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Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category

There was a form of TV show that, from an early age, accompanied my Saturday afternoon escapades chasing criminals through the living room, out into the garden and through into the field. Whether a shoot out in the bank (the chicken run) or defending a village under siege from evil gangsters (the camp we made in the hedge down by the ditch), an afternoon of heroics was not complete without suitable imaginary action music accompanying our antics.

Without further ado, here are my top ten cop/action sound tracks.

10. Juliet Bravo

 

For some, their first police drama was Z-Cars. for others, Dixon of Dock Green. For me it was Juliet Bravo.

9. CHiPs

 

It had motorbikes, cops and California. Oh yeah!

8. T.J. Hooker

 

Even though it had Captain Kirk in it, I wanted to be Adrian Zmed. And my first TV crush (Penelope Pitstop aside): Heather Locklear!

7. Airwolf

 

How the hell we ever pretended to be Archangel, Stringfellow Hawke and Santini without a helicopter I have no idea, but we did…

6. The Professionals

Guns and Mullets Part I. It was rough and tough and British.

5. Knight Rider

This is here in tribute to my cool bro Seth, who had a real thing for KITT. And David Hasselhof.

4. Dempsey and Makepeace

Guns and Mullets Part II. I was absolutely and utterly in love with Glynis Barber. There’s nothing else to add.

3. Cagney and Lacey

Like Juliet Bravo, this was one of those rare things – a cop show to watch with your Mum – and one of the most memorable theme tunes of all.

2. Miami Vice

There had been nothing like this on TV when it appeared, with its glamour, guns, drugs and 80s squealing rock guitar.

1. A-Team

If there is one of these theme tunes that has stood the test of time, it is this one. 27 years after the last episode aired, you still here kids humming this one. And I was Hannibal. Seth, of course, was Face.

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From the moment we first start listening to music, we seem to take those we like particularly and build them into the story of who we are. It occurred to me in a moment of holiday reflection that actually, the tunes that were first added to the mental mix tape that is the eternal soundtrack of my life (latterly full of everything from Allegri to Lady Gaga to Heaven’s Basement) came from the cartoons that captivated me in my 70s and 80s childhood.

Whilst I loved the classics – Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny etc – there was a certain form of episodic cartoon that I looked forward to. Coming home from school, that sacred 90 minutes from 4pm to 5.30pm could throw up any one of a number of animated adventures that could enthral a young lad who spent too much time living in his head.

So here, without further ado, my run down of my top ten favourites.

10. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop 

I am sure I wasn’t the only one with a bit of a crush on Ms. Pitstop. And there was something about this tune that just stuck in the brain.

9. Scooby Doo

Daphne ran Penelope a close second. And let’s face it – this was a theme tune we all sang in the playground. Cos we were so cool.

8. Mysterious Cities of Gold

I could never get on with Mysterious Cities of Gold but somehow the tune snuck in and got stuck somewhere around the hippocampus. You have to wait a while to get past the blurb, but it’s worth it. Honest.

7. The Space Sentinels

Before we had a new-fangled Video Cassette Recorder, I remember sitting next to the telly and holding a microphone to the speaker for the duration of an episode. The mic was attached to one of those old flat tape recorders. I swore to anyone who would listen that it was as good as a video recorder (I was a deluded child) and made a point of regularly listening to that one episode over and over again. Oh yes. I was Hercules.

6. Transformers

I have always been a sci-fi geek. These were robots that became cars and planes and lorries. I mean, WTH? That was just too cool. We’d not seen the like – and that song. “Transformers! Robots in disguise…” This one’s for you, little bro.

5.  She-Ra

This one isn’t really worthy of number 5, but I remember it being a very annoying ear worm back in the day. She-Ra, Princess of Power is the sort of character you could imagine Leonard or Sheldon falling for. It also had an annoying winged pony and various cutesy animals in it (as well as lots of androcentric stereotyping of female characters in the fantasy genre). But hey… ‘She-Ra, She-Ra!’

4. Dangermouse

Just how cool was Dangermouse? It’s one of those shows that if I watched now, I am certain would be laden with cool humour and grown-up in-jokes. We’ve all worked with Baron Greenback – and we all know Penfold. Just sayin’.

3. He-Man

He-Man was the ultimate male warrior for all of us playground crusaders. Every playtime for years you would hear kids running around screaming ‘By the power of Grey Skull…’ (prob spelled ‘Gray Skull’ natch). With his cowering lion, one thrust of his sword skyward and he was transformed from the Prince of Eternia into He-Man. ‘I’ve have the powwerrr!’ None of us spotted that he was wearing pink.

2. Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds

As ear worms go, this one has the longevity of a cockroach. I’ve no idea when I last saw this on TV but sometimes it still gets into my head and won’t go away. Oh yes. Also, Laura fancied Dogtanian. I am not sure what that says about me. Or her.

1. Battle of the Planets

And finally, my favourite childhood theme of all time. Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Five  acting as one! Mark, Princess, Jason, Tiny and Keyop (the one that burbled)! Yep, I am sure the programme was nowhere near as good as the theme tune, which was a supremely cheesy 70s-style mash-up of action tunes, but when you hear those horns at the beginning… And as for Princess… *sigh*

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It’s one of life’s guilty pleasures. We can’t remember when we first did it, but we do it every time.

Popping bubble wrap.

We find it everywhere, protecting our Amazon orders, wrapping Mum’s vase, safe-guarding Granny’s pictures. How often have we eagerly opened a parcel to find that the bubble wrap is more entertaining than the item contained therein?

Most of us don’t know that bubble wrap was a failed 3D wallpaper design. And yes, it really was created by two blokes in a garage – Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes. They were clearly very talented chaps but with absolutely no idea about interior design. Seriously, how could anyone have ever thought that using bubble wrap was a good idea? Can you imagine Osborne & Little suggesting you use it on the walls of your living room? (Yes, okay, perhaps in this age of austerity you can.)

Creative sorts have attempted to rehabilitate its DIY origins and suggest using it for insulation. Bubble wrap has been given its own special day – Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (the last Monday in January as I am sure you all know).

However, it is for that satisfying popping sound and the sensation of a mini-explosion that we cause just by squeezing our fingers that we love the stuff. So much so that we even recognise its therapeutic qualities. The ever-inventive Japanese have even designed a take-anywhere everlasting bubble wrap-popping keyfob to simulate the experience.

Step forward Comedy Imaginator Eric Buss. He has taken the bubble wrap-popping experience to a whole new level. Look at this video and tell me you don’t want a go!

And finally, for those stuck in front of their computers without any bubble wrap to hand, there is always this.

Ahhhh…

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Yes, I know this was from a month ago, but did you ever really get your head around what it was Nik Wallenda did?

Think about it for just a sec. He walked across a wire slung across the Grand Canyon without any safety harness.

He was, apparently, approximately 1,500 feet above the canyon floor. To give you an idea how high that is, it is roughly 1.5 times the height of The Shard. Without any safety harness.

And how long did he take to walk quarter of a mile like this? 22 minutes and 54 seconds.

Lots of people will say he’s mad and it was very silly. I say hats off to him – I think it’s brilliant. He strikes me as being an adventurer in the mould of Felix Baumgartner.

For those with vertigo, it could probably be the ultimate in aversion therapy. I suspect, however, that with a family history of circus performers that stretches all the way back to the Old Bohemia of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, vertigo is not a common trait in the Wallenda family. And Nik Wallenda already had form, having already broken various daredevil records and walked across Niagra Falls on a tightrope just last year.

If you missed it, take a look at the short video below.

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I meant to post this earlier, but work and elections got in the way. Sometimes, something comes along on a show like Britain’s Got Talent that makes you stop and think and marvel at just how creative we can be.

Last week it was Hungarian shadow dancers “The Attractions” who dazzled the judges, the theatre audience  and the watching public with their incredibly emotive performance. I’ll happily admit to being one of those left with more than a small lump in my throat.

Sadly, some lame idiots  decided to throw social media abuse at the dancers for not being British. Depressing, yes, but it says more about the abusers and their insecurities than it does about a group of highly talented Hungarians who clearly see Britain as a tremendous place to showcase their mesmerising act. Presumably they hoped we would show some of that tolerance and British hospitality that we like to believe is part of our national character. Or perhaps they just hoped we would share in and appreciate the beautiful telling of a very human story that transcends national barriers.

Anyway, if you missed them, and if you are someone who can see that this is a stunning piece of performance art, and you aren’t going to get wound up about the fact they are Hungarian, please take a look below and enjoy.

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So I realise even before I make this post that I am, in my own small way, contributing to the viral marketing success of this latest advertising campaign from IKEA. So, let me say up front, that whilst I like their tubes of fish paste and their crackers, I’m not a fan of the store. Too big and the whole one-way thing is a bit annoying!

That doesn’t stop me appreciating a good ad when I see one and the latest offering from IKEA is a hoot.  With the current success of The Walking Dead on the telly and The Evil Dead in the cinema, an invasion theme is a pretty canny one. This mischievous take, though, sees an army of gnomes attempting to resist a couple’s determination to transform their garden. Hats off to Mother, London and their creative team.

For anyone wondering about the soundtrack, it’s Mötley Crüe’s Time for Change, performed by The Palace Of Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra and The Heritage Singers.

Brilliant.

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A slo-mo highlights reel from the Danish TV show Dumt & Farligt (“Stupid & Dangerous”) has been posted online. A series of madly hypnotic stunts, usually involving some form of explosive energy, there is something beautifully hypnotic about the results. Shot at 2500 FPS, you get to witness aspects of motion that you would never ordinarily see.

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If you’ve not yet come across them, the drawings of Kelvin Okafor are something else. They are pencil illusions, stunning graphite recreations by eye from photographs, each taking between 80 and 100 hours to complete.

The talent of some people is simply extraordinary.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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I have recently rediscovered the joy of Monopoly.

In the days before HMV broke, I spotted a very attractive retro edition, in a wooden box, and I decided that as I couldn’t find my childhood box that I would buy it (my old version was a deluxe edition in a black box that included a locomotive token). After all, what better way could there be to pass the long winter evenings than to accrue a personal property fortune?

I was quickly and rudely reminded that there are no ideological bars to winning. My opponent, no, my enemy, a self-styled ex-Socialist Worker who is more than a little sceptical of my own liberal political values, proved to be the most ruthless and cunning capitalist I have ever come across. There was no mercy shown – she led from the beginning and destroyed me five times. Once or twice and I would put it down to a roll of the die. Five times and I was definitely the victim of the socialist incarnation of Donald Trump. (Personally, I think Monopoly provides a safe environment in which socialists can surrender to base instincts and act like the rest of us. That sound you can hear is the sound of me running for cover.)

Still licking my wounds, you could imagine my shock when Hasbro offered a world wide vote to replace a historic playing piece with a diamond ring, a guitar, a toy robot, a helicopter and a cat. The result of that vote? The iron bought it, securing just 8 percent of the vote, and was replaced with… a cat.

Now, I am a cat fan. I admire their cunning, their cold, calculating capacity for dissembling, their ruthless survival instincts and the juxtaposition between the lean, mean killing machine that most of them think they are and the fact that they are often the animal kingdom equivalent of Norman Wisdom, exhibiting a tremendous propensity for slapstick. I would say I own one, but I am pretty sure he owns me.

What a cat isn’t – or what it shouldn’t be – is a Monopoly playing token. To my mind, the iron was one of the more elegantly designed pieces. The cat that replaces it is pug ugly.

Monopoly_casts_aside_the_iron_in_favour_of_the_catI indicated earlier that I can understand the general sentiment towards cats. We also live in a world in which we take refuge in cute things and fluffiness, and perhaps moreso amongst the social demographic that is likely to be taking part in online votes on game tokens. However, applying the same logic to the piece that was rejected, what does it say about the younger generation’s relationship with the iron? Judging from the crumpled trousers I see hanging off the backsides of “cool” types, it says pretty much everything. I wonder if irons are going to go the same way as the cassette tape? In ten years’ time, I can imagine a wide-eyed child pointing at an iron and murmuring incredulously: “Mummy, what is that?”

As it happens, it’s not the first time that pieces have been retired or changed. My retro edition partially recreates the 1935 edition and doesn’t include the wheelbarrow, introduced in 1937.  However, it also doesn’t include three other tokens that were retired in the 1950s: the purse, the rocking horse and the lantern (the wheelbarrow already introduced, the 1950s saw the introduction of the man on horse and the dog). Other retired tokens include the sack of money (which existed in the 1999-2007 editions, having won a contest over a piggy bank and a bi-plane), a man on horseback and a Howitzer (!).

In the end it is probably that I am just not good at change. So I’ll just hanker after this classic set, knowing that if only I could have the lantern I’d win every time…

Tokkens web monopoly photos T6

 

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There’s something amusingly patronising about the way this cat handles its owner, determined to make the point that it rather wishes to be left alone. You can just imagine what’s going through its mind. Jim Davis’s Garfield probably captures it…

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