Thursday, March 11, 2010

I don't think I've met anyone called Brenda before

I wish I could go to the Too Much Boutique (from the British 60s romp Smashing Time). Run by the Honorable Charlotte Brillig ("call me Charlotte"), the shop's name is a pun "you know, too much - it's an expression, hopelessly twee, another grave mistake". Charlotte (played amazingly by Anna Quayle who was later a drama teacher in Grange Hill) is a laconicly self-absorbed rich girl who just owns the boutique so her avante guarde Wolfenden-era friends have somewhere to socialise. She is later horrified when her new best friend Brenda (Rita Tushingham) actually makes them buy things, and eventually disappears from the film. Her appearance is tantalisingly brief, but makes a lasting impression. I particularly like the way she says "Well. Wake. Her. Up Then." - those five words conveying a whole lovely lifetime of privilege and entitlement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


When the Johnny Harris Orchestra teamed up with The Ascot Dancers in 1969 to perform a bizarre over-choreographed orchestral version of I Can't Get No Satisfaction for a pop Christmas Special from Germany, hosted by Jimmy Saville, it was as if Jupiter aligned with Mars - this was to be the campest moment in all history. Never before had such heights of camp being reached and never would they be again.

I have never taken LSD but I imagine that this is what it is like. Johnny is resplendent, conducting/freaking out with a vigour and enthusiasm that I've never seen before. I love his bonkers piano interlude (he doesn't even sit down for it!). And look out look out look out for the ending - a musical non sequiter. You'll want to watch it all over again as soon as it's finished.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Old Family Photos

I am often overwhelmed by nostagia. In my mind, the year 1979 represents a cut-off point between the modern age (boring and greedy) and the glamorous/kitsch recent past. I am only just old enough to remember the 1970s, and I didn't live in the 50s or 60s, and I know there would be a lot about that period I would dislike (shops closed half the time, bigotry, stodgy food). But I would still like to go there for a fortnight's holiday, try on the clothes, visit places that no longer exist and talk to people who are long dead. And I would totally tell them about Margaret Thatcher and Iphones and 9/11 and climate change and Pop Idol. Because I think they deserve to know, and if someone from the future came to visit me, I'd want to know everything.

As an aide memoir to my nostaglia, my living room is cluttered with old black and white family photos.

My grandmother and great aunt, taken probably in the late 1920s - they were aged about 15 and on the way to church on Sunday. Don't you love those hats.

My great aunt years later on holiday - probably in the 1950s, married to dashing uncle Hugh who was in the RAF. They were about the closest thing our family got to middle class. Until I came along and surpassed all previous records.

Unknown male relative who somehow stumbled into a photoshoot for a garage that had employed a "dollybird" model. The resulting picture made the local papers. Yes, in the 1960s you could just be walking down the street one minute, then end up with someone's white gogo boots in your lap.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Heavy Scene

I have been playing the game Heavy Rain this week. It's been described as the first "adult" PS3 game, and it certainly deals with some themes you wouldn't want children to see (as shown above, the first scene involves a man having a shower, which doesn't leave a lot to the imagination). In terms of storyline, it is similar to the films Saw and Se7en. Without giving too much away, you play four different characters and guide them through a film-like environment as they try to find the identity of the mysterious "Origami Killer". The gameplay involves making choices at various points, as well as pressing buttons in different combinations within specified time limits in order to get your character to do certain things. Some of these are utterly mundane (in a Sims sort of way). I spent ages making an omlette for a prostitute and she didn't even eat it!

Even though each chapter is a bit limited in terms of what you can actually do (you can't wander off where you want to for example), it is very involving and you end up caring about the characters in a way that isn't usual for computer games. At one point, the female character, Madison got tied up in a sick killer's basement. He was just about to use an electric drill on her, when the doorbell went and he had to go answer it. This gave me a chance to let her wriggle free of her ropes, but every time he came back and in the ensuing fight, he always got the better of her, as I wasn't quick enough at pressing the button to make her bash him over the head. The scene ended with him laughing sadistically over her corpse. I couldn't let the story continue like that, so I spent all Tuesday night in that bloody basement, pressing the x key and shaking the console around to untie her knots.

And it's just as well I did, because otherwise I would have missed out on a hilarious scene where you have to press keys to let Madison gussy herself up and then do a sexy dance on a podium in order to entice a sleazy nightclub owner to talk to her. I'm afraid I wasn't very good at applying eyeliner or primping hair, although my dancing was superb and I was granted an audience with the sleazy club owner anyway.