Monday, 22 February 2010

"Don't ever eat the corn dogs!"

The husband and wife management team, Bobby and Paulette, of the Adventureland amusement park inspect the latest consignment of corn dogs. After deciding that they can risk exposing the public to the decidedly off smelling dogs, Bobby calls to one of his employees and instructs him to "Fire em up!"

Welcome to Adventureland. James Brennan has recently graduated from college with a degree in comparative literature, and finds to his dismay that his planned bohemian wanderings across Europe have to be put on the back burner when his parents drop the bombshell, they've run into financial difficulty and can't give him the money. He quickly learns that a degree in comparative literature just ain't cutting it when it comes to Summer jobs. After an exhausted search he finally manages to get a job down at the local amusement park. And so his journey of self discovery begins.

'Life lessons at the Carny'.

Cue a cast of coming of age teenagers working dead end carny jobs. James finds a soul mate in Joel, a lank haired, bespectacled, pipe smoking college graduate with a degree in Russian literature, who views his life through a dark cloud of sarcasm. The apple of James' eye, the summer romance that he'll remember for the rest of his life is Em, played by Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame.

'Just blowin' bubbles. Lisa P'.

However, despite the Favourable reviews for Kristen's part in this film I personally find her hard to get on with, a bit too much biting of the bottom lip, folding of arms, and all that nervous fiddling with her hair drove me to distraction. According to the trivia she was clocked touching her hair 55 times from start of movie to finish.

Stealing the show though was the enigmatic femme fatale, gum chewing, bubble blowing, danceaholic, virgin for life Lisa P. Her and her friend/dance partner operate the park's rides in between bouts of seductive self absorbed dance routines. Lisa P. at one point confides in James that her perfect Summer consists of hanging out by the swimming pool by day and dancing the night away. For those of you out there who know your comics, Lisa P's character reminded me of the 'phonomancer', dance floor starlet with the infinite depths of the cosmos reflected in her eyes, Penny B, from the British indie comic Phonogram: The Singles Club.

Lisa P and her sidekick also reminded me of a couple of girls from my secondary school days, Sharon and Tracy. Very pretty, also bubblegum chewing, self obsessed and well aware of their effect on the boys at school. They had a habit of sunbathing behind the chemistry labs at lunchtime, which may have accounted for the amount of boys volunteering to nurse their science experiments through the lunch break.

Director, Greg Mottola , who was responsible for the comedy film Superbad, did a good job here keeping the movie's teen comedy aspect from sinking the ship into familiar lost the plot territory, the wire walking wavered at times, but in the end the mixture of love story, humour, nostalgic love letter to the 1980s, a sharp script and a great soundtrack should ensure that this film enjoys future cult status.

Talking of the soundtrack, one track in particular gets played over and over again on Adventureland's tannoy system was Falco's 'Rock Me Amadeus'. The Austrian band had a number 1 hit with this track in the UK in 1986, the film is set in 1987. My memory is pretty poor but I do remember buying this as a 12 inch single, which I still have. After buying it I went back to a mates house where we threw the sash window wide open, put the needle on the record, chilled out on the flat roof and periodically nipped back in to play it again and again. At one point in the film James jokingly says that he will stab himself in the ear if he hears it one more time!

On a final note there are a fair few memorable quotes from the film, but one of my favourites is when a girl says to Joel - What are you majoring in?, to which Joel replies "Russian literature and Slavic languages." "Oh wow", she responds, "that's pretty interesting. What career track is that?", Joel dryly responds - " Cabby, hot dog vendor, marijuana delivery guy. The world is my oyster."

'Satellite of Love'

Friday, 19 February 2010

Raleigh Shopper spotter

Alright you got me, I spot, I collect and I'm always on the look out for something to obsess about.

We were a mere 50 meters away from the Games Workshop and my 10 year old son was itching to get in there, its something that he will remember for the rest of his life, the miniature plastic models, Orks with grotesque faces, fantasy figures with medieval clubs, massive canons and guns grafted onto muscle bound torsos, the intoxicating smell of craft glue, spray paint, sweaty teenage boys and take away food.

And yet I held him back short of his goal so that I could take a photo of a rusty old Shopper bike. Poor little chap, he just stared at me in disbelief as I stalked my prey, his dismay turning quickly to irritation as I took photos from every possible angle. And finally an exasperated "Daaaad, that's just plain weird!" Mmmmm, weeell...

The Raleigh Shopper, an icon of the British urban landscape, wraith of many a brutalist 1960s shopping precinct and for many years considered deeply naff, worthy of a hearty giggle as it pootled through the gawping shadows of teetering tower blocks, through the angled conflagrations of grey housing estates whose street names dreamt of warmer climes.

Raleigh's answer to the popular Moulton bicycle reached the height of its popularity in the mid 1970s, and came in many different guises. Recently it has enjoyed a cult revival along with other vintage bikes. So as the 'Fixie' wave brakes with a wash of cheap models window dressing the high street, small fleets of Shopper bikes can now be seen beetling around the campuses of University towns across the land.

They seem to be very popular here in Cambridge, UK, as you can see here I have spotted a few. On our regular trip to the Games Workshop we still encounter the rusty brown Shopper that first caught my attention. My son points it out, saying "Look dad its still there, it hasn't moved."

And he's right, there it sits, unloved, with empty beer bottle chucked in its front wire basket, seeing out its twilight hours behind Pizza Hut as the Saturday shoppers bustle back and forth.

Who owned you, why did they desert you? The stories you could tell if only you could. Soundtrack anyone?, Blondie's 'Atomic' plays to fade, or an alternative top 70s tune of your choice.

Ding - a - ling, Shopper bling!

Lovely bronze BSA Clipper.

Vintage badge of honor.

Perky blue Solitaire with white wall tyres.

... and I heart my retro bell.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Story time for The Nightwing.

Of all the Superman titles in the world of comics that have spent the last year dealing with the repercussions rippling out of the creation of the planet New Krypton, Action Comics and its main characters, the Kryptonians Thara ak - var (Flamebird) and Chris Kent (Nightwing), is the one that has kept me most interested.

Initially the World of New Krypton event was a thrilling new venture for the Superman comics line, but unfortunately it has just been dragging on for far too long. In that time numerous story threads popped up and not all of them led anywhere, most annoying of all, for those of us that completed the arc, was that there was no feeling of completion at the end of the run. At times it felt as though the writers were themselves struggling to bring the floating behemoth into harbor. Anyway, here comes the war, or should that be chapter 2 of W.O.N.K the never ending mega event.

However, as I was saying, I have been enjoying the trials and tribulations of Flamebird and Nightwing in Action comics and also Supergirl in her own title. If I had not been reading all the other Superman titles then my enjoyment of Action comics and Supergirl would not have been the same, so for that reason alone I am glad that I have made it this far in the marathon, standing here on the sidelines as I am with a silver foil blanket draped across my shoulders, re-hydrating, muscles gasping for oxygen as I ready myself for the Krypton - Earth war.

I loved the most recent issue of Action comics, no.887, furthering the back story to the Kryptonian couple, sent to Earth to route out General Zod's sleeper agents. A great chunk of the issue is given over to a Kryptonian history lesson of epic fairytale proportions. The love story of the Flamebird and Nightwing, as old as creation itself, laid down in the book of Rao, the flames of chaos tamed by the stillness of the shadows. The two demi - Gods were meant to be, their love for each-other unparalleled since the beginning of time.

Sadly though, their union was marred by jealousy, hatred and vengeance. All the anger and bitterness was not directed at each other, but instead it came from a third party, a Kyptonian God of creation called Vohc - 'The Builder', no not Bob, or even Vac - 'The Hoover'.

Between The Flamebird and Vohc existed the balancing forces needed for the evolution of their home world. The Flamebird's sole task in life was to renew all that was fallow, scorching the earth with flames that gave way for regeneration and rebirth. Vohc reveled in his skills as a master craftsman/builder, each time improving on his previous efforts in the wake of The Flamebird's spring clean. Working in the hours of twilight he befriended the lonely Nightwing who lived in the shadows and was invisible to all eyes, all except Vohc who felt sorry for The Nightwing.

And so he introduced The Flamebird to Nightwing whose love for each other soon blossomed. As a result Vohc's unrequited love for the Flamebird turned sour, and in an act of revenge against her he trapped Nightwing in a phantom zone, only offering Nightwing's freedom to The Flamebird on the condition that she withdraw her love from him and that they spend the rest of eternity apart.

It would be a shame if the arresting story line of The Flamebird and Nightwing were to peter out in the coming 'War of Supermen' event, this adventure story of young lovers on the run deserves its own title. Each month reveals a little bit more of the mystery that holds these two together. Whatever happens, I'll still be rooting for them.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Snapshot of the garden year

As you can see from this latest addition to the blog, a new photograph taken at work in the college gardens will appear every few days or so in the right hand column. I was using twitter links to fliker for this but I filled up on my quota of free space.

I think it adds something to my blog which claims to be mostly about gardening, but is actually mostly about other stuff, which means I am making the cardinal sin of not sticking to a single subject. But does that result in less readers? What the hey, hope you like the photos.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Batgirl and the machine that goes 'Hummmmmmm'

Note the train graffiti that says 'Jokerz'

In this final chapter of the 'core requirements' arc we get to see bickering twosome, Batgirl and Damien on a rescue mission to save Batman who's bat mobile crashed in the last issue. The high stakes gaming villain, Roulette, tried to take down Batman using a cast of baddies who were competing to see who could get to him first whilst Roulette took bets on the outcome.

Batgirl needs to get to the scene before the precocious Damien does, but without wheels she's looking a bit compromised. Oracle to the rescue. Batgirl is directed to an underground garage far below Oracle's apartment where she finds a set of wheels of a completely different kind.

Looking like a cross between bomber (motorhead sprang to mind), a toboggan and a circus canon, I had a hard job stifling the chuckles. Just before Stephanie 'The Human Cannonball' exits 'Ricochet', as the machine is called, she is seen motoring past a roadside poster advertising 'Gotham Circus'.

How about some extra long sound effects? Canon/bike/bomber getting ready to fire Batgirl - 'sssllllliiiiiddddeeechunk', that's a whopping 25 letters! Or how about the machine that goes - 'Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm', that 23 letters, 1 H, 1 U and 21 M's!!

Damien's bike can only muster 22 letters at full throttle with - 'Wiiinnnnnng-weh-innnnnng'

And finally the sound of Batgirl and Damien sliding down a steeply pitching roof - 'Krrrrruuuuunnnncchhh', 20 letters, not bad!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Turntable love

'There's nothing like the warm smell of vinyl, and the sound of a stylus rumbling in the groove'

One place that I keep coming back to for wifey gift ideas is a home styling and gift shop here in Cambridge called Ark. A little while back I was doing just that, corkscrewing up an ornate iron staircase draped in colourful bunting that surfaced on the second floor. Part attic room and period time capsule, the walls of the shop seemed to be closing in on this narrow, fur trimmed eyrie that hovers alongside Great St. Mary's church on the corner of the market square. Coats, dresses, hats, horn rimmed spectacles, old road maps and magazines, cake stands, jewelry, scarfs and shoes, all of them scenting the air with a faint whiff of days gone by.

What caught my attention though was an old record player that sat over by the till, from which the velvety voice of Frank Sinatra swept up all who cared to listen for a twin-propped flight around the globe, singing - "It's very nice to go trav'ling to Paris, London and Rome/It's oh so nice to go trav'ling/But it's so much nicer, yes it's so much nicer, to come home." Like a loose iron filing I was magnetized to the turntable. Standing next to it was a small hand written sign inviting customers to interact, to cut Sinatra off in his prime if they so desired, if they even dared!

In the end I turned heel and left empty handed, trickling back down the spiral staircase and out into the bustling square.

'Caught in the headlights'

'Sexy sax, Grover beard'

I have a stack of old vinyl, as we all do, warping away in the loft in plastic bags, the Dual turntable I had broke some years back, and now I find out that they have become something of a collectors item. I'm not sure, but I seem to remember throwing it out, the lovely Mrs. K was getting a bit tired of the records taking up so much room.

On an interesting note though, a friend of ours who used to be a music journalist for the NME magazine, came over to sort through our records at a time when we were considering selling them on, in fact we did sell some despite all the protesting voices of friends telling us not to.


It turns out that the goodly Mrs.K was a bit of a cool groovy chick in her day, still is I have to say, but in her teens she was gyrating on the dance floors of the hip Jazz/Funk clubs in Brighton and hanging out with DJ's. This translated into the music that she brought to our relationship, our shared haul of Lp's, quietly sitting there unnoticed until our friend came by to let his fingers do the walking.

Wifey's funktastic floor fillers were of much more interest to him than what I had to offer! Out came the daisy yellow vinyl of Rose Royce's - 'In Full Bloom II', Grover Washington Junior, Gene Dunlap, Donald Byrd and the fabtastic Love Unlimited Orchestra. Why on earth would anyone want my 80s rock music? Okay, there was one of mine, picked for its novelty value, and don't laugh, because we all have one of these, or more, that we have hidden or taken to charity shops in an effort to hide our embarrassment.

My little secret was a Byron Berline album called 'Dad's Favourites', it has a boring postcard quality about it that I challenge anyone to match. And where is my cool cat wifey tonight?, out dancing to the music of course!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Fantasical exploration of Subterranea

From the pages of Fantastic Four no.575 comes a tale of grand adventure, coming to the aid of an old adversary, The Mole Man, the Fan 4 board their vessel for a dive into the mysterious depths of the underworld. According to The Mole Man, rogue scientist The High Evolutionary was experimenting away in a hidden city, pushing the boundaries of evolutionary science.

During an attempt to raise the city to the surface, the Ascension Engine that was feeding power to it began to devolve the city's inhabitants rather than bring about the change that The High Evolutionary was hoping for through a rapid process of evolution. The city was then abandoned until some simple Moloid creatures happened upon it. As their inquisitive nature drew them within its walls, they were changed by the effects of the Ascension Engine, with heightened intelligence they realised that any newborn Moloids retained the old skin of their pre-evolved selves, and so they ceased reproduction, preferring instead to swell the city's population by absorbing Moloids from the surrounding underworld.

So, losing his followers and sensing a loss of power within his subterranean kingdom, The Mole Man has come to his old enemies, The Fantastic Four, for help. The pencil work of Dale Eaglesham, and at times the almost psychedelic colours of Paul Mounts bring to life the bizarre landscapes and monsters of this subterranean adventure.

In one panel we see the Fan Four's ship flying through a vast cave where strange tubular growths and huge blue stalagmites grow up from the shadowy floor. Observing the craft's passing are a small group of Moloids, hunkered down around a campfire. This huddled group reminded me of the classic films of the wild West, cowboys gathered about the dancing flames eating bean stew. In this picture the horse is replaced with a giant ant, and as you can see here the bean stew has been replaced by a pan of colourful mushrooms.

For rock music reference the technicolour landscapes bring to mind the other worldly art of Roger Dean, most popularly known for his work on the albums of 70s super- group, Yes. And for this comic book's soundtrack, the cosmic soundscapes of Tangerine Dream fit the bill perfectly.

Moog pilots extraordinaire, flying the the shifting sonic moods of early electronica. Remember those days of experimental rock when the track length was such that it took up one whole side of an LP? My choice here would be the Milky Way busting 'Phaedra', unashamedly leading the record needle into the rumbling black void, having eaten up a healthy 16 minutes and 45 seconds of in flight entertainment.

Following a recent celebrated story arc from the hand of Jonathon Hickman, I am placing myself front and centre with the imaginauts, putting myself in the trusted hands of the current creative team. I'm only a newbie to the Fantastic Four, but it looks as if I have joined the ride just at the right time. Does the Fantastic Four have a rallying cry?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

And this just in...

Midlake band member Eric Pulido replied to the lovely Mrs. K, after she sent him an e mail with a link to my blog post-'Midlake- The Golden Ticket', following their recent show at the Junction, here in Cambridge. Those guys are some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and hopefully we will get another chance to see them sometime soon.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Subterranean hooves

Slices of sticky earth mask the face of my spade as I jab it down between the lawn and the flower bed, each upheaval removes another wet core of stone, flint, roots, seeds and broken pieces of china, thrown away by people who's lives will never be known by us. Made anonymous by our filthy winter gear as we move stiffly over the damp ground, we have become the soil dwellers, human Blackbirds scratching at the leaf litter with faces shrouded under scarf, fleece and hat.

I like to think that there is a singular voice leveled at the earth's surface, ambient sounds of the garden modulating down into the soil. Bird song, gardeners chatting, garden tools striking the earth, students laughter, the soft footfall of college cats hunting in the undergrowth, even the shouts of scaffolders working nearby, all of them vibrating at the same pitch and stimulating the emergence of fresh green growth.

Primrose flowers receive the first descending scales of the Chaffinch, the first bumble bee bashes the cupped head of a Hellabore, and the unopened Snowdrop shakes in a sudden rush of deflected air, pushed downwards by a pair of displaying Sparrowhawks.

Being so close to the ground and bending over the weeds as they do, we can better feel the changes around us. Just writing about it brings to mind the Indians who climbed down from their horses to press an ear to the ground, listening for the distant rumble of hooves.

In fact as I put my head against the wet ground today, not only do I hear the not so distant rumble of nearby traffic, I also feel the heads of March Daffodils pushing up against the side of my cheek.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The tale of Kris Kristofferson, Lex Luthor and Augustus Gloop, the human Parasite.

In the latest reworking of Superman's origin, Geoff Johns hit part four of this six part mini series with one foot placed squarely in Roald Dahal's imagination. Had he been binging on chocolates when he started this book? At the beginning of this chapter we see the desperate and hungry masses of Metropolis thronging around the imposing gates of Lexcorp towers, where each morning Lex Luthor appears before the crowd to choose one 'lucky' individual to be whisked away from the clutches of life's cruel monopoly and given the golden handshake, the 'golden ticket' to a better world.

And who should Lex Luthor (Willy Wonka) pick today? Rudy Jones (Augustus Gloop), the fat and greedy janitor that works at the Daily Planet, that's who. Squeezed into a food stained tracksuit, several sizes too small, he fights his way to the front of the gates where Luthor's security guys pick him up on the monitors.

Before long Rudy finds himself inside Lexcorp where a teetering pile of donuts proves too much for Mr. Jones, "are these free?" he inquires, to which Luthor responds by encouraging the greedy man to help himself.

Walking and talking with Luthor, Rudy is sidetracked for a moment as he becomes aware of some men dressed in biochemical suits pushing around large barrels of radioactive material. Unfortunately he seems more concerned about a stray donut which he has just dropped on the floor.

Employing the five second rule he pops the contaminated food in his mouth, and hey presto! he is changed forever, transformed into the big purple super villain, the Parasite, who's insatiable hunger leads him to suck the life force from his victims.

As a side note, Superman is pictured on the front cover standing side by side with his Kryptonian parents, Lara and Jor-El. Is it just me, or does anyone else reckon that artist, Gary Frank, has fashioned Jor-El on country music legend and actor, Kris Kristofferson? Ooooh, it's a bit freaky!

And here's the great man himself, crooning with the lovely Rita Coolidge on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1972. Beautiful track this.

Monday, 1 February 2010

A sudden flash of green, and then...

Almost every evening I have tucked myself into bed with a few pages of Darwyn Cooke's 'The New Frontier', the absolute edition which was a chrimbo pressie from the lovely Mrs. K. I love the oversized art and the reassuring wieght of this hefty tome.

Here we see test pilot Hal Jordan coming to terms with an incredible encounter with a dying alien, named Abin Sur. Using a powerful green ring to locate a viable successor to wield the battery of power, the green lantern, the alien now lies at Hal's feet,his life ebbing away beneath the searing heat of the desert sun. His last words are chosen carefully to pass on the knowledge that Hal will need in his new life as the Green Lantern, bearing the green ring for the force of 'good' in the Universe. In this poignant moment the vultures circle overhead, waiting on the wing.

It was only a matter of time before I could add this species to my list of 'birds in comics', the Turkey Vulture. Thank you Mr. Cooke!