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Showing posts from May, 2020

MAKE A BIG NOISE PLAYING IN THE STREET [242]

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The Commodore 64 is generally agreed to have the best sound of any 8-bit computer released in the 1980s, and its Sound Interface Device (SID) chip is one of the most distinctive sound chips made for any computer. This is borne out through games like “Last Ninja 2,” “Bubble Bobble” and Elite’s “Commando,” and through the sampling of speech found in games like the “Ghostbusters” and “Impossible Mission”: “Another visitor. Stay a while... stay forever!”  The C64 is sought out as a music synthesiser in its own right, and the SID chip is default sound that an 8-bit computer makes – considering Commodore sold seventeen million of them before they went out of business in 1994, that isn’t much of a surprise. What makes that sound so distinctive, and the SID chip so versatile, tends not to be questioned as a result. In its simplest form, an analogue synthesiser, made by companies like Moog, Yamaha and Korg, creates a sound using a wave generated by an oscillator, which is then filtered

WHATEVER IT IS I’M AGAINST IT [241]

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Warning: I came across something that made me think of the eternal British phrase, “you what?!” I am currently on my third iPad since 2012, and outside of working at home or writing, which I do with a desktop computer, the iPad is my main computer. Because its graphic processor is superior to my bigger machine, my iPad is also my video editor, cutting shots by fractions of a second using the swipe of a finger.  For these reasons, and because my desktop computer has a keyboard with proper keys, I have never owned a laptop computer. I have not yet encountered the need to take a computer from one place to another, proving how much flexibility I expect of my phone – my iPad has never left the house because I know how much it costs. Whenever I have used another person’s laptop, I either find the trackpad too fiddly, requiring me to plug in an external mouse, or I have tried to press something on the screen, only to realise my error. It does sound odd, but that is just how I work.

TWO PLUS TWO IS FOUR [240]

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The money may be in place, but no-one is ready. The will is there, but the star pulled out. If it doesn’t happen now, the chance may be gone. “Development Hell” is synonymous with the hoops a film has to jump through to be made, let alone released. It doesn’t surprise me that Warner Bros. has been trying to make a live-action “Akira” film since 2002, or that Terry Gilliam essentially handed over two decades of his life to make “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” directing other films until he could start again. The saga of Richard Williams animating “The Thief & Cobbler” for thirty years before financiers seized control is its own tragic tale. The “Fantastic Four” series of films is a prime example of Development Hell, mainly because Bernd Eichinger, the German film producer of “The Neverending Story,” and later “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” as well as the “Resident Evil” films, obtained the film rights to the Marvel Comics characters in 1983, but it would not reach the

A PINCH OF SALT AND LAUGHTER TOO [239]

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When I first saw the short film “Too Many Cooks,” I thought it was a straightforward parody of the endless parade of smiling faces that make up the opening title sequences of American sitcoms, bleeding into police procedurals, Saturday morning cartoons, and prime-time soap operas. However, I didn’t know why the sitcom elements were as psychotic as they were portrayed. In the 1990s, British TV’s main night for comedy was Friday, but the shows with staying power was more adult, leftfield fare like “Shooting Stars,” “Father Ted,” or “Have I Got News for You,” or big American imports like “Friends” or “Frasier.” Family sitcoms were becoming less of a thing, outside of shows like “Last of the Summer Wine,” “Keeping Up Appearances,” and the obviously named “2 point 4 children.” There had been ITV’s “The Upper Hand,” and the short-lived “Married for Life,” but these were British versions of “Who’s the Boss?” and “Married with Children” respectively. Meanwhile, American TV had “TGIF

THE FEELING IS GROWING, SO LET’S KEEP IT GOING [238]

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There exists a song, released in 1968, where the chorus is all about bringing everyone together, and pushing the country forward, but the verses talk of working half an hour longer each day without extra pay, buying British cars and going on holiday in Blackpool. Sung by the all-round entertainer Bruce Forsyth, and written by Petula Clark’s usual songwriters Tony Hatch & Jackie Trent, it is titled “I’m Backing Britain.” With that title, the song could have been the relic of a Government campaign fronted by Forsyth. It sounds like the essence of Matt Monro’s “We’re Gonna Change the World” has been synthesised and condensed, with the satire removed, and I can’t imagine the British public went along with what was being asked of them. It turns out the campaign that mounted behind the slogan disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, in a matter of weeks. “I’m Backing Britain” snowballed from the efforts of five company secretaries working for a heating and ventilation com

DON'T FORGET THE SILLY WAY WE MET [237]

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This is a transcript for the latest "Gatekeepers" video: Hello there, so yes, this is another video about “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” but not one that is here to tell you how bad it is. You may have already chosen to watch based on the film’s notoriety as one of the worst films of all time, either seeking confirmation of this, or to enjoy that consensus being recounted one more time, about how the film’s conception was based on a bet, how the camera could only record thirty-five seconds of film at a time, and how John Reynolds played Torgo with this satyr legs on the wrong way round, giving him massive knees. This is not that video, as it has been done too many times: I am interested in how easy it is to use the film to tell that story. When making a video about a film, you must make sure your work does not infringe another person’s copyright. If you are reviewing a film, you cannot simply recount the story – not only would your video be derivative, someone could c

WHERE ARE YOU COMING FROM [236]

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Finding out the band you have become a fan of does not exist is both frustrating and rare. Two music videos and one album exist, but no singles were released, few articles were written about them, apparently no interviews were taken, and no Wikipedia page has been made. And yet, “Dog Police,” by Dog Police, has become a cult classic album, rereleased twice in the last ten years, and the title track’s video is known widely, nearly spawning a TV show. But there is no Dog Police, not at first. Understanding what it was, and how it came to be, involved joining many dots, but it made my new-found love of their songs even greater. Starting with “Dog Police,” the video from the song, album and band of the same, we have a novelty song about someone’s girlfriend being wanted by the Dog Police, using a New Wave sound and temperament similar to Devo and The B52s. Taking place in a club, it features the band both as themselves on stage, and as the Dog Police, with trenchcoats, fedoras a

I’M OK, YOU’RE SO-SO [235]

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Everyone has seen Tom & Jerry – EVERYONE has seen Tom & Jerry. If you noticed that not all Tom & Jerry cartons look alike, did you care? Would you send a death threat to the director if you didn’t like how their particular Tom & Jerry cartoons were done, and why would I ask that if this hadn’t already happened? One hundred and sixty-one “Tom & Jerry” cartoons were made from 1940 to 1967, directed by William Hanna & Joseph Barbera (1940-58), Gene Deitch (1961-62), and Chuck Jones (1963-67). Naturally, the Hanna & Barbera era is what people will imagine first when they see the characters, and it is their chase template everyone has tried to match with each new film or series. As a child, we had a Tom & Jerry video cassette at home that presented a number of shorts in random order – mostly Hanna & Barbera-directed ones, but with some Deitch and Jones cartoons thrown in. They were not ordered by year or director, just one cartoon after the

WELCOME TO THE CHEAP SEATS [234]

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Art: Tony (Twitter @vorratony) With pandemic overturning routine, my listening habits have changed. Working at home, I started putting on a podcast in the background. Now furloughed, it continues to keep me company, but I don’t have to pause it to answer the phone – what is safe for work changes with where you’re working. The “CheapShow” podcast [ link ], has been made by and starring Paul Gannon and Eli Silverman, respectively a radio producer and a club DJ / actor, since it began in 2015, stand-up comedian Ash Frith also appearing occasionally. Taken at face value, it is the celebratory mix of trash culture and body horror that pushes taste for the perfect laugh. Once the offended have stopped listening, the “economy comedy podcast” becomes a fun exploration of the charity shops, bargain bins, flea markets and car boot sales of Great Britain, bringing you intriguing, nostalgic and detestable items that fell through the cracks of popular culture – one man’s trash is literall