Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ninjas in the background


I work in a newsroom, and when I'm almost all alone on the weekend shift and the 24-hour news cycle gets too much - you can only bear the frantic braying of American politicians on the CNN feed so much - I switch the TV over to watch some Ninja Warrior. There's always some Ninja Warrior on somewhere.

I always watch it with the sound off, but it's nice background visual when you're dealing with the horror of the rest of the day's news, watching these phenomenal specimens do amazing things in excellent sportswear. I can manage a couple of pull-ups - maybe three if I had a gun to my head - but these people are magnificent physical creatures, and that's always worthy of a little bit of attention.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Saturday afternoon at the movies again

There will always be a part of me that thinks only real time to go to the movies is mid-afternoon on a Saturday. The Majestic Theatre in Timaru played something at 2pm every Saturday for my entire adolescence, and me and my sisters and our friends would always head along, while the parents went off to the pub or housie or something. 

And we'd watch anything, no matter how rubbish it was. There were endless Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer films, and the Village People movie, and lots of re-puporsed TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and the 70s Spider-Man, which were deeply unimpressive on the big screen. Every now and then get something good, like a Star Trek or an Indiana Jones film, but most of the time it was just low budget meaningless shit, and none of that matters. 

The lovely wife won't let me waste a Saturday afternoon like that right now, refusing to let me be stuck inside on a sunny day, and quite right too. But my beliefs about the optimum way to go to the movies is unchanged, and that's why cinemas will never die, even in this times of plague.

You might get the annoyance of other people, but so what? Nothing beats the dialogue bouncing around the cavernous space, going through the lush foyer with the plush carpet, making the Tangy Fruits last as long as possible. All the fun of the audience, which makes that one jerk who won't stay off the phone a bit more tolerable. 

I still haven't really forgiven my big sister for making us miss the start of Footloose, and that kind of grudge only lasts because of love - a love for the cinema on a Saturday afternoon, while everyone is at housie.

Friday, March 5, 2021

The Bat and the Cat


I didn't think anything in DC comics could be so annoying as when Justice Leaguers got into the habit of calling each other by their first names in public, absolutely shredding their secret identities, in some failed attempt at realism. But the way Batman and Catwoman call each other 'Bat' and 'Cat' in Tom King's comics manages to exceed even that.

It's a fucking ridiculous thing to get annoyed about - especially in this day and age, when there is plenty of other injustices to give a damn about - but I can't help it. King's Bat-comics are generally frustrating, but are also full of tiny moments of joy that are worth getting through, and then always grind to a meaningless halt when the characters unload their feelings on each other with ridiculous pet names.

It just seems so unprofessional and totally contrived - not the way hard-hitting vigilantes talk, and not the way normal people who just like each other's company talk. It's a failure of imagination, the most basic of pet names, for these most extraordinary of lovers.

Keep the Bat and Cat stuff where it belongs, between the panels an in the imagination of those who think it's big and clever.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Late night TV of the 1980s, when all the world has gone to bed



My lovely parents gave up on active parenting by the time I was a teenager, and let me go to bed when I wanted, as long as I still got to school when I was supposed to. God bless them, but I took huge advantage of this lack of control and would stay up late almost every night, long after the rest of the household had gone to bed.

I would always pay for it the next morning, struggling out from under the sheets when the alarm went off, but I got hooked on the shitty late night TV of the 1980s, and still have a huge fondness for those programmes that kept me up so late.

They were just slightly more sophisticated that the primetime, and just a little bit adult. Shows like Wolf and The Hitchhiker and Wiseguy were ideal for the quiet of late night, when it felt like there was nobody else in the world. 

I'm not a lunatic, I haven't watched any of these things in 30+ years, and highly doubt they would hold up in any way, shape or form. But at a time when we only had two channels in this country, they were ideal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Havok and Wolverine: Mutant boys never looked so good

Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown is a pretty standard x-story of the 1980s at its heart. Written by Louise and Water Simonson, who were already more than comfortable in that world, it's got crazy action scenes and a femme fatale and vows of vengeance and a big villain who engorges himself on the chaos.

But it's also got staggeringly beautiful artwork by Muth and Williams. There is a hazy, dreamy atmosphere and languid storytelling, taking the time for wide, expansive establishing shots of impossible landscapes in between the globetrotting.

Making Havok look like James Dean does go a bit far sometime, but when he unleashes his plasma fury, it's a blinding blur. And Wolverine had never looked so good, and has rarely since. Even with the ostentatious hair, he's a raging feral, and a hunter with a head to the ground, and a dingy superspy in a dirty singlet, striking new poses and new ways of movement, as he swims through layers of thick paints.

 If all superhero comics looked like this, it would be a better world.










Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Sacco's captions keep things moving



The journalist comics of Joe Sacco are dense and detailed by design, getting across a tonne of information with absolute efficiency, without ever losing the human heart of the story he is telling.

It's a lot to take in, but there is a slightly unusual effect caused by the way the captions are rarely straight and parallel. They often bend around people and landscapes, and match their movements, rolling through the scene with total momentum.

It might just be a symptom of Sacco's underground comix roots, because the freewheeling ethos of floating captions with odd angles has been there for decades. 

But it also makes it so much easier to read, especially in something like recent effort Paying The Land, where he is getting so much across, and there are so many people to keep track of, and fascinating new histories to absorb. Keeping it as straight and rigid as a block of text in a textbook would make it so much harder to get through.

 And it's something that is uniquely comics, impossible to replicate in any other medium. Keeping it lively with something that can only be done with pen and ink and the skills of an artistic master - it's what comics are all about.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The best music in the world came out of this alarm clock


The best music I ever heard in my life came out of the tiniest speakers, on the alarm clock that woke me up every morning for school.

Like every other kid in the world ever, I was such a fucking snob about the weirdest shit, and the only entertainment that mattered to me were things with a story, as if narrative was the only thing that was important in life. Comics and movies and TV shows. I always had plenty for music, and the radio was always on, but it was something to listen to while doing other things, never an end to itself.

But music was a thing that I saw teenagers everywhere get into, so I did the practical thing and when my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas in 1987, I wanted the tape player with an alarm clock. And that was fine for a little while, until my mates Shaun and Steven game me some Pink Floyd tapes to listen to and they blew my freaking little mind.

Soon I was thrashing other tapes on that miniscule player - Sgt Peppers, a Faith No More, some Cure and at least three Queen albums. But Pink Floyd was the thing, taking me to another world of sensory overload.

Music means the most to the young. Oh sure, as an adult, you can appreciate the shit out of things, and have deep knowledge, but you don't shape your whole personality around it like you do when you're a teenager.

I got a proper stereo system a couple of Christmasses later, and the alarm clock was lost forever. It wasn't missed, it was an absolute bitch to set the times on the thing, and the stereo would be playing every moment I had, and I didn't even have to be doing anything else while listening. The music was the thing.

And then, a few weeks ago, I found this alarm clock with a tape player in a charity shop and it's the best 10 bucks I've spent in ages. Not just because I was keen to find a tape player to figure out the mix tapes, but because it's the exact same model as the one I had when I was 12. It makes the same weird derp noise when it gets turned off and setting the times is still a hell of a thing, and the sound of the tunes on those mix tapes coming out of that minuscule speaker are as tinny as ever.

There are many, many tapes to get through and figure out what is worth keeping, and when it comes to finding out what music works best, you can't beat the original source.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Free will is an illusion, so let's party



If time is an immutable solid and all of reality exists in all moments simultaneously, just like all those Vertigo comics in the 1990s kept telling me, then it means that free will is an utter illusion, and we just do what we have always done, with every single action buried in eternity, unable to change. 

If that's the case, then we might as well fill that time with things that make that eternal now as pleasant and invigorating and stimulating as possible.

That's what we always do.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Twilight Zone doesn't sound like that


Although I'd seen plenty of the various reboot series, I'd never really watched any of the original Twilight Zone episodes. Of course I knew most of the twists of the most famous stories, because they'd become ingrained in general pop culture, but not the actual episodes as they were first produced all those years ago

I'm slowly filling in that gap now, and even if the twists are easy to predict after years and years of rip-offs and pastiches and outright remakes, they're still charming. They're still clever enough to be interesting, and there are so many episodes that there are more than a few that still manage to surprise with their twists and turns.

But the most surprising thing in the theme music - that classic doodoodoodoo chant that is always so recognizable - wasn't there for the first season. Instead, the original theme by the immortal Bernard Herrmann is a dreamy, meandering affair that doesn't have the short, sharp shock of the more famous theme.

It still works, especially when Rod Serling is still finding his creative feet with the earliest episodes, and everything is more up in the air. But I'm still looking forward to that spinechilling call out into the Twilight Zone.