Art & Design, Culture, Music, TV & Radio

Choice Cuts: Danger Doom – The Mouse and the Mask

Lex Records, 2005Danger Doom - The Mouse and the Mask (800x450)Danger Doom’s album is high-wire fun that’d be an offence to anyone who takes themselves too seriously. So you can bet it’d go down well with smiley Liam Gallagher and today’s hardline extremists, right?

A collaboration between enigmatic super-producer, Danger Mouse, and equally reclusive masked rapper, MF Doom, The Mouse and the Mask is a marvel of audacious jams and masterful short stories, spliced with animated skits and more humour than a Hanna-Barbera classic.

Culture, Film, TV & Radio

In memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

Mr Spock, Leonard Nimoy, Mar 16, 2010, by Pineapples101 (1331x749)Leonard Nimoy inspired so many generations with his defining role as Mr Spock from in original 1960s series of Star Trek. That’s where I saw him for the first time; sitting on my sofa, as my father, my brother and I absorbed the adventures of the crew of the starship Enterprise.


Comedy Come Home

On June 24, Futurama returned to US television seven years after Fox put the show back into cryosleep. However, neither Sky nor Comedy Central will be broadcasting it here in UK which is weak. Yet another blow for transatlantic TV coming to the UK thanks to money-conscious network politics. Since the double bill premier, I’ve not yet heard the fan reaction but I aim to keep external reception to a minimum until I’ve had a chance to view them for myself. Fortunately for Fox, I don’t use torrent applications for fear of fatal system infection, so I’ll be waiting till the series arrives officially – I’m banking on September 2010 or January 2011. Can’t say the same for some of my friends who think little of breaking the rules of cyberspace though.

Even if I won’t be seeing the returning of my favourite animated comedy this summer, there’s plenty comedy for me to see on TV which is sure to have me stifling smirks as I recall dialogue and sketches at the most in appropriate moments.

The BBC is currently showing reruns of The Impression Show with Culshaw and Stephenson (BBC One). This sketch show isn’t what you’d call ‘sophisticated viewing’, but the pairing of impressionists Jon Culshaw (previously worked on Dead Ringers) and Debra Stephenson has delivered some of the most hilarious parodies I’ve seen in good while. They poked fun at Ashes to Ashes, Top Gear, The Apprentice, Strictly Come Dancing, Jonathan Ross, Ray Mears, Davina McCall, Cheryl Cole, and Gordon Brown. You have to have seen the people and shows they’re parodying to really get it, but their impressions, their body language and accents, are effortless. With Dead Ringers meeting an early grave, I hope the BBC bring this new sketch show back on a yearly basis – as the only real comedy on BBC One it deserves an opportunity, but would be more at home on BBC Two, the Beeb’s traditional comedy channel.

Another comedy I’m fond of is The IT Crowd (Channel 4). Now into its fourth series, The IT Crowd is a sitcom about three basement-dwelling IT employees – Roy (Chris O’Dowd), Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Jen (Katherine Parkinson) – who, through their unusual combination of computer knowhow, social ineptitude and Irish wit, find themselves in hilarious fixes. From Friendface’s part in an outrageous, relationship-damaging college reunion to the secret Countdown hipsters club where linguistic hardballs drink milk and party with ubiquitous exotic temptresses, this show maintains the humour, atmosphere and character I love about British sitcoms.

The series was created by Graham Linehan (also known for cult hit Father Ted) who is a self-confessed tech geek and gamer himself. I love seeing references to classic games, geek culture and the sci-fi posters that plaster their office in the show. But Linehan pays close attention to the current gaming scene as well, throwing in the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Guitar Hero right when they were on gamers’ wishlists. Always ready to have a cheeky laugh with its audience, and at its characters, The IT Crowd is essential viewing for anybody who knows the ‘difference’ between memory and RAM.

Image: Matheus Sanchez


On Location in London – IMAX to Tottenham Court Road

Last Saturday was 08/08/09, or to put it another way, one year since the opening of the unbelievable 2008 Olympics Games. And thanks to a long-time friend and wing mate, my day was almost as eventful as the nonstop TV coverage last year.

I awoke to irritating sound of my toneless mobile phone vibrating ceaselessly on my chest of draws. It was my friend, Dee, calling to invite me out for the day. After stumbling out of bed, speeding to get ready and hurrying to train station, I meet Dee on the platform along with another old friend. We took the tube into Central London and disembarked at Waterloo station.

We rushed through the mess of crowds (who were jamming up every entrance and exit, as usual in London) and made our way outside to the street. There it was, the BFI London IMAX, home to the largest cinema screen in the United Kingdom. We had to navigate several busy roads before passing through one of the many subway tunnels that led under the street to the cinema entrance. Of course, had we been paying more attention we would have realised that we could have just entered the first tunnel directly in front of Waterloo station as we came out. Inside the circular building, we approached the reception desk where a typical-looking sales assistant completed our request for three tickets to the evening showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Next we hastily made for the streets and headed towards the north bank, crossing over the Jubilee Bridge as we went. This was the start of our long day trip that took us from Waterloo, passed four tube stations, all the way to Tottenham Court Road and back. We cut through a park (full of couples and families relaxing in the boiling heat of the Sun – best weather we’ve had in days here) and some alleyways before coming to Strand street. We had planned to visit some kind of festival, but our stomachs quickly changed our minds and we began searching the many eateries for buffet lunch deals. Pizza Hut was on the list, until we remembered they’d finally got wise and stopped serving their all-you-can-eat-buffet meals on weekends, so we exited sharpish.

A change of plan was in order as we headed further into the centre of town, away from the river bank and into the quaint streets of the theatre district. Instead of going to some festival we thought it would be more fun to wander the streets in search of strange sights and cut-price bargains on gadgets and games. We carried on passed Leicester Square towards Covent Garden. Amid the cobbled streets filled with pedestrians, arching playhouses and small traders, rickshaws flitted about the streets. Their riders, young men (mostly foreign) with loose fitting T-shirts and battered trousers, shouted and gestured to each other as they raced their passengers up and down the streets. There was even a horse and cart.

Russell Square was as lively as ever. With so many market traders, old fashioned delicacies and musical entertainers around, we could almost have stepped back in time to the Victorian London of Charles Dickens’ novels. Soaking up the atmosphere as we made our way between the many traders and market stalls, I was stuck by a wonderful feeling of adventure and discovery. The busy markets of old London are exactly the kind of environments I relish visiting, with my party of motley travellers, in RPGs.

Dee stopped off to grab a pancake from one of the vendors – freshly prepared right in front of him and for a generous fee too. Upon entering Covent Garden, the traditional haven for entertainers (and swindlers) of all description, we were greeted by yet another bizarre sight. A lady in nothing but bright yellow furry shorts and a black bikini was balancing precariously on a small metal platform. She could be sent at the centre of a large crowd, announcing loudly to them as she attempted to leap into the arms of her fellow performers below the platform. We didn’t stay to see the outcome of their crowd-drawing antics.

I then embarrassed my cohorts, and myself, by asking them to sit down amongst the curb-dwellers so that I could photograph them. A lengthy spell in the HMV store immediately beside us didn’t yield any deals, but it did throw up some interesting conversation about Little Boot’s song ‘New in Town’. Props to Cranberry, of Fly FM’s Legally On Air show, for getting me hooked on this infectious pop treat. It reminds me of a mix between visiting Camden Town, the fictional Haven City (from Jak II), arriving in Nottingham and an old friend I knew in college. I don’t rate the promotional video, however.

Now, I’m sure you must be wondering why I used a photo taken in my fridge to be the main image for this post. Well, what you see before you in that image is indeed a real life can of ‘Slurm’ – the fictitious alien beverage from Futurama. I came across this remarkable product in Cybercandy, a store that seems set on spoiling ones teeth with some of the planet’s most sugary substances available from one outlet. Slurm wasn’t the only licensed drink on sale. Energy drinks for Nintendo characters, Betty Boop, Resident Evil, Street Fighter and even The Simpsons’ ‘Duff’ were on offer. I almost coughed up digital cherries when I saw the Pac-Man energy drink. It even said ‘power up’ on it for heaven sake! All of these cans were a merger 250ml, but nevertheless I coughed up the (admittedly shocking) £2.05 for the Pac-Man can and the Slurm can. I’ve willed myself not to consume either of these, but hopefully I’ll pick some more in the future and maybe I’ll have a Bombcast-style taste test.

Our next major stop was Chinatown. As customary to our inner city jaunts, mild practical jokery set in as I posed nonchalantly in front of a Chinese restaurant and pretended to be thoroughly engrossed in a Chinese newspaper. Chǔncái! By now we were extremely hungry and decided to get a bit to eat from one of the resident Chinese restaurants. That wasn’t my first choice I should add. I’ve often been wary of eating food from the greasy, unclean spoon of London’s many independent fast-food joints. This time my uneasy feelings were confirmed after I found a disgustingly long hair in my noodles. Yuck! Buffet or not, whoever prepared the dishes should have been wearing a hair net. I chose not to continue my meal after that encounter. My advice is steer clear of Young Cheng restaurant if you’re ever in London’s Chinatown.

We wandered passed the music stores and record dealers on our way to Tottenham Court Road. Forbidden Planet kept us amused for another half-hour as we browsed rare figurines, comic books, manga, and more. There was a jet black dressing gown with the classic Batman logo stitched on the back that I was totally ready to snap up if it had been cheaper – you know, I’d be walking around the house in that thing all the time. I scanned the shelves for video game comics, while my friend read out some absurd jokes from a book about Chuck Norris. Free of high-priced geek heaven, we made fools of ourselves in a women’s fashion store (that was formally Zavvi – I’m convinced the building is cursed, as the store in question was closing down when we visited), trying on different hats and sunglasses.

We were very low on energy by time we made it to Tottenham Court Road (we’d been walking up and down London for more than six hours). Tottenham Court Road and the surrounding area is essentially London’s electric emporium. The many independent stores sell big name brands like Sony, Samsung and Toshiba for competitive prices, in an effort to win customers’ wallets. This time we were only there to browse. Laptops, PC components, graphics cards, RAM upgrades, flat screens, noise-reduction headphones, digital cameras, games consoles, memory sticks – we faintly admired the shiny newness of it all before disappearing to the quiet backstreets of town to find a dust retro game store. Game Focus is the store we called at last, thanks to Dee’s directions. I was less than impressed by the lack of titles on the shelves that are on my collector’s list. In the end, I left empty handed, which I’m sure was for the best. Finally, we spent a short spell in Burton’s for some new threads, ahead of dragging ourselves back to the underground, where we took the train back to Waterloo.

Returning to the IMAX cinema to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, my friends and I were pleased to have seen so many sights on our walkabout. This was in fact my second time experiencing a film in the IMAX theatre (the first time was in 2007, when I went to see 300). We settled on some comfortable chairs in the lounge as we waited for the doors to the screening room to open. When the steward finally did unlock the doors I heard him say the film would be presented in 3D, which prompted me to exclaim a bit too loudly “I don’t wanna watch this film in 3D!”. Ahem, with an expletive that I shan’t mention here. Fortunately it turns out that only the first twelve minutes were in 3D with the rest of the film appearing as standard – expect for the super-jumbo screen. To hear more of my thoughts on the film itself, take a look at my film opinion post.

Once the film was over my friends and I took the tube back to our domiciles. It was a very long, very tiring and very eventful day. Thank the lord for a good night’s sleep.


Futurama returns in 2010

“Good news everyone…”

Futurama, the animated series created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, set a thousand years in the future, is returning to our TV screens at long last.

The series was cancelled by Fox after just four seasons. In 2007, Fox announced a deal with Comedy Central to air reruns of the original series as well as sixteen new re-cut episodes of the recently completed Futurama DVD movies. Despite fan demand for new episodes and positive DVD sales there was still much uncertainty as to whether the show would be given the go-ahead and finally be resurrected from the dreaded pit of TV hiatus.

After years of watching, waiting and re-watching it seems the improbable has happened. Futurama returns next summer on Comedy Central with a massive twenty-six episode run planned! There’s more to the announcement, but right now I couldn’t be happier. Futurama is one of my favourite animated series and I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to discuss as we get closer to the show’s long awaited return. Be sure to check back for more “tales of interest”.