Sunday, September 25, 2011


Three song that have been earworming me lately:

Shaft in Africa – Johnny Pate

If this doesn’t get you wriggling and grooving around the room, then I’m sorry, but you have no ass.

I Take To You – Lena Horne

It's so bright and jaunty that you can hear the 1930s optimism just bouncing out of it. Then Hitler had to come along and ruin everything. Stupid Hitler!

It Doesn’t Matter Any More – Eva Cassidy

The original Buddy Holly version was a stupid, disposable and bizarrely perky 1950s breakup song. But this version by Eva Cassidy, based on an interpretation by Linda Ronstadt, actually feels like a song of heartbreak and loss. You can feel the awful, resigned sadness drifting out of it.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I've had this old cabinet sitting in the corner of my kitchen for a while. It's ugly and too small for the space, so after looking around the shops and being unable to find anything I liked, I decided to make a console table to replace it.

My inspiration was a pile of old church pew end posts that I acquired from a friend.

I teamed them with some composite pine planks from the hardware store.

Like all good frankenfurniture, the design evolved as it progressed. The fact that the old pew posts are slightly irregular made getting everything square and level a nightmare. The screws that secure the battens holding up the top shelf simply would not screw into their guide holes, as the wood shifted fractionally from drilling to screwing. Nothing I did would persuade them, leaving me with blistered hands and a lot of stripped screwheads. But eventually it came together, and it'll be fine so long as no one, you know, touches it.

Ironically I deliberately made it exactly the right size to accomodate the giant vintage map of Italy that I found on the side of the road... then decided to put the map in the dining room instead. But it looks fine with a different piece of art.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I was having some problems with my gutters overflowing. I don't know if my house has subsided or something, but the top of one section of guttering seems to be below the level of the downpipes. This means that whenever it rains, this section overflows instead of draining.

While on one level I understand gutters, they seem like an answer to a question that relatively few people have asked. Yes, they divert rainwater sluicing off the roof, which prevents erosion and allows rainwater harvesting. But they block easily, they cost a lot, and they're generally made of steel, which rusts. Most are designed so that they flood backwards rather than forwards, and if you have boxed eaves like mine, this means that they either flood the roofspace or leak through the cracks and pour down one or both sides of the windows.

When I noticed exactly this thing happening during a recent storm, I decided I'd had enough. So when it stopped raining I went outside with a ladder and my trusty drill and bored a dozen holes in the side of the guilty section.

Problem solved. True, gravel in the courtyard is being eroded, but hey, water is not being diverted into my living room. Call me crazy, but not having my hardwood floors damaged and my rugs sodden seems worth it. Me and my nutty priorities.

As an added bonus, when heavy rain strikes, I get a precisely spaced curtain of water outside the living room windows. It looks like a team of obsessive compulsive Roof Elves taking a synchronised whizz off the roof.

Now that's an Olympic event I'd like to see.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I’m running low on fodder for my on-going Festival of Bad Cinema, so when I was in the city recently I dropped by 78 Records and picked up ‘Savage Cinema’, a collection of twelve exploitation movies from the 60s and 70s. The fact that at least two of those twelve were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 gives you some idea of the impressive level of horribleness.

First out of the gates: 1976’s ‘Death Machines

I really don’t like this proposed revamp of the Washington Monument…

Using methods never even slightly explained, an evil organisation led by Isaac Asimov (judging from the shadowy silhouette with sideburns the size of chipmunks) wrests control of the assassination market with a trio of bullet-proof, mind-controlled karate champions. One of their jobs - wiping out the teachers and students at a suburban karate school - results in whiny bartender and karate wannabe Frank Thomas losing a hand but gaining a thirst for revenge. His desire for vengeance is tempered by his love for Florence, a codependent nurse he meets at the hospital, but even so he knows that more will die unless he can stop the Death Machines.

However all of his moaning and erratically scripted dialogue with Florence just distracts attention from the true hero of ‘Death Machines’: Madame Lee, manager of the day-to-day operations of the assassination business, and the greatest female character in the history of bad cinema.

“Hewwo evewybody!”

She draws her eyebrows on an inch or so above where they should be. She sports a wig that looks as if she’s wearing an immaculately arranged cocker spaniel on her head. She has a speech impediment so pronounced (if you’ll excuse the pun) that she’s barely comprehensible, let alone effective. And given that she’s shown swilling wine in virtually all of her scenes, one can only suspect a serious drinking problem.

“Ah shiwaz, my one twue fwiend…”

But while beauty is skin deep, crazy goes right to the core. Madame Lee’s business model relies heavily on the “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” school of project management. Want to expand your business? Throw someone off a skyscraper. Making a pitch to a prospective client? Decapitate his driver. Freshening the product line? Shoot your assassins in the head.

“I’ve been weading ‘The Seven Habits of Highwy Ineffective Cwiminals’…”

My personal philosophy is more along the lines of the old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with slaughtering them and putting their heads on tiny little pikes as a warning to others.” But maybe that’s just me.

I should add that while Madame Lee is the greatest female character in the history of bad cinema, she was not played by the greatest female actress – this was, thankfully, the sole performance of Mari Honjo’s career. If only the role had been given to Ursula Andress*, we could have averted the entire energy crisis of the 70s by powering the world on this movie’s awesomeness.

Sadly, and in a complete contradiction to the prevailing ethos of the 70s, Whiny Frank and Florence not only survive to the movie’s end, but vanquish Madame Lee and her henchman. Madame Lee dies as she lived: with enormous hair and a ridiculous look on her face.

“Tell my wine waiter… I wuv him...”

The Death Machines escape, however, and are shown fleeing the country via an unspecified airport.

Note that the Black Assassin has been cunningly disguised as your Year 11 English teacher.

This final image is frozen, to allow the thought of the Death Machines loose in the world to sear into the audience’s consciousnesses. And it stays frozen, with music playing over the top of it, for a total of sixty seven seconds. This was presumably intended to be the background for the closing credits, but said closing credits were not created, perhaps because everyone from the director to the assistant best boy refused to take any responsibility for this craptastic mess.

But I’ll leave this review reflecting on happier times, with Madame Lee captured in all her magnificent, incomprehensible glory. In this scene she’s either setting up a meeting with a local crime boss, or ordering some new bookcases from Ikea… it’s impossible to tell.

* As the astute reader already knows, I’m all for every character in every movie being played by Ursula Andress, from Willy Loman to Willy Wonka. What can I say; I dream of a better world.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


A few weeks ago I noticed that my Evil Monkeys lightbox was looking a bit faded, which is not surprising since it's just a photo printed on standard photographic paper with a bright flourescent light shining through it, and I've had it for around five years.

So I've been casting about for a new image to put in the lightbox. It occured to me that the poster of Johnny Cash I've had on my bedroom door for over a decade, which was torn and getting discoloured, could be scanned, cleaned up and given a new lease on life. So I took it into the office to do a high-resolution scan, got a friend with photoshopping skills to erase the tear, the fold lines and blu-tak discolouration, and paid the company that printed the Evil Monkeys to print the refreshed image.

However, when I opened the lightbox to remove the Evil Monkeys, I discovered that what I'd assumed was fading was in fact just a yellowing of the clear plastic cover. Underneath that, the actual photo was as clear and vivid as the day it was printed.

Dang it!

Oh well. I was ready for a change anyway. I swapped the yellowing cover with the one at the back, which was fine, and replaced the Evil Monkeys with the Angry Johnny. The lightbox is now looking crisp, sharp and ready to kick your ass.

Monday, September 12, 2011


This is actually a pretty good representation of what the inside of my head looks like.