Thursday, 15 September 2016

Sour Persimmons

This is a still from "Duck Amok" "Duck Amuck". I wasn't sure if Jason had actually seen it - his writing partner Joel tells me the only film Jason's seen is the big screen outing of "Please, Sir!" - but he had. Of course he had. Made in 1953 it's a hard cartoon to overpraise. All of its jokes are visual or sound-effects-based, but to prove how great it is I'm going to post just the dialogue below. Even without Mel Blanc's extraordinary performance and Chuck Jones' extraordinary drawing I think you can tell from these words that here's an absolutely fully-formed, three-dimensional character speaking with a rhythm that can only be captured when you write fully-formed, three-dimensional characters. Story by Mike Maltese, directed by Charles M. Jones (in other words I don't know who actually wrote this) here's "Duck Amok" "Duck Amuck" the dramatic monologue:

Stand back, Musketeers, they shall sample my blade! Touche! Ng, ng! Ng! Ng!
En garde? My blade?
Hey, psst! Whoever's in charge here: The scenery! Where's the scenery?
Stand back, Musketeers, they shall sample... my...
Hng! Okay. Have it your way:
Daffy Duck he had a farm, ee-yi ee-yi-oh.
And on this farm he had an igloo, ee... yi
... eee... yi... Oh. Would it be too much to ask if we could make up our minds?
Dashing through the snow, ya-ha-ha-ha! Through the fields we go, laughing all the wayeee-ee... Eee....
Farewell to thee! Farewell to thee! The wind will carry back our sad refrai-hey-hey-he-hey-ain. Our last embrace, before we say...
Hm. Sheesh. Buster, it may came as a complete surprise to you to find that this is an animated cartoon, and that in animated cartoons they have scenery, and in all the years th
Alright, wise guy. Where am I?
Cock-a-doodledoo! Buckaw kaw kaw-

... Look, Mac, just what's going on around here? Let's get organised, hm? How about some scenery?
That's dandy. Ho-ho, that's rich, I'll say. Now how about some colour, stupid?
Not me, you slop artist! Huh... huh...
Well? Where's the rest of me?
It isn't as though I haven't lived up to my contract goodness knows. And goodness knows it isn't as though I haven't kept myself trim goodness knows, I... I've done that. That's strange. All of a sudden I don't quite feel like myself. Oh I feel alright, and yet I... I, uh...
Eeeee! You know better than that!
Hm, a sea picture, eh? I always wanted to do a sea epic. Now, Mr. Rembrandt, if you'll kindly oblige with a little appropriate scenery: Over the sea, let's go, men. We're shipping right off, we're shipping right off...
Hey, come 'ere. Come 'ere! Give me a close-up. A close-up!
This is a close-up? A close-up, ya jerk! A close-up!
Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin. Now look buster, let's have an understanding...
Now what?
Brother, what a way to run a railroad. Now, as I was saying - Hng! Oof! Urgh! Oof! Huh... Huh...
Alright... huh... let's get this picture started!
NO! NO! Listen pal, let's discuss this thing sanely, huh? Look, I tell you what: you go your way, and I'll go mine. Live and let live, right? Right.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be no further delays, so I shall attempt to entertain you in my own iniminimitable fashion.
Now what? What are you doing down there?
Down here? What are you doing up there? "Down here"! Listen bud, if you wasn't me I'd smack you right in the puss!
Don't let that bother you, Jack!
Okay, buddy you asked, for it...
Oh brother, I'm a buzz boy! Uh-oh, time to hit the old silk: Geronimooooooo...
Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands, the smith a mighty man is he, with strong and sinewy... haaaands?
Alright! Enough is enough! This is the final, this is the very, very last straw! Who is responsible for this? I demand that you show yourself! Who are you? Huh?!

Shades of Ophelia. Maybe try it as an audition piece.
 I wonder if Galton and Simpson ever considered Daffy when writing for Hancock. Seriously. Here's why: "Duck Amok" "Duck Amuck" is a Warner Brothers cartoon, and for those who don't know Warner Brothers' animation department originally found success with Porky Pig whose thing was stuttering, then more success with Daffy Duck whose thing was lisping and acting crazy, then finally struck gold with Bugs Bunny whose thing was, let's say, surviving with panache. In director "Chuck" Jones' hands however Bugs' success leant new depth to the stars he'd eclipsed.

In Jones' work "Porky Pig" and "Daffy Duck" were no longer just one-dimensional assets but performers with an inner life you could imagine hanging round the studio lot: Porky the performer who knew his limits, professionally resigned to playing second fiddle to another has-been with a slightly better figure and slightly smaller speech impediment, Daffy the complete opposite: Bugs' rival, killing himself to get a laugh in the rabbit's presence (literally in one cartoon) while desperate for meatier, more seriously heroic stuff in his solo vehicles. You can see all this going on even in a straight spoof like "Duck Dodgers in the Twenty Fourth and a Halfth Century". It's this depth of characterisation that makes these dumb gags so ageless, and the image Jason posted above so funny.

It blows my mind that these performances never actually existed, that they're just a bunch of drawings. Chuck Jones was no slouch as an acting coach: Bugs always put his weight on one foot - he once pointed out - Daffy on both, knees bent, insecure. For almost thirty years now I've followed that advice. And this brings me to the other reason I've been thinking about Chuck Jones recently, aside from Jason's post, and that's the passing of this guy:

 Gene Wilder was miraculous and a huge influence on me as a person who does stuff in front of people, but I realise I'd never considered his influence until his death, and that might be because so much of that influence was the same as Chuck Jones'. Both created characters who could tell you their life was about to fall apart with a single gesture, who could slip in and out of mania in a couple frames with total conviction and total discipline. And this resemblance is only possible because as this brilliant video from Tony Zhou which I've just discovered that renders this entire post redundant affirms Jones' cartoons paid a new kind of attention to reality.

 Not Gene Wilder

Wednesday, 13 July 2016




The best thing that could be said about Angela Eagle's interview on Channel 4 last night was she did at least definitely appear to support herself. It's one thing, though, for a supporter to say they're voting for you because you're "doing a good job" and because it's ridiculous Labour hasn't yet been led by a woman, it's another to make that your whole campaign - particularly a campaign for a post that's already filled. Is this the forge then? Will this unite? "Well, look" and "Of course" and "Well, look" and "It's too early to say" and "Well, look"? Nothing about what's gone wrong and how it could be put right, and nothing about what you actually believe? No persuasion. No story. Just "I think I'm the best." That's Angela Eagle's bid to be Prime Minister?

Angel Eagle's actual resting face in that interview

She's not even trying to earn it. She must have been preparing for this for months, yet when Krishnan turned to her she looked like Guy Goma. No, she can't have been preparing for this. She can't. It was the kind of insulting, dispiriting mess half-learnt off a napkin ten minutes before you're on that reminded me with the force of a bullet train why I'd voted for Corbyn in the first place. Yes, it seemed to me time for him to go, but if eighty per cent of Labour's MPs can't work with him - okay, since they can't work with him - they surely have to field an alternative who will appear happy and indeed keen to explain off the cuff exactly what it is they actually believe in, because if they can't find that then it might not be a coup but it is a con, and they've no right with two election defeats behind them to call Corbyn unelectable. The Tory Far-Right appears to have evaporated meanwhile, and the parliamentary centre ground continues to move left. And unpopularity isn't Corbyn's problem right now. It's the least of his problems right now. People are throwing bricks through windows for him.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Dad Games

Speaking of board games, here's Dad.

He took an early retirement in the South of France and has started inventing things. Here's his solar-powered pool heater.

It's a hose painted black. It works. Here's his combined bread-board/bread-bin.

Properly handy. Now here, he assures me, is a straight-backed lilo chair fashioned from pool noodles:

It's quite had to get right. Recently he's started trying to invent board games too. Trying and succeeding. This is "Kaleidoscope":

It's hard to play, but easy to learn, and quite reminiscent of Scrabble only with colours. (Mum and Dad play Scrabble every evening.) He plans to take Kaleidoscope to the Essen "Spiel" convention in October. Here's the second game he's working on: "Stone Henge" which we played appropriately at sunset.

The Folk's porch gets great sunsets. I loved Stone Henge. Then, sometimes he just sculpts.

I don't know.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A third use of Matter

"Snakes and Ladders" is ancient. (Although I reckon that's actually rope.)

Blow you, I'm actually plugging a show I'm in before it's finished! Yes, come to the Camden Etc. Theatre next Wednesday the 13th of July at 9.30pm, and you can see my mate Paul Thompson's latest brief, dense, light, dark attention-warper. It's a hoot and a heck, a stream of consciousness trying to tear itself free of a thorn-bush, pissed and giggly. Some of you might have seen me in Paul's last excellent miniature "It's Only a Matter of Time". I'd forgotten it was called that. I wrote about it here, saying in passing how impressed I'd been when Paul summed up what we do as "making it matter" which I'd also forgotten. The new show by the way is called "Matter", which is why I bring all that up. One night only. Tickets available here, say. I'm in it. Paul's in it. And fellow Ghost-Bus-Tour-guide Craig Hannah (also of "The Healing Room") is in it. We play Snakes and Ladders. As for the rest, we'll get it right or we won't. I can't wait. Come and see!

For most of its life the game strove to impart some kind of moral lesson. The Victorians certainly seemed down with that. I mean... I assume... I can't make head nor tails of this. Kismet.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


At first he could only make out lights, the lights and the glass in front of him. The glass was a relief, it meant he was safe.
Safest of all.
"Here in my car..." he began to mouth. But the lights were too close to be... headlights? It was then he realised he was indoors. And on his back.
Numan looked down. 

The tall, pale figure at the foot of his hyperbaric gland-cradle spoke: "Mister Human? I am Doctor Pornweasel. Fneet. Don't make any sudden movements, I'm afraid you've had quite the accident."
Numan was too thrown to correct the stranger. Accident? "The arrows are pointing," he found himself murmur, his attention turned to the upper screen. "I can point too... Doo doo, safest of all, doo doo. Sorry." The feeling of sedation was neither new nor unpleasant to him. "Accident?"
"A car accident. You survived it pretty well for a man from your century, but there will be questions."
"Doo doo, lock all my doors, doo - It's the only way to live in... Questions?"
"Procedural questions," Doctor Pornweasel explained. "Just to check you weren't on your communicator ring at the time of the accident, or driving with your lights on during the day. The usual."
Numan considered this and gave a little cough...

"Here in my car, I feel safest of all, doo doo. Cough."
"Fneet. I'll let you rest." 
Doctor Pornweasel briefly opened his danger robe, then left.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

We Need to Talk About Corbyn

But, hang on, why do we need to talk about Corbyn?

Hasn't everyone been talking about him for months at the expense of any attention towards Tory infighting? And wasn't it that Tory infighting which led to the referendum, which led to "Leave", which led to us finding ourselves suddenly flash-forwarded eighteen months into a Baltar presidency on New Caprica scratching a living on bare rock, stuck in a civil war and about to be marched into a ditch by killer robots? Why - some will ask - why do we need to talk about Labour when it's the Tories who got us in this mess? Well, because the ship of state's been steered into that iceberg and so our first priority now has to be to check on the lifeboats, surely?
So what's going on with these lifeboats then?

Shit, he's found the truth glasses! Is everyone who's calling for Corbyn to resign a Blairite then? Because that would make Gordon Brown a Blairite and that can't be right, can it? Is Ed Miliband a Blairite now? Is this whole drip drip of resignations a coup organised by Portland Communciations as reported by The Canary, or just a snowballing manifestation of grievances borne by workers who feel completely unsupported by their boss? If Portland organised the coup, did they also pay Ken Livingstone to bang on madly about Hitler? Are they paying John McDonnell to alienate his entire party by not employing anyone from it? Are they firing a keep-being-shit-at-sight-reading ray at Corbyn every PMQs?

I joined the Labour party last year and I wrote here why (in short, it was because I wanted the opposition to become more involved in the grass roots anti-austerity movements that had sprung up under the coalition, and because I could finally bear to watch Ed Miliband talk) and I voted for Corbyn this year and wrote why here (again, it was because he was the only member standing who opposed austerity). I voted for him because I wanted to see. And now we've seen. We've seen that the PLP is more than happy to take a stand against austerity and actually do some opposing now...

And we've seen that Jeremy Corbyn still can't sight-read for shit. But so what? Let him be the manager and send shadow ministers onto the pitch with more fire in their bellies. Shadow ministers like Angela Eagle - Oh, she resigned... or Heidi Alexander - Oh, she's resigned.... or Chris Bry- Oh...

So who's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory here? The "traitors", for turning on their democratically elected leader just as the Tories are in disarray? Or Corbyn, for showing himself ready to risk splitting an opposition finally dedicated to ending austerity? Should I be worried? The Canary called those resignations a "call for celebration", so... hooray? Is it really impossible for Labour to unite under Corbyn? When his own grass-roots mobiliser "Momentum" proposed this petition under the headline "This is a time for Labour to be united" I asked one of those sharing the petition on twitter a question that had been bothering me ever since I'd read Chris Bryant's resignation letter - "How will keeping Corbyn unite Labour?" This was his response:

And that really does seem to be his plan: unity by means of getting rid of everyone who won't unite on his terms or, to give it its technical name, division. Or else he has no plan. Sure, there are far smarter people than me who think Corbyn is the saviour of the party, especially with the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War still yet to be published, but there are also far dumber people. And where's the integrity in treating the support of your MPs in such a cavalier manner, in dismissing them as "right-wing"? Was Jo Cox, shot and stabbed to death in the lead up to the referendum, right-wing? Would she have joined the "traitors"? We'll never know. I've certainly changed my tune.

The thing is I've supported a lot of strikes recently (in my head I mean, I haven't left the house or anything), strikes called by workers at their wits' end because of a management that shows more interest in alienating its own workforce than doing its job. And this, to me, is definitely that. Corbyn won. He really did win. The opposition that in 2015 seemed perpetually stupified by its own history into a scared fug of meaningless soundbites is unrecognisable now, government policy after government policy has failed to make it through the house, and finally the Prime Minister's resigned. So Corbyn won. And now I, one of the thousands who democratically elected him, think we should let him go. Yeah, perhaps you gathered that. I'm going to leave things with more Angel Eagle. Whatever your opinions on Brexit, Corbyn, or the Parliamentary Labour Party, I think you'll find that this clip - particularly from 4 minutes, 20 seconds onwards - provides some excellent, horrible foreshadowing of the last seven days in politics. And there's braying, be warned. But maybe that's what winning sounds like.


(Thanks to Adam Macqueen for the screenshot at the top.)

Saturday, 25 June 2016


We're still in France. This river's called the Orb. My parents here receive a monthly pension in pounds. Hopefully by the time of the next payment that pound will have stopped wobbling or the euro will have dropped as well. That's what they're hoping. I figured out yesterday what the Brexit result felt like, over here, not in Britain. What is feels like. It feels like being dumped. I don't mean that as an analogy. I think both me and my girlfriend feel like we've been dumped. And yet here we are, still on holiday, together, which is weird.

Here, I think is where "Remain" may have gone wrong (and it's also where Labour may have gone wrong last election): If trust in politicians is as low as it is right now, you're wasting your time trying to win it back, that's too slow a game. Just promise more stuff. That's what won last year's election for the Tories and it's clearly what won this referendum for "Leave". It's also why those who claim to  trust politicians the least always perversely vote for the least trustworthy politicians, because they're the ones promising the most stuff. (And it doesn't bode well at all for Hilary Clinton.) But here's my plan. Here's how we stay in the EU:

We never actually leave, we just tell everyone who voted to leave that we have.

I mean, what are they going to do? Check?

Anyway that was yesterday, here's to today. Today we went to Sete. It's the second biggest port in the south of France. It has THIS terrifying fountain honouring Cthulu in one of its town squares. And it has jousting gondolas. And we caught some of that. We're still in France.