The Fortean Review of the Year 1994

25 years ago The X Files was first broadcast and all those weird things like conspiracies, UFO’s, cryptoids and the weirdness of the Fortean world. What was, at best, something hidden in the alternative, the offbeat , became mainstream and normalised to the point where the mainstream realised there’s a lot of potential with it. Arguably this is one of the things that’s led to everyone accepting conspiracy theories as the X FIles also came as the internet was growing into the Worldwide Web, which fuelled the rise of people like Alex Jones.

But in 1994 this dystopia we live in now was a bit of SF if you’d suggested it 24 years ago. It was a different, more rational time, even with Forteana. In December of that year, the BBC broadcast one of their regular theme nights, which in this case was called Weird Night, and it is a fantastic bit of TV. The highlight of the night for me was the Fortean Review of the Year which at the time listed the various oddities of the year, but looking back at it now acts not just as a log of Fortean weirdness, but archive of what those pre-internet days looked like.

It’s worth a look just for the fainting goats. Enjoy.

 

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Channel 4 at Glastonbury 1995

I’ve previously spoken about Channel 4’s first attempt to broadcast the Glastonbury Festival in 1994, but in the whole history of the festival its 1995’s coverage that’s really important. That year sold it to the sort of person who’d never have thought of going to a festival, and arguably that year’s coverage some the entire concept of  going to any festival.

1995 was a long, hot, sticky, fun summer. There was a lot of hope in the air as the Tories were a dead government walking, and John Major actually resigned to fight a leadership election against John Redwood who led the group wanting to pull the UK out the EU. There was a real chance of an election where the Tories would lose so when the news hit the festival people were buzzing. Added to this was the fact Britpop was firmly established so every British band who’d heard a Kinks track once was getting signed up by record companies in the hope of finding the next Blur or Oasis. Sadly we ended up with crap like Dodgy. Ah well.

That summer was a perfect storm. A government in its death throes, the promise of better things, a perfect summer and if you were aged between 16-30 the future looked fucking amazing.  So there was a siren call to that year’s festival as young people from all over descended on the Friday to jump the fence, and as for me, I’ve told my story about this year before.

But the one thing I never saw was Channel 4’s coverage. A mate who was going to video it for me fucked up programming his VCR so I got snippets at best. Well, the best things about living 23 years after this festival is that all the footage is online and it is a taster of a brilliant time when anything was actually possible and the future was so, so bright. And now in 2018 we’re dealing with Brexit, the rise of fascism and everything we’ve fought for since the end of WW2 being torn down. It is a tad depressing, but these videos will take you back to a better time, or show you a snippet of what thing were like at an important point in history.

A wee note, part 4 is missing because of what looks like a dubious copyright claim. Bastards.

A World Cup lull

After just over a fortnight of the World Cup and unrelenting blood-pounding, arse-ripping, shorts-tightening football, there is a lull and it is weird. I can’t even troll England fans. There is a empty void.

I’m remembering there’s things like Channel4 News, or Netflix, or the PS4, or books or indeed, anything that isn’t football. It feels so terribly wrong…

Losing Harlan Ellison

I have a Harlan Ellison story. Lots and lots of people who’ve been in, or are fans of, comics, SF, fantasy or just fans of his writing have a story. I’ve told mine before but here it is again. In 1985 at a SF convention in Glasgow, Ellison was guest of honour and was having great fun pissing off and entertaining all the right people because even as a young lad somewhat awestruck at being even in the same city as one of his heroes, I could see that Ellison danced the line between genius and arsehole easily. One minute he’s be amiable and chatty, the next he’d be annoyed and angry but he’d never compromise himself. His comments about writers getting paid show this.

So back to the story. I was working a dealers table selling comics and Ellison came in to have a shufty at our stuff. He picked a few things up and much to everyone’s surprise knew more about British comics than I’d have suspected. I was wearing a Marvelman badge, and spinning off the conversation from Warrior, Ellison asked if we had any for sale which we didn’t. He then asked if he could have mine. I eventually gave him it because this was my hero and I didn’t want to disappoint.

Ellison later came over to me in the bar, offered to get a drink and we ended up chatting about how great Dreamscape was. Indeed, it still is.

Ellison then had to move on with his small entourage but I was a happy lad as he’d signed a copy of The Glass Teat which is one of the greatest books of criticism ever published.  That book is something that influenced why I started this blog, and in fact it wasn’t until Ellison’s death I realised how much he’d shaped me growing up.

See, that wee story I have is something I’ve pulled out often over the years because it is a great wee story. The part of the story I usually miss out is when Ellison talked about not compromising which is something I don’t think Ellison did once in his life which led him to do great things, not to mention some awful things.

But that idea that someone can’t compromise because once you do it then becomes a game as to how far you’ll go without fully compromising yourself. I can’t remember when I did start compromising and although my life was better in some ways, a wee part of me was dead.

I’ll miss Ellison not being around. I’ll miss not being able to see if there’s a new soundbite  that I can use to help me sum up current events, and with current events being horrible I think we’ve lost a guide at a bad time.We’ll still have his mountain of work but we’ve lost a voice who could be good or bad, arrogant and uncompromising but always had something worthwhile to say. There will never be another like him.

Goodbye and thanks for whatever small lessons you’ve given me. I’m going to watch Dreamscape later and wallow in the memories of 1985.

A World Cup dilemma

Apart from a pretty dismal game between France and Denmark this has been a fantastic World Cup so far, but those of us in the UK have to put up with some terrible commentary, especially from the likes of Mark Lawrenson who sounds as if he doesn’t give a fuck about the game, or the position he’s in.

Now the BBC do offer a commentary free track on their digital services, but some people don’t have access to this so they’re stuck with the wrist-slitting joy of Lawrenson. So would you rather the BBC employ a jaded old pro who treats viewers with contempt or a drunk who’s pissed himself and is desperately slurring words in the hope it makes sense so he can get paid?

Now, nobody say they’re both the same thing…

Netflix’s intrusive ads

One of the great things about streaming media in the year 2018 is that it allows you to catch up with films, TV, etc you’ve always been meaning to, in some cases you’re able to watch something you’ve had on a list for decades. One of those films in the Robin Williams 1998 film, What Dreams May Come.

I’d always kind of avoided the film as it looked like one of those films Robin Williams did for the cash, but the director Vincent Ward, isn’t an ordinary director. Somehow though the film fell through cracks and up until the other day I’d never sat down to see it which is a pity as it really is a fantastic film with a very quiet, restrained, performance from Williams who isn’t allowed to go off the rails. As a film it deals mainly with death, including suicide. It’s a pretty unique Hollywood film not without faults especially in the third reel when it becomes Orpheus in the Underworld.

It ends on a pretty strong emotional note and you expect as a viewer to sit there watching the credits roll so you can digest the film at your own speed, but this is Netflix so you’re given a trailer for ‘something you may like’ the millisecond the film ends. No chance of letting the film end and rest in you head before Netflix attempts to keep you watching.

Films made in an era where streaming media wasn’t even a dream or barely thought of suffer because of this urge to keep you binging until you burst, but some films need time to let them sink in. All Netflix is doing is ruining the end of films & they need to slow down their ads.

Next time on First World Problems, why does WiFi on trains have to be such a pain to log into…

Frost and Clough

I love old TV celebrity interviews from the 1970’s and 1980’s mainly because they take their time and guests are not shilling their latest film/book/TV series/etc (most of the time) but are on chat shows to discuss their careers, or something massive that they’ve been involved in.

In 1974 Brian Clough had been sacked from Leeds United after 44 days, which later became the core of David Peace’s quite brilliant, but controversial book, The Damned United, later made into a splendid film with Michael Sheen who also played David Frost in the also splendid Frost/Nixon. In 74 the top interviewer was  David Frost, then still young, and still in touch with his journalistic roots who when given Clough as a subject to interview used all his skills to coax a remarkable half hour or so where both men are clearly the intellectual equal of each other but to watch them talk at a time when Clough was in theory at his lowest, is just stunning television.

After this both men hit their greatest achievements with Frost become a global television icon and Clough the best football manager in the world which makes this interview a joy to watch knowing what was just hanging over the horizon for them.

Enjoy…