Grasping the Thistle: A documentary about Partick Thistle…

Supporting a football team can be easy if you’re just jumping on a bandwagon and supporting a team because they’re successful. When you support a team like Glasgow’s Partick Thistle, success, is measured by different metrics than winning European trophies or billion pound sponsorship deals.

Back at the early days of this millennium, Partick Thistle were pushing hard to gain promotion to Scotland’s top flight. This BBC documentary is full of everything that makes supporting smaller teams painful, and wonderful, at the same time.


HyperNormalisation: the new film from Adam Curtis

I adore the work of documentary film-maker Adam Curtis which is why I’m excited about his new film,HyperNormalisation, due to be launched on the BBC’s iPlayer tonight. This one is about Donald Trump, Brexit and the system we live in today which is entirely false which we all know is false, but none of us want to admit it.

At 2 hours 46 minutes it promises to be an epic but we need people like Curtis making films that question everything, and well done to the BBC for giving him the time, money and space to essentially do whatever he wants. I can’t imagine ITV or Sky doing that.

So here’s the trailer.

I never find Curtis’s work a chore; far from it, so once I’ve worked through it I’ll give my opinion after watching what promises to be an exceptional work.

About that Louis Theroux Jimmy Savile documentary…

Last night BBC Two broadcast, Louis Theroux: Savile, a follow up documentary to his 2000 documentary When Louis met Jimmy. Savile is Theroux’s mea culpa as he seems to blame himself for his part in failing to uncover what Savile was doing and the scale of which he was a monster.

Indeed looking at the footage Theroux includes in this film of subsequent meetings with Savile 16 years ago it’s hard not to see some huge signs that Savile was frankly, fucking creepy as hell.

Hindsight’s an amazing super-power, and with hindsight it’s clear to see what Savile was. He hid in plain sight, yet I feel Theroux hasn’t any guilt to divest himself of. As said by one of Savile’s victims in the film, Theroux was ‘groomed’ and ‘mugged off’, and so were large amounts of people growing up, myself included.

Yet the stories clung to Savile like a stench. First time I heard these stories was at secondary school in Glasgow in the 1980’s, these where the ‘Jimmy Savile fucks corpses’ stories which in the playground in the early 1980’s was a bit of a laugh, now seem to have an element of truth in them. I heard stories about Savile as I was growing up, and of course, once you start hanging around in pubs you start to hear more outrageous stories. There’s the Richard Gere hamster story, Cliff Richard’s colostomy bag, and of course Jimmy Savile was a subject who’d always be mentioned when drunk talk goes down the weird path of celebrities doing stuff you’d never have considered.

Then in 1990 I went to a party in London with my then girlfriend and her sister, who worked at the BBC at the time. The party was full of BBC employees and again, the drink kicked in and I vividly remember joking about whether Terry Wogan really had a wig (he did apparently) before the subject turned to Savile. I told the necrophilia story I’d heard a decade or so earlier hundreds of miles away in Glasgow to the room which prompted two or three other people to say they’d heard the same story, which in turn prompted worse and worse stories of Savile acting like a creepy old man wandering round Broadcasting House.

My girlfriends sister then mentioned she’d be warned off of being in a room alone with Savile. Another girl mentioned if she saw him coming down the corridor she’d find a door or staircase to enter to avoid him. Other stories were swapped, but 26 years and being drunk at the time preclude me from remembering them. What I’m saying is stories about Jimmy Savile being a necrophile, as well as a paedophile were legion hence why in the 2000 documentary Theroux mentions them to Savile, because it’d have been negligent for him not to. That’s as far as I know the only time anyone in the media ever confronted him about it while he was alive.

Yet if people like me, and all those folk at that party or elsewhere had heard the stories over the decades, then the media will have too. That’s something Theroux touches upon in Savile where he chats to a woman who used to work on the Mail on Sunday who spoke about stories she heard nearly 50 years ago and nobody acted upon those stories.

It was hard to believe that someone who did raise millions for good causes as well as being seen as a Great British Eccentric was a monster, yet hiding in plain sight obviously worked which leads me to this wee story. Around 2002 or so myself and a friend used to go drinking on a Monday night after work, I’ll call him A to keep it anonymous for reasons which will become clear. A had a mate (I’ll call him B) he used to work for when he worked for the Notorious Bristol-Based Sales Company that B still worked for, but B was based now in India running their operation then. B would still come back to the UK to report in, as well as seeing family and friends.

B was fine, a drinking mate, not really a friend per say. We’ve all got people like that in our lives. B used to drop lines about how he’d pay boys in India to do things round his house, which myself and A used to think was cleaning and the like. Thought nothing of it. B was earning stupid sums of money and India has a low cost of living so we again, thought nothing of it. Speed forward a few years and B is now flitting around various Asia-Pacific countries for work while still coming back to the UK where he’d occasionally meet up with myself and A for a bevvy or seven.

Then word came back that B was in some sort of trouble in the Philippines, but it was nothing to be concerned about until when out on the piss one night with A around six or seven years ago I brought up B’s name. Turns out he’d been caught in a scam by some locals designed to entrap Westerners trying to ‘hire boys’. He’d been thrown in prison, and although eventually got out, was exposed for what he was when a family member who’d went out to help him decided to log in on B’s laptop and saw things which made B’s family disown him to essentially leave him to the wolves of the Filipino legal system.

In hindsight, myself and A could look back and pick the signals out of the air. With the power of hindsight we could see what B was, and how evasive he was at times, but you dismiss it as after all, someone you know couldn’t be an abuser could they?

What seems to have happened to Theroux is he was mugged off like myself and A were. We all fell for the superficial, we were in effect, suckered by people who knew how to manipulate people for their own purposes which I don’t think Louis Theroux should wallow in guilt too much. People had 40 years prior to him to question him, they didn’t yet if Jimmy Savile was the subject of playground gossip then that gossip must have been picked up by Fleet Street editors in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90 and up to his death in 2011? Sure a few articles leaked out but what’s now clear is the victims were failed by the Fourth Estate and that all the soul searching from people like myself, you or Louis Theroux can’t change that fact.

Louis Theroux: Savile is on iPlayer for the next month. It is essential viewing.

Shadow of the Ripper-1988 Jack the Ripper documentary

Back in 1988, there was a lot of fuss over the centenary of the Jack the Ripper murders with books, films, documentaries, comics, anything you can imagine basically being created to cash in on this gruesome anniversary.

Not everything was horribly exploitative of what still is the horribly brutal murders of five women.¬† Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell made its appearance in 1989 in Steve Bissette’s horror anthology Taboo, even the ITV Michael Caine drama has its moments as a good piece of schlock but this for me is the Holy Grail.

Shadow of the Ripper is a superb documentary presented by Christopher Frayling, an academic who takes an academic, but easily accessible journey through the Ripper story which involves a lengthy discussion of the social and economic issues of late 19th century London and of an Empire who at one point was the wealthiest the world had ever seen, but had the most astonishing poverty in it’s biggest city. In many ways there’s parallels with our position today, even down to the callous disregard for women.

The documentary is up on iPlayer, but it was it’s appearance on my YouTube recommendations that caught my attention, so here’s that version which everyone around the world can appreciate. It really is a superb bit of archive television.

The Enfield Poltergeist-BBC radio documentary

The Enfield Poltergeist¬†has been something that’s interested me as a child, not because I’m a massive believer in ghosts and the likes, but because it’s such a fascinating case plus it inspired one of the finest bits of television ever, Ghostwatch.

This is a curious contemporary BBC radio documentary of the time, and it’s a fabulous wee bit of archive. What’s so evocative are the clear differences in accents rather than the bland middle class mush we often hear these days on radio, this actually feels tactile and real which adds to it.

Put aside your feelings on the case, this is a great listen and worth your time.

Comic Book Heaven

I’ve worked in comic shops in Bristol, London and Glasgow. I’ve done comic marts and conventions either with my own stock or working for friends in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Manchester, Cardiff and all over the place over a period from 1984 to today, with only recent ill-health excluding me from doing anything this year.

Most of the shops I’ve worked in are nothing like the ones people are used to today where shiny toys and merchandise dominate shiny, often soulless shops where staff often aren’t aware of anything beyond the last decade’s worth of comics, and don’t even think of asking them if they’ve got things like the latest Love and Rockets because they’ll never have heard of it.

No, the shops I worked in bled comics. Sure, we’d do the odd bit of merchandising but you’d often walk over piles of comics to get to more comics. The smell of dust and old paper hung in the air, along sometimes with the musk of some of our customers but there was no mistaking what you were coming in for. ¬†Many of these shops had a grumpy old man who was hiding a decent heart, but make no mistake they loved comics as a medium, not as a fashion or trend.

Comic Book Heaven is a short film about the eponymous shop in New York run by Joe Leisner, the very picture of a grumpy old man but this man loves his comics. This short documentary documents the passing of a type of shop we’ll never see again as we move into a multimedia age. It is worth around 12 minutes of your time.


The Umbrella Man

While I recently spent some time in hospital for my stroke I ended up being lost in JFK conspiracy theories on YouTube because that’s the sort of thing you do when you’re bored rigid. In the middle of truly some insane videos I stumbled across a short film by film-maker Errol Morris called The Umbrella Man.

Morris is a superb documentarian going back to The Thin Blue Line, and this short film is a tiny little diamond of a documentary explaining one of the many odd things about that day in Dallas in 1963 when JFK was killed.

Give yourself a spare few minutes and enjoy this fantastic wee film.