Sunday, 28 July 2019

THERE’S FAR TOO MUCH TO TAKE IN HERE [190]



I have just seen the new version of Disney’s “The Lion King,” a film that needs no spoiler warning, because apart from how it has been made this time, it is simply the first film done again. The visuals are breath-taking, and every part of the production is of high standard, from the voice acting to the music. Following “Rocketman,” I have another reminder of how brilliant Elton John is as a composer, and I can draw a line from “Border Song” to “Hakuna Matata.” However, the entire opening sequence of the original film, and the iconic title drop, is copied in this version, and I realised this as soon as I saw the meerkats.

This film invited comparisons with Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho,” whereby its of the original film only served to bring attention to how it was constructed, especially whenever it tried anything different. I am not sure that kind of lesson needed to cost $60 million.

I should also say that the screening I attended of “The Lion King” I attended was at 9.15 am on a Saturday, alongside parents that took their toddler-age children with them, but because the film uses its “PG” rating very effectively, especially towards the end, a number of them left before the end, nostalgic parents realising, through the cries of their children, this was not their version after all.


There are now two versions of “The Lion King,” but that is not why I have decided to write about it. The new version uses photorealistic 3D computer animation, instead of hand-painted animation 2D animation, which is why Disney are marketing it as “live-action,” but that is not why I went to see it. The new version has exactly the same plot as the original, with the same scenes in the same order, but that is why I can’t say if it is better or worse than the original – it is just “The Lion King.”

What made me think, yes, I will have to write about “The Lion King” was nothing to do with my background as a film scholar of some repute. Instead, it was my looking up its Original Negative Cost, or how much it cost to physically make it, minus all the marketing and distribution costs. I knew it would have been an astronomical amount, as the film is essentially one long CGI special effect – the electricity bill for the computer servers would be high enough. The amount I have seen quoted is two hundred and sixty million dollars, or just over a quarter of a billion dollars.

I have never thought of using the word “billion” when describing how much a film cost to make. The only reason I didn’t do this with “Avengers: Endgame,” which cost just over a third of a billion dollars, or $356 million, is because I had no interest in watching it, and so never looked up that figure. Disney, obviously, has no problem spending these amounts, as people have flocked to both, with “Avengers: Endgame” now the highest grossing film at the worldwide box office.


My next thought was spending such an astronomical amount on any film, let alone a remake of “The Lion King,” felt like some perspective had been lost – you’re making a movie, not developing a new car. However, the most famous lion in cinema as “Ars Gratia Artis” written around it – “art for art’s sake,” regardless of the cost. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was always once the most dominant, and most opulent film producers in the Classical Hollywood era, producing “Ben-Hur,” “The Wizard of Oz,” a string of musicals, and “Tom & Jerry”, but it all costs money. Hollywood became the filmmaking centre of the United States over a hundred years ago because companies were escaping license fees on cameras and film set by a group protecting Thomas Edison’s patents, but that saving was soon wiped out by all the advances made since then: animation, special effects, sound, colour, widescreen, computers, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

It shouldn’t have to cost a quarter of a billion dollars to tell a story – a compelling one can be heard for free, so long as you keep an ear out for one, but Hollywood films have high costs associated with bankability: blockbuster franchises, based on established properties, starring big name actors. Disney could spend less: the company itself, made of stories, is the franchise, and its characters are the actors.


As I watched “The Lion King,” knowing that this photorealistic concoction was being described as “live-action,” I thought to myself, give it a further five years, and a reduction in the cost of computing in that time, and Disney won’t need actors anymore. The worlds in which all their film take place will be created exactly as required, meaning no more sets, but no more location shooting either. Star quality will no longer be a thing, as the actors can look as beautiful, ugly, tall, short, thin or fat as they require. The voices can be created in software, eliminating both voice actors and re-takes. Alfred Hitchcock once said he wanted to be able to feed a script into a computer, and have a finished film come out, and it was precisely down to the compromises that he had to make as a filmmaker – that compromise is gone.


However, for this version of “The Lion King,” there has been “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” based on a section of “Fantasia,” and for “Beauty and the Beast,” there has been “Pete’s Dragon.” A key function of blockbuster films is that they are made to be bankable and dependable in order to recoup the losses made by riskier endeavours – for Disney, these have turned out to be films like “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Tomorrowland” and “The Finest Hours,” where they have attempted to tell a different story through film than those they have already done. The Marvel films sell themselves, because the stories have been stacked onto each other, in the same manner as the comics, to get the full story. “Pirates of the Caribbean” has remained Disney’s biggest gamble in recent years, as pirate films had not been attempted in Hollywood for years. They could try something as original again, but what if it doesn’t have the desired effect this time? As the great Hollywood scriptwriter William Goldman said, “in Hollywood, nobody knows anything.”

Gus Van Sant remade “Psycho” because he had never seen anyone do a shot-for-shot remake of a film as an experiment. Disney have, more or less, done the same with “The Lion King” because they knew it would work.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

WE’RE ON THE BALL, WE’RE ON THE BALL [189]




I normally have no interest in football, mainly due to the amount of attention it already demands, but the current form of England’s football teams, in both World Cups, has meant even I have needed to take notice. If the current performance of our team pays out in tourism and culture in the UK, then that’s fine, but I will only even learn the offside rule against my will.

So, why would I talk about football when I should be talking about film? It is because that, when I usually think of football, the first thing is the unexpected turn of events closer to home, when Portsmouth Football Club was bought by Michael Eisner. It is more accurate to say it was The Tornante Company, named by Eisner after the Italian term for a hairpin bend in a road, that bought Pompey for £5.67 million in 2017, but Eisner’s signature is the company’s logo. A quote from Eisner at the time was, “When I passed through the Fratton Park turnstiles I felt like I did when I stepped through the doors at Disney - a sense of excitement and of a rich history.”

The primary result of this news was that I began to watch “BoJack Horseman,” made by Tornante’s TV division. It is strange to see, on Tornante’s website, the Pompey crest listed on the same line as BoJack’s head, and next to the Topps trading card company, also the makers of Ring Pops.


Because Eisner is primarily known as a businessman, even if it was The Walt Disney Company for which he was in charge, this was how his takeover of Pompey was viewed. The club had been through a succession of unscrupulous owners before being put into bankruptcy protection in 2010, while also falling three football divisions within five years. The club only survived when members of Pompey Supporters Trust paid £1,000 a head to take ownership, so for anyone to literally take the club away from the fans can only be painted in a bad light.

However, Eisner’s promise of continuity and further £10 million investment sealed the deal, meaning he will still be spending far less than on “BoJack Horseman,” although the value of a football club is usually measured in goodwill, along with fixtures and fittings.


The inevitable fears of a “Disneyfication” at Portsmouth Football Club have been unfounded – in fact, it may benefit from that kind of rigorous work. Eisner’s tenure at Disney leavened its princesses with a great deal of sport, not least in its taking over of the TV networks ESPN and ABC, where Eisner helped to place American football in primetime: the “Mighty Ducks” series of ice hockey films led to Disney creating a real-life team in 1993, although they would not win the Stanley Cup until the year after they were sold, and the baseball film “Angels in the Outfield” led to Disney buying the California Angels team, itself originally founded by the country music singer Gene Autry. A literal quote from Eisner upon completing the Pompey deal was: “All of Disney's sports films had the same theme - the triumph of the underdog. With Portsmouth we hope to get it right in fact, not fiction. We will get there - being slow, steady and smart.”

So, Eisner’s taking control of Portsmouth F.C. is not like the Ark of the Covenant being left in a warehouse – I only make this reference because Eisner was CEO of Paramount Pictures at the time of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” as well as “Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever,” and the start of the “Star Trek” franchise. He may not be the one writing and directing these films, but he knows how to pick a hit.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

LET ME KNOW WHAT SPRING IS LIKE [188]


At a time when society and politics has never felt more tied to the ground, the pride and nostalgia engendered in us all by the Apollo 11 Moon landings fifty years ago was, for me, swiftly replaced with nostalgia for the world into which we thought we would step, but never really did. We are haunted by our past visions of the future we thought would come. (I have also covered “hauntology” here: link)

I am talking about everything from missions to Mars to meals in pill form, from lunar outposts to “The Jetsons.” The Space Age started in the 1950s, and appeared to be declared over when the last of NASA’s space shuttles were decommissioned in 2011, eight years after the last commercial flight on Concorde – regardless of the ticket cost, it is hard to accept that flying from London to New York in under three hours is something no longer possible. Meanwhile, space travel itself is becoming a private enterprise, under people like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but I don’t see someone like Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer that posited the idea of geostationary satellites, in their midst.


It is sobering to think that what launched humanity into space was imagination, rocket fuel and slide rules. The world was already transistorised by 1969, but the microchip had yet to open homes - the electronic pocket calculator was still a year away. Irrespective of that, and armed with rocket fuel and slide rules, humanity reached, well, Peak Humanity – it is difficult to top that sort of achievement without looking at what remains undone at home, as concerns over the state of the Earth became more important. It is hard to advocate a “Space Force” if you deny climate change at the same time.

Nationalism could also play no part, even in the space race with the Soviet Union, it was imagination that drove the United States to the Moon. In the May 1961 joint session of Congress where President John F. Kennedy stated the goal to land a man on the moon and return them safely, he said, “Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.”


I have only one recurring dream, and it’s a big one. In it, I have been invited to fly to the edge of the atmosphere, if not into space – one day, I may have the chance to fly Virgin Atlantic. As the craft reaches the highest point in its journey, I look out of a window, and witness the curvature of the earth. I experience deep emotion, mixed with not a little megalophobia. My whole life flashes before my eyes, because the location of all that has ever happened to me is now within view. I close my eyes for the descent. I am quiet for the next few days, but when I eventually say something, it is to ask why we spend so much time looking down at our feet.

This dream makes far more sense that the one where someone keeps stealing my coat hangers, or when a giant spider clasps onto me as I say, “honestly, this just keeps happening.” These unconscious thoughts may even preclude me from being “the right stuff” for space travel, as if I was the only person who dreamed of going up there. However, as Kennedy had intended, we had to make preparations for the next big steps we wish to take as a race. As much as some don’t think that will be regarding climate change, it will be, but will a return to the space age be next? Perhaps, when we find a way of saying that humanity hasn’t yet peaked.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

A POINT IS ALL THAT YOU CAN SCORE [187]


[NOTE: This is a look at the film version of “Protect and Survive” – for my original article about the original UK Government booklet “Protect and Survive,” please see here: https://www.dancingwiththegatekeepers.com/2017/03/the-air-attack-warning-sounds-like.html]

“When you hear the attack warning, you and your family must take cover at once. Do not stay out of doors. If you are caught in the open, lie down.”

OK, so if there is going to be a nuclear attack, and I am living above the 5th floor of a block of flats, I must make arrangements with a neighbour further down the building, so I can build a fallout room there – and, if I didn’t get my booklet from the Government in the post by now, I will have less than 72 hours, from when I saw the message on TV, until the bomb drops.

I know I have covered comedies about nuclear war before, in “The Bed Sitting Room” and “Whoops Apocalypse,” but I cannot think of anything more horrifying than this. It was the threat into which I was born, until the Cold War thawed out at the end of the 1980s. However, games like “Fallout 76” return to the well of satirical laughter. The difference here is how “Protect and Survive,” a series of twenty instructional films about what to do in case of nuclear attack, was the official UK Government advice: its comedy comes from its po-faced tone, the practicality of the advice given, and the fact it would never be needed.


The films, mostly around two minutes each, were made in around 1975-76 by Richard Taylor Productions, an animation company best known for the whimsical “Crystal Tipps and Alistair,” and the “Charley Says” series of road safety films – this time around, the colourful cut-outs are replaced by blueprint-blue backgrounds, wooden models of houses, still photography, rudimentary flashes of hand-drawn animation, and a squelchy theme tune by “Doctor Who” composer Roger Limb. The authoritarian narration is by Patrick Allen, who reprised certain passages for Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Two Tribes,” sounding even scarier than Vincent Price did for “Thriller.”

The shorts are very easy to find online, and on DVD. I wouldn’t recommend watching all twenty in one go, even if they only add up to fifty minutes – they were designed to be shown at intervals, and the bone-dry tone will not allow you to sit back and watch. As bizarre as some of the advice is, such as preparing your fallout shelter’s toilet, and preparing bodies by wrapping them in brown paper and attaching a label with their name and address, this would have been what you were asked to do. Just think about building up the walls of your fallout room with boxes and bags of earth and sand, but also flammable things like books and clothing. However, I did notice you are told you need at least two pints of water each day to live, which has since gone up to two litres.


The only reason the films entered public consciousness was because in 1980, when they were still classified, some of them were leaked, and the BBC broadcast a few seconds of them in an episode of “Panorama,” investigating what civil defence strategy there was in the UK following Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. It was deemed woeful: the accompanying booklet, also titled “Protect and Survive,” and also classified, was to be posted to all households three weeks ahead of a possible attack, when it would have taken four weeks to print them – the Government put the booklet on sale once enough people were asking questions. Today, the advice seems woeful, and just a way of keeping the public distracted and busy. I assume there are current plans – while they are not public knowledge, I hope they will be more effective than what they gave us last time.

Monday, 15 July 2019

WHOOPS NOW, SORRY I CAN’T GO [186]




British comedy owes quite a lot to the writers Andrew Marshall and David Renwick. While the most recognisable TV shows by them were those they wrote on their own – Marshall has “2point4 Children,” “Health & Efficiency” and “Dad” to his name, while Renwick created “One Foot in the Grave,” “Jonathan Creek” and “Love Hurts” – they had fifteen years of writing as a double act on sketch shows “End of Part One,” “There’s a Lot of It About” and “Alexei Sayle’s Stuff,” while creating satirical sitcoms such as “Hot Metal,” set inside a newspaper. Their most recognisable work from this time were first written for their radio series “The Burkiss Way,” often compared with “The Goon Show,” and reworked for TV: a sketch involving a clueless hi-fi system buyer was re-enacted on “Not the Nine O’Clock News” (“Do you want speakers? Do you want rumble filters? Do you want a bag on your head?”), and a sketch where a “Mastermind” contestant gives the answers to the previous question was reworked by Renwick, and performed by Ronnie Barker & Ronnie Corbett.

What may be their greatest achievement, now I have seen it, is their 1982 sitcom “Whoops Apocalypse,” satirising the leaders of the nuclear powers that will, probably, kill us all. It is a hard sell – the opening titles begin with a vision of a destroyed city that could have come from the documentary series “The World at War,” ending on a woman selling poppy-like remembrance badges, with the phrase, “Wear Your Mushroom with Pride.”


Fortunately, the comedy is as broad as it is cutting. The President of the United States is the Reagan-like Johnny Cyclops, obsessed with his ratings, and is even shot to increase his popularity. His Secretary of State, a religious fundamentalist, is nicknamed “The Deacon,” with Marshall & Renwick having no knowledge that Ronald Reagan’s real-life chief was known as “The Vicar.” Meanwhile, the UK is led by the left-wing politician Kevin Pork, who believes he is Superman. Soviet Russia’s leader, Dubienkin, is in fact a series of clones, a new clone coming in once the previous one dies.

In 1982, it would have been hard, even then, to imagine politics being so chaotic: a nuclear alert is caused by a malfunctioning Space Invaders arcade cabinet; the deposed Shah of Iran, attempting to find sanctuary, is shunted between Britain and France over most of the series, unable to leave a cross-channel ferry, until he is stowed onboard a space shuttle; the insane Prime Minister is blackmailed by Russia into joining the Warsaw Pact, leading his foreign secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer to go mad themselves, becoming Hawkman and Green Lantern; two American captives of the Russians are aware the US know they are captured because they had a newspaper delivered with their continental breakfast, meaning they will have no choice of jam until after they make a confession; a counter-revolution by Iran is discovered by Russia after the Shah’s pet parrot; and events are reported at all hours of the day by dramatic US newsreaders, CNN having only began in 1980.


“Whoops Apocalypse” is a brilliantly-written show - a favourite line, even though it is also from "The Burkiss Way," was of how an admirer of Frank Sinatra sold a lock of his hair back to the singer for an undisclosed sum. The show's bite still holds up even now, although the story it tells is rooted firmly in the early 1980s, before the conversation over nuclear weapons became, well, deathly serious, and before the seminal dramas “The Day After” and “Threads” were made. For that reason, the remaking of “Whoops Apocalypse” as a film in 1986, released in the US in 1988, suffers in comparison with the TV original – with the urgency dissipating from the situation, and almost gone by the end of the decade, lampooning leaders didn’t feel like enough, and replacing Iran with a Falkland Islands-like conflict was an obvious step. Still, it has Rik Mayall as the leader of a too-gung-ho SAS unit...

Sunday, 14 July 2019

ALL I CAN DO IS WRITE ABOUT IT [185]


How easy is it to write a thousand words? It is a question I ask myself every week, and I still cannot give a precise answer. The usual outcome is from a week of thinking about, and researching into, a particular subject, followed by frantic typing until I have produced a coherent piece of work.

Sometimes, it feels like I am just putting one word after the other, for the sheer effort of producing sentences, which can then be constructed into paragraphs. Fortunately, using a catchphrase that hasn’t been used in about ten years, there is an app for that.

I have neglected to use WordPalette for iOS for over a year, but because it is an app that allows you to string together a sentence using a “palette” of words provided from a corpus, with the intention of inspiring ideas for your own work, I don’t have much use for it if I had a plan from the start.

What I have reproduced below was the result of using WordPalette for about forty-five minutes - by that measure, writing a thousand words is possible while listening to the whole of the first “Now That’s What I Call Music” album – but because I had a lot to say there, that took much less time. However, judging from what follows, I didn’t sound like a William Burroughs cut-up story based in Interzone:

“The powerful words of persistent approximations are only a matter of manpower, and vain anxieties of pathological reasonable dignity as the rest is duty. All rest is futile as ghosts were moved away, as there was no more time to tempt the troubled child. Believe me, this deformity draws me to strive in the mechanism between the hilarity and the relapse few known creators had stood, in producing the trivia for magazines and gazettes. I soon won their strangest thanks, due to the implementation of certain fraudulent means by which the adhesion of the two real worthy sounding ideal selves, whose face was now well lit, despite his rebellious reason entirely lifted from this inconceivable device, will explain the details of the way it belonged. Even though I later feared they would content themselves, while its goal to soften an impending underground of options, the only man who kept his scalpels by the open window turns to the first cup of pure sparkling water, that contented the wheel of admiration that makes me close my eyes.”

“The national holiday to be expected finally reached the gracious intoxicating melancholy enough to teach me the simulating pieces of goals the tremendous energy those that cannot suggest yourself initially. I suffered with a perpetuity of gauntlets, everyone replied I do not imitate the powerful ladies you expect. precious little thank you offered. substances rare and arrows of grace in sensation, tapping you to give you dazzled life. Most said the result seems quite wonderful by itself, I do not have surprises to make the fingers approach the ideal desecrated temple, if you cross any of this quietly, since we know nothing from the bottom of an abyss, the only true form his feet retained was that of a pearl, so I entered a state of clairvoyance, that the first rays of the sun jumped out of the threshold, and into the mocking marbles.”
“The light was impossible to get by above the star of my level, referring to a similar pattern of the oldest human form the torch seems to have covered. You have to choose to look through their dress, raising his head above his family to speak for themselves. We will cease to appear in the dark if we were staying there, understanding enough to look at how the temperature was better when you leave a long cloth gummed away, so the senses washed like a piece of molten blade.”

Sunday, 7 July 2019

BUT I’D RATHER STAY ON THE SOFA [184]


In his video review of the “Huge Screen ver. 2,” a cheap LCD game, Dr. Stuart Ashen wondered if he would have a good time playing it. “Yeah I know it’s not going to happen. Join me after the break.” The screen fades to black. A caption appears: “There are no advertisement breaks. This is the internet.” The previous shot fades back in: “Oh yeah, that was weird. Thought I was on television for a moment. Hmm, I’d probably know I was on television because I’d be being paid.”

This video was posted to YouTube on 25th October 2010. Nine years and over 400,000 views later, I’m watching it on my television, preceded by an ad for the National Lottery. I only came across the “ashens” channel over a month ago – the first video I came across was the “Chicken in a Can,” a lunch / autopsy hybrid that included the bones and giblets. At that point, the channel had 774 videos available – diving into it is like deciding your next box set to watch will be “Coronation Street”.

I am beginning to think that “ashens” – subtitled “Comedy, Technology, Idiocy” - may well be the archetypal YouTube channel. It is almost as old as YouTube itself, and has evolved both with it and because of it – what must have started as a bit of fun became a career because the platform evolved to accommodate the more professional videos people have posted to it. YouTube is not social media, it is public access television, in the same way that Facebook and Twitter are really publishers.


Ashen’s first video was “The Truth About Open Source,” a skit made using action figures and computer effects, about why you should pay for licensed software. It is typical of the short, funny videos people first placed on YouTube, when people were testing it to see what worked there – not everyone can put up their day at the zoo. It was posted on 25th February 2006, only two months after the platform officially launched, and nine months before it was bought by Google. Video resolution was only 320 x 240 pixels, and a ten-minute limit on video length was imposed to deter the pirated upload of TV shows, although you could post longer videos if you respected YouTube’s terms of service.

Widescreen was introduced in November 2008, prompting Ashen to post a video warning YouTube about the sides of the screen they were now exposing: “That’s where the monsters live... that one’s got a hat on.” By this point, the other type of videos he posted became more prominent, as they were elsewhere on the platform: show-and-tell reviews of products, mostly bad ones, framed against the stage of a brown sofa. His second video was the first of the “Pop Station” LCD game consoles, endlessly rehashing poor games with incoherently-translated instructions, but it would take two years for these occasional videos, co-existing with Noseybonk and other sketches, before it would gain the “Hello” opening title card they have used to this day.


I would not normally watch “unboxing” videos, but if you base these types of videos around obscure or poor technology, mundane or badly made “tat” from Poundland, and exotic or expired food and drink, there is much scope to apply dry wit and sarcasm to what you uncover. Because Ashen’s videos are usually unscripted, they usually also serve as their own “reaction” videos, a category of YouTube video that is also prevalent – I am aware that someone did a video reacting to the “chicken in a can” video, in the perfect example of media eating itself.

However, Ashen has continued to make space for comedy, adding an edge to the unscripted reviews. For example, a video that involved clearing a drawer of items to be reviewed contains a sketch about creating the dice that will determine the fate of the objects, loading their eventual destruction with great symbolism. One video was ended by sticking a cartoon frog into a corner while bizarre music played, because it can be done. One review, for a toy violin, was abandoned and re-recorded because Ashen broke down laughing at the poorly translated English on the box, explaining that master violin creators were “nicolas, Marty,” “Antonio Stella bottom tile,” and “ji plug pu – melon nai” – the two videos have a total of nearly two million views between them.

I am aware I haven’t mentioned the feature films yet – the science fiction fantasy comedy “Ashens and the Quest for the Game Child” (2013), and the upcoming “Ashens and the Polybius Heist”. You know you have done well when you can raise the money to make your own film, but when you can get Robert Llewellyn from “Red Dwarf,” and Warwick Davis from “Celebrity Squares,” you name must have some cachet. Oh, and the books: “Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” and “Attack of the Flickering Skeletons: More Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.”


(...And how could I forget to mention “Chanticleer Hegemony,” a Pop Station LCD game that featured on a box, but not inside it, and was tracked down after five years, only to find it was literally a cockfighting game, because that was something someone made.)

As Ashen explained on the BBC’s “Newsnight” in 2015, when the word “unboxing” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, the ultimate reason for doing these videos is because people want to watch them:

“I think when, in the past, when you wanted to buy a new product, you would be very led by advertising, the only things you could see would be in adverts, or perhaps in a very controlled environment, like a shop, whereas people like the raw honesty of just, here is a box, and here inside is what you will get if you buy it, and if we can make that entertaining while we show people it, it’s all good.”


This is the point where YouTube became a professional platform, as in people could begin earning a living from their work. The partner program that began in May 2007 currently pays revenue to channels with more than a thousand subscribers, and more than four thousand hours of time spent watching their videos within 12 months – the latter requirement was added in 2018, a consequence of both the increased number of channels with multiple subscribers, but also the increasing professional standard of the videos posted, as watching online video eats away at traditional television – any video scoring over 100,000 views within a week is already beating most television audiences on satellite and cable television in the UK, and anything over a million views is approaching BBC Two and Channel 4 primetime figures.

I am glad that the YouTube algorithm somehow suggested “ashens” to me, as I haven’t laughed so much in a long time – that can be put down mostly to the toy violin. What it has taught me is that if you think you have a video something that people find funny, put it out there, and make sure they know about it. I should try it myself - if a comic monologue can be wrenched from jelly beans, I could make a video explaining how Quorn could be made in more interesting shapes, then present a blue pyramid of the stuff.

However, to start a career on YouTube, I would need to start by posting at least ten videos, of ten minutes in length, that would get at least 2,400 views each year, with everyone watching to the end, with nearly half of them deciding to subscribe for future content – that is the minimum before I even see a penny from YouTube, unless I get sponsorship. Perhaps, I should make something for fun first.