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Showing posts from June, 2019

NOW FLIP, FLOP AND FLY [183]

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The Sinclair ZX80 launched in 1980 as the first complete home computer available for under £100 – it also sold in kit form for £79.95. It may have been a breakthrough, with both the ZX80 and its successor, the ZX81, introducing home computing to millions in the UK, but that £100 price was achieved through compromise that leaves it little more than that first step. Infamously, it only had one kilobyte (1024 bytes) of RAM, when other computers came with at least four times that amount. Its central processor, a Zilog Z80, also generated the video display, meaning the press of a key caused interference with the picture. The keys themselves were flat, requiring you to press through a membrane to the motherboard itself. When the ZX81 was introduced in 1981, a “slow” mode fixed the flickering screen, and £20 was knocked off the price, but if you wanted more than 1K of RAM, you had to buy an expansion pack, required for most games. (By the way, 1024 bytes is the space needed to hold this p

HOORAY FOR SANTY CLAUS! [182]

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For my birthday this month, I received a DVD box set that contained the complete “Superman" cartoons from the Fleischer studio, and a selection of their “Popeye” shorts. The third disc, however, was as random as you can get. If it seems odd my talking about the 1964 film “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” just as summer is beginning, it must have been just as bizarre to make – to meet its November release date, it was filmed during July and August. My copy could have been in a better condition – the film is largely in the public domain, having been abandoned once it served its purpose as an exploitation film. All Christmas films are exploitation films, hoping to take advantage of the time of year to make the maximum possible income, but what I didn’t expect was a plot that had another hallmark of the exploitation film: moral panic. On Mars, the children are listless, watching television broadcasts from Earth, filling their minds with information. An elder is worried

COMMAND ME TO BE WELL [181]

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If you are constantly told you have something wrong with you, you will start to believe it. No-one has enough self-preservation to prevent such an insidious thought from infesting their mind. This is why treatment for mental health is so important, and why a stiff upper lip is only a sticking plaster. This is why the idea of a Pride Month every June has become so important. People who were given no place in society, who were imprisoned if they did not live in darkness, have the right to celebrate their lives with primary colours, and remember those unable to join in. I don’t care if businesses use rainbows in Pride Month to get the LGBTQ community to spend their money – if they didn’t think they were valid as human beings, then why appeal to them as consumers? It has become good business sense. Having said that, why take the banners down come July 1 st – they should put their mouth where their money is. This Pride Month, on Monday 10 th June the Roman Catholic church wad

YOU LAUGH TODAY AND CRY TOMORROW [180]

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There has to be a reason why I have seen a documentary film three times within the last six months – it is either that the subject is endlessly fascinating, or the subject feels like an elaborate version of the “Aristocrats” joke. What is the name of this act? Morton Downey Jr. was a radio DJ turned talk show host, whose TV talk show, which ran from 1987 to 1989, was a harbinger of the right-wing hosts found on American TV and radio today. At the same time, “Evocateur” is also the story of someone who constantly had to prove his worth in the shadow of his father and his peers, while simultaneously railing against them – as said by Bob Pittman, the original programmer for MTV, and later producer of Downey’s show, “Often, the most self-destructive people are really entertaining.” Morton Downey Sr. was a famous singer, his son’s efforts, including a version of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (the original 1933 song), did not do well. He also had a book of poetry published in the 1

IT’S THE WAY THAT I MOVE, THE THINGS THAT I DO [179]

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This article is rated “15,” or “R,” for infrequent strong language. Sorry “Avengers” fans, “Rocketman” is the best film of 2019 so far. I did not expect Dexter Fletcher to channel the spirit of Ken Russell, director of musicals like “Tommy” and “Lisztomania,” into portraying the life of Elton John, when a straightforward biopic could have been enough. Moreover, Taron Egerton balances his portrayal of John amazingly, as both an introvert and extrovert, hero and villain of John’s own story, all while doing his own singing – you’ll believe a man can fly, while performing “Crocodile Rock.” Elton John has lived a life of darkness and light, success and excess like few others have, or wanted, most remarkably emerging from it all, to enjoy and build on the legacy that his and Bernie Taupin’s songs have given us all. “Rocketman” could have whitewashed the sex and drugs from his life, but with its hero bankrolling the production of a “true fantasy,” as the poster says, John has taken

BUT I’M NOT LETTING YOU OUT OF MY SIGHT [178]

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Never underestimate the toughness of a Compact Disc. I’m not talking about the episode of “Tomorrow’s World” where one still plays after Kieran Prendiville smeared jam on it, because that never happened – a report on the BBC’S “Breakfast Time” showed someone doing that with honey, while Prendiville was presumably safe at home in bed. What I am talking about is owning a CD playing as perfectly as when it was pressed in 1987, a testament to the error-correction technology built into CD players as long as forty years ago, and the record company printing instructions on how to care for it inside the cover.   Why do I have a CD as old as this? It is because David Bowie disliked a song on one of his albums so much, it was deleted from all future releases of it, even after his death. Its only other release was a rare promo record in the US, before the record label decided not to release it as a single.   The song is named “Too Dizzy,” and I quite like it. When David Bowie rele