Thursday, August 28, 2008


We made it. Everything had been stacked against us: physics, gravity, reality, Switzerland, and most of all ourselves. But here we are, present for duty and ready to comment.

I assembled a crack squad of Guardian commentators to lead the assault on Mrs Boyo's bank vault via the west face of Lake Geneva:

  • Francis Wheen - my captain, the calm voice of measured liberalism and informed Marxisant critique, equipped with the patrician ability to cow the trolls.
  • Charlie Brooker - the acerbic sergeant-major, with his thumb pressed firmly on the jugular of the Zeitgeist.
  • Neil Clark - well, he had a compass in the heel of his shoe and a torch that lit up Wheen's dome like Venus rising. Plus he said he could speak Swiss.

The trolls divided into two main groups.

  • The first lot wanted to know why we were "keeping silent about aparthied Isreal's role" in our kidnapping. They deployed sarcasm and texting acronyms.
  • The second crew insisted that our escape plan was a false flag operation by the "Bush junta to justefy its genecidal war ag. Iran".

Fringe groups claimed we'd not been kidnapped at all, and produced photographs that allegedly showed missiles attached to Brooker's undercarriage.

Some simply called for our escape committee to declare solidarity with Venezuela and wear orange Gitmo jump suits. Three followers of David Icke said I was a lizard but tagged along anyway, casually offering me insects from time to time.

Everyone felt we ought to understand Russia's position more.

It took a while, but Queen's Regulations, invocation of "Che!" and Clark's recital of his favourite parts of Dad's Army licked this rabble into the finest body of fighting men ever to have littered the website of a left-liberal newspaper with misspelled anti-Semitic rants and random comments about "AmeriKKKa".

Years of monomania, pathetic delusions and crouching over their computers in darkened rooms had adapted many of the trolls to burrowing work - their moleish tunnel vision, incisors enlarged by tearing open packs of durritos, and ample supplies of self-belief and body fat had them gnawing through the subterranean walls of Creditgewalt Ruthenien AG in no time.

They were helped along by Capt Wheen's stirring speech, in which he mentioned that Mrs Boyo had backstage passes to the Geneva 2009 UN World Conference against Racism stacked in the vault.

What we saw when we finally broke through was almost more than human sanity can bear. Squatting on a throne of miners' helmets was the bejewelled, henna'ed, deranged majesty of Seamus Milne.

He rose slowly, and we fell back in horror against a tide of cowering trolls. He raised his bangled glove and all fell silent. Then he spoke.

"Howl ye, mortals, for the day of the Milne is at hand! First, we shall ask Osama in as guest editor again, and all you trolls shall dance and laugh and comment and agree with one another! Vorwärts!"

At this he rushed towards the hole in the floor of the Earth, the trolls swarming around his habit.

But then, as he was about to launch himself into the inky ether, the three Ickeans seized his wings:

"O Dark Hero, it's a trap! Bush, the Queen and the Rothschilds will make you their scaly minion. We shan't let you go!"

They dragged Milne down into the depths of the lake. The last light of Wheen's pate glanced off his cheekbones as he sank back into the murk from which he had never fully emerged. His last cry was "Curse you, Blair!" It's what he would have wanted.

We survivors parted in the bank lobby, where an understanding under-manager said he would be speaking to Mrs Boyo about keeping "vilde chayos" in their vaults.

I will always remember
these brave men - Wheen, Brooker, Clark, Benjy, LaRoucher, zionhater18, 911truthgrrl, cocoen, usslibertyfacts67, gummiknabe - all of them played their part.

We know we can never tell our story, but rest content that he saved both sides of the Earth from a loathsomeness that would have put every teachers' staff room in the land at its decayed command.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dark Side of the Earth

Kidnapped by Flat-Earthers!

I'm being held on the underside of the Alps, which is very deep and dark. It's where The Guardian keeps the Comment Is Free trolls and most contributors.

There's a few of us down here working on a plan. If we can scale the inside of this lake we ought to make it into Mrs Boyo's bank vault somewhere in Geneva.

Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Watch With Boyo III

We've been away for a few days, so without any further ado I return to the important business of listing films in no particular order.

Ninth Night: Quatermass and the Pit

I'd rather have the 1950s TV series, but that would be cheating. It was the best thing the BBC did before giving me a job.

The 1960s Hammer film doesn't have the relentless build-up of the original, but also skips its occasional preachiness.

The ending, with Quatermass and his female assistant unable to speak across the space between them in the ruins of London, is one of the most powerful in postwar British cinema, genre movie or no genre movie.

It's all up on YouTube, but here's the section that includes the cleansing of the Martian hives (at '1"30):

Key quotation: Minister: "Do you know what you're implying? That we owe our human condition to the intervention of insects!"

Tenth Night: Night of the Generals

This is a fine example of the early 70s international production, in which the actors of Europe united to ham it up in languages they didn't understand for some Italian director like Visconti.

These films were always epics of miscasting, and Night of the Generals doesn't disappoint with Omar Sharif as a German intelligence officer.

The film sustains remarkable dramatic tension throughout, even though it's clear who done it from the moment you set eyes on the bat-kicking insanity that is Peter O'Toole's General Tanz.

Indeed, it makes Visconti's The Damned look like a monkey waving a ribbon in the rain.

Here's Pete, mad as a badger:

Key quotation: Gen Tanz: "Are you wearing perfume?"
Major Grau: "'I occasionally wear a light after-shave, sir."

Eleventh Night: Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse

Luvvie alert: I first saw this film at Kinotsentr in Moscow while a student, in a presentation by the magnificent critic Naum Kleiman. It has stayed with me ever since.

It entered Lang's personal mythology in a story that Goebbels banned it on release in 1933, then invited Fritz to come and work for him at the Propaganda Ministry. Lang said he'd sleep on it, promptly packed his bags and fled with his family to Paris. Not true, but I'm happy to print the legend.

It's Fritz Lang's second talkie after M, and he uses sound to original effect. The visuals are still eerie, in particular the car chase with a spectral Mabuse as a literal backseat driver.

It wasn't Lang's conscious intention to comment on the Nazis, as far as I can tell, but Mabuse's control over the doctor serves as a prophetic warning against those who gamble on Fascism.

Key quotation: Dr Mabuse whispering stuff.

Twelfth Night: The Wicker Man

Let's start off as we begin to end, with altruistic criticism:

It's not as good as its fans claim. The Britt Ekland body double is the acme of embarrassment in a sex scene that features the first use of a wall as a contraceptive barrier. No version of the film is entirely adequate, although the 1980s BBC cut come closest in restoring cut scenes without the clumsy occassional voiceover and the pre-credits mainland passage.

Having said that, I love this film more than any pig. Every phrase uttered by Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle is a gem. The music is glorious, and there is something genuinely touching about the way the pagans are so comfortable in their skins.

It is the sort of movie that yields something new with each viewing. I'd seen it several time before I noticed the sly acknowledgement in the opening credits to Lord Summerisle for his cooperation in the making of the film.

Truly, the sacrifice had been reverenced.

Sioba Siencyn maintains that this song is based on the Welsh druidic classic "O Bren Braf". Judge for yourselves:

Key quotation: Lord Summerisle, as Christian copper fumes at the sight of bare-ass dancing ladies: "Good afternoon, Sergeant Howie. I trust the sight of the young people refreshes you."

I hope you enjoyed my selection. AS Ordovicius named four, so shall I name the same. Those chosen to come up with their own list of twelve cracking fillums are:

Gorilla Bananas
Gadjo Dilo
MC Ward
Gyppo Byard

They will receive the summons shortly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lost Horizon

The mighty Counterknowledge site has done the world another favour by reminding us that the Flat Earth Society is still there, holding aloft the stationary disc of Truth.

Flat-Earthers, as the site points out, do not like the name being used as a term of media abuse like Tory, Zionist or White Working Class. Let us call them Horizoneers.

Horizoneers are not pudgy Kennedy Grassyknollers or goateed 9/11 Truthers. The latter can spin a skein of half-truths into a sticky candyfloss blob that threatens to engulf all Mankind and the Intern Net, like Prof Quatermass's Experiment.

TV presenters, actors, Willie Nelson, Robert Fisk - in short, the people we've learned to emulate since the demise of non-Islamic religions and universities that teach stuff - they're all suddenly "just asking questions" about explosions controlled by giant owls from the Bilderberg Group etc.

Not Horizoneers. They don't need to pervert simple truths to their own sick ends. They have dignity. They simply ignore everything that suggests the world isn't a circle without a beginning. Physics - out. Australia - it's somewhere else and full of liars. Planes - they go round and round. The Moon - it's just tethered off Holyhead. Google Earth - shove it up your arse.

(Except that The Flat Earth Society would never be so demotic in public. Its members belong to that select group of people who still write "whilst". Other members include Sir John Major, Daily Mail letter writers and members of the British National Party who like to be naked at the computer.)

Horizoneers pass the Crimea Test. If faced with having to charge into their own Valley of Death, Truthers and other conspirators would suddenly recall serious misgivings they've always had about their ratfaced little theories and run honking from both ends into the embrace of orthodoxy. Not the Horizoneers. They'd ride straight in. That's why they are magnificent.

I once lost an argument with the Dolgellau Branch of The Flat Earth Society (Cymdeithas Y Ddaear Wastad) at the bar of the Cross Keys, considered the town's intellectual hub because of the gravitational pull of the neighbouring Free Library (closed 1978). Les Maip Môn, a retired lead thief from Anglesey, set out the disky case succinctly:

"A Harrier jump jet takes off over Dolgellau, and hovers. If the Earth and Moon are spinning about like a pair of bollocks in a washing machine like Boyo Junior says, pilot just has to sit tight and he'll travel all over the shop without moving. But, because they're flat, he'll not move from Dolgellau. Case closed, your round."

(Les thinks the Moon is also flat. Hardcore.)

I tried in vain to counter this, but felt like Patrick Moore in a roomful of headhunters. I went for a little walk, came back, and decided they were probably right.

Horizoneers don't "just ask questions", they provide the answers. And that, in this modern world in which we're living in, is a rare commodity.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Watch With Boyo II

Continuing Ordovicius's challenge to programme twelve nights of cinematic salubrity:

Fifth Night: Seven Days in May

Shakespeare was a bald-headed Brummie, but if he had been alive and employed as John Frankenheimer's scriptwriter in the 1960s, he would have given us this film. A troubled king of a divided his realm, a military leader scheming in the wings, an officer torn by loyalties, a woman ill-used, a Southern Falstaff, and meaty speeches about stuff that matters - it's all here in the best political thriller ever.

Less pantomime that the Manchurian Candidate and years ahead of the paranoid wave of the early 70s, Seven Days in May gives us some of the hottest Burt-on-Kirk action ever filmed. Plus Ava Gardner. Not much of it on the Intern Net, but here's a slice:

Key quotation: Col Casey: "Yes, I know who Judas was. He was a man I worked for and admired until he disgraced the four stars on his uniform."

Sixth Night: The Innocents

The perfect adaptation of the perfect novella, Jack Clayton's version of "The Turn of the Screw" lines up Truman Capote on script and Freddie Francis on cameras in a masterpiece of creepy ambiguity. The corruption of children is handled with emotional economy, as are the shocks. Miss Jessel seems to seep into your vision when she appears to the governess across the lake. And Jason King is Peter Quint! Rather.

Key quotation: Flora: "Can tortoises swim?"
Governess: "No, they cannot."
Flora: (removing tortoise from lake) "I thought not."

Seventh Night: Withnail & I

The closest thing British men have to a religion, with its script a liturgy and its protagonists saints fit for emulation. It was almost worth having to put up with the Beatles just so George Harrison had enough money to produce this slice of modern Chaucer.

Is it about friendship, love, growing-up, drinking, farmers? The K Man knows Ralph Brown - he who played Danny the drug dealer - and says it's about acting. Enjoy it before students on the Oxford train quote it to death. My favourite scene is the night at the country pub, about 1'25" into this clip:

Key quotation: "We've gone on holiday by mistake!"

Eighth Night: Vampyr

Carl Dreyer is largely to blame for the French making films like Last Year in Marienbad, and this earliest bid in the lesbian-vampire stakes (it's meant to be based on Le Fanu's Carmilla) is where it all began. Sets bathed in light to disorient the viewer. Characters who enter frames out of the corner of your eye. Multiple points of view. Shadows have lives of their own.

There's little dialogue, no lesbian action and very little vampirism. Dreyer set out to create a sense of dread and decay, and he succeeded. Relish this exquisite corpse:

Key quotation: (indistinct)

Sleep tight.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Watch With Boyo I

Compiling lists is a male activity, except for the shopping list I artfully doctor once a week, so it's no coincidence that champion web blogger and future President of Wales Ordovicius is a man.

He has tagged me and four other slackers with assembling a 12-night Hefneresque film fest. Feeling like a London Underground train, I've nonetheless come up with a festering fortnight of film with a two-day break to buy pies, beer and visit your loved ones.

Reading back through my cinelogue I was struck by how much I like black and white stuff, creepy or otherwise. I put this down to my Welshness - Wales is a country that went colour only in 1982 and still runs a Best Kept Graveyard competition.

I'll account for the films four at a time, so as not to take up too much room. As Tom Verlaine sang: "l'étreinte jalouse et le spasme obsesseur/Ne valent pas un long baiser, même qui mente!"

First night: Daughters of Darkness

One for the ladies. The lesbian-vampire genre is much-maligned by bitter blondes, but this one might just convert them. It should also extend my kink-based visitor profile in an agreeable new direction. It does for Belgian coastal resorts out of season what MR James did for Suffolk.

Key quotation: "You should have seen him in Bruges. He looked so fascinated by death".

Second Night: Dead of Night

Up there with The Third Man and all of the Powell and Pressburger oeuvre at the British film-making dockyard in the 1940s, Dead of Night launched the portmanteau horror film genre that bobbed around bravely in the choppy waters of Lake Amicus before sinking with all hands. It is, as top Welsh actor Mervyn Johns says, "A nightmare of horror", and everyone smokes and drinks the whole time. Excellent.

No clips available anywhere, so here's a still from the best segment - The Mirror. The moment when Googie Withers sees the other room in the glass still has the power to shock.

Key quotation: (Sally O'Hara): "Mummy, you mustn't! You see, Mr. Craig's going to hit me - savagely!"

(Mrs O'Hara): "Oh, well, I'm sure he can hit somebody else instead. Now, come along, dear!"

Third Night: It Happened Here

Give a young British director a grant these days and you'll get another retread of Guy Ritchie's It's A Right Royal Cockney Barrel of Monkeys. Schoolboys Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo and their chums had 3/6d and some old Kubrick film stock, and they produced the true story of the Nazi occupation of England.

Even the amateurish acting gives it the authentic feel of a wartime documentary. The clip of real British fascist Colin Jordan in uniform having a cosy chat about whether to send the Jews to Madagascar may remind you of the readers' views on the Guardian's Comment Is Free site, but the rest of this unheroic and unsettling film is not like anything you've seen before.

Again, no video clips, but here's a cheery pic.

Key quotation: (The Doctor): "The appalling thing about fascism is that you've got to use fascist methods to get rid of it."

Fourth Night: Animal House

To change the mood a little, here a film that pulls US fratboy comedies inside out like the baboon in Cronenberg's "The Fly". More than a series of excellent set pieces, it has a number of pleasing story arcs. It also has Mrs Wormer, whom I still fancy, and Bluto's "What's all this sitting around shit?" speech - which ought to be taught somewhere.

On a personal note, vacuum perversion sleuth Andy Wislen studied at the University of Oregon, where it was filmed, and a friend of mine called Elizabeth is the girl walking past the library in the opening sequence.

Key quotation: "You fucked up - you trusted us!"

Keep watching the screens.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Awaiting the call

I became a father some time ago, but still await the call to be a Dad.

It is clear to me that, once the congratulatory perfumes of cigar and single malt have faded, an avuncular chap will come and tap you on the shoulder.

He may be a host at a party, or perhaps your wine merchant. Certainly someone you think you've known for a while. Whenever it happens, you'll know your time has come. He will take you aside to say that you must become a Dad.

And you'll know just what he means. Think of your own father. An apparently random assembly of tobacco and Brown Windsor soup, held together by cardigans and fuelled by National Service anecdotes, he was and is nonetheless remarkable.

He could fix things with a stick, find his way around foreign places with no knowledge of language or geography, converse easily with women without scaring them, restrain other people's children without artillery or facing a summons, and inhabited a circle of "mates" who were always there when he needed them - and vice versa:

"Blast! Car's sunk under water and caught fire again. (beep beep) Jack! Fancy seeing you here? Yup, that submarine with the winch and fireblanket you've just bought might do the job. And you've a pheasant and some boules? What a turn-up for the Boyo trousers!"

It was, as TASS news agency used to intone when faced with another bourgeois obstacle to the spastic lurch of the Soviet, "no accident" that fatherhood turned a gormless fantasist into a blinding social success, crafstman and child-tamer. He had been inducted into the Antient Order of the Dad.

After initial contact is made at the humidor/sheep market/cottaging spot, the new father starts popping out once a week for a couple of pints "now that the kid's sleeping ok", and begins to acquire the Starry Knowledge at the Esoteric Lodge of the Dad.

There he will receive the tiny gem that, embedded in watch-face, tie pin, tooth (in the case of our Romany brethren) or signet ring (in the case of people who really ought not to be allowed to sire children at all) marks the bearer as a "friend of ours".

One glint and he has access to the keys that mend broken toys, a discreet ulra-sonic device that permits faultless reverse parking, the gigolo's combination of words and gestures that dupes women and large dogs into thinking they can trust you, and the look that tells any child "One false step and I tell Miss Kilgore who put the crab in her aquarium".

It's obvious when you think about it. My father came to visit me and my then young lady in Oxford. He nipped upstairs to relieve himself and, it seems simultaneously, fixed the cistern, changed a washer on the tap and re-attached the shower head.

A glance about the garden had him prune a bush, find a Spanish doubloon and win over the neighbour who hadn't spoken to us since our Varèse With Bongos party.

Other contemporaries have confirmed this. A later lady friend had lived in Vienna for years, spoke passable German and naturally still struggled with the trip-wire etiquette of the Austrians. Her father turned up from Liverpool and declared "I'm off to get some sausages". His daughter explained that sausage mean salami in the Habsburg realm, and wished him luck.

Thirty minutes later he declared "I found a master butcher, went in, and explained what I wanted. He'll have the bangers ready by four." And they were. Our attempts to repeat this feat led to solicitor's letters. We were not Dads.

All falling into place, is it? I feel like those Watergate blokes when they realised it was Nixon all along, except I'm right.

Yet I'm still awaiting the call. I've not had the hand on the shoulder, the tap on the wrist or, for all I know, the palm gently cupping my nads in the gents at John Lewis. What have I done wrong? Why isn't it my time? Why can't I open jars? How long can my neighbour's wife keep hiding behind that bush?

Perhaps it's because I've worked it out. And let on.

"La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas."