Father Ted – The alternative take

What do you need to know about it?

Father Ted was an Irish sitcom produced by a British broadcaster. It followed the “Craggy Island” house of three Roman Catholic priests led by Father Ted, and housekeeper Mrs Doyle. All the priests had been sent there as a punishment for various incidents in their past. Most Brits will have heard of the show. It is critically acclaimed and can rightfully stake a claim as one of the best comedies of all time.

It is difficult to not like Father Ted. It rips on the Catholic church but not in a way that is too offensive, unless you lack a sense of humour, but then, you’re not forced to watch it are you? Father Ted Crilly is burdened not only by the idiots around him, but by his own idiotic schemes, and the way he reinterprets the teachings of the church to serve his own ends. Father Dougal has a childlike perception of life and understands none of it. Father Jack Hackett is a drunk who sits in the corner either drinking, or sleeping, or shouting obscenities. Mrs Doyle is the insane and hyperactive housekeeper, slightly obsessed with “a cup of tea”. The adventures, or misadventures are a little surreal. The show was fabulous. Sadly Father Ted himself “Dermot Morgan” died of a heart attack, shortly before the third series aired.

Where did I first become acquainted?

I think right from the start in 1995. I watched it all as it aired. I’ve watched it many times since. I still find clips funny. Check out this clip here after Ted is accused of being a racist:

What to buy:

All the episodes ever produced can be bought on a dvd set. In the US, it is available on netflix streaming as well.

Anything related to look at:

Check out this fan site “Father Ted Online“. Check out Craggy.net. Or check out youtube, there are plenty of clips. For example this one, where Ted leads out a posse of priests who have become accidentally “lost and trapped” in the lingerie section of a department store:

Anything else?

It was written by Graham Linehan (who also wrote “Black Books”, and “The IT crowd”) and Arthur Mathews (who also worked on “Black Books” and “Hippies” starring Simon Pegg).

It really is one of the best comedies ever, so try check it out if you can. Watch Father Ted deal with a blasphemous film:

Lexicon word of the day: chaffer.

We don’t need the police, just these guys…

I’ve probably been watching too much late night tv on the hub, but the other night an idea struck me. In a shrinking economy with cutbacks, I know where we can save money. We don’t need the police, we just need these guys. Now hold on a minute, don’t run away just yet. I know it was late night, but here is what  I was thinking.

Back in old sixties Gotham, Commissioner Gordon must be the most useless, most dumb commissioner of all time. His police force don’t patrol the streets, dashing to emergencies and attempting to catch criminals, you know, before they can escape a crime scene. He doesn’t have detectives hunting for clues, questioning perps, and talking to witnesses, or even just trying to detect clues. His police force do absolutely nothing. So little in fact, that Chief O’hara just hangs round by his side whilst they converse about the weather and wonder about the world outside. If a bank get’s robbed the first thing Chief O’Hara should do is get some guys down there. Here’s what would happen if I was O’Hara:

Me: “Erm, a banks been robbed, there could be millions gone. Shouldn’t we get get some guys down there Commissioner Gordon?”

Gordon: “Um let me think… nope, let’s just give Batman a call”

Me: “What you are going to send nobody? Not a single officer to preserve the scene?, No-one to make sure the witnesses don’t leave?”

Gordon “Haven’t you got the kettle on? Where’s my mid morning tea and biscuits?” (Gordon picks up the handy direct line to Batman…)

A week or so ago I saw an episode where Bruce Wayne and Dick (you know, Robin) were appearing on a morning TV show. Some fiendish being, played a trick of some sort on the presenter of the show rendering him speechless. He was promptly carted off. Bruce (you know, Batman), covered the microphones with his hands and informed Dick that Commissioner Gordon watches this show, he was sure to be on the phone. With that in mind, they got up and left. Sure enough as they entered Wayne Mansions, The Commissioner was on the phone. That is the Commissioner, who spends his busy mornings watching a chat TV show instead of managing the police force. It is so serious that when Batman is not around he doesn’t know what to do, just like on this clip here (worth it for the expression on his face when he realises he has to do some work):

The good thing is Batman and Robin are equipped for any situation. Forget for a moment that they have only lap belts in a rocket powered car, as can be seen here.

No need for shoulder straps with the Rocket assisted car?

Or that they have to label everything like two old men with Alzheimer’s trying to navigate their kitchen (frequently with signs longer than the item).

What does this do again?

Or that whilst climbing walls to solve a crime, they don’t seem to be in a hurry and frequently stop for conversation, as can be seen here:

Because they have gadgets like this… Attacked by a shark, don’t worry, hand me the Shark repellant:

They have so many gadgets that they are covered for almost any situation. Check out how long this list is here (hint: it is far too long to copy and paste here). Anyone who has watched the show, will know they are capable of getting out of any kind of dodgy situation they are tied up in.

Erm… I’m not sure what is going on here

And are more than capable of dealing with this lot:

Anyone for a Halloween party?

See Easy, no need for Police any more. On the other hand, me just need sleep. Perhaps like this bear after being unfortunate enough to stumble upon, and have a go at, the Hulk. Watch what happens to him.

Me thinks he has a headache.

Actually it just dawned on me that Commissioner Gordon isn’t the dumbest, but the smartest commissioner ever. He has a job where he has to do nothing, gets to watch tv, and eat tea and biscuits all day. I think I might be the fool. Look at what happened to Gotham after he left:

A sunny day in Gotham?

Lexicon word of the day: inerrant.

10 Favourite films – The alternative take

In a typical Pub / bar type discussion I was asked that if I pretty much knew what my 10 favourite music albums of all time are, then what would my 10 favourite films be? I knew a few entries, but I had to get back home and have a think.

These days I am not as much into films as I used to be, I prefer a good drama on TV e.g. Sopranos, The Wire, Justified, Mad Men, Game of Thrones and shows along those lines. The main reason is simply that with more time on TV, you can develop characters and story more, and have more layers. It is more akin to a book on tv. In a film you have less time to establish characters, you have to tell a whole story and be able to move it along. Nothing wrong with that at all, I just like more detail right now.

On the other films may have a bigger budget and better cinematography. There are a lot of cool and interesting ideas out there. And I do own a lot on dvd. So I had a look through and this is what I came up with. The order is loosely best down, but not set in stone:

  • The Good, The Bad, The UglyMaybe my all time favourite. Looks fab, sounds fab with Ennio Morricone’s score, and has great characters.
  • The Big Lebowski – Although this is the other maybe. You just cannot beat the dude.
  • Back to the Future – About as fat free a script as you are going to get. Top fun too.
  • The man who would be king – Sean Connery and Michael Caine,  I love this film.
  • The Wicker man  – The 1973 original with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, not the crappy remake of recent years. A horror classic.
  • Goodfellas – A have of mine from when I was in College.
  • Blazing Saddles – I have seen this so many times and I still enjoy it and find it funny. Great way of having a go at racism, and illustrating how idiotic it is.
  • Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind – Script by Charlie Kaufman who wrote Being John Malkovich. It’s mad, it’s great.
  • Spartacus – Top classic swords and sandals action.
  • Pulp Fiction – My fave Quinton Tarentino film, and another have from college.

Ok, so it is a bit of a guys list, and me being a guy, it seems to fit together. This list is also interesting to me in what I had to leave out. I deliberately left out Star Wars films. “Empire strikes back” was a contender but I have seen these films so much in recent times that I cannot give them a fair hearing. Same with Indiana Jones films, my favourite is “The Last crusade” but they are on tv all the time. I was tempted to put in “The Terminator” but again, this is on a lot and it seems to cloud my judgement on it.

“Taxi driver” is another favourite Scorsese film, but I went with “Goodfellas”. “Being John Malkovich” also classic but I went with “Eternal Sunshine”. “Spinal Tap”, “Aliens”, “Shawshank Redemption” were also contenders but just missed out. “The Godfather” which Empire magazine had at the top of it’s best 500 movie ever list, I personally think is good, but a little boring. I prefer part two. “Day of the Beast” (El Dia de la bestia) is a spanish horror / black comedy that is brilliant, fairly difficult to get hold of compared to most films, almost made it in. Check this out if you have never seen it.

Recent films I also tend to exclude, until they have had time to settle down into history, with more of the hype forgotten. Therefore “The Dark Knight” gets excluded amongst a few others. I didn’t add any children’s films but “The Jungle Book” almost made it in, and I was unable to pick out an individual film from the “Toy Story” trilogy.

So that is it for my list. Anything you think I have missed that definitely should have been in there?

Lexicon word of the day: rapscallion.

Blur – The alternative take

What do you need to know about them?

Blur are (or were) a British pop / rock band consisting of four band members; Damon Albarn (mainly vocals and keyboards), Graham Coxon (Guitar), Alex James (Bass), and Dave Rowntree (Drums). They appeared in 1991, before stopping around 2003 after Damon and Graham had a falling out. They made friends again and re-appeared for some emotional gigs in 2009, including a triumphant headline slot at Glastonbury, and a Hyde park gig recorded and later released . They won the Brit award for “outstanding contribution to music” at the 2012 Brits. If you are British I don’t see how you cannot know who they are. They are pretty much a British institution, most people have a soft spot for them. If you are American, you may know them, might know them for “Song 2”, or won’t have a clue.

Where did I first become acquainted?

Quite probably from fairly early on. In the summer of 1993 I was working in the warehouse of a crappy retail chain. A least it afforded me the opportunity to have the radio on all day, at a time when I was really getting into music again. I loved “For Tomorrow” and was excited about the follow up singles. This being a time when single releases could still be a little exciting. That sounds a bit daft these days. Anyhoo, I got the album “Modern life is rubbish” and never looked back.

Parklife was an even better follow up and took them on to huge success in the UK. In 1995 when they had the singles war with Oasis for number one “Country house” Vs “Roll with it”. I bought both editions of the Blur single. And the Oasis single. Sadly both these efforts were pretty weak for both bands at the time. Still it was fun at the time.

The single Beetlebum actually got me into the band Pavement which in turn gave me one of my favourite albums of all time, Pavement’s “Brighten the corners”.

What to buy:

Depends what mood I’m in. I have everything including the album of remixes, and a live bootleg. However this is my post, so I’m choosing:

  • Blur – The one influenced by American bands after getting a bit fed up of Britpop. Has song 2 (everyones heard of that).
  • Parklife – The 2nd album, the big britpop one, chic full of good tracks and singles.
  • Modern life is rubbish – The second album containing lots of pop, but a bit less melodic than Parklife. Still a fab album, one that reminds me a lot of College.
  • 13 – The broken hearted Damon one, a bit more “art rock” whatever that means, more Graham guitar brilliance, more introspective lyrics.

Some key tracks to listen to:

There is a really good singles compilation (yep I have that too, even though I already have all the tracks), so that is a good place to start. With that in mind, heres some alternative good tracks which might not have been singles (or are just favourites of mine).

  • Sing
  • Theres no other way
  • For Tomorrow (full version not single edit)
  • Tracey Jacks
  • This is a low
  • He thought of cars
  • Yuko and Hiro
  • Beetlebum
  • On your own
  • Moving on
  • coffee and tv
  • battle
  • trimm trabb
  • on the way to the club
  • Black book (b-side to the music is my radar single, really ought to have been on an album)
Blah, blah, so many good tracks. Listen to some tracks here. Check out the video to “The Univeral” below:

Anything to avoid?

The first album “Leisure” is a bit patchy but does have a few very good tracks. “The Great Escape” is a bit overcooked but still decent, so really it should not be in this section.

Anything else?

They have their own website here and a Facebook page if you want to look that up. There is also fabulous film “No distance left to run” which tells the story of Blur and is available in an edition containing one of the hyde park gigs. There is also an old tour film from the Modern life is rubbish era called “Star shaped” (Yep, I have that as well).

Damon Albarn has had a busy music career. You can check out more of his work in the following:

  • Gorillaz
  • The Good, the bad, and the Queen
  • Mali Music
  • Rocket Juice and the moon
  • Dr Dee
Graham also has had a solo career releasing eight albums. Check out:
  • Happiness in magazines
  • The Spinning top
  • A & E
Plenty of books are available but I would recommend “Blur 3862 days, the story of blur” by Stuart Maconie, and band member Alex James book “A bit of Blur“. A large box set “21” containing all the albums (remastered) and plenty of unreleased tracks, is to be released on July 31st 2012 (pictured at the top of the post).

Enjoy!

Lexicon word of the day: eristic. 

Back to the Future Trilogy – The alternative take

What do you need to know about it?

Back to the Future was a film released and set in 1985. High school student Marty McFly gets accidentally sent 30 years into the past, stops his parents falling in love, has to make amends, invents Rock n Roll, and has to find a way back to the present, using a thunderstorm. It was followed up by an ok second film set in the future and past, then a fabulous final chapter mostly set in 1885. Blah, blah, blah. Oh come on man, it’s Back to the Future, who doesn’t know about it?

Dr Emmett Brown. The Delorean. Flux capacitor. Mr Fusion. The infamous skateboard scene. The manure. The Frisbee. 1.21 Gigawatts.

The first film is a classic of “modern” cinema, and if you are interested in (film) scriptwriting has next to no wastage what so ever. It’s about as perfect a script as a drama / comedy is going to get.

Where did I first become acquainted?

I definitely didn’t see it at the cinema. I was only 10 at the time. I think it was the big film on xmas day tv a few years later (these were times when films took forever to get onto video, then even longer to reach tv). By that point it was already becoming a film of legend. I loved it. I saw part two at the cinema and queued for a couple of hours at our local cinema to see part three. Oh, those were the days. Yeah, the days before multiplexes. Queueing up in the hot sun – sucker. I’ll conveniently forget that I do the same thing now at Disneyland, waiting for a ride.

I think I watch the trilogy almost once a year. I have them on blu-ray now. I have a Back to the Future t-shirt. That sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? Um, I also have the recent Back to the future games on the Mac as well. I didn’t call my kid Marty before you ask.

When I first visited America, and actually to the house I now live in, I thought the street looked like it was out of Back to the Future. Well it is southern California isn’t it? It sort of does.

What to buy:

The trilogy set on DVD, or if you have a Blu-ray player, it is much better on that.

 

Anything related to look at:

Read the wiki page. Check out this site if you want to discuss plot holes (you can google several sites for that). Check out the official geek site BTTF here. It’s worth clicking on just to watch the brief intro, if nothing else. Although you can order a replica hoverboard. Hmm… And all manner of other back to the future related things / junk.

Anything else?

Check out the recent Back to the future adventure / puzzle games (they are along the same lines as the Secret of Monkey Island games if you ever played those). Available on Mac / PC, PS3, maybe something else. It is in five parts, (I think I’m about half way through), and is set after the trilogy finishes. Doc has got into more trouble, Marty has to get out and rescue him.

Type “Back to the future parody” into the youtube search function and see what appears. Lots of bad ones and some good ones like this “Downfall” spoof:

 

Oh, in my past I had worked for a time at a power company. There was this thickie sales guy who would always mis-estimate things. My manager of the time, and I would always refer to him as “1.21 gigawatts”, often in the Doc voice. Ok, you probably had to be there.

Lexicon word of the day: artifice.

Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – The alternative take

What do you need to know about it?

His dark materials is a trilogy of books by Phillip Pullman. In order they are Northern Lights (renamed The Golden Compass for the shoddy film), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. The books are all part of a large story which primarily follows Lyra Belacqua, and later, also Will Parry. The story takes place in several parallel universes and feature fantasy elements such as beautiful witches and armoured talking bears. No come back, these books are well thought out and intelligent. They drew some criticism for being a little anti Christian and anti religion in general (or more in theme), but if you have a brain I wouldn’t let that stop you reading them.

The first book was made into a beautiful to look at, but somewhat soulless film called The Golden Compass. If you’ve seen the film and it put you off reading the books, think again. Compared to the book, the film is a turd, a polished one, but still a turd. The film explains nothing of why the bears wear armour, and how they come about them (if you watch Game of Thrones, think the iron price), or how the bear Iorek Byrnison became exiled, or even how big a deal it was that Lyra could speak to him. Or even how he was friends with Lee Scoresby. And plenty of other things, you can probably see what I’m getting at. The film ended sometime before the book did, the book had a cliffhanger ending or sorts.

Where did I first become acquainted?

About six or seven years ago, a friend asked if I had read them because they were very good. I had never even heard of them. Then I mentioned it to another friend who said he had also read them and they were very good. I checked out some reviews, they were very good. So if they were very good, I can probably assume they are worth reading. So I bought the trilogy and guess what? They are very good.

I did have the ending of the third book spoiled a bit as a friend referred to the emotional element so I was waiting for it. (I will say to avoid spoilers that it might be happy, it might be sad, it might just be a surprise twist, or it might just be straight forward and well built up, i.e. I’m telling you nothing).

What to buy:

All three books. Once you get to the end of the first one, you will want to read the rest.

Anything related to look at:

Check them out on Amazon.com here, or Amazon.co.uk here.

In a quite comedy element, especially if you a) have a brain, b) have actually read them, c) are not a moron, d) like to encourage some thought, you will laugh at Phillip Pullman appearing second on the US banned books list. This means a lot of people tried to have his books banned in case, you know, someone has a thought about something. You can read about it in the Guardian here. This might suggest that the books ought to come highly recommended, hint, hint.

Anything else?

Not really. Oh hang on, there are a few smaller related books that I have never read called Lyra’s Oxford, and Once upon a time in the North. According to wikipedia, a book called The book of Dust featuring some of the same characters, but an independent, set later in time book, is in the works.

Lexicon word of the day: asseveration.

Led Zeppelin – The alternative take

What do you need to know about them?

Led Zeppelin were a fabulous hard rock group, from the seventies, perhaps the biggest at the time. – Oh come on I’m not going to explain the whole thing here, either you know them or you don’t. Look them up on wiki. Four geezers, Robert Plant (Vocals), Jon Paul Jones, (Bass and keyboards), Jon Bonham (Drums), brought together via the ashes of The Yardbirds, by Jimmy Page (Guitar). As hard rock groups go, they are pretty much the best. They started in 1968, seven years before I was born, and ended due to the death of John Bonham, in 1980. They briefly reformed to terrible effect at Live aid in 1985, and to tremendous effect in 2007 for the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert.

All the members except Robert Plant wanted to continue from the 2007 concert. Robert has moved on with other successful projects. Personally I was too young to see the Zep play live, and would love to see them, but it’s hard not to agree with Roberts perspective also. Led Zep were the four original members and that ended when Bonzo passed away. Going back to all that now, having all the press attention when it is not wanted, moving aside current interests, – all too much hassle.

Where did I first become acquainted?

Well my dad had some albums and compilations so  I probably heard them growing up. I think I started with the remasters compilation in the early nineties and started buying the albums from there. It’s Led Zep, what’s not to like?

What to buy:

Depends what stage of Led Zep you want. However this is my post, so I’m choosing:

  • II – Their second album, the one written on tour. It’s a bit sexy dirty, and begins with Whole lotta love.
  • III – The third album (see the theme developing here), a mix of acoustic, some soft and some harder tunes. Starts with Immigrant song.
  • Houses of the Holy – Some might go with other albums ahead of this one, but I think this works better as an album than most of the others do. Plus it opens with The song remains the same.
  • IV – Contains Stairway to Heaven so is naturally one of the most popular. Also contains the much sampled (for Drum breaks) When the Levee breaks’
  • Physical Graffiti – Big two disk affair often considered to be their best. Contains Trampled underfoot, and Kashmir, those being two good examples for consideration.

Some key tracks to listen to:

Lots of tracks, and you could easily just pick up one of the compilations as they all give you the main ones. For arguments sake let me divide them up a bit

Short hard rock ones:

  • Good times, bad times
  • Communication breakdown
  • Whole lotta love
  • Bring it on home
  • Immigrant song
  • Trampled Underfoot
  • The Wanton Song
  • Custard pie
  • Rock & Roll

Long guitar twiddly ones:

  • Song remains the same
  • Since I’ve been loving you
  • Achilles last stand
  • Nobodies fault but mine
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Kashmir

“Lighter” ones

  • Tangerine
  • Thats the way
Blah, blah, so many good tracks. Or listen to some tracks here. Check out this fab version of Trampled underfoot.

Anything to avoid?

Coda, a collection of outtakes and unused tracks is a bit naff. The film The song remains the same, is amusing for all the stupid fantasy footage, but isn’t the greatest concert performance. I say 50/50 as to whether you watch or not, but don’t go in with high expectations.

Anything else?

They have their own website here. There is a good fan site here. There was not a lot of filmed concert footage, but the best was pooled together to make this dvd collection Led Zeppelin which became the biggest selling music dvd of all time. It is really good.

Robert Plant has some decent solo albums, I would check out:

  • Mighty Rearranger (with band the strange sensation)
  • Raising Sand (with Alison Krauss)
Jon Paul Jones joined with Foo Fighter man, and ex Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, plus Queens of the Stone age main man, Josh Homme under the name Them crooked vultures for:
  • Them Crooked Vultures (ok, self titled)
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page recorded two half decent albums together:
  • No quarter: Unledded
  • Walking into Clarksdale
And Jimmy Page was featured in this fabulous guitar film It might get loud (along with U2’s The Edge, and Jack White).

Enjoy!

Lexicon word of the day: Somniferous.