Strict Machine-A short tale of Glastonbury 2004

Glastonbury Festival 2004 was a transitional festival as it moved from the old style pre-festival years to the couple of years as it found it’s feet after the fence to the festival of today. It was also one of the last years where the festival was still chaotic as opposed to the well oiled machine it’s become in the last decade.

The festival itself wasn’t a classic year musically as it lurched from the bloated cokehead bullshit Dadrock of Oasis to the burnt out cokehead funk of James Brown to the warbling totally non-cokehead Joss Stone, and err, Lost Prophets, it really didn’t shine on the main stages that year. Add the intensely changeable weather from the wet and windy storms of the Wednesday to the boiling hot sun of the Thursday and Friday, and the torrential rain of the Saturday and the showers of the Sunday it was a real mess of a festival.

But in the muddy or dusty piles of shite there were little gems that year. One such gem was Goldfrapp who were enjoying the height of their fame and success thanks to the Black Cherry album and the glam inspired song Strict Machine. Playing the Other Stage on a balmy Friday night I don’t think anyone watching Goldfrapp’s performance failed to have their groin stirred by the frankly carnal show on stage that evening.

Best of all was the performance of Strict Machine which made horses tails look sexy…

What I thought of The Shrinking Man #1

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The Incredible Shrinking Man is one of my favourite bits of science fiction cinema when I was a kid. I simply loved the adaptation of writer Richard Matheson’s tale of a man who starts shrinking after a mysterious encounter with a strange cloud at sea. This adaptation published by IDW, written by Ted Adams and drawn by Mark Torres has this glorious bit of copy to advertise it…

Richard Matheson’s exploration of shrinking manhood is brought to vivid life in this comic-book adaptation! Scott Carey, reducing 1/7″ per day, faces tension big and small as his body continues to shrink away…

I’m sure there’s many a bloke that’s suffered from shrinking manhood at some point in their lives…

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As for the adaptation Adams choose to flick between first contact with the mysterious cloud and our hero, Scott, fight with the spider later on when he’d less than an inch high. It’s also still a period piece set in America in the 1950’s rather than having it updated which would have been easy to do but bloody obvious. This framework though means the story picks up pace from the off so it’s not as slow as the film would be to a modern audience, as instead the reader is captured and gets whats going on even if they’re unaware of the film or story this comic comes from.

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As for the art, Mark Torres does a fantastic job with all the stuff where Scott is struggling to survive at his inch high level, and also the more realistic scenes where he and his wife try to work out what’s going on and what they can both do with on scene with Scott and his wife trying to make love being handled smartly and intelligently.

All in all I was quite prepared to hate The Shrinking Man, but it’s a pleasant surprise to be proven wrong and this so far, is a smart little adaptation of a classic story of one man’s shrinking manhood….

What I thought of The Auteur: Sister Bambi #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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Three issues in on this latest Auteur series from writer Rick Spears and artist James Callahan sees things ramp up to unthought of insane proportions as Nathan T. Rex attempts to make his increasingly out of control film, Sister Bambi. Everything about though is terrible, the script especially is shite but before we get into the issue we have a wee lesson in film history….

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After this gloriously barking opening we discover Rex have had a coup in being a director from Ilsa, his Nazi producer and star who has also commissioned a script which to the shock of Nathan is good until her comes across one tiny feature in the script he dislikes….

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Yup, zombies. That increasingly dull and overused monster/plot device has been crammed into his film and Rex can’t work out what to do to get his film back, or to get Coconut to actually start speaking to him again after she lost the star role to Ilsa. But first he’s got to tell her that Ilsa has brought in porn actors to spice up the film. This doesn’t go well. So Rex comes up with another idea; to film one of his crew’s sex change operation.

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By now good taste and subtlety have left the building but Spears smartly actually includes a conversation about the issues involved in this plot point in a couple of pages that could have been horribly preachy, but instead end up playing perfectly with Nathan’s increasingly lunatic antics.

This issue is where Spears does something quite special near the end with those few pages of conversation between Igor and Nathan which isn’t too preachy, isn’t patronising and manages to just about stay on everyone’s right side while at the same time still keeping Nathan as this incredible monster who will quite literally do anything to make a film. As for next issue, it seems Nathan is going to have his hands full with zombies and of course, I assume we’ll have the end result of what’s happened with the planned surgery so roll on next month…

Oh Yeah, It Was the Start of the Summer: A Short tale of the Reading Festival 1996

The Reading Festival in 1996 is still one of the best festivals, and best times I’ve ever had or spent in my life. Every single thing about it just slotted perfectly into place, and I didn’t even mind the rain that much. Of course most of the media and music press think only of that year’s simply disastrous performance by The Stone Roses as the only memorable thing about it but in reality every day had a succession of bands at the top of their game, or just starting out and this was the year when they hit the ground running.

One of those bands were Ash, who’d been just released their first album 1977 earlier in  1996. It instantly became a favourite of mine so when I saw that Ash were going to play before The Stone Roses on the Sunday night of the festival I was wetting myself in anticipation. As it turned out I stood there with my mate Zeb and all the people we’d gotten to know and hang out with all weekend having the biggest fucking joyous laugh you possibly could for most of the evening of that last night in August 1996. Then Ash came out to the opening sound of a TIE Fighter from Star Wars and that was it. They totally stole the hearts and minds of thousands of people in that field at that time.

Watching the sun set behind us, Ash in front of us and Concorde pass above us all it felt like some sort of film script made real as it was one of those moments that can’t ever be repeated as you have to live in it there and then. You get a small fragment of what it was like with the snippets of video that exist of the gig, but nothing gives a feeling of the glory of it all as when the band did Oh Yeah in a golden sunset. What came after with The Stone Roses was pathos but this was sublime….

It’s been 30 years since Live Aid

I realised while working on something else that 30 years ago this month Live Aid happened which is extraordinary. Not because of all the fantastic performances because really, you can count those on the fingers of one hand but because it seems to have sailed through the media with barely a ripple, and the media like doing these sort of anniversaries.

All those years ago though it was exciting to see all these megastars come on stage for 20 minutes to smash through some well known songs through a terrible sound system, and the brilliantly shambolic BBC coverage throughout the day was fantastic. Really though in hindsight it’s one of the reasons I ended up falling in love with the festival because seeing those crowds of people on my telly all crammed into the old Wembley Stadium was (and still is) an awesome sight. Musically though for an 18 year old that’d just started reading the NME and was into punk this should have been something to avoid but I’ve always been upfront about my love for pop so for me Live Aid was about David Bowie from the UK end, and this new act called Madonna on the American end. The rest of the bands were either washouts like Status Quo or The Boomtown Rats or just shite like Spandau Ballet.

I remember the build up for this being simply enormous. Simply everyone took time off on Saturday the 13th of July 1985 to sit in on a warm summers day to glue themselves to the TV. The streets of Glasgow were bare, and the same was the case all over the UK, but the entire thing was there to make money for famine relief so it wasn’t just about Elton John’s wig.

As for the acts something weird happened. Status Quo played a great opening. U2 showed they were a great rock act. Bowie played a set and a half. Queen did that set and Madonna showed she was something else. It is though looking back at the BBC footage of the event that’s a fantastic bit of archive as this video shows. My particular highlight is a drunk Robbie Coltrane (there’s also a drunk David Bowie) having a rant that charity and debt relief has been privatised, something incredibly prescient to say as this is what Live Aid actually did.

For an 18 year old this was all just spectacle but Coltrane hits the nail on the head, albeit drunkenly. Live Aid privatised aid. It was seized upon by right wing governments as an example of what could be done by people which gave successive governments reasons to absolve themselves from actually doing anything productive.

I can’t stop looking at the BBC continuity footage and marveling at the analogue nature of how the entire event managed to raise money, and indeed, the entire pre-internet era was when the most advanced bit of communication you had was a landline phone and Ceefax on the telly.Mentions of sending cheques, or going into offices and paying by trans-cash will be lost to most people not over the age of 40, or seeing Adam Ant’s career implode in front of billions, or being told that a couple gave their first house deposit of a grand, or seeing the dreadful dress sense of various BBC presenters is fantastic bits of living history.

The legacy of Live Aid is privatised aid. It’s governments using organisations live Live Aid as a beard to hide their own agendas to asset strip third world countries, and now Geldof isn’t that angry figure raging at the establishment as he’s now very mush a supportive part of the UK establishment. Yes it saved lives, lots of them, but there needs to be a thoughtful reappraisal of the effects of that day 30 years ago as it seemed so simple, so easy to save the world by just having pop stars perform for 20 minutes chunks but life and international politics isn’t that easy.It just seemed that easy for a day in 1985. Pity everything we thought then was wrong.

This two part BBC documentary from a decade ago is also something that helps put the event into some sort of historical context.

What I thought of Archie versus Predator #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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The final issue of this barmy mini-series which has featured extraordinary violence for an Archie comic, not to mention so much cheesecake that some people have their arm in traction after reading it, is finally upon us. Last issue ended with most of Riverdale dead, Archie seriously injured and only Betty and Veronica left to take on the Predator.

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There’s not an instant big battle as the mysterious black knife still has to take another life, and the Predator seems to, well, fancy Betty, but Veronica has an idea to hide in her fathers panic room and blow up her house. By this point it’s not worth even trying to piece together the plot as anything but something that the creators have went ‘fuck it’ to and thrown everything at the wall in the hope it sticks.

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Then Archie starts mutating into something and Veronica is in a prom dress firing an Uzi.

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By now I can’t help but enjoying this exploitative rubbish, and just as you think it can’t get even more ridiculous, it does.

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And from there it gets really over the top!

Archie versus Predator is the closest a mainstream publisher has done to an underground comic in years with it’s over the top violence set in a world where all we’ve been used to is innocent fun and games. It is of course rubbish but there’s more than enough to make this a passing bit of fun, plus there’s a nice EC Comics style tribute as an ending which acts as a sort of punchline to what has been a pretty large joke.

Hell Yes! I’m Abstaining! The end of the Labour Party as we know it

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Last night the Labour Party abstained from voting against the brutal, cruel and genuinely evil bill that I’ve seen in my life put forth by the Tories and that’s saying a hell of a lot. Today Labour leadership candidates, Labour MP’s and the handful of Labour supporters that think this was a smart thing to do are desperately trying to spin it but it’s not working. It’s pretty hard to present a party supposedly fighting for social justice when all their MP’s bar 48 abstained. In fact here’s a list of those Labour MP’s that did abstain so I suggest if your MP is on that list you let them realise your displeasure.

In fact Labour abstaining isn’t new. They’ve been doing this for five years, and only at the start of the year they did a similar thing in regards Osborne’s budget and essentially rubber-stamped Tory austerity. Even more in fact people have been pointing this out all the time but people like Owen Jones or various columnists at the Guardian and New Statesman would dismiss such claims, or you’d get crap that Labour have to be ‘pragmatic’ yet all the time Labour were standing for nothing and failing to stand against something. It went into an election like this, lost and still tries to carry on the same policies of abstaining when it can which results in last night when even the most ardent Labour supporter has to admit they fucked it last night, possibly they’ve fucked their party forever.

After all if the Labour Party doesn’t stand for social justice, or fight against a brutal Tory welfare bill and the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Lib Dems and even the hardline DUP vote against it as a party then Labour should realise they’re not in Star Wars speeding away from an exploding Death Star, but are actually sitting there supporting the Empire destroy millions. They’re on the wrong side and today, they realise that but you’d think they’d have learned from last night?

Nah, today was a debate and vote on George Osborne’s finance bill. Yes it’s the last day before the summer break but all the SNP MP’s were there and in a gigantic bit of brass neck decided to take the official opposition benches as there were no Labour MP’s to be found.

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I’m sure the sight of 56 SNP MP’s sitting where Labour normally would is going to hurt some Labour supporters but Mhairi Black has a point here. Surely the point of an opposition is to oppose rather than sit back or support even the most abhorrent bill? If Labour can’t get their heads round that over the summer holiday then that’s it, they never will. At that point the left, especially in England, need to work out what to do next because there’s no point supporting a supine, spineless, cowardly Labour Party that’d rather throw the most vulnerable to the floor if it meant putting the party first.

Of course there’s still Jeremy Corbyn possibly coming in on his white stallion but with talk of a coup if Corbyn is elected leader, I don’t think he’ll save Labour. They’re too far gone. Their only hope is to split in two with the Red Tory faction carrying on and the more socially democratic faction joining with the Greens, SNP, Plaid and SDLP to oppose austerity. I can’t see any other future for them otherwise apart from irrelevance and a slow demise.