engulfed Cathedral (Snowflakes are Dancing, Iso Tomita)

Artist(s) Title Album/Source
The Eagles Journey of the Sorcerer
Terry Riley Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band A Rainbow in Curved Air
György Ligeti Lontano

A Modern Mass for the Dead
Robert Fripp & Brian Eno Over Fire Island
Wind on Water Another Green World
Evening Star
Patrick Moraz Cachaca
Gruppe Between Kotakomben
Volkstanz Einstieg (LP)

Stomu Yamashta Space Theme Yamashta
Jean Michel Jarre Oxygene
That’s Entertainment The Band Wagon (1953, MGM)
Absolute Everywhere Miracles of the Gods In Search of Ancient Gods (LP release from TV special)
Stockhausen Mikrophoniet
Iso Tomita The Engulfed Cathedral Snowflakes are Dancing

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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Entertainment


Citizen Wayne

“Much is written about the Batman because he is publicly exposed in print. Very little is known personally about his creator, because I haven’t given out that many interviews.” —Bob Kane

Tim Burton’s Batman has many parallels to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, so many in fact that it’s surprising no-one has made the comparison before.

The story and original screenplay were written by Sam Hamm who had previously written the screenplay for Never Cry Wolf. Warren Skaaren, who had previously written the screenplay for Fire With Fire, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Beetlejuice, was brought in to work on later revisions of the screenplay.

The Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. Two years later on May 1st, Citizen Kane had its premier at the Palace Theatre in New York City.

opening logo is a close up sculpture

camera at jaunty angles

the news conference (Harvey Dent)

Knox (the reporter) and the news room

pan up the building (to the crime boss conference)

use of mirrors

the room full of armour (xanadu)

dinner (the long table)

newspaper headlines (spin outs)

belfry scene (gargoyles + down stairwell view)

long single tracking shots

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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Entertainment


One Night in Camden

“I wish there had been a music business 101 course I could have taken.” —Kurt Cobain

Pippi and the Butcherbirds were on the B side of this 7" single from 1997

The parties lasted all day on VE day in 1995, but things really started going in the evening at The Monarch in Chalk Farm Road, Camden. The entertainment was provided by a triple bill of new bands; Autopop, Pippi and the Butcher Birds and Camden’s own rising stars The Weekenders.

Autopop were a four piece group with their origins in Ireland. Eddie, the guitarist, and Aidn, the bassist came to England with two other members who subsequently left. They then met singer Chris from Norwich and drummer Dave.

“Our problem is we look like a bunch of accountants,” says Eddie joking. They do look familiar though. They cite their influences as The Who, The Jam, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and the resulting sound is similar to two current popular bands. “Oasis are good and Blur aren’t bad either,” says Eddie. “We want to tour and sell lots of records,” says Chris. They would be returning to the Monarch on June 6.

People came from as far as High Wycombe to see their favourite band but some fans travelled a little further. Pippi and the Butcher Birds, two girls from Sweden and drummer Andy Ireland brought their fan club with them. Tina Bränden is the lead singer and plays guitar and harmonica and Lina Ikse Bergman plays bass and sings backing vocals.

Not long into the set the fan club started pogoing madly and they played a fun and bouncy set. When Tina screamed into the microphone though people started looking around to see if a spaceship had landed. The girls more than proved it’s what you’ve got between your ears, not your legs when it comes to making good music.

After requests for several encores they finally managed to leave the stage. Their influences include The Clash, The Rolling Stones, The Sundays and Swedish punk rock. With tender songs like Don’t Tell Me I’m Beautiful, You Don’t See The S— In Me they could go far.

The Weekenders were the band that most people had come to see and they were the highlight of the evening. With the songs Man of Leisure, Don’t Keep Up With The Jones’s (Drag Them Down To Your Level) and Window Shopper they speak to an intelligent youth who like to have some decent lyrics to listen to while they’re dancing.

Paul Tunkin is the singer, Steve Smith plays drums, James Hendon plays guitar and Chris Remington plays bass. They have their Mod influences, doesn’t everybody these days, but the audience loved it when they went all Punk. No pogoing though. But with a bit of luck they could make it very big indeed.

Melody Maker had recently devoted two pages to The Weekenders and it was not hard to see why. Their first single which they released on their own label sold over 3,000 copies and their follow-up single, Incredibly Wasted would come out on June 9. It was debatable whether or not there was a Mod revival in progress but there were certainly some fresh bands around and you’d see them in Camden.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Entertainment


Profile: Teresa Maughan

“Why am I a magazine publisher? Is it because I love magazines?
No. It’s because I had a tiny success back in 1967 selling a hippy magazine on London’s fashionable King’s Road.” —Felix Dennis

T'zer: The YS years

Long before Felix Dennis struck magazine gold with Maxim, Dennis Publishing was known as Sportscene Specialist Press, and as the kung-fu fad of the 1970s passed home computers were going to be the next big thing. One of the many titles Dennis launched in that period was called Your Spectrum, a magazine dedicated to an 8-bit computer designed in Cambridge, England and made in Scotland.

Possibly the longest serving YS staffer, Teresa Maughan, known as T’zer, rose through the ranks to become production, then deputy editor under Kevin Cox. Kevin had taken over editorship from Roger Munford in 1985 and oversaw the relaunch as Your Sinclair.

“He’s a transvestite and likes to be known as Kylie to his friends,” she alleges.

In 1987 she took over from Kevin and remained editor until 1989 when she became YS publisher.

“In reality I did anything and everything,” she says.

Her abiding memories of YS are “laughing like a drain for four years solid, listening to Snouty and Berkmann swap jokes continuously—some of them were actually funny, dressing up in ridiculous outfits in the name of work, young boys asking me to sign their T-shirts (and other things!) at the Earl’s Court games shows—I could never understand why, as I didn’t feel famous, wondering whether Duncan MacDonald was going to show up for work or whether he was out on one of his ‘jaunts’. and Hold My Hand Very Tightly—nobody croons like David Wilson.”

Since leaving YS, she has had three children, born in 1993, 1995 and 2000 and continued her career in journalism. This has included editing Dennis’s Mohammed Ali: The Glory Years, a stint of production on Linux User magazine, and launching and packaging the now forgotten Star Pets Magazine.

“It was aimed at girls and all about celebrities and their pets and pop,” she recalls.

She has written extensively for the teen market from a series of unofficial pop biographies to more serious titles for Channel 4 Books including Model Behaviour, and four self-help books to accopmany the award-winning Wise Up Sunday morning show for teens. Her favourite ZX Spectrum game of all time is the unreleased Prince of Persia. “I loved the way he moved. Otherwise it has to be Advanced Lawnmower Simulator designed by Duncan MacDonald.”

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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in Entertainment, Profile, Technology


Profile: Tom Lehrer

“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” —Tom Lehrer

Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer reissued on the Rhino Records label

In a monologue preceding one of his songs Tom Lehrer once said: “I wonder how many people here tonight remember Hubert Humphry, he used to be a senator. Every now and then you read something about him in one of those ‘where are they now’ columns. This became quite an issue last winter at the time of Winston Churchill’s funeral when President Johnson was too ill to go and somebody suggested that he send Hubert. And he said ‘Hubert who?’” Now it seems it is ‘Tom who?’

Lehrer was an American satirical song writer who recorded 37 songs between 1953 and 1965, many of which were considered unfit to be played on the radio. He was considered the epitome of satirical bad taste. However, his three albums are still available in the United States and have sold over 1.8 million copies in total. Yet in Britain he seems in danger of being forgotten though in the ’60s playing one of his records at a late night party was considered a sure sign of intellectual maturity.

Lehrer hates to give interviews, “unless I’ve got something to plug” and tells journalists: “Make it up, you do that anyway don’t you?” adding: “It’s okay, I won’t sue.” And he still has that smooth voice that lulls you into a false sense of calm. Though he grew up in Manhattan he has spent most of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has lived in his present house there for over 30 years.

With titles such as Poisoning Pigeons In The Park, a song about the joys of spring, Lehrer has always appealed to something of a select audience. The New York Times said: “Mr. Lehrer’s muse (is) not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste” and the Evening Standard called him “obvious, jejune, and remarkably unsophisticated.” Lehrer says he has not been spoiled by this critical acclaim. Indeed he once remarked: “If, after hearing my songs just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.”

Speaking years ago on BBC Radio 4, Lehrer recalls a performance of a song he wrote about the boy scouts called Be Prepared: “I sang it in a night club and this marine came up afterwards, and speaking in his native language, Neanderthal, he said, ‘You shouldn’t make fun of the boy scouts, they’re the marines of tomorrow.’ And he was perfectly right.”

Between 1946 and June 1953 Lehrer was a teaching fellow in mathematics as a graduate student at Harvard University. During that time, if you believe the album notes, he “supplemented his meagre income by regaling local degenerates with songs of his own devising.” Lehrer never received his PhD, and would be a graduate student today “if it wasn’t for those silly rules.”

After spending two years in the army as an enlisted man, in 1957 Lehrer returned to academic life. However, having already released his first record, he found he was in demand for engagements in “hot, fetid, smoky, and uncomfortable” night clubs. At this time he also performed a number of one-man show in concert halls and theatres.

In 1960, after a four-month concert tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, he retired from performing and returned to academic life. Again he was brought out of musical retirement for NBC’s version of That Was The Week That Was, which he thought would be a perfect outlet for his musical work. He has since also appeared in Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark and Norway.

Lehrer gave up writing songs in the late ’60s saying: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. How do you top that?” But he was coaxed back to do some non-satirical songs for the Children’s Television Workshop, producers of Sesame Street. That was in 1972 for a programme called the Electric Company which was designed to teach children to read. “It’s always exciting to do something quite different.” says Lehrer.

After this brief ‘come back’ Lehrer went through a further revival in the ’80s with the launch of the London West End production Tomfoolery, a collection of some of his best known numbers performed by an all English cast. That show has since gone on to see nearly 200 productions around the world.

Ask his health, and he replies: “Actually this is a recording, I passed away some time ago.” It sounds like the record and for half a second you believe him. In a 1994 article in Harvard Magazine he said: “The main thing is my mind has deteriorated,” adding “Twenty-two years in California have turned my mind to Jell-O, imitation flavour at that. And my attention span has atrophied. I used to have a long attention span but it was shot off in the war.”

His albums are still available on compact disc from Warner’s Reprise label. They are Tom Lehrer Revisited (originally Songs by Tom Lehrer), An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, and That Was The Year That Was.

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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Entertainment, Politics, Profile


Hendrix Replica Guitar

“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.” —Jimi Hendrix

I’ve been playing guitar for about 20 years now. I discovered Jimi Hendrix in my teens, and I’ll never tire of listening to his music. He’s best known for playing a right-handed Fender Stratocaster reversed for left-handed use. But if you look at my collection of guitars you’ll notice I don’t own a strat. The truth is I’ve never really liked them (or the Gibson Les Paul for that matter). However, it’s been a while since I bought a new guitar, and buying guitars is an addiction.

Fender has made a number of licensed Hendrix copies over the years for right-handed players like me, including a reversed left-handed ’68 Olympic White strat with a mirrored headstock decal (so if you stand in front of a mirror you look like a southpaw). One of those recently sold for $1,800. Now that seems a bit much for a reproduction of poorer quality hardware, with a bridge pickup that actively makes the sound worse. Plus I liked the look of that guitar better when it was temporarily sporting the neck off a Telecaster at the Newport Pop Festival in 1969.

So given that what we’re really talking about here is a novelty instrument, I came up with a solution. Take a $100 Chinese-made strat copy, attach a $100 Chinese-made tele neck to it, get a custom pickguard to get the bridge pickup back at the right angle, and get a custom made water-slide decal with a reversed tele logo. Not sure when I’ll get around to buying the guitar and neck (attaching a tele neck to a strat is a non-trivial task). But given that Fender aggressively pursues unlicensed decal shops, to combat the fake guitar trade, I figured I’d better order one while I could.

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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Entertainment


57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)

“To say something intricate about something as disorganized, confused, and interconnected as an American city, you want to stay for the whole season on a single story.” —David Simon

I am passionate about television, which is why I don’t own a television set. In 1981 there were three terestrial television stations in Britain. I remember the family set we rented had the stations printed above LEDs indicating what you were watching; BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, and, in anticipation of a new service, ITV2. Well ITV2 eventually arrived in 1998. In 1982 we got Channel 4 instead. That station finally went national in 2010 when the Wenvoe transmitter went digital. Previously viewers in most of Wales recieved the Welsh language S4C station instead.

So now we’ve got digital terestrial, satellite, cable, and Internet television. There must be something worth watching? Well there probably is, but finding it is an non-trivial task. The BBC has helpfully put all of its non-populist programmes on BBC Four, which is available without a television license via the iPlayer. But even there I find myself agreeing with Sophie Wilson, that the treatment of subjects barely scrapes the surface. Take, for example, 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tsunamis. Well I knew eight of them, and I’m not a seismologist.

As much as I like factual programming, my favourite viewing and what I think television does best is long-form drama. The extended DVD release of The Lord of the Rings comes in at just under eleven and a half hours. That’s still shorter than the first season of The Wire. I’m not comparing the two, but if you use the time wisely you can tell a much deeper story with television. The extreme example of this is Coronation Street, which was once like an Ibsen play that never ended.

I’ll go with Robert McKee and say that Aristotle’s Poetics tells you everything you need to know about writing drama. The six required elements in order of importance being plot, character, thought, diction, music, and spectacle. McKee argues that most Hollywood films place those elements in reverse order. Here’s my own personal list of some of shows that I think got them right:

Columbo (1971-1978)
M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)
St Elsewhere (1982-1988)
Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
The Wire (2002-2008)
Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)

The setup is fairly similar for all of them. You could argue that Buffy is basically a “police procedural” (cop show). If you get plot and character right, then a fantasy or sci-fi setting is just a device. I’m going to stop here before this turns into a full-blown essay, but I may come back and write some more at some point. Tip: watch Treme.

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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Entertainment