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I like Pandas, but I could never eat a whole one.



Updated: 2017-11-11T13:59:55.331+00:00

 



Everything I know about TV series "Game of Thrones" despite never having seen a full episode of it

2017-11-11T13:59:55.386+00:00

(image) There is a guy who says nothing but Hodor. It turns out that this is because he once had to tell people to "hold the door".

The Blondie Lady is called Daenerys something-or-other. She is the mother of dragons; this may or may not be literal but she does have pet CGI dragons who burn people up for her. She is known as the Khaleesi. She acquires and then frees a CGI slave army who choose to freely follow her because what else are they going to do?

There is a brother and sister who are shagging each other. They tip a young lad (close relative?) out a window when he catches them at it. The young lad mysteriously survives. Meanwhile the brother and sister have a son (passed off as son of the sister's husband) who becomes the Mad King Joffrey, who is mad and bad. He is eventually killed.

There is a guy called Littlefinger who is very duplicitous but eventually he is found out and killed.

Some people got married but then one lot of the guests killed all the other lot.

Sean Bean plays someone who gets killed unexpectedly at the end of the first season.

There is a guy called Jon Snow who gets killed but then it turns out he wasn't killed after all or something. People tell him he knows nothing.

The brother and sister who are shagging each other have another brother who is very short.

There is a family called the Starks. One of them is called Arya Stark.

There is a big wall that is keeping snow zombies called the white walkers out of the land where the main characters live, which is called Westeros.

There are lots of scenes in which women, especially minor character women, get their kit off.

image source:

Incest sister, the Short Guy, Jon Snow, the Blondie Lady (NME)



Haunted Landscapes: a Season of Folk Horror: part 3

2016-10-05T23:23:20.434+01:00

This is the final part of Irish Film Institute, to see Folk Horror themed films being shown as part of their Haunted Landscapes season. Folk horror is a term coined by Mark Gatiss. You can read my account of the first set of these films here and the second here There was more black magic action in Night of the Demon (1957), Jacques Tourneur's adaptation of M.R. James's 'Casting the Runes', about a magus who is able to set a malevolent demon on his enemies and a man who finds himself marked for death by the monster. Among other things, it is famous for providing the "It's in the trees! It's coming!" sample for Kate Bush's 'Hounds of Love'. It is also that odd beast, a noir horror film, with much use made of shadow, lots of men in hats and long coats, an opening scene in which a man drives along a darkened road by night, a closing scene in night fog beside a railway track. And yet it is not fully comfortable in its embrace of the uncanny, with the magus a somewhat bumptious type and various interludes with mediums and hypnotists seeming almost like comic relief for all that they are advancing the plot of horror. In that regard it feels less certain of itself as a horror film than Cat People, Tourneur's 1942 classic.Night of the Demon is famous for the studios insistence that the monster be shown in it ("If people go to film called Night of the Demon then they'll feel ripped off if there is no goddamn Demon!" must have been the logic). Tourneur on the other hand wanted the Demon to be left unseen, more terrifying if the audience's imagination is left to run riot. In truth, the long shot version of the Demon is actually quite scary, reminiscent of the monster in Forbidden Planet in its semi-corporeality. The close-up version is pretty ridiculous though, that classic dud monster who ends up looking a bit cute thanks to its trying too hard to be fierce. And despite its ridiculousness, the close-up view of the monster gets used in all publicity for this film, including by the IFI in the run up to this season.And how fares this enjoyable film as a member of the folk horror genre? I'm not too sure. All the black magic stuff and people in posh houses again feels like something other than folk horror. On the other hand, there is a bit where the protagonist goes to Stonehenge and looks at some runes carved into the stones, calling to mind the ancient folk ways of England, so maybe we will let them away with it. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DWqrriAGDls" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>And the last film was the most recent, The Blair Witch Project from 1999. You have surely seen that found footage film about the three people who get lost in the woods while trying to make a low budget documentary about a legendary with. Looking back on it now it is striking how none of the people involved in have gone on to do that much. Given how much of a stir the film caused at the time this may be surprising. I am also struck by how short it it is, possibly because a film of people wandering around in the woods and then being woken up by strange noises at night can only go on so long before it gets boring. It is still a most unnerving. The sense that the characters are doomed comes early to the viewer, and it is their dawning sense of their inescapable fate that gives the film its mounting dread. Sound design corner: I know people who are into cinema sound design get annoyed when people say "oh, like music?" when the concept of sound design is outlined to them, but in Blair Witch Project it was noticeable that in the very last sequence (when the characters run around through the world's spookiest derelict houses, pretty much knowing they are about to die) the film sneaks some low volume music onto the soundtrack. This should break the illusion that this is unmediated found footage, but the volume is so low and the scene so engaging that most audiences probably do not notice.Folk horror credentials: well there is a witch in it (or mentioned in it) and there is a fair bit about folk beliefs [...]



Haunted Landscapes: a Season of Folk Horror: part 2

2016-10-05T23:21:12.866+01:00

I continue my account of trips to the Irish Film Institute, to see Folk Horror themed films being shown as part of their Haunted Landscapes season. Folk horror is a term coined by Mark Gatiss. You can read my account of the first set of these films here.The second day of the season saw us in the IFI's smaller screen for a showing of Quatermass And The Pit (1967), a Hammer film version of the late 1950s TV series, both scripted by Nigel Kneale. Kim Newman introduced the film, about which he has written a book. Quatermass (a rocket scientist) finds himself investigating strange goings on when workers on an extension to the London Underground discover an unexploded bomb that turns out to be a spaceship older than humanity. There are shocking revelations and the release of long dormant powers. When things come together in Hammer films they are the best things in the world: not schlocky or camp but genuinely unnerving. Everything comes together in this one, with the design, acting, scripting and direction all making this one of their greatest works. But is it folk horror? One might say no, arguing instead that this is horror science fiction in the Lovecraft mould, yet it still has a folk feel to it. The horror is very much located in a physical place, with the sense that the buried ship has had a malign influence on its surroundings since time immemorial (a trip to the library reveals that the area above it has been regarded as haunted and unhallowed as far back as there are records). With this film I must particularly sing the praises of Barbara Shelley, a Hammer stalwart, who in this plays one of the archaeologists. She appears in a succession of amazing outfits that appear to have driven the colour coordination of the sets and astutely plays a role a world away from the screaming victim more commonly seen in Hammer films (often played by Ms Shelley). Hers is not the lead role but I did watch this wishing she had been given a fairer crack of the whip by film history. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0Zoz9MN0-Y4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The next film was the first I had not seen before, it being Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, a Czechoslovak film from 1970. Its Luboš Fišer soundtrack was re-released some years ago by Finders Keepers and became quite popular with people who like that kind of thing. Having listened to the record a good bit made for a strange experience finally seeing the film. It is a somewhat avant-garde work, described by Kim Newman as being exactly like Company of Wolves, except with vampires instead of werewolves. As such it falls into the world of films about teenage girls and their sexual awakenings. Valerie is menaced by shifty characters who try it on with her and who may or may not also be her close blood relatives. A sinister Nosferatu-like figure directs proceedings. Her grandmother may also be one of the vampires. Things happen, but it is not a plotty film. Instead it is a work of great beauty, with a wonderful combination of visual images and music. But is Valerie and Her Week of Wonders folk horror? I fear not, but it would be churlish to complain about this rare opportunity to see this classic of obscure cinema. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mMntrQRCkOQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Following that we found ourselves watching the third of the films that Mark Gatiss used to define the folk horror genre. It was The Blood on Satan's Claw, a 1970 film directed by Piers Haggard, made by the same production company as Witchfinder General, seen on the season's first day. This one is also set in days of yore (the 18th century or some such) and begins with a young yokel finding a strange looking hairy skull in a field while ploughing. He brings a grumpy old judge to investigate, but the skull has vanished, yet it soon transpires that Evil has descended upon the locality. This one was introduced by Donald Clarke, Irish film critic. One of his interesting points was that the film is[...]



Haunted Landscapes: a Season of Folk Horror

2016-10-05T23:38:15.422+01:00

The Irish Film Institute held a season of folk horror films. What the hell, I thought, buying tickets for all of them. For those that do not know of such things, Folk Horror is a term coined by Mark Gatiss in a 2010 BBC documentary about horror cinema. The three films Gatiss proposed as the epitome folk horror are all from the late 1960s or early 1970s. They were included in this season, as were many several others. I have not seen Gatiss's documentary so I do not know how exactly he defined his genre. I think of it as being a combination of the uncanny with folk beliefs and practices, though the canonical films do not all readily fit such a mould: indeed, it would largely leave us with folk horror being a one-film genre, with that film being The Wicker Man. So instead I will now bomb through the films shown in the season and we can see if any kind of commonality can be seen. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/98gzk6VSzfU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>First up there was Witchfinder General (1968), one of Gatiss's trinity. Directed by Michael Reeves, it tells the story of Matthew Hopkins, a real historical figure who hunted and executed large numbers of suspected witches in eastern England during the chaotic Civil War period. The film has a curious relationship with the reality of the Hopkins story. On the one hand outdoor scenes are filmed in places where Mr Hopkins stalked and killed his prey, but the film presents a more lurid version of his activities, throwing in a baroque witch burning at one point (with hanging being the more usual method of executing witches, or so I understand). The film's narrative drive comes from the quest for revenge of a soldier whose betrothed has been abused and debauched by Hopkins & his thuggish assistant, with the grim ending turning the soldier from square-jawed hero into violent maniac. For all that this is one of the defining films of the folk horror genre I find Witchfinder General's inclusion therein somewhat problematic. There is very little sense in the film of anyone actually believing in witchcraft (either people considering themselves witches or sincerely believing that others are practitioners of the black arts). Accusations of witchcraft appear as a cynical ploy for people who want to punish their enemies or satiate violent urges. Hopkins himself is hard to think of as anything other than a conman using his witch hunts as a way of enriching himself (though his being played by Vincent Price has a lot to do with this). Perhaps what makes this folk horror is its evocation of the latent sadism and malevolence of the common folk, which we see in those scenes where jeering crowds watch the abuse and execution of those accused of witchcraft. Famously Michael Reeves did not want Vincent Price in the Hopkins role, wishing that he could have Donald Pleasance instead, but the studio insisted. Price and Reeves did not get on, and at one point Price exclaimed to the much younger Reeves, "I've made 80 films! What have you ever done?", to which Reeves replied, "I've made three good ones". Or so it is said. That same evening I saw The Wicker Man (1973), again introduced by Kim Newman. I have started thinking that this might actually be my favourite film in the world and that I will never turn down a chance to see it. Part of its fun is that it circulates in a multiplicity of versions, so whenever it is shown you never quite know what you are going to get. Newman mentioned that they did not actually know what version they were showing tonight, so he must have been as surprised by me to see an odd two night version that nevertheless leaves out the snails and 'Gently Johnny', felt by many to be the film's best song. Newman also confessed to a sneaking regard for the short version, which was originally shown with no fanfare as a support film for Don't Look Now, with much of its early word-of-mouth power coming from the fact that people were seeing it completely without preconceptions. I[...]



Film: "Iona" (2015)

2016-09-16T13:09:02.014+01:00

(image) This was the last film I saw in the Dublin film festival earlier this year. It set on a Scottish island, but not obviously the island of Iona, with the name of the film coming from the name of the protagonist, played by Ruth Negga. The film begins with her and a teenage boy driving a car, getting a ferry to somewhere, parking the car and setting fire to it, walking on to somewhere else and then getting a boat to the island the film is about. She is returning to the island after leaving it when she was 16 or thereabouts, with her son (who is… about the same age in years as she has been gone from the island dunn dunn dunnnnnn). It is one of those tangled webs and dark secrets revealed films.

I found aspects of the film appealing though I thought some of the roads it chose to go down were a bit distasteful. Ultimately it was only OK but it was great to see Negga in anything as she is one of those actors one could happily watch reading the phone book. Before she went away to seek her fortune in the world of TV and cinema she was the greatest Dublin stage actor of her generation.

Some women sat near me in the cinema tittered all the way through it, like they had been drinking or something.
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/37bpLJf2pC4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

image source (Up Late At Night Again)



Film: "Retour de Flamme: The Keaton Project" (1920-1922)

2016-09-15T13:05:00.996+01:00

(image) I saw this compilation of remastered Buster Keaton shorts in the Dublin film festival earlier this year. It was introduced by Serge Bromberg, who oversaw the restoration. Buster Keaton is a legendary film figure but I had never seen anything of his before (apart from a short art film he did in later life with Samuel Beckett), so I was keen to see these short films.

Sadly I did not find these films that funny but I very much enjoyed seeing them. Keaton's self-mastery is astonishing to bold, the way his face can communicate depths of expression while maintaining an apparent deadpan demeanour. In that regard the more recent actor he most reminded me of was Leslie Nielsen. Anyways, these included The One Where The House Falls Over On Top Of Him and the One Where He FInds Himself Being Chased By Loads Of Cops, and many more. It is a bit sad that he was unable to successfully make the transition to sound films, but life is hard.
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/e8rf_w7w0IQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>
image source (Timeless Hollywood)



Film: "The Lure" (2015)

2016-09-14T13:04:11.130+01:00

(image) I saw Polish film in the Dublin film festival earlier this year. It deals with a nightclub band who find two siren-mermaids and then bring them back to add backing vocals to their band. The mermaids also double up as strippers (who can shape-shift into human form when away from water). It is set back in the 1990s (it took me a while to register this) and it is a musical: as well as the scenes of the band playing in the nightclub there are moments when people break into song and dance routines. It is somewhat done for laughs, though I think it would be funnier if you got all the Polish cultural references, but it has its sadface moments on the transient nature of human-mermaid love. And it goes a bit horror from time to time. So thematically and mood-wise it is a bit of a dog's dinner.

I found it a bit sleazy and exploitative. It was noticeable that the two mermaids spend most of the film topless and possess a certain jailbait quality. Yet the director is a woman so maybe this is actually a feminist film, in which the audience are being confronted with their own voyeurism.
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1Y2N6Q4dbdY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>
image source (Wikipedia)



Film: "Parabellum" (2015)

2016-09-13T13:05:03.382+01:00

(image) This is another odd film I saw in the Dublin Film Festival earlier this year. It has an Austrian director but appears to be set in a future Argentina. It is stylistically interesting in that it features almost no dialogue. It is not a silent film: there is sound and we do hear the human voice. But the scenes where people speak are mostly ones with instructors talking to students who remain mute. There are very few scenes in which Person A says something and Person B says something back.

How can this be? Well the film begins with a man doing a series of things that you realise are him bringing his everyday life to an end. He visits an old man in a home for the elderly. He sits in his apartment while an automated caller invites him to reconsider his decision to cancel his telephone line. He hands his cat in to a cat minder. There are snippets of news reports suggesting that things are going very wrong with the world (riots, natural disasters, social breakdown, etc.). Then the man goes off on a bus to a rural location and is blindfolded and brought on a boat through a river system to a combination holiday camp and training centre. He and the other new arrivals undergo a series of preparations… for what? It seems like a combination of general fitness training and self-defence, then learning to shoot and acquiring some handy survival skills. As they go about their business we see the odd fireball pass through the sky.

The detached tone and the cultishness of the setup reminded me of films by Yorgos Lanthimos, particularly Alps. I was also reminded of that Martha Marcy May Marlene film. The latter comparison seemed particularly apt when the film turns nasty, with the protagonist and a couple of his fellows going to a house in the country and killing all the people there (this portrayed in a detached manner, with most of the killings happening off screen).

The detachment and lack of dialogue in the film is its most appealing prospect but it also can be frustrating. The lack of exposition means it can be a bit unclear as to why things are happening, with the detached style of the acting making it harder to infer from them why they are doing things. In the end it seems like the community breaks down or maybe the protagonist cuts loose and heads off on his own. There is a stunning vista later on when he canoes towards a city that appears to be suffering very badly from a rain of fireballs. The film seemed to be on the point of a transition here but then it just ends.

Its odd nature may mark this out as the best film I saw in the film festival, though I think it may be one I like more in retrospect.
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VU3PumZj_iI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

image source (Film Society Lincoln Center)



Film: "100 Yen Love" (2014)

2016-09-12T13:05:02.209+01:00

(image) Earlier this year I went to see a film in the film festival and actually saw the film. Jurassic Park! The film I saw was 100 Yen Love, about this waster Japanese woman who is kicked out by her parents and gets a job in a convenience store working the night shift. After doing this for a while she starts taking an interest in boxing, initially because she fancies this guy who keeps training in the local boxing club. Then she takes up boxing herself and it kind of turns her life around. It was an interesting film, providing an insight into a Japanese world of slackers a world away from the salarymen, gangsters or samurai who normally show up in the Japanese films that make it to the West. I'm not sure I liked it that much, though. It seemed a bit unsure of its tone, as to whether it was a funny film about the main character and her funny slacker world or a serious film about her overcoming her demons and getting back on the straight and narrow. I suppose films can be both.

There is one scene in the film that was a bit difficult for me to watch but has had me thinking afterwards. When the woman goes to work in the convenience store she has this co-worker who is also a bit of a loser (hence working in convenience store) but also a bit of dickhead. He is racist and also sleazy, continuously hitting on the protagonist in an unappealing manner. But this is all kind of presented as being a bit funny, in the way that sleazy characters often are in fiction. Then on a night out where they go for drinks after a boxing match he takes the protagonist to a cheap hotel and rapes her. This is clearly not funny, but it did make me think about how sleazy characters (in real life and fiction) may only be a step away from this kind of assault but still are treated in somewhat comedic terms until they actually go that far. These people are only funny if you are not the one worrying about being stuck in a lift with them.

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cjSW303IjLw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

image source (Wikipedia)



Film: "Spotlight" (2015)

2016-09-11T14:13:13.501+01:00

In the Dublin film festival earlier this year I bought a ticket to see Why Me?, a Romanian film about political corruption in the post-Communist era. I printed out my online ticket, went to the Lighthouse Cinema, showed it to the attendants and was directed into a one of their screens. I sat and watched ads and trailers, but then disaster struck. Instead of the opening credits for Why Me? coming up on screen, I was greeted by a film censor's certificate for another film entirely, one that was already on general release and which was not being shown in the film festival. This was a terrible psychic blow, which left me feeling that some kind of cosmic joke was being played at my expense. I thought of running out to try and find the film I was meant to be seeing, but feared that it would already have started. Inertia also suggested that staying in place would be the wisest course of action, a view supported by the film being one that I had heard something positive about. The film I was seeing was of course Spotlight, the Tom McCarthy directed film about journalists investigating a systematic Catholic Church cover up of kiddy-fiddling priests in Boston. It is based on real events and features actors playing real investigative journalists who worked for the Boston Globe. I liked that it dealt with a difficult and distasteful issue like kiddy-fiddling in a manner that was neither voyeuristic nor sensational (readers will be pleased to hear that the film features no depictions of actual kiddy-fiddling).In the film, the existence of paedophile priests is already a known thing, but the journalists uncover that their number is far greater than previously suspected, something that could only have happened if senior figures in the Church were working to hush up the extent to which these crimes were taking place; this coverup is revealed as going all the way up to Cardinal Law, archbishop of Boston. Aside from the sensitivity with which it handles a difficult subject, the film has a number of great strengths. One is the depiction of journalists at work, piecing together the story not by meeting silhouetted informants in car parks but through research and cross-referencing of published documents. The other thing that impressed me is its sense of moral ambiguity. Although we are left with no doubt that kiddy-fiddler priests and the people who shelter them are bad, other characters are revealed as more morally grey than initial impressions might suggest. The most striking example of this is the shyster lawyer who turns out to be arguably working to obtain the best deal he can for his unfortunate clients, someone who tried to blow the whistle on the scale of the paedophile priest problem but who gave up when no one was interested in hearing about it. And then there are the journalists themselves. Journalists in this kind of film are usually shining white knights, forces of unambiguous moral righteousness bringing the bad guys to book. And in this film they are like that, to an extent,but as the film goes on they (and we) become more aware of the older journalists' role in the cover-up of the paedophile priest scandal. They did not do so thanks to corruption or a desire to protect the Church, but because their prior biases could not support the idea that there really was a systemic problem with clerical paedophilia. People who asserted the true scale of the problem are dismissed as cranks, their claims buried on the inside pages of the paper if covered at all. Aside from the fact that this terrible abuse of minors was allowed to happen, there are things that made me sad about this film. One was the fact that although set in the relatively recent past (late 1990s, early 2000s), it is like a relic of an age that is increasingly vanishing, one where newspapers were important institutions and serious [...]



July 1916

2016-08-02T13:07:06.383+01:00

Hello Inuit Panda readers. I have been neglecting you in favour of my First World War blog. If you are interested in such things, here are links to my posts there in July:1/7/1916 Carnage on the Somme2/7/1916 The Somme: counting the cost, planning the next steps2/7/1916 Baranovichi: a Russian attempt to smash the Germans3/7/1916 The Somme: a failed night attack6/7/1916 The Somme: piecemeal Allied attacks continue8/7/1916 The horror of the Somme comes home to Britain9/7/1916 The battle for Mecca10/7/1916 Italian mine war in the Dolomites11/7/1916 Verdun: Knobelsdorf’s last throw of the dice11/7/1916 Italy explodes its mine under the Austro-Hungarian Castelletto12/7/1916 Verdun: the furthest German advance12/7/1916 Austria’s brutal vengeance: the execution of Cesare Battisti14/7/1916 The Somme: Rawlinson sends in the cavalry15/7/1916 Verdun: the French push back16/7/1916 Britain sends Egyptian help to the Arab Revolt19/7/1916 Australian disaster at Fromelles20/7/1916 The Somme: Britain and France go their own way22/7/1916 Exit Sazonov23/7/1916 The Somme: British attacks fail but Australian troops seize Pozières24/7/2016 Pozières: Germany strikes back25/7/1916 Brusilov’s offensive begins to slow down, Evert’s continues to fail27/7/1916 As the Somme grinds on, politicians become restless but Haig remains confident27/7/1916 Germany executes Captain Fryatt28/7/1916 The Dada Manifesto and the Cabaret Voltaire30/7/1916 The Black Tom explosion30/7/1916 The Somme: new German tacticsimage source:Reconstructed image of British soldiers advancing from The Battle of the Somme (1916) (The History Learning Site)[...]



Important Cat Adventures

2016-07-24T11:58:02.120+01:00

On the anniversary of our cat arriving into our lives I posted the story of her first year with us on Twitter. Now at last I am sharing this story for the benefit of my blog readers. This is a post that involves scrolling down a lot, but it does also feature a lot of pictures of what may be the world's most beautiful cat.


But right now I can imagine any cat-hater reading this is thinking "I've been tricked into reading a load of shite about a cat with a vague promise that it would somehow prove relevant to more interesting stuff about Ian, who is not a cat". Fear not readers, I have not led you astray. This important cat news sets the scene for the next post on this amazing blog. Come back tomorrow to read it. It will blow your mind.

Since writing the above we have indeed made contact with our cat's previous owner, meeting her and our cat's estranged sister. Further details may be revealed in due course.

More cat pictures

Even more cat pictures



The Politics of Contraband

2016-05-09T13:35:04.107+01:00

src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/152933865" width="560" height="336" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen>

Glenn Frey - Smuggler's Blues from Ian Gray on Vimeo.

And Glenn Frey died too. He was in The Eagles. I never liked The Eagles much. I remember hearing 'Lying Eyes' by them on a radio programme on which the listeners had voted for their favourite song ever. It was not just shite, it was whiney shite too. I don't know if Glenn Frey wrote or sang it (I am somewhat unclear as to who did what in The Eagles and I am too busy to go to the Internet to find out) but he must have had some involvement.

The one thing I do like by The Eagles is 'Hotel California' (the song, not the album). If everything by The Eagles was like that, I would love The Eagles. But it isn't. And I do not know what exact involvement Mr Frey had with this song either.

(image) Glenn Frey went solo and had songs that appeared on the soundtrack of Miami Vice. There was a song called 'Smuggler's Blues', which was at least pretty good. I also recall an album track that I heard once or twice on the radio called 'The All-Nighter'. It was about how he is known as the All-Nighter, because he can keep at it throughout the night, not that he likes to brag or anything. I think it was more comical than anything else. Rubbish Eagles tunes were always associated with cocaine, but this may have been the most cocainey track with which Mr Frey was associated, as approaching random strangers to tell them about your sexual prowess strikes me as the kind of thing that users of that devil drøg would be inclined to do.

I know other people died too. I should mention Carey Lander, keyboardist with popular band Camera Obscura; I did not know her personally but many people I know did and they loved her very much. I must also mention Robin ap Cynan, known to many as a lawyer who worked in family arbitration stuff. I know him as a contributor to Frank's APA known for his erudite knowledge of classical music. He was either rude or funny (or rude and funny) depending on the observer. I am sorry I never met him.

More people have died since I wrote the above. They will be mentioned in due course. In the meantime you can check out things I wrote about other people who have died here.
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6p44ERc5Kks" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

image source (Robin Mostyn ap Cynan)



Lemmy: Killed by Death

2016-05-08T18:36:47.482+01:00

width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/InLDtI8skyQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>
Lemmy's death over the Christmas period was not particularly surprising as he had been in bad health for some time. I had read many accounts over the last few years of embarrassing concerts where he was plainly too sick to perform properly. It struck me as a bit sad because I feared he was trying to perform out of financial necessity rather than true rock and roll abandon, though of course I had no way of knowing this.

And yet, despite his obvious deterioration there was still this sense that he would be around forever, until he wasn't. Then I regretted the various times that Motörhead had played Dublin without my going to see them. I did however have the pleasure of seeing Lemmy performing live once back in the late 1980s when he came onstage for an encore with Hawkwind in the Brixton Academy. He was very tall (or everyone in Hawkwind was very short; from where I was sitting they came to the same thing).

I was never a massive Motörhead fan. I had/have a compilation of some of their big songs (featuring a novelty dance remix of 'Ace of Spades' that apparently featured in an ad for pot noodles). There are plenty of good tunes on it, notably 'Bomber', 'Killed by Death', and especially 'We Are The Road Crew', though the standout track remains 'Ace of Spades', a tune people like me remember for the time Motörhead appeared playing it on The Young Ones, Lemmy characteristically playing with a speaker situated somewhere above his face.
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For someone who appears to have never stopped living a rock 'n' roll lifestyle Lemmy made it to a good age. He was no indestructible Keith Richards but he had a reasonably good innings, all things considered.

My favourite Lemmy anecdote is the one about how when Motörhead were touring Bomber they had a lighting rig done up to look like a Lancaster bomber. While playing in Berlin he reputedly looked up at the rig and said to the audience "Been a while since you saw one of them?"
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For more death action, check out my recollections of the life and works of Mr David Bowie.

image source (NME)



David Bowie and me

2016-05-08T17:15:59.457+01:00

Five YearsWhen I was small I went around to a friend's house. He put on one of his big brother's records. It began with a strange song about people hearing that the world only has five years left. I thought about how sad I would be if there was only five year left to the world. Ashes to Ashes'Ashes to Ashes' was number one in the charts. The video was on continuous rotation, or so it appeared. This was in the early days of music videos, when they seemed to have almost no money spent on them but often communicated a sense of wild artistic abandon. So it was with this one, which perhaps had more spend on it than others. Strange figures walked along in front of a bulldozer, a black sky hung above them, a man in a Pierrot outfit unnerved me. And there was a scene where the lyrics mentioned how the singer's mother told him not to mess with Major Tom, the video showing an older woman talking to the Pierrot. I remember feeling sorry for the old woman in the video as she looked very nice but was having to consort with this clearly depraved character.Let's DanceThis song and the accompanying album came into the world. The album is a monster success, vastly outselling his previous records. Yet perhaps the cracks are beginning to show or the sharks are beginning to circle. A thing I heard said a lot at the time was that as good as the record may be, Bowie is no longer sounding like an innovator: on this record he is just following the musical ways of others. So it was said by some, but listening back now the song sounds strange and jarring, clearly the product of a unique talent.Space OddityWhen I was in secondary school whenever there was an occasion where people were playing guitars and singing songs someone would always sing this one. The androgynous guy in my class who was most inclined to sing it acquired the nickname "Ziggy". I knew the words of the song by heart long before I heard it on record.God Knows I'm GoodThe local library had a copy of Space Oddity on cassette. I borrowed it and listened to it a lot. Aside from the title track there was a memorable song about a free festival and a song with the desperate chorus "God knows I'm good / God knows I'm good / surely God won't look the other way".Never Let Me DownAnother friend at school decided to get really into David Bowie. Like so into him he bought records and stuff like that. This was when Never Let Me Down was the latest record. My friend bought it and listened to it a lot and then started telling me how great it was. "But it's got very bad reviews", I said, as though that meant anything. "The critics have always been against Bowie", my friend replied.Glass SpidersI think above-mentioned friend may have gone to Slane to see Bowie on the Glass Spiders tour. Somehow I came across a piece in Hot Press, not a magazine I have ever been accustomed to read. The writer started with the pretty uncontroversial opinion that Bowie's current recorded output is not up to much. But then he went on to assert that actually he had never been much cop. The one interesting assertion, one that had a degree of purchase at that time, was the claim that Bowie's crown as the inventive chameleon of popular music had by that point been well and truly taken over by Prince.Absolute BeginnersThere was a film called Absolute Beginners. It was heavily hyped before it came out but it seemed like at the last minute everyone realised that it was a load of rubbish and it tanked without trace (though I have not seen it myself and so cannot confirm or deny any comments about its cinematic quality). David Bowie appeared in the film, as an advertising executive or something like that. He also wrote and sang the film's theme song, [...]



Dog rescued from armchair

2015-10-31T10:58:39.888+00:00

(image) Lyn Kirkwood of Salford was looking for her dog Cagney when she heard a whimper and found the Lhasa Apso stuck head first in a reclining armchair. Cagney was unable to get out and Ms Kirkwood could not extract her herself.

Ms Kirkwood had no option but to contact emergency services and the RSPCA. Firemen were eventually able to free Cagney by dismantling the armchair. A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue reports that Cagney then "wandered off for a drink".

Cagney has not responded to inquiries as to how she came to be stuck in the armchair in the first place.
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more (BBC)



[film] "Containment" [2015]

2017-04-14T10:20:44.286+01:00

Do not destroy these markers. These standing stones mark an area used to bury radioactive wastes. Do not drill here. Do not dig here. The rock and water in this area may not look, feel, or smell unusual but may be poisoned by radioactive wastes. When radioactive matter decays, it gives off invisible energy that can destroy or damage people, animals, and plants.I saw the film Containment in an exhibition in the Project Arts Centre called Riddle of the Burial Grounds. The film is a documentary by Peter Galison & Robb Moss. It is about the containment of nuclear waste, in particular the spent fuel of nuclear reactors. Much of the film is about WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. This was set up as a secure storage site in which nuclear waste could be dumped and forgotten about. A problem with nuclear waste is that it will remain dangerously radioactive for a very long time, longer in fact than the entire span of human history so far. It was decided by US federal authorities that WIPP would have to be marked in such a way that in the far future people would be deterred from digging there and inadvertently releasing the radiation. This is a bit difficult as the people who must be warned away may have no memory of our culture and have no language in common with us. An interdisciplinary team of scientists, linguists, science fiction writers, and various other types (sadly no First World War bloggers) were recruited to try and come up with something that stood a convincing chance of warning off the people of the future. You get the sense that at the end of their efforts they are not really that convinced that they have anything will definitely or even probably work, but still they feel that they owe it to future generations to try.The film is not just about WIPP, it also looks at where nuclear waste is currently stored. Typically the highly radioactive spent fuel of nuclear reactors is stored at the nuclear sites themselves, cooled in tanks of water to stop them catching fire and spreading fallout all over their surrounding areas. If a typical one of these sites were to lose its cooling waters then the spent fuel would probably render a vast area around the site uninhabitable. The film looks at one site where this almost happened, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The power plant there was severely damaged in the 2011 tsunami and did release radiation; the film shows a farmer whose irradiated cattle cannot be eaten and also looks at trees whose wood is too contaminated to be used in construction. However, the spent fuel rods in Fukushima did not lose their coolant, though at one stage it looked as though the water would boil off and expose the rods. The prime minister of Japan at the time of the tsunami is interviewed in the film; he says that if the coolant had boiled off and the rods had ignited then they would have released so much radiation that an area of Japan in which some 20 to 40 million people live would have become uninhabitable. He likened that outcome as being akin to losing a major war and said that it would have brought an end to Japan as an independent state.The film also looks at some nuclear sites in the US, in particular the Savannah River Site, a huge complex of reactors and temporary storage sites in South Carolina. This lies on the Savannah river in an area of fascinating swampy wilderness. There is a lovely scene in the film with a camera panning along the lush tree-lined border of the river before a nuclear plant rears up through the vegetation. It is a fascinating juxtaposition of nature and a human construct of destruction.The Savannah River Site [...]