rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

1-5-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Welcome to Collinwood”, a crime comedy not starring George Clooney. He's in it, and executive produced it, but he's not the star. Do not be confused by the posters (although any film that features a wheelchair-bound Clooney laughably disguised as a Hassidic Jew has got to be worth seeing).

This remake of “I Soliti Ignoti” (which, no, I haven't seen) has had some pretty stinking reviews (“almost painfully unfunny with surprisingly little sense of place”, for example), but screw 'em, we thought it was hilarious. It's old-fashioned, unsubtle slapstick, sure; if that's a problem for you, don't go.

The plot is simple: a bunch of small-time crooks hear about a perfect crime opportunity, a “Bellini”, and get it badly wrong in a variety of ways. While a lot of the scripting is amusing, this really is all about the physical comedy and ensemble performances. Highly recommended.

5-5-2003 (archived)

In the “Rick the cretin” series, I present “I'm a really safe driver, me”. A while ago I had to spend several hours looking for a lost VCR remote, which was (of course) in the back of my sofa. This led to the following nugget from chat earlier today, spelling, grammar, typos, and pointless wittering unedited:

<rick> I could get used to this remote-control thing <g>
<IanM> just don't loose it down the back of the sofa ;)
<rick> *laugh* bastard.
<James-DVDCrit> :P
<rick> you want something to really mock me about?
<IanM> something else?
* James-DVDCrit/#ukmg feels the love :D
<rick> so, on the way back from St Helens gig on Friday, Pablito was following me and JP was following him...
<IanM> 'k
<rick> since Paul doesn't know where I live and JP cannot ever find his way home from anywhere withoutassistance.
<rick> so, I get up to the a580, turn right ontp it....
<Penfold> and you got lost
<rick> and jam on my brakes since I'm driving the wrong fucking way in the fast lane of the westbound carraigeway at 1:30 am.
<James-DVDCrit> !!!!!!!!!!!!!
<IanM> hehe, shite
<James-DVDCrit> i thought only OAPs did that ;P
<rick> I only got about three car-lengths in.... so I'm waving out of my window going "back the fuck up" and the others are going "what? whaswrongs?"
<padraig> eeeeek, you'll be on 'Cheap Telly from CCTV Clips 25' in a year or so
<rick> anyway, since it's three lanes there and there were only two cars going the right way (and threee the wrong, so democratically speaking we were right),
<IanM> Actually, I too would have got lost, if Mrs.M was not so familiar with St.Helens.
<rick> I just u-turned in the carriageway and then again at the lights and went off in the right direction....
<IanM> anyway, time for food. Back later.
<padraig> see you Ian
<rick> I didn't get lost at all, it's dead simple from the east on the 580.
<rick> bye mate.
-:- IanM is now known as IanM_away
<rick> but I believe Pablito, in particular, was somewhat disturbed by the experience <g>.
<padraig> I've been in a vehicle with someone else driving who almost did that (onto the M6 at Shap) I nearly shat

It has been pointed out to me that this whole incident was rendered particularly surreal by the fact that one of the two vehicles waiting at the lights on the carriageway I wrongly turned onto was a white stretch limo. I love this planet.

6-5-2003 (archived)

Last week I exercised my franchise, a frustrated and ferocious beast. It is exercised only rarely (though on every possible occasion), and it achieves nothing, as every time I have voted candidates with no chance of gaining the position they were running for. This absolves me from blame for the many evils they would doubtless inflict on us were they to get in, I suppose, but I would still like my minority opinions to count for something. First past the post sucks.

This particular bout of thinking about politics has been inspired by Padraig, once again, in this article on the disgusting Tories. Yes. That is all.

7-5-2003 (archived)

This week's first film review is “X-Men 2” (or “X2: X-Men United”, as the producers would have us call it. I have never heard a real person call it anything other than X-Men 2).

The best thing about this film is Ian McKellen, having the time of his life as the kill-all-the-humans Magneto. The next best thing is a new character, Nightcrawler, played as camp as fuck by Alan Cumming. (Americans seem to not to have noticed the camp, judging by Stateside reviews, so we get to feel superior. Which is nice.) The effects are great, particularly the attack on the president sequence at the start of the film, and the cast are all just as gorgeous as they ought to be; any film in which Halle Berry doesn't blind the viewer to everyone else in it is doing well. It's a true ensemble piece, with a large cast all doing their part, which has always been the strength of the X-Men idea.

The plot is together enough to hang the action sequences and the aura of cool on (superheroes! really pretty! with, like, spiffy uniforms and superpowers and stuff!), and it ends with a setup for X3. All in all, it's exactly what people who like this sort of thing will have expected and hoped it to be, albeit a little too long, and it'll keep us going until Matrix Reloaded hits in a couple of weeks. Enjoy. I did.

8-5-2003 (archived)

This week's second film review is “25th Hour”, Spike Lee's movie about (whatever it may claim to be about) the “9/11” attacks on New York.

Nominally, this is about Edward Norton's Montgomery Clift, a drug dealer out for his last day of freedom before beginning a seven-year sentence, or possibly killing himself or turning fugitive. (Quite how he would have gotten bail in such a situation is left to our imaginations, presumably because there's no way of explaining such a major plot hole.) Norton's had it all, the big money and the beautiful girlfriend (Rosario Dawson looking undeniably delicious), and it's made clear to us that while he may be a little crazy he's not a bad person (for a drug dealer), with a good-guy-telegraphing animal rescue scene at the beginning of the movie.

So Norton spends his day with his girlfriend, a necessary visit to his old Russian mafia colleagues, his father, and his thoroughly unpleasant childhood friends (Barry Pepper as a Master-of-the-Universe Wall Street trader, Philip Seymour Hoffman typecast as the fat, indecisive, self-loathing student-lusting schoolteacher).

It's an excellent cast, and they all turn in strong performances (Hoffman's admittedly completely indistinguishable from almost everything else I've ever seen him in), but the film is fatally flawed. The plot, such as it is, is tedious, the characters are all stereotypes, the emotional manipulation is ever-present and completely unsubtle, and it's hard to like Norton's central character as much as the film needs you to.

Then there's the “Fuck You” scene, Norton's diatribe to bathroom mirror in which he insults almost every group within the city. It's reasonably well done, if completely ruined later in the film by a grossly sentimental undoing of the sequence, but it isn't (to me) the classic so many have made it out to be. In a city filled with flags and reminders of the WTC attacks he leaves out the real hard targets - those making capital from the patriotism and xenophobia that have come in their wake.

This film is really about New York and the (horrifying) incident that showed Americans that they, too, could be terrorist targets. Lee says he didn't intend to make a “9/11 movie”, but he has done - it dominates the whole film. It is self-satisfied, solipsistic, laden with machismo and anger. It is at least two opportunities to make good films lost. It's over-long and over-sentimental. It isn't, thank God, representative of the Americans I know. It's not a complete loss, but in case you hadn't guessed, I can't recommend it.

It is, of course, possible that I've missed the point, that the film is intended to be flawed in these ways as a portrait of America in 2002 - but if so, I think it's still a failure, albeit a more interesting one. My disappointment, verging on anger, with the film has faded somewhat in the last couple of days, but I still don't think I'll be going back again for a second appraisal.

9-5-2003 (archived)

This is a day of random linkage.

SARS may be “here to stay”, but as long as you get to wear cool masks like the second picture in that article I don't care. (Incidentally, am I the only one totally unconcerned by this SARS thing? I mean, everyone's terrified and all, but it's been going months and there are only about 500 dead. Now, that's not great, but at this rate more people will die this year falling out of bed than die of SARS, and an order of magnitude more will choke to death on their dinners. I'm going to worry about pork chops instead, they make me sleepy.)

Now that b3ta have linked to this it's officially Old, but this ebay feedback history is still making me laugh several days on.

I like disturbing children's comics a lot, and The Terrible Trials of Timmy and Jenny made me laugh until I hurt. (Via Ftrain, the current piece on which is particularly fine.)

12-5-2003 (archived)

There have been a couple of threads in a couple of newsgroups I frequent this weekend about the relationship between the audience and the musician, and about “serious” and “popular” music. In alt.music.mike-keneally, Doug Boucher unleashed an amazing post on good music being hard to find, and musical snobbery.

We're as bad as the industry, and in fact we're worse, because our heads our shoved so far up our asses we've forgotten the very reason we're alive. We're SCUM. We should be locked into a room full of Skynyrd-worshipping NRA members and cornholed with the complete works of Rick Astley while the top executives of Warner Brothers don cheerleader outfits and shout "Fuck the artists! Fuck the artists!" while waving pom-poms made of thousand-dollar bills. I realize that some of us think that's what they do to us anyway, but that's because we're self-important, head-in-ass, scumfuck IDIOTS. We fuck our own asses far more efficiently than the suits ever could. We shove the double-headed dildo of Self-Worship and Self-Loathing (they are twins borne of the same rancid uterus) as far up our hairy pompous asses as we possibly can, all the while blaming Michael Bolton, Britney Spears, or whoever other imaginary Source Of Ultimate Evil we can think of for the pain shooting through our diseased digestive tracts.

Leaving aside the (brilliant) invective, Doug's making some really good points, and I agree pretty much completely with statements like:

And if people are dancing, fucking, and yelling for fucking Freebird, at least they're not killing each other's asses. [...] maybe more of us arty types should try to do some Arty Music That Leads To Dancing And Fucking, becuase it would be a fuck of a lot more of a positive influence on society than running scales at 450BPM.

Too right. And for that matter, I don't always want quirky, interesting, artistic music. Sometimes I just want to have a beer, or maybe even a dance, and listen to Bon Jovi, or Avril, or something insanely heavy I can slamdance to. A lot of the time, what I really want is something like Winger or Harem Scarem - interesting, non-trivial music with great musicians playing catchy songs you can dance to, without having to disengage my brain completely. (Except for the lyrics. This is rock, they're only pitched mouth noises...)

Meanwhile, in uk.music.guitar, we're having a thread about music and the interaction with the audience. What do you owe the audience?

Well, my own answer's pretty simple. If you've led them to expect something (like that you're going to play some of your hits), you owe it to them to do that. I mean, if you went to see your favourite band and they played a set consisting entirely of blank verse and acoustic Steps covers, you wouldn't be too happy, and you would be right not to be. Similarly, while I'm no fan of the litigation culture, news that a band are being sued for being utterly useless live is just fine with me. If you go on stage drunk, I want my money back.

What else do you owe to the audience? Well, you owe it to them to do whatever it is you're doing to the best of your ability. We play a wide variety of covers, and about half of them I could take or leave, and some of them I really dislike. That's the nature of being in a band; it's been just the same in gigging originals bands I'm in. And I'm very, very proud of being told that I don't show it at all - that I'm as good, as committed, as much fun to watch on the ones I hate as the ones I love. (In fact, I'm probably better at songs I don't like; I'm feeding off the audience having fun there, so the crowd is at the centre of my attention. Remember, kids, it's not masturbation unless you're enjoying it on your own.)

If you can get away with only playing stuff you like, good for you. If you have to play songs you hate, suck it up, that's life in a band. Enjoy the crowd enjoying it. These people are giving up their time and probably their money in order to be entertained by you. If you're up on stage being halfhearted, or incompetent, or just plain sulking, because you don't like the material or for any other reason, you're betraying your bandmates and showing total contempt for your audience, and you should be kicked soundly and sent back to play in your bedroom until you grow up and understand what you're doing up there.

13-5-2003 (archived)

A terrible thing has happened. An hour or so ago, I wrote a cheesy, catchy, 80s-melodic-rock love song. This is not, itself, the terrible thing, though I understand some of you may disagree.

I've had the first couple of lines kicking around in my head since a conversation with a friend last week, and the rest of it just poured out onto a piece of paper an hour or two back. I've written all the lyrics down, and the melody is hooky enough that I'm happily listening to random music with no fear that I'll forget how it goes. So far, so good.

I have not, in my long history of writing songs, used a girl's name in a song, though I have sometimes written songs about particular girls. Now, the friend in question is a girl, and an extremely attractive one, objectively speaking. And, as it happens, her name appears several times in the song. In the chorus. In such a way that it would be very hard to substitute another name. In fact, it's the only real possibility for the song's title.

So, Gentle Reader, how am I to persuade her that this love song, which has the same name that she does, the idea for which occurred to me during a conversation with her, is not some sort of horrifying faux-romantic declaration of amour? That it is, in fact, not really about her at all? I mean, I know that this is the case, and I still barely believe it myself. I would throw the song away, but I really, really like it.

Oh well, by the time I finish recording it one of us will probably have moved away anyway.

15-5-2003 (archived)

me in a hat and a mirror, blurred This is the first photograph I have taken with the digicam that Barry kindly gave me (“it's shit, have it if you want it but don't blame me”). I took it when I tired of trying to describe my new hat. I did not enable the flash. This is Art.

Random linkage follows. How guessable are your usernames and passwords? Not as bad as these, probably. As Zappa pointed out, hydrogen is not the basic building block of the universe; there is far less hydrogen than stupidity, and it's easy to believe that everything is made from stupidity. Obvious, really.

Paris may be going pervasively wireless. OK, I need to brush up my French.

Vonnegut rocks. That is all.

Warren's having a rent party at diepunyhumans. Give him money. (I had a few dollars floating in my paypal account, and now I haven't.)

There are no via credits today, because "open in new tab" does not carry the back-button history to a new window. They are all via my blogroll, except diepunyhumans, which is in my blogroll.

16-5-2003 (archived)

I went to the “Monsters of Rock” gig last night at the MEN arena - Y&T, Gary Moore, and Whitesnake. I found the crowd quite worrying, even more so than when I went to see Deep Purple. That many middle-aged people wearing denim and mullets is wrong. It would be wrong whatever age they were. I have not seen a denim jacket with a patch sewn onto the back in many years, and I was comfortable with that state of affairs. There was an almost complete absence of irony.

Y&T were pretty reasonable; they had easily the best sound of the night (which is to say only horrible, as opposed to borderline unlistenable; arenas suck). They played songs all of which I vaguely recognised, and did so fairly well, but were a bit lacking in charisma. Meniketti has a remarkable voice, and I hadn't realised he was also the main lead guitar player. The slower parts of his solos were nice; the fast bits were in time, but the notes seemed to be pretty much unrelated to the backing.

Gary Moore is, as regular readers will know, not a favourite of mine. I thought at first I might have to eat my words; his cover of “Wishing Well” was not bad if a little slow, and his voice was better than I'd expected. He played two fairly recent songs early, both of which I quite liked, and which suggested he's been listening to a lot of Rage Against the Machine and Lenny Kravitz.

Fortunately for the sake of my preconceptions, with the exception of a version of “Don't Believe A Word”, conspicuously blighted by playing the first two verses and chorus as a slow blues before starting again properly, the rest of the set was divided into fast tedious blues-rock and slow, endless, kill-me-now tedious blues-rock. And yes, Gary, loud guitars will sustain for as long as you like. Please stop it now.

Whitesnake's sound was genuinely appalling, the soundman facing the challenge of making two guitars, keyboards, and a rhythm section all simultaneously audible in an arena and giving up completely - drowned in reverb, muddy, and indistinct. Reb Beach (the main reason I was at the gig in the first place) seemed to be playing well but was mostly inaudible, Doug was not much more readily heard - the idea of lifting the level on the soloist seems to have not reached the MEN's front of house team, but he was slightly louder throughout than Reb.

Aldrich took most of the Sykes solos and many of the others, copping the vibrato very well but largely not attempting Sykes's more difficult lines. The slide playing was pleasant, the fast Zakkian picked pentatonics less so. In fact, in sound and (considerable) stage presence, he was reminiscent of a less metal Zakk - muscles, Les Paul, enthusiastic picking, legs spread as wide as possible.

What I heard of Reb's playing was pretty much what you'd expect Reb to play in a Whitesnake song. I didn't hear enough, really.

Highlights, for me, was much of the “1987” material, Still of the Night and (of course) “Is This Love” being done particularly well. On the latter, especially, the harmony vocals were excellent - note to Wide Open compatriots, we need to work harmonies into this. Throughout they were tight, near-note-perfect, and entertaining - distilled essence of arena rock. Coverdale and Aldrich were commanding presences on stage - DC, in particular, is every inch the Rock Star, funny, warm, and with good patter. His voice was in unexpectedly fine form, as rich as ever on the low notes and hitting the high screams spot on. I did wonder if they might have tuned down - singing along in the crowd, I found those high notes easier to find than I would normally expect. Reb's stage demeanour was much what you'd expect from reading his website - he was clearly having great fun and not taking himself very seriously, clowning his way through Rock Poses with Marco Mendoza and entertaining the crowd. Fundamentally, Reb's hair these days is much too flat for arena rock - if he had bigger hair, they'd probably have turned him up more. As it was, he had the straightest hair in the whole arena. Must Try Harder.

A fun gig, but I was startled by the ticket pricing - well over thirty quid plus a booking fee in the region of a fiver to stand on a concrete floor for five hours with terrible sound? No. So thanks to Fod for making the gig excellent value for money...