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PLEASE RETUNE TO WWW.LEIGHSPENCE.NET

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Please retune to www.leighspence.net for the latest articles, and all the articles found here.

FIVE YEARS, STUCK ON MY EYES [300]

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  First logo (May-December 2016) Hello there. There is a question you often hear in interviews where the answer is always going to be “no.” “Did you think that when you started Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers on 30 th   May 2016, that you would still be doing it five years later?” “Yes, yes I did, I always knew that I could write articles about various aspects of popular culture, philosophy and the news, then deliver them weekly for that that entire time without a break. That outcome was baked in from the start.” Of course, I never planned it, but I’m glad it happened. I began this site to keep my mind working, learn more about different subjects, and build confidence in putting my name out there. I was inspired by the Three Minute Thesis competition, begun by the University of Queensland, which challenges PhD students to present their research in only three minutes, to an audience with no specialty in their subject. Trying to explain a complex subject in an engaging mann

BECAUSE I GET DELIRIOUS [299]

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I set out to choose a film at random from Netflix – knowing I needed to write something, I started watching “Delirious” within three minutes of arriving home from a walk. I didn’t expect to choose a film where the premise is based on the lead character being a writer, and the script coming from writers with careers rooted firmly in comedy. Lawrence J. Cohen & Fred Freeman wrote the disaster film parody “The Big Bus,” and the twin-swapping comedy “Start the Revolution Without Me,” but their career is founded on their work in television sitcoms like “Gilligan’s Island”, “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Bewitched.” “Delirious” stars John Candy as a soap opera writer, caught in a very high-concept Hollywood film-type situation: after hitting his head on his car boot lid, he wakes up inside his own creation. He wrote the show’s “bible,” setting out upcoming storylines, so he knows what will happen. He is secretly in love with the real-life star of the show, and is now in a position to do s

YES IT REALLY REALLY REALLY COULD HAPPEN [298]

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On Wednesday 12 th   May 2021, I had my first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. For the record, it was the Pfizer one, but all currently in use have been deemed safe and effective. Naturally, I hope that everyone that is offered one will take it, for the long-term benefits of vaccination against a deadly disease sure do outweigh the couple of days of discomfort immediately following it. Think of it like taking a holiday, for that is when most people are likely to need some sort of injection – no-one wants to contract yellow fever on their two-week break in Thailand.   In taking a COVID-19 vaccine, the attitude I am taking is that I want a holiday from history: I want there to be a time when life calms down, we can breathe out, and we can enjoy a new normality for a while.    I picked up this term from “The 90s: A Holiday from History,” an episode of BBC Radio 4’s “Archive on 4” broadcast in 2017. Written and presented by Jonathan Freedland, the programme looks at how the 1990s is recalled as

IF I HAD A PHOTOGRAPH OF YOU [297]

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A man, concealing a film camera, meets a prostitute, and follows her inside. As she undresses, the man, through our view of his camera, advances on the girl, and the girl screams. The view cuts to a view of a film projector, playing what we have just seen on the screen, as the credits for the film we are watching, “Peeping Tom,” plays over them. The musical theme, on a piano, almost accompanies the silent film being played back before us. As the prostitute is advanced upon, the viewer stands up and, as our view is filled with the scream, the man sits back down again. Our view cuts back to the projector, and the caption, “Directed by Michael Powell.” “Peeping Tom” was released in 1960, and immediately invited comparisons with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” which was rele ased at the same time. However, while Hitchcock reaped the benefits of the new approach to his usual themes, Powell was perceived to have ventured so far into a more “sleazy” territory that it destroyed his career in the

I DON'T WANNA LOSE YOU [296]

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"Clockman" When I wrote about the forgotten television sitcom “The New Monkees” [https://www.dancingwiththegatekeepers.com/2019/09/many-short-lived-tv-shows-are-filed.html], the only video I could find of the show was an off-air home recording of the first episode from its only broadcast in 1987. While I had a good idea of what I was seeing, the soft picture of the VHS (or Betamax) recording provided only an impression of the original show. Since then, all thirteen episodes of the series have now been posted to YouTube, and while the picture quality has not improved, then I can hear it better. I came across this news after seeing the front page of the Lost Media Wiki, dedicated to the unearthing of “lost media,” a term that appears to mean something different to the internet than it does to myself.   While “The New Monkees” is a show not much remarked upon, and usually only as a failed reboot of a more popular show when a remark is made, I never thought it was lost. Yes, it w

FALLING, WE’RE FALLING, WE’RE FALLING [295]

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“French Kissin,” more often remembered as “French Kissin in the USA,” was the main single from Debbie Harry’s 1986 album “Rockbird,” made while the band Blondie was on hold. It was a success in the US, and Harry’s only top ten single in the UK.  However, while the song is good, it is not the main reason it is likely to be remembered these days, because the person that wrote it has become very successful in his own right: he had been a touring singer-songwriter for years before Harry recorded one of his songs, and he had since said his songs made sure he was kept out of the limelight, before he turned to writing scripts for television. Chuck Lorre’s first scripts were for animated shows, meaning that, as I grew up, I would have seen episodes he wrote of “Heathcliff & The Catillac Cats,” “Muppet Babies,” ”Fraggle Rock,” and “Beany and Cecil” – there are other shows, but I don’t think they reached the UK, or I don’t remember them at all. As these shows date from 1984 onwards, either L

WHILE STROLLING THROUGH THE PARK ONE DAY [294]

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[Above: The Dover Boys at Pimento University, or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall (1942), in the public domain.] “But hold on, what’s this? It looks like an alert young scout. And that’s just what it is!” The house style of the Warner Bros. “Merrie Melodies” and “Looney Tunes” cart oons took time to develop. By 1942, the director given the highest budgets, a certain Charles M. “Chuck” Jones, was asked if he could move his cartoons away from the style that had been cemented by Disney, and copied by everyone else. What they got was so different, Jones was nearly fired for it. By the end of the decade, it had changed the industry. I wanted to start this by concentrating on how batshit crazy “The Dover Boys at Pimento University, or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall” is as a story, how unthinkingly stupid its characters are, and how much of a joy it was to come across it for the first time, but I needed to emphasise from the outset just how important it is in the history of animation – it is like e

MAGIC MOMENTS [293]

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Allow me to take a moment of your time to tell you that, once upon a time, a “moment” was an actual, measurable period of time, equivalent to one minute, thirty seconds.   From the eighth to the thirteenth century, at a time when people still relied on sundials to tell the time, the writings of the Venerable Bede detailed how hours were broken into four points, named “puncta,” and each of those were made of ten “momenta,” from the Latin for “moving,” as in the word “momentum.” These divisions were made in order to complete various calculations, particularly in astronomy, but would not have been used by the wider public, whose main indicators of time remained sunrise, sunset, and church bells.   This usage fell out of favour when the advent of mechanical clocks in the thirteenth century standardised the length of an hour, no longer reliant on the sun. Counting up to sixty was present in ancient civilisations even before the Babylonians, but it was the Iranian scholar Al-Biruni, in aroun

EVERYONE YOU SEE IS FULL OF LIFE [292]

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The words “breakfast television” conjure a picture of two people, one man and one woman, sitting on a sofa in front of a coffee table, in what looks like the viewers’ own living room, talking about the news, introducing topical items and interviewing celebrities, with no item lasting long enough to distract people from starting their day.     This is not so much drawing up a stereotype as taking an average: all breakfast shows on British television since 1983, when the BBC’s “Breakfast Time” became Europe’s first TV breakfast show, include these elements in some way, and despite experimentation with these elements, like Channel 4’s anarchic “The Big Breakfast,” this average is pretty much the only format that has worked.   The show most representing this format was the first to be named “Good Morning Britain,” airing on ITV from 1983 to 1992, and was produced by TV-am, which had won the licence created to provide breakfast television on the network. It is best remembered as a lightweig

I’M AN ORDINARY MAN [291]

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Original 1985 release - the orange tint is to indicate the energy of the music   I have been attempting to write a song, an entry for a competition, and I decided to write what I know: it is titled “Nostalgia’s Gonna Get You,” and crams in as many nostalgic references I can while still rhyming – Stephen Sondheim once said you should not leave half-rhymes in your songs, at the danger of giving your audience a fraction of a second of doubt. I also add in lines like, “if hauntology is your pathology,” and “if your kind of place is a liminal space.” For someone who has never properly attempted to write a song before, the result most definitely sounds like only I wrote it. Naturally, the musical arrangement needed to be based in the 1980s. To that end, I used a Yamaha Reface DX, with its “LegendEP” preset evoking their DX7’s famous “Piano 1” sound, and constructed a drum track using sampled sounds from a LinnDrum machine, most famously used by Prince on the “1999” and “Purple Rain” albums –

RETURN TO SENDER, ADDRESS UNKNOWN [290]

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Here was the idea I had: After nearly five year s, I had reached the conclusion that I could use a website address that was shorter than www.dancingwiththegatekeepers.com, ideally one that used my name. This was compounded when, after describing what I wrote to someone at work, I had to write out the site address for them, instead of confirming what top-level domain followed my name, whether it was .com, .co.uk or .net. I could also do with getting some business cards printed, but that can follow later. For the record, this is not because I am phasing out “Dancing with the Gatekeepers” from my site – if something like that comes to you in a dream, you use it, and you keep it.   Here is where we are now:   I am now the owner of the address leighspence.net - entering this into your web browser will redirect you to www.dancingwiththegatekeepers.com. I chose the top-level domain .net, one of the first such domains to be introduced on 1 st  January 1985, because of the hard T sound making i

I WANT MY MTV [289]

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Sunday 1 st  August 2021 marks forty years since MTV launched with an opening sequence comparing its innovation, playing musical promo videos around the clock, with the Apollo 11 moon landings.    But that innovation has long since evaporated, just as the words “Music Television” has from under its logo: MTV is now a parade of reality shows, a genre admittedly pioneered by them with 1992’s “The Real World,” its original programming shunted off to automated sister channels which, in the UK, includes names like “MTV Hits,” “MTV Base,” and the infuriatingly tautological “MTV Music.”   The usual explanation given for this shift was the advent of online streaming of video content from around the 2000s, initially with MySpace, and especially with YouTube. This fits with personal experience: I only had a direct subscription to MTV from 1999 to 2002, and what non-musical shows there were numbered few: there was “Jackass” and “The Real World,” but “The Osbournes,” the show that precipitated the

WE HAVE FIESTA AND FERIA [288]

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Two weeks ago, I bought a book I remember checking out, on multiple occasions, from the library of my secondary school. “Let’s Call It Fiesta,” written by Edouard Seidler and subtitled “the auto-biography of Ford’s Project Bobcat,” was published when the Ford Fiesta first went on sale in 1976. I had been transfixed by the vast array of conceptual designs and models made by various parts of the company, as Ford grappled with producing their first “world car” since the Model T, although I didn’t try to draw them myself either back then, or now. The book chronicles how both an oil crisis, and competition from small cars like the Renault 5 and Fiat 127, created the smallest Ford so far. Last week, Ford announced that their factory in Valencia, Spain, built to manufacture the Fiesta, will begin making engines for their electric car range. This marks the end of the road for the Ford Mondeo after twenty-eight years, and the end of their producing and selling large family and executive cars in