Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Creepiest ads were in the back

The ads in the back of Creepy and Vampirella magazines were agonizingly tantalizing, full of weird comics and cool toys and groovy magazines and esoteric books and gorgeous posters and actual movie prints and Battlestar Galactica jackets - and they were all things that I had absolutely no chance of ever getting my hands on.

Never mind the geographical isolation of living on the arse end of the world, or the fact that I was a kid who could barely scrape together 55c for the latest 2000ad. I only got to see these thing years after they were published, and after all the deals had long expired.

It was still the coolest shit, though. And after the nasty thrills of the comics they appeared in, they were fantasy ephemera that were entertainment in their own right.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

No time for the movies, even in 35mm

This is one of those points in life where I just can't get to the cinema as much as I like, and have only been a couple of times in the past year. This isn't all because of the plague, not in this country. Although there has been the occasional lockdown, the local theatres have still been open, and thirsty to get as many arses on seats as possible. And it's not all because there is a lack of product, even though the last Bond film has been delayed for more than a year.

It's almost entirely because we have a young child. And I know it's this, because there have been so many fucking good old films playing on the big screen lately, at cinemas all around me, and I haven't been able to get to them

Old films were always a bit of a rarity on the big screen, and there was no dedicated revival cinema near me until last year. But with very little new product coming in, one cinema in particular has been  showing things like Godzilla v Megalon, The Cassandra Crossing, the first two Die Hards, Eyes Wide Shut, Commando and The Warriors, usually in 35mm. The one under the library has been playing several Lynch masterpieces, including the sublime Fire Walk With Me.

There would have been days when I would have gone to every single one of the things, (although, to be clear, I only found out about he Twin Peaks the day after it screened, or I might have made a special pilgrimage to that). As it is I just got to a True Romance screening, and by the time there is any free time to go to something, there will be a glut of new movies in a post-Covid deluge, and I'm bound to miss some gems. 

I'm missing my shot at seeing these things on the big screen, but at least other film nerds without family responsibilities will get their chance. That's some cold, cold comfort.

Monday, March 29, 2021

There's a new bookshop in town

So many bookstores have closed down in the past 20 years, and now there are entire suburbs without any kind of bookshop, either new or used, and that breaks my fucking heart. The ease and convenience of the internet sucked all the goddamn money out of the business and some of the best bookstores I have ever known have closed up shop long ago.

This is most obvious in my old home town, where I was born and spent a significant part of childhood. I still have deeply emotional attachments to them all - the one on the crest of the Bay Hill which was the only place to get Fantastic Four and Star Trek comics, or the one in the Stafford Mall which had the 1986 2000ad annuals and Silvestri X-Men comics, or the one at the front of the Plaza that had an exceptional amount of titless in the mid-1980s (I was only interested in the Indiana Jones comic, which I still have to this day.)

But they're all gone now, all faded away over the years. The last halfway decent bookstore closed a few years ago, leaving just the one chain book outlet, and the second hand place near the Majestic, and that's it.

(The Readers Book Exchange - that second hand place - is still my absolute favourite bookshop of all time, and more responsible for my painfully undying obsession with comics. It's still there, as far as I know, and I always try to stop by. They don't have a lot of comics these days, but I usually buy one of the many, many pulp sci-fi paperbacks they have out back, always finding a Phillip Jose Farmer I've been looking for)

So it's just really nice to see one come back, opposite Ballentynes, at the top of the town.  Bringing one back against the deluge of closures. I've always ultimately judged bookstores by the amount of comics they can give me, but I don't even care if this new one has got comics or no. Any kind of bookstore is always welcome, and always worth a look. 

I haven't been able to get back home for more than a year now, and have been painfully homesick, and I genuinely look forward to seeing the best of friends and dearest of family when I finally get back down south.

But I'm also totally sneaking off to check out the new bookshop in town.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

What is there to smile about?


I hope that when I die, eternity is just dancing with the people I have known and loved, forever and ever, as the balloons keep coming down.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Wizard did not get high

There's a part of me that is still deeply annoyed by Wizard magazine making fun of Oasis when they were both at their mid-90s peak. It's highly irrational, but it's still fucking there.

It was partly because Wizard never looked at anything beyond the surface of the lyrics of their music, but it was mainly because it was the perfect example of the puritanical geek, the good boy who spent his pocket money of new issues of Nova The Human Rocket, not going out partying and getting loaded and having a good time. (You can totally do both.) The kind of dork that was so busy judging other people, they forgot to live their own life.

It's not like the Gallaghers ever needed anybody to defend them - and they continue to give the best interviews in rock music, long after they peaked as musicians -  but sometimes you just need to put down the Wizard, go outside and meet some people.

Friday, March 26, 2021

I'll have to stop my crying

New Zealand music is as good as any music in the world, with such generous helpings of it available right now. There's all sorts of new sounds, and some terrific hip-hop, punk and pop artists that are absolutely nailing it.

It was a different story in the early eighties, where disco still ruled the radio, and the only Kiwi sounds on the wireless were endless Split Enz and the occasional burst of Ray Columbus and 'She's A Mod'. And then, when I saw my first locally made music video, it was the creepiest fucking thing I'd ever seen. 

It was the Chills, wandering around some fucked-up and haunted forest, crooning in a Dunedin drone that didn't sound anything like the fucking Bee Gees. And I could not handle it. The rest of my childhood was spent convinced that all New Zealand music was dour, droning and downright depressing, in the kind of irrefutable belief that kids have.

I'm not a kid anymore, and Pink Frost is an absolute fucking banger of a tune, and sounds like a particularly southern alienation that I easily managed to identify with as an adult. And while that weird childhood fear gives the song some real menace, that just adds to the flavour.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Going to the mall to escape the super-carnage

They were Very Special Issues that both Marvel and DC did in their team comics - the ones from the 80s and early 90s where the team took a break from fighting for justice and vengeance and just chilled the heck out for a while. And they were always the most charming single issues, but only ever really worked within the context of the monthly grind.

While the Avengers and the Justice League and the Defenders would sneak characterization in brief moments of quiet, the New Teen Titans really got things started with the A Day In the Life story in 1981, taking an entire issue to show how the team functioned on a day off from all the super heroics, and it became a regular feature in all the team comics. The Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Factor and Justice League all did the same thing, setting aside the one issue to really get inside the characters' heads, before they smash into Despero again.

A lot of creators were great at mixing the characterization in with the action, showing the merits of the heroes' worth by their deeds, not their downtime, but they frequently got lost in the storytelling carnage, and giving them their own issue to calm down a bit always made sense.

Unsurprisingly, Chris Claremont was an absolute master at it with the X-Men, keeping the soap operatics bubbling away with regular breaks to relax. There were extensively diminishing returns in all the bloody baseball games, but there was incredible character work in these interludes that was just as important as the big, sprawling saga.

They worked because they were a breathe between the big battles, not the norm. Plenty of superhero comics since then have tried to do whole series on the behind-the-scenes stuff, but it gets suddenly tedious when that's all there is. They had to be one-offs, or it just didn't work.

The superhero companies still do it regularly, although they get increasingly lost in the cacophony of the regular super-epics. The interlude comics used to stand out because of their relative rarity, and were still the best place to go if you really wanted to get inside Cyborg's mechanical brain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Turn the volume down on your own bullshit

There's a specific kind of disappointment when you're looking forward to getting stuck into a new podcast about a subject you're really into, and all ready for a deep dive, and then the podcast is full of braying idiots making loud jokes and bark-laughing at their own cleverness, and while it might be full of information you'd love to hear, you can't get five minutes into the thing without giving up and moving onto a podcast about ghosts or some shit.

This should be a name for this type of disappointment, because it happens to me all the fucking time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Youtube does get it done

I keep getting sucked into reading books about the future, and they're always blathering on about algorithms will run our lives because they know more about us than we know about ourselves, but I really can't see it happening when Twitter keep serving me up shit I really don't want, no mater how many times I tell it to stop doing that.

Twitter is a great source for breaking news and the #1 outlet for smug, high-horsed gits in the known universe, but the things it keeps recommending to me are way off. I have no interest in the endless boring jokes about the new Spider-Man movie that everyone keeps making, or Tucker fuckin' Carlson, or the Zack Snyder Justice League or the intricacies of K-Pop.

It's not that there's anything wrong with any of that stuff, everybody can like what they want. There are plenty of people who get genuine enjoyment out of all these things, and I'm not shitting in their soup. (Well, except for the Tucker Carlson fans. They can fuck right off.)

But they're not for me. And I keep muting and blocking this shit for literally years now and it keeps serving it up, straight into the fucking timeline, like a turd sandwich.

Facebook isn't even better, and the righteous disuse of that platform has been easy when it doesn't give me anything I'm remotely interested in. But if there is one that has worked for me, it's the YouTube. 

It's a hellsite that is directly responsible for real harm in the real world, but it never shows me that horrible stuff. Instead, it's delivering me up all sorts of happy nonsense that I'm genuinely interested in - deep dives on Tolkien or old documentaries about silent movies or sweet cooking videos or or every single music video I've ever liked ever. I had to stay up till midnight to record the Iron Maiden video for Holy Smoke on videotape when it played on Radio With Pictures in 1990, now it's delivered to me right fucking there:

(The best thing about Iron Maiden isn't the art or their thundering music, it's that they're total fucking dorks.)

I know there is a shit-tone of nonsense on Youtube, but I just never see it. It took a day of blocking every CinemaSins video it kept trying to feed me, and a few more days to block, report and ignore the shit out of any Nazi bullshit, before YouTube stopped giving that to me.

I'm not ignoring the horror, and I recognise that I came from a place of ultra-privilege, just being able to block it out. But I'm not giving it any clicks, and hope my silent disdain helps rob it of any power it has. Maybe the future isn't really in the Britpop and comic book analysis YouTube keeps feeding me, but it's better than a tomorrow full of fear and loathing.

Monday, March 22, 2021

We're all just big bags of contradictions

While reading some old posts on the Teaoom of Despair - and it's being going 12 years now, so some of it is ultra-old - I can't help but notice that I'm completely full of shit and wrong, all the fucking time. I have wrong opinions, reach erroneous conclusions and am a damned fool about a lot of things. That's usually how human beings work, right?

Human beings are full of contradictions, because we're weird and complex meat bags held together by bacteria and fierce willpower. We change all the time, and often do full u-turns on some of our biggest beliefs.

I'm glad that I can disagree with my own opinions. Some people take some perverse pride in never shifting on a position, scoffing at flip-flops, but they never learn anything. Which is, as far as I can figure, the point of this whole existence, not just letting your ideas atrophy.

There are some obvious positions that never change - I hate gun culture in every single way, think Nazis always deserve a fuckin' slap and remain as convinced as ever that Dr Who is the best TV show ever. But I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again, and that's just life.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

There's always room for more Art Adams' X-Men

Some days, all you need in life is a group shot of the X-Men, as drawn by the incomparable Art Adams.

And sometimes you need 14!


Saturday, March 20, 2021

A dream of scripting

I keep having this dream where I've written the world's most amazing film script - and it's always a script, never a book or play or anything - and it's the best goddamn idea that anybody has ever had for a movie and it was such an absolute breeze to write because it was so simple and obvious.

And then I wake up in the dark, the idea still in my head and I realise the first thing I will have to do in the morning is write it down, sell it for a bazillion dollars and all my troubles will be over. Then I go back to sleep and forget it completely.

I've had this dream a lot of times, and I never fucking learn to write it down.

Friday, March 19, 2021

The blessed relief of sorting your comics

As this entire world of ours gets weirder and more stressful on a daily basis, we all have to find comfort where we can, and I still get some genuine peace from sorting out all my bloody comic books.

There have been various and ongoing purges of the collection, but I still have thousands and thousands of books. They all bring joy in some way, but keeping them in some kind of order is an ongoing process. Especially when I keep reading random ones, and they're not in bags or anything, and get mixed up in different piles in different parts of the house, all the fucking time.

In cases like this, there is always some weird organisational principles that only I understand - why the Legion of Super-Hero comics have to be filed in a certain way, or I'll never be able to find that one issue where Cosmic Boy's kid brother gets burned to a crisp.

But putting them together is an endless pleasure - putting a missing issue in its right place, collecting an entire run together, sorting it all out. In a mad, chaotic world, we have to grasp on to into order we can find, and I find it by spending seven hours turning this unholy mess of more than 2000 issues of 2000ad - 

  - into this beautiful sight - 

That's how you do it.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

House movies

In 1987, when everybody else was expanding their mind with Watchmen and Maus and all that, I was reading and re-reading the House II adaption from Marvel Comics until it literally fell to bits. No wonder it took me so long to catch up with all the cool kids.

In my defence, I was 12 and was snapping up every single comic I could get. Watchmen was nothing more than a mention in a DC hype column - it was something about sugar cubes? - and I'd never seen an issue of the Comics Journal in my life and didn't know things like Maus or Love and Rockets even existed. I knew the Dark Knight Returns was a Batman comic, but that was it.

So in the rush of comic addiction, I read that House comic, because it was all I could get. And then I read it again and again, memorising the quips and one-liners, soaking up the 100% Marvel 80s art with unwarranted glee. 

I loved those House movies, because they were horror for a 12-year-old, and I was a 12-year-old who loved horror. They were a slightly smart and had some good gooey effects and were just a little ironic, so you got alien jungles in the toilet and John Ratzenberger's deadpan electrician/freelance adventurer. I was far too young for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I could handle a House.

It helped that the movies had that deceptively light touch in the first two outings. Even with a rare starring role for Lance Henrikson,  House 3 ruined it all for everyone by taking everything way too seriously, but the earlier two kept things lively with a knowing wink.

That Marvel adaption of the second movie did not win any awards, sold terribly and was probably just a bit of entertainment corporation synergy. But it was a Marvel comic, and that was all I needed at the time, and I'd take what I could get.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

How to justify the big, expensive books

Every time I stop myself from buying an expensive book that I really want, but has an eye-wateringly large price-tag, I don't think about the short-term pain. I think about my whole life 10 years from now, and how it will be different in absolutely no way if I spend that money now, except I wouldn't have that sweet Art of Grendel book by Matt Wagner book sitting on my shelves. And then I buy it, because I can't beat that kind of logic

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Adam Curtis in the deep, dark woods

 It's a lot to take in, every time Adam Curtis drops another project like Can't get You Out Of My Head on the world. He's the best essay filmmaker around, with access to huge archives of modern history, and finds new angles and stories in the background of the world.

His films are about consciousness and culture and politics and race and justice and the general strangeness of the past century. They're full of people who are convinced that they can change the world by forcing everyone to act in a rational way, in their own self interests, and then are devastated when people won't do what they're bloody well told. He's also got excellent taste in music.

As well as the actual footage, his use of visual metaphor is absolutely stunning - lost people dancing to the apocalypse; snatches of crowds at the edge of momentous events; suburbanites so absolutely crushed by the weight of modern life that they can barely light their cigarettes.

There is one shot he's used in several movies, featuring the beam of a flashlight going across a dark forest, and it's always been incredibly powerful, because it's casting brief light on unknowable history, showing the trees, but utterly failing to pierce the darkness in the forest beyond.

That shot doesn't show up in his latest film, but there's still plenty of trip-hop needle drops, and plenty of other stock images of this crazy and complex world falling apart. Curtis is a absolute poet of the b-roll and always happy to remind everyone of the deep, dark voices in the woods of modern life.

Watch all his films here. You don't have to totally subscribe to their pessimistic view of humanity, but it's a point of view that's always worth a look.

Monday, March 15, 2021

I was a teenage arsehole

I try not to have a lot of regrets in life, because having too many regrets fucking sucks, and I mainly do this by trying not to do too many stupid things in the first place. But I can't ever forget how much of an arsehole I was during as a teenager, and the awful and stupid ways I justified at the time.

This is in the early nineties, which is the most ironic period of human history, and I turned 18 in 1993 and was easily at my most obnoxious, always ready with a snide remark or oafish comment. But I never thought of myself as the arsehole, because I was being obviously ironic about it. It took me fucking years to work out that being an ironic arsehole still means you're an arsehole.

Sure, it's an age where you naturally want to just fucking smash fucking everything, no matter how your life is going. There's so much change and so much discovery, and it's so easy to hide behind an ironic sneer, fervently defending offensive shit because it pisses off your parents' generation.

There is always going to be some natural arsehole behaviour, but it's really easy to justify it to yourself because you're not really being sexist or something, you're making fun of those who genuinely are sexist to expose how awful they are. It's not your fault the people you're with can't tell the difference. Except that it it totally is.

Pop culture didn't help. You might think that Yossarian is the ultimate rebel philosopher and that all the old school journalists freaking out over Hunter S Thompson's work are just squares, man, but nobody needs you using their bullshit as a guide to life.

I will be forever grateful that my young arsehole nature was confined to idiot insults and other harsh words, and never went any further than that. And I'm even more grateful that this all happened in a pre-internet age, where I had no platform to spread my rancid bullshit.

There's still enough memories for all sorts of sick regret and deep embarrassment, and how do I ever repay the people that put up with this oafish behaviour? They're a bunch of goddamn angels.

I can never say sorry enough for all the hurt feelings and silly outrage that I may have caused in my youthful stupidity, but I'll try and own it, and try to do better.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

That bad boy vibe made my cock and balls ache

Goldie Lookin' Chain's tunes are genuinely funny - and the fact that their biggest ever controversy was singing Your Missus Is A Nutter to David Beckham might be the funniest - but at least they always had some decent tunes to back up the laffs.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

We want to get in there, don't we? Eat some cake


I have been this drunk and obnoxious in public venues, and while it was fucking funny at the time, I can only apologise to all the poor people I encountered in this state

Acting like Withnail is all well and good for a certain time in your life, but if you don't grow out of it, there is something seriously wrong with you, and all the impassioned Hamlet in front of the wolves won't hide that.

Still, at least old Withnails really only destroy themselves. Those who keep trying to be Hunter S Thompson when they're 40 just fuck everything up for everybody.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Well done!

There's an argument that the train chase at the end of the Wrong Trousers is the greatest action scene of all time, with exquisite timing, sheer bloody momentum and sly wit.

Get enough cheese into me in one sitting, and I might be the man to make that argument

Thursday, March 11, 2021

C'mere, c'mere, go away

Even before the Young Ones came along and rocked the shit out of my young world, Alexei Sayle was super familiar because he'd been regularly on  Ready To Roll - the local music video programme - doing this song, and it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen.

And yet, while I still quote bits from a Sayle book I read in 1989 on a disturbingly regular basis and respect the shit out of the dude for sticking to his working class socialist roots, it was only today that I learned that there was a Didn't You Kill My Brother? episode of the Comic Strip - I always just thought it was just a novelty single....

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

We all play synth

Synthesiser-based soundtracks becoming cool again is a great thing - they went hideously out of fashion the minute the 1980s staggered out the door, and only really came back into popular culture in the 2000s, as the Sons and Daughters of Carpenter mined that throb for kicks.

There's nothing quite like a deep synth soundtrack for mood and menace and sheer fucking intensity, unearthly sounds hovering around the action. Movies with a pure synth soundtrack have a cohesive tone, pulled together by electronic audio glue.

But they always, always make me think of the 'I love my life as a dickhead' video from 2010, because we all play synth. And I've just watched for the first time in at least five years and is still funny as fuck, especially when you see it's clocked up 13 million views, and then the creator fucked off and never did anything again, because he'd made his perfect statement.

That's true dickhead behaviour. What a legend.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

I look down on him

Modern western society thinks it has gotten a lot better at sorting out the inequalities highlighted in this sketch from 55-fucking-years ago, but it really hasn't. It has got a lot better at ignoring them, though.

Monday, March 8, 2021

I feel rather good

There's a recent Danish movie that makes the same joke this six-minute sketch does, but it takes two hours to do it. But it's also a film with inhibited Mas Mikkelson dance scene, so we'll call it a draw.

Also, I don't doubt the theory.

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.