Monthly Archives: August 2010

Monkeys, not Guys

Pisspoor and proud of it

Don’t normally moan on my blogposts (it’s unbecoming, common as muck and largely counterproductive). But one subject above all others is irritating me beyond belief at present: crap animation on the telly. In particular, I refer to the execrable Family Guy which is played in a continuous loop on BBC 3. Can’t fucking stand it.

My loathing has been fed by years of repeats. There are episodes I know by heart, like the scars and scabs on a scrofulous pet rat. There is one kind of joke in Family Guy, Thats it. Peter Griffin says “it’s like when…” and there is a cutaway to a literal depiction of what fathead Pete was talking about; a little vignette of a slightly humorous nature. Sorry. Two kinds of jokes. One of the characters has a catch-phrase. Giggety, giggety.

 Still, I acknowledge I might be in the minority here. That my chortle-deficient response to the antics of Stewie and Bryan might be to do with my own particular knobheadedness. Perhaps that is so. But I would certainly be less excised about the whole thing if it wasn’t repeated so bloody often. If, for example, it was on once a month, I could be more magnanimous “Ooh, there’s the cartoon show I find mildly irritating. Never mind, Changing Rooms is on after this.” ..and that would be that. But no. Family Guy is shown daily. Twice. Does much comedy bear endless repetition?

 

I know nothing about TV scheduling or the price of cartoons, but it does seem odd that this particular piece of American sub-humour has been chosen to repeated ad nauseam on the worlds best broadcaster. There are other US animations that could also serve – Beavis & Butthead, Clone High or Ren and Stimpy – these are slightly less formulaic and joyless. If its a question of price (cartoons are expensive and you need to justify the price by broadcasting them over and over again), why not try something from outside the US?

 

An excellent example of an animated series from outside the US is Bro’Town. Devised by the genius that is Ant Sang, it is the tale of a New Zealand gang of kids from Maori/Pacific Island backgrounds. It is sharp, funny, satirical and best of all, takes you somewhere different. You may even learn a few bits of Maori (ok, swear words in Maori). It should be worth a go. Given the success of Flight of The Conchords and Summer Heights High, it should be obvious by now that the antipodeans are funny buggers.

Another option that the BBC could take is to raid it’s own vaults for animation. What about reruns of Stressed Eric or Monkey Dust? In fact, why was Monkey dust ever taken off the air? It was the best animated satire series ever. I still find myself going to youtube and seeking it out fabulous stuff.

 The main reason why the Beeb should take Family Guy off the air is because they are being played for suckers. The same thing happened with South Park (now THAT was a show!). It was shown on Channel 4 until it became popular (i.e. Channel 4 built up an audience for it) and then Sky snapped it up. Now those fans had no option: if they wanted to see it, they had to pay for a Sky subscription. Similarly, the Simpsons has been ruthlessly exploited to build audience share for the Murdochpoly. US animation is in essence a marketing gimmick used to hoik people into paying subs for Sky and Nickolodeon. Cooperating with these scum-sucking parasites isn’t funny. Which brings me right back to Family Guy.

Top 100 80s pop picks.

I grew up in the eighties. From the 2-tone Ska revival to the Madchester rave thingy, I lived the whole hideous 3652 days of it. Not that it makes me a genius or nothing, you know, managing not to drop dead for ten whole years. Plenty of people can do that trick six or seven times a lifetime… even longer if there’s a reason to.

Yes, it was this grim...

One aspect of the decade that impacted me more than the music (which was mostly lousy) was the politics. 4 million unemployed, the welfare state dismantled, vast swathes of the country turned into no-go areas and industrial wastelands. The one bright spark was that things were getting better elsewhere: military dictatorships collapsing in South America, Charter 88 and Solidarity leading the charge for change and hope. 

So here are my fave songs of the period. You will notice a lack of dance music, electro-soul and only a token New Romantic in the 100. I’ve also kept away from the best-selling bands of the era: Madonna, Michael Jackson, Queen, Prince, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Wham! and U2. That’s because I hate them. The 1980s taught me to hate the popular. My distaste for popular tunes is also inexplicably vehement. Two bars of Blue Monday by New Order or anything by Five-Star and I turn into a gibbering eejit (No change there then). So, enjoy my pop-picks, pop-pickers.

1) Jesus & Mary Chain – Just Like Honey

Inventors of ‘shambling’ and fashion gurus for indie-kids everywhere. Dress in black, shave the back and sides off a bubble perm so it flops forward into your eyes, wear a long, baggy coat and Dr Martins boots, sell bootleg cassette tapes in the street for your Enterprise Allowance money (it’s what we had instead of jobs back then). God, nostalgia is depressing.

2) Motorhead – The Ace of Spades

Proper rock anthem, played by the hardest group ever. Lemmy plays a 7ft. guitar made from pig-iron and screams about snake-eyes watching you. Lovely stuff. And don’t forget the joker

3) World Domination Enterprises – Asbestos Lead Asbestos

Saw them live at the Dog Club in Wood Green circa 1985. Just a bloke with a keyboard on a supermarket trolley screaming about asbestos. Brilliant. Dog Club was a mid 80s hippy hang out where you could go and see bands, fire-eaters, people dressed as nuns coming out of a hearse. Bands I saw there? Nick Cave, The Cardiacs, Ozric Tentacles, Thee Katatonix, Out Vile Jelly probably.. great days, great club.

4) Electrica Dharma – Força Dharma

Catalan nationalism in Jazz/folk stylings. My family is from Barcelona province, so Cat-Nat is our default setting. Pretty good band, these, noodling around the bars and clubs of Barcelona for the local hepcats. Coool.

5) Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed

Best all-round pop-song of the decade by far. Haunting and brooding and lovely. Good message too. Shut up and don’t feed the media shitstorm. Modern celebs should listen and learn.

6) Green on Red – Time Ain’t Nothing

American folk with a lick of lyrical leftwingery. Awesome live, they rock n’ roll while remaining conscious of their musical and labour history. Cowboy music for those who know that 25% of actual cowboys were anarchists. After a day on the trail they would relax reading Proudhon and Kropotkin rather than the bible. Yee haw!

7) Jethro Tull – Broadsword

Sends shivers down my spine. I doubt Vikings or Picts ever made music like this, but it’s certainly evocative stuff (Not that I know anything about the society being evoked, other than my stack of fantasy novels.). Ian Anderson has a fine voice, and his band always tickle my fancy.

8) Juan Luis Guerra – Ojala Que Llueva Cafe

From the Dominican Republic, the first hit by Guerra’s fab band. Popularizing the Caribbean dance music of Merengue, he became a huge Latin star. The song is a plea for coffee (and food) to rain on the famished poor. Very affecting. The chorus usually gets my tears flowing.

9) Rockdrigo Gonzalez – Los Intelectuales

My first trip to Mexico in 1990 opened up my eyes in many ways. One of the most pleasant to listen to, is Rockdrigo’s music. He was a pioneer singer-songwriter in the Bob Dylan mould and he composed a number of classic songs. He died in the 1984 earthquake and his music was distributed in cassettes (he never had a record contract in his lifetime). Even most Mexicans don’t know about him. Takes me back to those days of tequila and lime juice. Chingada, man.

10) Sisters of Mercy – Nine While Nine

Yeah, I was a goth. Back when I had hair and thought I was getting close to some semblance of cool. It never happened, so I started listening to obscure 60s music and hanging out with Glam-rockers (perhaps the most uncool of the 80s revivalists) never looked back since. So, from Leeds, that fine goth city, a bit of SoM. Mr Eldritch’s vocalising is, as always, highly melodramatic. Lipstick on tha’ window pane, mate? Try Windolene.

11) Dr & the Medics – Spirit in the Sky

12) Kirsty McColl – There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis

13) The Primitives – Thru the Flowers

14) Twelfth Night – Sequences

15) Love & Rockets – Kundalini Express

16) The Red Guitars – Good Technology

17) The Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way

18) Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction – Prime Mover

Saw Zodiac Mindwarp for free at Central London Poly just before they hit the big time.

19) The Playn Jayn – I Love You Like I Love Myself

20) Public Enemy – Fight The Power

21) Bhundu Boys – Hatisi Tose

22) The Shop Assistants – All Day Long

23) Megadeth – Killing Is My Business and Business Is Good

24) Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance

25) Roy Harper – Elizabeth

26) The Ramones – Rock & Roll High School

27) Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In

28) The Pogues – Streams of Whiskey

29) The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

30) The Dead Kennedys – Stars & Stripes of Corruption

31) The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours

32) A House – Heart Happy

33) Pop Will Eat Itself – Orgone Accumulator

34) Black Uhuru – Carbine

35) Duran Duran – Careless Memory

36) The Jam – A Town Called Malice

37) Run DMC – My Adidas

38) Half Man Half Biscuit – 99% of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd

39) Fuzzbox – We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use it!

40) Stiff Little Fingers – Back to Front

41) Tears for Fears – Mad World

42) The Pixies – Monkey’s Gone To Heaven

43) Aswad – Dub Fire

44) I Ludicrous – Preposterous Tales

45) The Inspiral Carpets – Move

46) The Beastie Boys – You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party

47) King Kurt – Destination Zululand

48) The Specials – Ghost Town

49) Baron Rojo – Los Rockeros Van al Infierno

50) Indians in Moscow – Naughty Miranda

51) The Teardrop Explodes – Reward

52) The Macc Lads – Alcohol

53) Jon & Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home

54) The Fall – Hit the North

55) Azul y Negro – Me Estoy Volviendo Loco

56) The Stranglers – Golden Brown

57) Hanoi Rocks – Don’t You Ever Leave Me

58) Alpha Blondy – Cocody Rock

59) The Mighty Lemon Drops – Like An Angel

60) Cabaret Voltaire – Sensoria

61) Tom Robinson Band – Power In The Darkness

62) AC/DC – Mistress For Christmas

63) Talk Talk – Such a Shame

64) The Police – Walking On The Moon

65) Laurie Anderson – Oh Superman

66) Aerosmith – Rag Doll

67) Hawkwind – Fahrenheit 451

68) New Model Army – Vengeance

69) Iron Maiden – 22 Acacia Avenue

70) The Pastels – Coming Through

71) The Smiths – Panic

72) Joaquin Sabina – Pacto Entre Caballeros

73) Spear Of Destiny – Never Take Me Alive

74) Los Lobos – El Canelo

75) Marillion – Garden Party

76) Frank Chickens – We Are Ninja

77) The Stone Roses – She Bangs The Drums

78) The Redskins – Unionize

79) Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Gino

80) XTC – Senses Working Overtime

81) The Leather Nun – Jesus Came Driving Along

82) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Joan of Arc

83) Spitting Image – The Chicken Song

84) The Wonderstuff – Unbearable

85) Sonic Youth – Dirty Boots

86) The Cramps – Bikini Girls With Machine Guns

87) W.A.S.P. – Blind in Texas

88) Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star

89) Underground Zero – Canes Vanatici

90) Voice of the Beehive – What You Have is Enough

91) The Creatures – Killing Time

92) The Bad Brains – Banned in DC

93) Imagination – Body Talk

94) The Special AKA – Free Nelson Mandela

95) Ozric Tentacles – Sniffing Dog

96) Lou Reed – Dirty Blvd.

97) Chumbawamba – Unilever

98) X-Mal Deutschland – Incubus Succubus

99) Shakin Stevens – This Ole House

100) Sepultura – Inner Self

Comic Book Classics -9-

DYLAN DOG

 

Italian comics are a bit like their cars. You can enjoy the top-of-the-range artistry of a Ferrari, Maserati or Lamborghini, but you might just enjoy the ordinary joys of a Fiat Cinqueccento. To best clothe this analogy, substitute Ferrari’s for Ranx Xerox and Fiats for Tex Willer or Dick Fulmine. Rarely you will discover that most precious of amalgams: something that appeals to the mass consumer as well as the cognoscenti. Dylan Dog is such a vehicle.

The brain-child of Tiziano Scalvi and artist Claudio Villa (who modelled the main character on Rupert Everett), Dylan Dog holds all kinds of records for sales and popularity. Launched in 1986, it soon became a huge money-spinner for the legendary comic-book publisher, Sergio Bonelli. The formula that Dylan Dog pioneered by Scalvi and the many artists he employed (Villa and Angelo Stano being the most influential early ones), involved the plundering of all manner of popular culture (films and TV especially) to construct their narratives and characters.

Dylan Dog is a paranormal investigator living in London (a mythical London more at home in the swinging 60s than modern day). The aesthetic thus resembles that of the surreal 60s British TV shows like The Avengers, Adam Adamant and The Prisoner and Hammer films such as The Devil Rides Out. It is Britain as foreigners imagine it to be. A strange and wonderful place.

Dylan Dog fighting Old Man Willow. Will Tom Bombadill come to his rescue?

Dylan Dog, the dark, brooding hero, lives and works from his flat at 7 Craven Road. He travels in a VW Beetle (registration DYD 666). His live-in butler/assistant is Groucho Marx (yes THE Groucho Marx) adds a surreal humorous twist to proceedings, particularly during the darker and more unsettling paranormal investigations. Poor old Dylan Dog is also afflicted with a number of phobias (heights and bats), suffers from car-sickness and is in alcoholic recovery. That a mind with such a high quotient of neuroses should have chosen to fight the monsters of the paranormal is odd, but he seems to cope with his afflictions quite well.

 

Again, the monsters he fights are scavenged from the realms of film culture. In one adventure he will battle a Jewish Golem assassin that looks and talks just like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, in the next he will go after demon-creatures bearing an uncanny resemblance to the alien in Alien.

Visit Dylan if you're ever in London...

At heart, Dylan is an incurable romantic. He tends to get the girl (and lose her) in the course of every adventure. Sometimes the women he sleeps with will turn out to be vampires or witches or succubi or something just as nasty and he will be forced to kill them. If not, they will abandon him to brood. His attempts to charm the ladies or brood at their departure are usually undercut by Groucho’s pithy remarks and jibes at his employer’s expense. It adds light relief to the most doom-laden of scenarios, rendering them, in some cases, quite poignant.

Of all the comics I go back to, DD is the most charming. Its retro vision of London, the mash-up of disparate film and TV influences, the flawed, vulnerable and wounded hero. Above all a narrative that really knows how to move from light to dark and back again. One of the rumours I heard emerging from Comicon in San Diego (I didn’t go. It’s just the Angouleme festival for retards) is that a Hollywood film version is in the offing. A horrible thought. For now, comfort yourself with the appearance of the original DD in a Dark Horse edition. Well worth a go, if you ask me.

Dylan and Groucho... worldbeaters!

Arrivederci

What Should They Know of England…

…Who Only England Know (my first post in Spanish!)

El tema del monolingüalismo en los paises anglosajones está ya muy trillado. Los números son escalofriantes y se matizan con el argumento que el inglés es lengua mundial, que todo el mundo lo habla y entonces ¿Por qué complicarse la vida? Una posición logica pero un pelín arriesgada, no hay niguna garantía que la situación siga igual. Pero estos cambios ocurren poco a poco. Qué aprendan las generaciones que sigan, si es que les haga falta.

Y en la bloguería mundial (que consume, sueña, piensa en inglés) la cruenta realidad: que las lenguas ya no se aprenden o enseñan de forma generalizada, que el aprendizaje es ya un proceso tan etéreo que nadie tiene idea de la dificultad o el trabajo necesario que se necesita para aprenderlas, que se toma anuncios como “learn Spanish in six days” en serio. Y lo cierto es que con tal ignorancia, es difícil construir un debate racional.

 

Primer punto en ése debate: No todo el mundo habla inglés. Y hace falta decirlo. Hay billones que no lo hablan, o lo han aprendido a medias, o les vá fatal, o lo hablan de forma pésima (el caso de muchos españoles). Sin un lenguaje en común, la comunicación se cierra. Y sin esa comunicacion, el 90% de lo que ocurre a tu alrededor te pasa de largo.

En las numerosos casos en que he tenido el deber de hacer de guía para parientes monolingües, donde he tenido que ayudarles a comprar cerveza en un pub o boletos de tren o muchas otras cosas, se han perdido casi todo; la charla con el camarero o la senora de la ventanilla. Cuando vemos la tele les tengo que explicar los chistes (y además me pierdo los que siguen). Puede que no sea el mejor guia del año, pero sin mi intervención no se hubieran enterado de nada.

 

Segundo punto: Acceso a la cultura. La mitad de mis libros, discos, películas, cederones, revistas, tebeos y sitios de la web usan el inglés. El resto se divide entre el castellano (la mayoría), el catalán y otras lenguas, como el francés, que puedo interpretar (a duras penas). Muchos de estos productos culturales se pueden traducir, subtitular o doblar. Pero en esos procesos se pierde algo. Ademas el bilingualismo te lleva a lugares donde puedes apreciar y degustar nuevos placeres; las traducciones de Gabriel García Marquéz por Gregory Rabassa por ejemplo. Con el español puedes apreciar poesía que pide ser declamada, con el francés la bande dessinee, el inglés a la mejor musica pop, yé-yé y de rock del planeta. De veras quieres perderte cualquiera de esas experiencias? Si se me permite la indulgencia, diría que el bilingualismo (un estado que la mayoría de la población humana disfruta) es como la vista en colores. El monolingüalismo es oir el mundo en blanco y negro.

Tercer punto: Tu lengua materna mejora con el contacto de otras. Aprendiendo otro idioma tambien aprendes sobre la tuya: como funcionan los principios de la gramatica, la filologia, la derivacion de frases, dichos, palabras, refranes y costumbres habladas. Entraras en el mundo de la metafora y la alegoria internacional. Tu vocabulario y tu modo de expresion se enriquecen con ese contacto. Don’t leave home without it – como aconsejaba Severiano Ballesteros.

Open your mouth and let the culture out

Cuarto punto: Es casi imposible tachar de ignorante a un individuo que sepa varios idiomas. Además son conocimientos que abren puertas. Al estudiante británico con dos ó tres lenguas extranjeras, la vida resultará mucho mas fácil de ahora en adelante. ¿Quieres ir a la universidad? Por una fracción del coste en Inglaterra, puedes inscribirte en una universidad en Francia, Alemania, España u Holanda. Encontrarás que los cursos son mejores (mas intensivos) y podrás volver con un curriculum mucho más interesante (conocimiento de lenguas extranjeras, una licenciatura superior a las inglesas y claro, prueba de que tienes la calidad como persona para triunfar en el extranjero). También se te abre el mundo. Si no quieres volver, puedes trabajar en el extranjero con facilidad ¿no?

Saludos.

Daniel

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