Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Rob's Review of the Year Part 2. "Meh"

Last week I pontificated on the year gone by and shared with you, beloved, gorgeous, sexy reader, some of the things that, in 2010, had failed to please my all consuming, ever demanding self.

We move on, tonight, to the second of my four 'reviews of the year' - a consideration of  those things which, though not utterly rubbish, were a bit of a let down and left me feeling vaguely flat. I do not condemn them to a fiery pit of eternal doom, but nor do I embrace them lovingly to my tender breast, kissing them on the head and telling them that I truly, honestly love them. I suppose I just kind of turn away from them, pretending I have to answer an important text and that I'll be 'back in a minute'.

Anyway. Here are my votes for 'meh' things of 2010. If you see them coming, pretend to be out.

Things that made me go "Meh."

1. Scott Pilgrim Versus the World

Ask me what I think of Shaun of the Dead. Go on. Ask. I LOVE IT YOU FOOL. Can't believe you needed to ask. Now ask me how excited I was about the prospect of Edgar Wright directing Scott Pilgrim. Go on. No, really, I promise not to shout this time. I WAS VERY EXCITED.  It was Edgar Wright for goodness sake! And the trailer was really funny and the visual style was all 'Whoo!'

And then the film came out, and we all scampered to see it, like tiny children running towards a toyshop or away from a pervert. And then I sat there in the cinema for two hours, going... "Huh." Waves of explosive sound and kinetic vision washed over me, bathing me in all the colours the universe has to offer, and I simply sat, utterly unmoved.

It's possible that I'm too old or something. The people I was with, good friends whose judgement I trust and whose tastes I generally share, bounced around giggling the entire time like weebles on heroin.* Afterwards many of them declared it ten kinds of brilliant. And I was sad, because I just didn't plug into it in the same way.

If I had to say why I didn't get it, I'd say the whole film felt like it was trying too hard, and it didn't seem to establish a level of 'reality' that made me care about the characters. There were plenty of funny bits and the editing was super clever, but it was, as Shakespeare would have said, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and not as good as Spaced.

*I know, I know. Heroin probably doesn't make you giggle and I probably should have said poppers or something. But I conducted a wide range of rigorous scientific tests and came to the conclusion that 'weebles on heroin' was by far the most amusing of all the phrases on offer.

2. Crowded House's album Intriguer

Like most bands, Crowded House split up the moment I started to like them. I'm not sure why I have this effect on bands, but it does seem to happen too often for it to be a mere co-incidence, so I will have to assume I am some kind of universal nexus of incedible significance, whose life is more important than everyone else's. I should probably have some kind of special crown made so everyone knows to worship me.

Anyway, having split up for a bit, Crowded House decided to do what lots of bands do next, which was to get back together again. Normally this is a terrible idea, and results in albums that sound exhausted and lost, cheapening the legacy that made the band beloved in the first place. Not so for Time on Earth, CH's brilliant 2007 comeback, which was better than it had any right to be and is one of my favourite albums ever.

2010's Intriguer sounds more like the album I expected back in 07. It's not awful. It isn't anything much - it just drifts along for a bit and then stops. There are some nice melodies, clearly - I'm not sure Neil Finn can help writing lovely tunes - but despite playing it many, many times, it failed to get its hooks in. A shame.

3.  The Expendables

I'll be honest and say I did quite enjoy this when I watched it, but I have no real desire to ever see it again. It was like a drunken old man singing in a bar at Christmas - quite amusing for a while, but before too long it becomes tedious and you get worried he might start hurling glasses at your head. The plot was pointless and often contradictory: the whole situation the Expendables are sent to defuse would have sorted itself out much better if they'd just not gone in the first place. As I recall, they deal with corrupt CIA intervention in a Central American state by shooting everyone they meet until there's no-one left to be unhappy.

4. The revamped Castle Pub.

I like pubs. I like open fires, the smell of beer and the sight of dozens of bottles of wine waiting to be plucked down and guggled into a glass. I like comfy seats and people bringing me things to eat, and conversation with friends and the sense that time has drifted off to play with a kitten and won't be back for ages.

I liked the Castle, on Barnsley Road, a lot. It was quietish, sold a reasonable selection of wines and had food that I praised with such enthusiasm that I suspect the waitresses thought I was being sarcastic. It didn't have the hallmark of the truly great pub - a big sleepy dog lying in front of an open fire - but it was a home from home for a while; a big living room where I could happily spend my days, and often did.

This Summer, someone looked at my lovely Castle and decided it wasn't posh enough. They closed it for a month (a bloody month) and refurbished it so it now resembles a sort of stone temple. Don't get me wrong - it's very pretty, and there's all sorts of nice design features and the staff are still lovely. But I don't quite feel like I fit there any more. It's gone a bit dining-out-y. The prices have straightened themselves out and stretched a little higher, so now you can't really just pop in for tea, you have to consult Microsoft Excel first to check it won't compromise your credit rating.

Like I say, it's very nice there. It's just not... quite... me.


So there we go. Things that are 'meh' are a bit harder to think of. By definition, they drift out of the mind. My greatest fear is that I'll stop noticing that things are mediocre and accept them as good enough. Like that time I listened to 'No Line on the Horizon' and decided that some of the songs were OK after a few listens. No! They weren't! It was just that I'd got used to the banality of the whole album, and my standards had slipped. A few seconds of Nick Cave's 'Dig Lazarus! Dig!' put paid to that.

See you soon. for better and more enjoyable things.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Rob's Review of the Year - Part One

The futuristic wonders of 2010 are fast approaching their end, and soon we will be plunged into the frankly unbelievable post-apocalypse of 2011. To mark the end of this, the most peculiar of years, I shall be doing a series of little reviews.

Many of us, trapped in conversation with someone - perhaps whilst being held hostage in a skyscraper or such - will find ourselves at a loss as to how to describe the highs and lows of our cultural lives. Well, worry no more. Over the next few weeks you will know exactly what to think about everything that matters. Opinion be damned, these are facts, and people who disagree and simply wrong. And sexually deviant.

I have devised a simple rating system for All Things. Everything we come across fits into one of four categories: 'rubbish', 'meh', 'quite good' or 'awesome'. Today we will deal with the first, and worst, of these.

Things that were Rubbish in 2010.

Overall, 2010 has been a pretty positive experience for me. I have had significant joy a number of occasions, and on the whole had a pretty good time, apart from that black cloud of all consuming angst in early Spring. There were some things, however, that got on my nerves.

1. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Yes, you are pretty and colourful and ever so whimsical. But are you any good? No. You are not. You are a smug, self satisfied film that relies entirely upon overt quirkiness at the expense of plot, character development and tension.

I like Tim Burton a lot, and count many of his films among my favourites ever. Edward Scissorhands is a masterpiece, Ed Wood is insightful and clever, Mars Attacks is enjoyably bonkers. Burton has the ability to suffuse whole films with his idiosynchratic sensibilites, wrestling the unwieldy apparatus of movie-making into submission and making it obey his peculiar whims. He stands with Terry Gilliam and David Lynch as a director who is somehow able to express his dreams and nightmares through sound and pictures.

Here, though, he has produced something unforgiveably dull. There is no engagement with the story - no sense of what is at stake, or why anything matters. When people are captured, or threatened, there is no sense of real peril or consequence.

There are a number of reasons why the film fails. I think the biggest one is technology. CGI and 3D are fine tools as far as they go, but here they seem to have dominated the storytelling process to its detriment, everything acting in service of the next set piece or special effect. Another problem, for me, is Johhny Depp, who seems to have slipped into an incredibly lazy groove of 'Tim-Burton-film-crazy-schtick'. Compare his idiot WillyWonka/Mad Hatter pratting about with his wonderfully subtle performances as  Edwards Wood and Scissorhands. Bleh.

The film also suffers from post Lord of the Rings syndrome. Someone somewhere looked at those films and went "Ah! Success at the box office = big battle scenes. I am a genius and will be made King of Hollywood". And so now every film with the vague whiff of fantasy has to end with a huge battle between opposing armies, no matter how irrelevant.

Boo to you Tim Burton. Stop remaking things and get back to your own vision. I, Rob Reed, command it.

2. Iron Man 2

Iron Man was fun, and mostly because of the inspired casting of Robert Downey Junior. It felt fresh and different, and I liked it. The sequel is fat, lazy and not-very-good. It has a couple of good set pieces, and some decent performaces, but it takes audiences love for granted and doesn't bother to make its story engaging. Shame.

3. The Prisoner remake

To be fair, this was never really going to work. And to be even fairer, I didn't get through the whole series, so maybe it turned out wonderful at the end. But I think a show needs to hook its viewers farily quickly, and this didn't.

I'm not sure how it could have worked. The original 60s series is unique, and very much of its time. A straight remake would have been pointless, and irrelevant. A recontextualisation of the ideas, which is what this remake seems to be trying to do, risks not really being the Prisoner at all. Calling it a different name might have helped. Casting someone interesting in the lead role certainly would have. Cavaziel may give a good Jesus, but he's no McGoohan.

Either way, this left me cold. And I hate being cold.

4. Caprica being cancelled.

Oy! I was watching that!

Few things make me as cross as the timid, limited souls of American TV executives. It's as if the industry is run by idiot children. "Oh no - this series, which has been on for about a week, is not instantly, massively successful! Quick - cancel it and replace it with another show about murders and the police."

Things need time to bed in, you dicks. Many really successful and enduring shows have performed relatively poorly at first. Don't you study the business you are involved in? Don't you realise that DVD sales and timeshifting  have fundamentally changed the way TV audiences operate? Did you get your job in a bloody raffle? If you want to sell beans, go do that, and let someone who cares do the job.


5. Politics in general

Has there ever been a year it which the democratic process in the UK felt less relevant? No-one voted for the government we got, yet they're acting like we all said 'I'd really like a bunch of bastards to come and piss in my face'. We didn't. Did we? Maybe we did and we forgot.

6. Solicitors in particular

I always knew solicitors were expensive. What I didn't expect was that they would also be absolutely bloody useless. I'm sure their legal knowledge is good and fine and that they passed all their solicitor exams, but my experiences of one Wakefield solicitor this year have show me that they:

* can't do sums
* can't spell (including, wonderfully, the word 'solicitor' on their own header)
* don't read your instructions, preferring to make up their own
* forget to pass stuff on, sometimes for six weeks
* sulk profusely when the above are pointed out to them

I have since changed solicitors, to one that does not so closely resemble my own name.

I think that's enough bile for now. These are my biggest losers of the year. No doubt I will think of others later but, like I said, it's been a pretty good year overall. Coming soon: things that made me go 'Meh.'

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

...which was awesome

A busy couple of weeks for your humble narrator, and so sparse pickings for those of you anxious to follow my magnificent and complex thought processes. For this, I am truly sorry, and hope that you found other ways to pleasure yourself in this time of neglect. Some of you, I imagine, will have wandered away in search of alternative 'weblogs', hoping to sustain yourself on the witterings of lesser minds. Others of you, I know, formed a small theatre company and toured Eastern Europe with a production of Twelve Angry Men. John, from Suffolk, made a perfectly splendid hat.

But cease, now, with these frivolous activities, for I return, like Jesus, Gandalf and Noel Edmunds before me. And, like them, I bring life changing ideas and thoughts, and a game about boxes.


Anyway, I know what you're saying. You're saying 'Rob, this is a brilliant blog, and one that will probably be compiled into some kind of religious text to lead humanity to enlightment, but sometimes, Rob, you say stuff and then just wander off onto the next topic, never to return. If we didn't know better, we'd say you got distracted very easily and bored even more quickly than that.'

Well, you couldn't be more wrong, you hypothetical abstraction, you. I hereby declare this post to be a comprehensive update on the exciting events that have made this month such a life changing experience. Then we'll see who's "a waste of my bloody time you stupid child".*

*Mr Wright, PE Teacher, 1981

Update 1 - the (Not so) naked face.

At the beginning of the month I joined many others in the heroic act of not-shaving-for-a-bit, to support the fight against testicular cancer (or 'Scrotum Wars' as it should be called but isn't). Three weeks later I have a rambling mass of spiky hair on my face, and five men have been cured as a direct result.* Here is what my face looks like now. Please forgive the furious expression. Operating even the simplest of devices causes me to lose all composure and sense of perspective.

If you have not yet done so, please put a bit of your overflowing bank balance into fighting cancer. Even if it's not this kind of cancer. Spend it on breast cancer if you want. My theory is, if we can cure one type of cancer, it will send a message to the rest of the cancers to piss off and leave us alone.#

* May not be true.
# May not work.

Update 2 - That whole Aids/Jesus thing

Actually, I've not heard anything else about this. Everyone to whom I mentioned the story seemed to have a sane and rational response, rather disappointingly. If you can't get into an argument by saying how Jesus had HIV, what can you do? Back to baiting that guy at CAPALERT.

Update 3 - Steve Wright in your face

A couple of weeks back I had a go at Steve Wright, the festering rodent at the helm of Radio 2's afternoon 'Big Show'. This was a lot of fun, and I have a little bit of a follow up on this story.

To my astonishment, Steve actually mentioned my blog on his show. He didn't use my name, sadly, instead choosing to refer to me as 'This Davros guy'. Idiot. What if the real Davros was listening? That's slander, that is. Anyway, Steve read out some bits of my blog, in that jovial burble of a voice he's cursed with. At first he seemed to find the whole thing amusing, but as he went on his tone lost some of its levity and a real sadness crept into his voice. Finally, at the point where I called him the 'King of Nob', his voice cracked and for a couple of seconds, there was silence.

"Are you alright?" asked his producer. There was a long pause. Even the 'bed'  - the triumphant orchestral music that constantly underscores the whole show - faded away into nothing.

"Am I... a nob?" asked Steve, plaintively. He suddenly sounded so human; vulnerable and small. You could almost hear the tears springing up in his goblin eyes. There was a pause, as I imagine his producer considered how to deal with the situation.

"Yes Steve," said his producer, "I'm afraid you are."

"I thought people liked me?" pleaded Wright's voice.

"No, Steve. I'm afraid they all really, really hate you. This blogger - this Davros - has summed up the feelings of the nation more eloquently than anyone has ever managed before."

"Really?" choked Wright. "Even more than Elton John did when he sang 'Candle in the Wind' at Diana's funeral in 1997, changing some of the words so it was more about Diana and less about Marilyn Monroe?"

"I'm afraid so, Steve. Even more than that. And now it's been said, I have no option but to kill you, live -on air."

"But who will do the show? Who will do The Big Show?"

"We already have someone in mind" said the producer over the sound of a sword being unsheathed. "His name is Rob Reed, the writer of this very blog - the one which has ended your reign of terror. His words are truthful, and good, and one day will be complied into a religious text which will used to guide humanity to enlightenment."

There was a moment of silence, then the slick swish of a blade, followed by the unmistakable sound of an overweight head bouncing off a mixing desk.

A heavy pause followed. Then they played the new Manic Street Preachers song, which I don't really like. *

*May have been a dream.

Update 4 - Death to Robin Hood

The twitter joke trial continues, and the gloves are off. Brilliantly, Paul Chambers is fighting the (idiotic) decision to criminalise his desire to use ironic humour. An online campaign has already pledged £8,000 towards his £10,000 legal costs. And the Spartacus movement has forced the police to admit that they will not be attempting to arrest everyone who retweeted Chambers's initial post, begging the question, why not? Is it possibly because the mere utterance of a phrase is not in itself problematic? Hmm...

On a day where students across the country are marching against the education cuts, it gladdens my soul to see action in support of what is fundementally right. How good would it be to see stupid decisions overturned by the power of collective, non-violent action? To take those who act as if they alone understand the law and to force them to realise they can't just do what they want? To take people like Nick Clegg and Judge Jacqueline Davies and make them wear stupid hats on which are printed the phrase "I have let everyone down with my frankly idiotic choices"? And put them in front of the X-Factor audience and force them to apologise, constantly, to a baying crowd of idiots. Idiots with spears. And then, as Clegg and Davies frantically attempt to dodge the never-ending, deadly volley of missiles,  we would cover them in poo from above, shouting "This is what it is like not to be listened to by those who have power over you". And they have to eat the poo. And apologise for not eating it faster. And we will laugh, and have some more biscuits, and congratulate ourselves on the very fair way we are running things.*

*May be satire.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Star Wars Trivia - we're up to L

More important things about Star Wars that you simply need to know.



Shiny headed, friend of Lando Calrissian and pioneer of the wraparound i-pod. His actual job was mysterious and vague, but I suspect he organised Lando’s exotic sex parties. In his spare time I imagine him singing four part harmony with three similarly bald men in Cloud City nightclubs. I’m not saying he was gay. I’m saying he was open to new ideas.

Lando Calrissian

Lovely moustache
And a cool swirling cape
Not to be trusted, though
Didn’t mention Vader’s presence on Cloud City.
Ought to have, really

Clearly fancied Leia
Although she didn’t look too impressed and
Later considered killing him for making her boyfriend all
In Return of the Jedi he
Seemed to redeem himself at the
Sarlacc Pit
Into which he tossed
A wide variety of
No good villains


Mos Eisley

Most wretched hive
Scum and villainy

Except it looks quite friendly for the most part
If you can cope with aliens with googly eyes
Stop in at the Cantina for a weirdly coloured drink or to
Lose an arm to an irate Jedi
Everyone’s welcome, except droids
You probably wouldn’t want to live there, unless you really , really like sand

Mon Mothma

Also known as ‘the other girl in the trilogy (if we don’t include the dancer girl who gets her norks out in the rancor pit)’. Quite why the original trilogy was so scared of female characters is hard to fathom. Except, as already discussed, we have many psychological representations of them throughout, what with all the pits and stuff. Oh, and I suppose there’s Aunt Beru. But she’s not exactly a looker, is she? Except when younger, in Clones. Owen must have been gutted that she turned out so mumsy. He still retained a kind of rugged charm in his older years, whilst I suspect that Beru smelt of milk.

It may become apparent by now that I don’t have much to say about Mon Mothma. She’s clearly in charge, as is Leia. Maybe the rebels all miss this mums, and just want someone to tell them what to do. Come to think of it, the Imperials don’t have any girls at all! No wonder they’re so cross.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Robin Hood versus Spartacus. Who will win?

Yesterday, on this very blog, I concocted a joyful bundle of insults regarding inexplicably popular Radio 2 toss-jockey Steve Wright. It pleased me well enough and perhaps it passed the time for you. It's possible, I suppose, that you are a huge fan of Senor Wright and found my words to be the most offensive thing you'd read since last week, when I toyed with the idea of Jesus Christ having aids. But I doubt it.

It's also possible, I suppose, that Steve himself came across the piece. I can picture him, his face contorted in the ecstatic throes of a self-googling frenzy, pouncing on my piece of whimsy. 'Hooray!' he would think, 'A picture of my brilliant face!' And then his smile would fade and the sweat cool on his thighs. This was no gushing testament of praise! This was... this was blasphemy. How hurtful! How inhuman! Poor Steve would collapse to the floor, all self worth gone, and I would have really spoiled his evening.

I don't really think this, of course. I mean the bit about him being upset. I do think he probably Googles himself, and possibly while naked. But I don't think he'd give a toss about my little eruption of venomous thoughts. I think his face looks like that of a masturbating squirrel and his voice makes my stomach flip, but I actually have more respect for Steve Wright than to think he would be genuinely upset at the scribblings of a short Yorkshireman.

Firstly, he would know that my rantings weren't really directed at him, the actual real person with a beating heart and the capacity to love kittens. I have no idea who that person is, and neither do any of us. The Steve Wright that wriggles into our lives through the radio on a daily basis is a construction - a fantasy. 'Steve Wright in the Afternoon' is a carefully selected set of character traits, points of view and mannerisms designed to work well between records. I'm quite happy to find this construction loathsome while admitting that, if I met the real man, he may well be charming, funny and not at all like some cold sick in a dirty sock.

The second reason not to worry about my ramblings is that they are, I hope, clearly intended to be sort of... funny. An opportunity to collectively release psychic tension by collaborating in a trangressive act of psychological play, as I believe Frankie Howerd would say if he wasn't surely in hell for being a gay. No one could get upset at a joke, after all.

Or could they?

Or could they?

Of course they could. Some people seem unable to see humour even when it is dancing up and down in a funny hat, playing a kazoo that looks like a penis. They think that seriousness is somehow a more intrinsically intelligent response to the world we live in, and intend to punish anyone who disagrees.

For example. I thought twice about making my little Frankie Howerd joke above, lest some serious-brained person feel provoked to leap up and get all affirmative-action on my face. Don't I know that homosexual people suffer all over the world? Yes, I do. The fact that it is rubbish doesn't mean that my reaction has to be unsmiling and - forgive me - straight.

And, for another, slightly more serious example, I felt moved to make a small addendum to yesterday's Wright-bashing, when I realised I had made a comment that a stupid person might construe as a threat to kill the sniggering king of banality. I sort of hate myself for doing it, but it seems we live in times where we have to be extremely careful what we say, and how we say it.

You will be aware, no doubt, of this story, about a man who was arrested for making a joke about blowing up Robin Hood airport on Twitter. Apparently the transparent obviousness of his humour was not enough to satisfy the stone faced guardians of our culture. Now we are not allowed to be funny, in case someone takes it the wrong way.

All jokes are lies. Most of what we say every day is, in some part, a joke. I have a lot to say about this, but perhaps for the moment I have said enough. I'd like to direct you here, where my friend Matt Bradley  makes some eloquent and intelligent points about this farcical situation.

And when you've read that, maybe you'd like to go and look at Twitter, and particularly #iamspartacus, where thousands of people are protesting against the lunacy of this situations by doing what Spartacus's friends would have done if they'd had a wireless connection - standing up and repeating the exact joke that got this man into trouble.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Annoying DJ in Timelord Goosbump Conundrum

It will probably not shock you to find that I loathe and detest Steve Wright with a passion bordering on dementia. I’m not talking about the deadpan American comedian, with straggly hair. Not him. I like him more thanI like you. I’m talking about chirpy moustached radio 2 wanker Steve Wright in the Afternoon, a man who clearly believes himself to be a) funny and b) interesting when he’s c) neither and d) a git. I hate wasps, but I would let them live inside my mouth for a week if they agreed to sting Steve Wright in the genitals.

This week, though, Steve Wright made me happy. I was driving home from work after another hard day’s watching films with teenagers, and was listening to Radio Two. I knew I was likely to come across the jovial tosser and his afternoon session of self congratulation, but Radio Four had driven me away with its ponderous musings on vegetable crops, and Radio One is like being beaten about the head by a musical idiot. So I risked Radio Two, hoping it would mostly be music.
To my surprise and joy, not only was there music, but there was an interview with Mr Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith! And also lovely Karen ‘Amy Pond’ Gillan, whom I respect for her intelligence and personality. The time travelling twosome had come to be interviewed in a tedious and predictable way by the sniggering king of drivel, all the better to plug the new DVD box set which I really want for Christmas please.
What made the experience really great, though, was that Matt and Karen were a little late (“You should have used the TARDIS” chorted the Prince of Nob, snot fleeing from his weasily nostrils at the hilarity of his observation.) Because they were late, Steve played a bit of the Doctor Who theme. Nyeeeeoooom! It went. And then ‘Dummety dum, Dummity dum, Dummety dum’. At this I became most animated, and had brief joy, expecting the music to fade out once its work was done. But it didn’t! Beautiful, handsome, glorious Steve played the whole track! Middle eight widdly bit and all! Ahhh. Surely the best piece of music ever written, pumping away on the car stereo as I crawled through the traffic of the darkening evening.
It was a transcendent and wonderful moment. I love that tune, and hearing it so unexpectedly made me throb with near-erotic joy. It was like a little crack opened up in the gloom of the November evening and warm, glorious light peeped through; the fragments of a weirder, more exciting world. My hatred for Steve Wright melted away. The grey Wakefield sky unfolded above me and became a temple of marble, silver and glass. The drivers around me were revealed as fellow human beings, part of a glorious, universal whole with a single mind and purpose, rather than annoying fools who were getting in my way and driving like gimps. I loved everything.

Thank you Steve Wright. Thank you for unexpected Doctor Who joy. I hope that, when the revolution comes and you are shot in the head for waffling on like a tit, you die a quick and relatively painless death.

(edited to add: I am not suggesting we kill Steve Wright. Just that this is the kind of thing that might well happen in a revolution. Please do not kill Steve Wright and then blame me for giving you the idea.  And don't accidentally kill the other Steve Wright with the straggly hair either. He's funny. I like his joke about getting a humidifier, and a dehumidifier, and making them fight. Are we still in brackets? How embarrassing. Let's pretend we meant this to happen.)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

More Star Wars nonsense

Continuing my occasional series of entries into the Star Wars alphabet.



That’s the real name, apparently, of the extremely cool alien seen lurking in the Mos Eisley cantina, who tends to go by the name ‘Hammerhead’. He has a truly bonkers physical appearance, with a great big swooping head that seems to lunge forward from his body as if trying to escape. I’m not sure what he does or if there’s more than one of him. In my mind, he’s some kind of intergalactic bank manager, who had unwisely wandered into the cantina with some buddies after work. I think he’s secretly terrified of someone stepping on his massive head.


Jar Jar Binks

A fascinating and multi-layered character, he represents everything that is greatest about Star Wars. Deeply mysterious but with a wry sense of humour, his presence alone is enough to elevate any scene he is in up into the pantheon of cinematic greatness, alongside the deep focus photography in Citizen Kane and the awesome tracking shots in Goodfellas. It is one of the greatest tragedies of modern cinema that Jar Jar’s presence in Clones and Sith is so greatly reduced. It is almost as if, rather than being incredibly proud of his magnificent creation, as he *constantly* stated in the aftermath of Phantom Menace, Lucas was, in fact, massively embarrassed by Jar Jar, and considered him a stupid, useless, borderline racist, pointless waste of everyone’s time.

Klaatu Barada Nikto
This is the phrase uttered in ‘the Day the Earth Stood Still’ to stop the big shiny robot killing everything that moved. No one seems quite sure what it means (although if we asked the Bothans they’d probably make something up), but it is clearly a cool and useful phrase. Jabba the Hutt is clearly a big fan, as he chose three of his skiff guards on the basis that their names formed this phrase. Klaatu, Barada and Nikto are all present at Jabba’s Sarlacc barbecue, and probably all die horribly.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

"My Aids Hell": Son of God tells all.

I wonder if you've seen this particularly mental story about Jesus being HIV positive.

For those whose life offers distractions enough without them having to click on links as well, the story is roughly this: a South African church pastor, blessed with the Star Wars-esque name Xola Skosana, preached  a sermon on the idea that the Jesus, son of God and all round nice bloke, had the HIV virus.

Now, when I first heard about this I'm afraid to say I had the predictable reaction. What fool, I wondered, would say such a moronic things? I'm mean, yes - this is a story about a Christian which has made it on the news, so the guy must be mental in some way or the other - but... what? What??? WHAT???

I think I said "What?!?" about five times before composing myself and trying to find a more considered way to approach the story. I couldn't think of one, so I just said "What??!!??" again, this time waving my arms about.

Well, here's what. Having read the article, and thought about what Darth Skosana says, I think he may be... kind of right. And kind of brilliant.

OK, now you're saying "What?!?"  Well, calm down, I'll explain. No, better. Look - here's a kitten. He'll explain.

(Picture of kitten not available. I know. It's sad.)

Anyway, here's the what. Obviously everyone got all 'Whoah' about the whole Jesus/HIV thing, and that does make sense. I mean, scientifically it seems implausible. But science wasn't really the main cause of 'What?' around the Christian communiity (and by 'Christian Community' I mean, of course, religious leaders of all dominations plus readers of the Daily Mail who think they are Christian, partly because they were born in Kent and partly because they have sensed there might be a something to be cross about). No, most people were instantly annoyed at the association between Jesus - all brill and holy and pure - and HIV - as dirty and poisonous as a thing can be.

(As a side thought here, has anyone heard from the Catholics on this? The idea of communion wine turning into Jesus' blood might carry some pretty unpleasant connotations if any of this turned out to be true.)

To my mind, the outrage about the 'dirtying' of Jesus is why Mr Skosana's sermon idea is brilliant. Not because I think Jesus actually had the HIV virus - that really wasn't his point. And not, as Skosana's critics would say, because I am blasphemous and without respect for Christ. No. His point was a great point for two reasons. I'm going to call them 'Bob' and 'Jennifer'.

Reason Bob is this. In South Africa, and it must be said in much of the 'Christian' world, HIV and Aids are synonymous with sin. Promiscuity. Immoral lifestyles. And thus a mass of suffering humanity, rather than being helped, are kicked out of 'normal' society to die in misery. Like, well, like lepers. Brave/mad Mr Skosana has stood up for a disposessed and villified group, at great risk. What is more Christ-like - to condemn someone or to stand up and identify with them? Whether you believe in a Christian God or not, I think the answer to this is pretty easy to work out.

Reason Jennifer is more to do with how we see Christ, and indeed religion. Hundreds of years of Christianity have worked to distance the man Jesus- a real person who lived with and for the weak, the lost and those without a voice. As the memory of this man has diminished, the Church which failed to keep it alive has built up a powerful, untouchable, otherworldly Christ. So powerful, so amazing and so holy is this Christ that he must be protected - by the Church - from anyone mentioning his name in conjunction with anything dirty, unpleasant, offensive or truly human.

This is kind of strange. Because one of the major concerns of Jesus, as I understand it. was to say 'Hey everyone, how about we stop looking at the surface of everything and valuing it according to how inconvenient or dirty it appears at first glance?' And he didn't just say it, he did it. Any Christian who gets upset at associating Jesus with dirt and horrible things is guilty not just of missing the point, but of failing to live up to their basic responsibility to look after those who find themselves in a crap place.

I'm not much of a theologian, as you have probably noticed. But I know what makes people good and what makes them idiots. Xola Skosona appears to be a good man.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Naked Face Shocks Local Girls and Boys

Well, now Halloween is over, we need something else to occupy our minds. And so our thoughts turn, easily and naturally, to the subject of genitals.

As a man I am charged with the unenviable task of searching for tumorous growths in the squidgiest and most unappealing of places - the testicles. As Dylan Moran put it, 'Searching for a lump in a bag of lumps'. It is a mysterious process that makes the old needle/haystack conundrum look simplistic and fun. I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, or what I'd do if I found anything, apart from probably forget why I'd started and have a good old scratch. I am consoled by the fact that, if cancer happens to cast its evil gaze my way, it is far more likely to go for my liver, where years of alcohol have weakened all resistance. But then I wonder if you even can get that kind of cancer, and if it isn't the kidneys that I'm thinkng of. At this point I become confused, stop thinking about it, and go back to searching for exotic pornography or pictures of kittens.

Anyway. Believe it or not, there is a point to all of this. Because apparently I am not alone in my fear of goolie-based illness, and someone has set up a charity to help. Apparently one man dies every hour from this kind of cancer (not the same one - it's not like he's a really unlucky version of Lazarus). So in November there's this whole awareness-raisy help-funding thing goes on, and I'm doing it.

It's called Movember, and it's like a sponsored walk except that instead of walking we do the much harder thing of growing a moustache. I know, it's shamefully easy. But I have to grow it all month, and at some point it will probably become annoyingly scratchy. So don't think I'm getting an easy ride. And I'm probably going to cheat slightly a grow a beard, so I'm not even that good.

To sponsor me, go here. It may look rubbish for a while, but I hope to soon be adding my facial journey, captured in photgraphs and video. I shaved yesterday, so my face looks all fat and pudgy. But soon it will be a mighty forest, filled with wonders and terrifying beasts. And bits of food.

Alex is also doing this, here, and no doubt his will be loads better. But it's the taking part that counts. Or something.

Alternatively, of course, you can just give to a cancer charity. If, like me, you are sick of this disease and the random crap it inflicts on people, give it a kick in the face by putting something towards research and care. That would be good too.

Er.. all very serious. Ooh, I know. Jimmy Carr joke to finish:

A girl came up to me in the street and asked if I could spare five minutes for Cancer Research. I said, 'OK, but I don't think we're going to get very far.'