D&C’s L.P. E.T.A. F.Y.I.

Daphne & Celeste circa 2018Fans of super-cute snarky synth-pop rejoice! Daphne and Celeste have (finally) reunited with composer Max Tundra to produce a album full of shiny new tracks, modestly titled “Daphne & Celeste Save The World”, due for release on March 30th (and available for pre-order via their website, in a bumper variety of bundles and formats (including cassette!)). This exciting announcement was accompanied by a lyric video for their latest release, “BB”, a song that sees the dynamic duo taking aim at Bob-Dylan-aping “basic buskers”, and their ubiquity across the airwaves. Fair’nuff. Meanwhile, tickets are on sale for a pre-release live performance at The Dome and Heaven in London, just a couple days before the album drops (March 27th, to be precise). Hurrah!

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“Pogo! Pogo! Pogo! Pogo!”

Back in November I was bemoaning the fact that Britain’s foremost (and funniest) rock/rap-covers comedy act, The Lounge Kittens, hadn’t played any gigs near me, and hoped that there might be some coming up in the near future… then, less than a fortnight later, my whiney wish was granted, when they revealed that they’d arranged a couple special live appearances for February 2018, in honour of Independent Venues Week. Not only were tickets for the Bournemouth show a total bargain, I also discovered that the chosen venue (Sound Circus) was literally just-across-the-street from the train station (and had very positive word-of-mouth on t’internet), meaning I had absolutely no excuses to be a lazy/antisocial stay-at-home potato.

The Lounge Kittens @ Sound Circus - Bournemouth (2/18)

I bought my ticket early, and waited for the weeks to grind by… only for a hugely disappointing bombshell to drop on the morning of the gig itself, with the announcement that TLK wouldn’t actually be taking to the stage until 9:45pm, a mere half-hour before the last train home (for me) departed the station. I was faced with a gruelling choice: Either leave early to catch the train and miss a sizeable chunk of the show, or stay to the end and be stranded in a strange-ish town for the night! I had spine-chilling visions of being forced to ride a night-bus around and around the borough just to stay warm, while I waited for the trains to start running again the next morning… but apparently all of that fretting was just a foolish, shaky-legged waste of sweat, because the angels (or possibly the Super-Moon?) were smiling down on me that night, and they somehow managed to delay the final train by a full hour. Hurrah!*

Consequently, I was mighty glad that I chose to chance it, and enjoy TLK’s set to the fullest, because it was honestly the best night out I’ve had in years. Their sweary three-part harmonies sounded just as gorgeous in person as they do on record, with the added bonus of hilarious facial expressions, minxy dance moves, and adorable between-song banter… which I can’t really repeat here, because I’m sure it would sound a lot ruder coming out of my fingertips, than it does coming from the mouths of good friends ribbing each other. All in all, it seemed like they were having a great time up on stage, and thankfully we were all invited to share in the fun, with joyful singalongs during their marathon mash-up medleys. I can’t even imagine how anyone could sing those things as beautifully and relentlessly as they do without passing out, but I guess it’s a combination of natural talent and tireless practice? Certainly you can’t accuse them of resting on their laurels, as they actually have/had another three (sold out) shows scheduled for the next day (today) in Southampton, including two (non-sweary) all-ages matinees!

The Lounge Kittens @ Sound Circus - Bournemouth (2/18)

With all that on their plate, we could’ve easily forgiven them for wanting an early night, but as soon as they’d finished their set the Kittens hot-footed it straight from the stage to the bar area to chat with their fans, and pose for pics, without so much as a sit-down or a backstage tea-break beforehand! Bless ‘em. Sadly I decided not to take my camera along (because of all the hopelessly blurry disappointments I’ve captured with that thing at previous live events), so I have no photographic evidence to prove I was there (the above pictures were snaffled from their Twitter feed)… but I did buy a T-shirt and a badge as souvenirs, after self-consciously/awkwardly explaining that I already owned their album and E.P., otherwise I’d obviously have bought them too. Because they are ace.

P.S. The title of this post is a reference to my fave song in TLK’s repertoire, “Bounce”, originally recorded by System of a Down. The repeating “pogo” line makes me laugh hysterically every time I hear it, and last night was no exception… which is unfortunate, because I have a very unattractive/unmanly laugh… thankfully no one turned to glare at me, or ask who’d accidentally let a braying donkey into the club…

P.P.S. Since the point of IVW is to shine a light on smaller venues, I should also say how much I loved Sound Circus, and heartily concur with the online reviews regarding the friendliness of the staff. It felt very homey somehow, and they had some great rock/metal songs playing between acts, so if you’re ever in the area and looking for a hang-out, then I highly recommend it.

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* Though I doubt the people who were actually expecting it to be on time were quite so happy, of course…

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HMD 2018

Yesterday I slouched into town for the annual Holocaust Memorial Day service, which is rather unfortunately held in an exposed park near the train-tracks, meaning that speakers are often drowned-out/interrupted by the sound of passing locomotives. Symbolic, or just annoying… who can say? This year we also had a car-washer stood in a car-park overlooking us, waiting patiently to resume his work, which was a little disconcerting… especially when we were all asked to sing the Jewish blessing “Shalom Aleichem” (meaning “peace be upon you”) for several rounds, despite the fact that we, a random group of non-Hebrew-speaking strangers, couldn’t seem to agree on a tempo, tune, or consistent pronunciation. Sigh…

Annelies Marie Frank (1929 – 1945)On the plus-side, this year’s theme was “The Power of Words”, which prompted several readings from Anne Frank’s books, including these timeless observations from her think-piece “Give” (one of several essays collected in Tales from the Secret Annex):

“Everyone is born the same, everyone has to die, and nothing remains of their worldly glory. Riches, power, and fame last only for a few years! Why do people cling so desperately to these transitory things? Why can’t people who have more than they need for themselves give that surplus to their fellow citizens? Why should some people have such a hard time during their few years on this earth?” “There is plenty of room for everyone in the world, enough money, riches, and beauty for all to share! God has made enough for everyone! Let us all begin then by sharing it fairly.”

On the way home, I happened to spot a brand new DVD of Fiddler on the Roof (1971) for sale in a charity shop, and bought that to watch in the evening. It isn’t actually about the Holocaust, of course, but does depict an impoverished Jewish community being oppressed and uprooted by Anti-Semitic authorities, so there’s a resonance there, right? Either way, it’s a very funny and moving musical, with a great cast and classic songs, so I highly recommend it… though my enjoyment was slightly impaired by the fact that I have Yidcore’s punky cover version of the soundtrack embedded in my brain, from repeated plays…

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“Regards!”

Celeste Dring and Freya Parker (aka “Lazy Susan”) circa 2017A couple months back, the BBC decided to throw up a registration-moat around its iPlayer, to make it impossible for casual viewers/listeners to catch-up on shows they’d missed without typing in a username and password every damn time… which is an especially painful process if you’re doing it via an onscreen keyboard using a set-top-box remote, dammit!* I resisted for a while, but two shows swayed me to finally sign-up/in… one was the latest season of French crime-drama Spiral, and the other was Radio 4’s The East Coast Listening Post, a spoof investigative “human interest” podcast written and performed by character-comedy duo Lazy Susan, aka Freya Parker and Celeste Dring. Here they play a pair of interpid American sisters, transplanted to the UK to report back on interesting people they’ve encountered, including eccentric feuding aristocrats, has-been costumed mascots, and repressed support-group leaders.

The episodes are only 15-minutes long, but they pack in plenty jokes, engaging story-arcs, fun performances, and an impressive supporting cast. I also thought that the lead characters, ‘Jenna’ and ‘Dana’, came across as genuinely charming, cool, crush-worthy co-hosts, who I’d happily follow across multiple formats/media… so, snaps to their multi-tasking creators for that!

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* Though I admit that being able to “follow” favourite shows will save having to type their titles in every week, so I guess it balances out in the long-run…?

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“Uh, This Is The Crew Of The USS Callister…”

[Contains distracting pizza deliveries and SPOILERS!!!]

The cast/crew of The USS Callister in “Black Mirror” (ep #4.1)Although I’m a big fan of Charlie Brooker’s work as a satirical critic, commentator, and panel-show presenter… not to mention his priceless contribution to British comedy/culture as the brain-father of Philomena Cunk… I’m a little more ambivalent about his dramatic output, and bailed on the critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning science-fiction anthology series Black Mirror somewhere around the second season. Despite the cleverness of the scripts, and the quality of the casting, it’s just a little too miserable and misanthropic for my tastes… too desaturated and sombre… so I was very confused/intrigued when I saw promo photos for the first episode of the new (fourth) season, suggesting a bright, shiny, retro-styled homage to old-timey technicolour space-operas, such as the original Star Trek series. Of course, I assumed that something horrible and unsettling was going to happen to the eponymous spaceship’s squeaky-clean sacrificial-lambs over the course of the story, but the soppy optimist in me was still blindly hoping that they’d find a way to overcome their ordeal in the end… and, much to my surprise, they did!*

Cristin Milioti as ‘Nanette Cole’ in “Black Mirror” (ep #4.1)To short-hand it for those who haven’t seen the episode yet, all of the crew-members pictured above, save for their seated Captain, are digital-clones of real people (with all their memories and personality traits intact), unwittingly trapped in a highly-advanced virtual-reality video game, and sectioned off in a custom-skinned pocket-universe inspired by the co-creator’s fave cult sci-fi show “Space Fleet”. In fact, they’re all office-mates who have supposedly “wronged” the petty programmer, who jacks-in every evening after work to role-play as their preening superior, and vent his frustrations on them, via vicious acts of torture and disfigurement, when they don’t behave in a satisfactorily fawning and subservient manner. Using cheat-codes to give himself near-godlike powers, he rules his cheesy little realm with an iron fist, and a painful lack of imagination… until, that is, he makes the mistake of assimilating nerdy new-girl ‘Nanette Cole’ (Cristin Milioti) into his silicon menagerie, and she employs her abundant intelligence to f*ck him up, both in the game-world and in reality. Hurrah! The episode ends on a happy up-beat, with the virtual crew conducting a surprisingly successful and empowering mutiny (which leaves their human tormentor’s consciousness trapped in a trash bin somewhere), and breaking out into an ever-expanding MMORPG universe, appropriately titled “Infinity”. Nanette’s triumphant smile in the final shot, as she settles into the vacant captain’s chair, is both well-earned and extremely uplifting.

As soon as the end credits rolled, my geeky little brain started hopping up and down yelping: “Ooh-ooh! Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a spin-off show, where we got to see their actual adventures, as they explore new worlds, and seek out new life-forms, etcetera?” And apparently I wasn’t the only one, as this Hollywood Reporter interview with episode director Toby Haynes bears out. Is six seasons and a movie too much to ask? Make it so! At the very least, I’d like to see Jimmi Simpson get a few gongs for his alternately hilarious and heart-breaking turn as the ship’s longest-serving/hardest-suffering victim. According to Haynes, the veteran scene-stealer nailed his epic monologue in a single take! Kudos.

Cristin Milioti as ‘Nanette Cole’ in “Black Mirror” (ep #4.1)[Note: An earlier version of this post included a rambling three-thousand-word digression about Milotti’s eyeballs/brows, but it was removed for the sake of brevity/dignity. Instead of that, here’s a link to an interview in which she discusses her joy at landing the role, and how she summoned up her inner “warrior spirit”!]

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* According to the man himself: “This season, the writing of it started in July 2016, so there were episodes being written all through the American election… and everything was looking horrible. I genuinely thought, I don’t know what state the world’s going to be in by the time these [episodes] appear, and I don’t know how much appetite there will be for nothing but bleak nihilism… If you’re living in a dystopia, you don’t necessarily want to look at another one. So I sort of thought, let’s maybe not make them all [depressing].” Amen!

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Deck The Halls With Bots

"Christmas seems to be here, and we thought we should tell you that."I only discovered the surreal comedy-genius of Botnik Studios a couple days ago, via an article in The Guardian, but the site’s already given my belly-muscles a serious work-out (which I’m very grateful for, considering all the cheese and cakes I’ll be scoffing this month), so I thought I’d share their festive family newsletter with y’all, in honour of the occasion. As far as I can make out, the peeps running the site use a predictive text keyboard to generate a stream of glorious nonsense (randomly drawn from a reserve of relevant text), and then cherry-pick/polish the choicest nuggets for public consumption. Bless ’em.

So far my faves include their excerpt from a nightmarish Harry Potter novel (Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash), and a spec script for an episode of The X-Files (modestly titled “Coveralls”) which I would dearly love to see the real cast act out someday…

Anyhoo, I hope everyone out there in imaginary-reader land is having a happy holiday, and snagging some exciting bargains in the sales… I picked up the Funko “Log Lady” figure for a fiver, which has made me very merry indeed! The wine helps too, of course…

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Harley-volution (Pt. 7)

[Continuing my compulsive cataloguing of Harley Quinn‘s various on-screen appearances, in (roughly) chronological order. Contains will-crushing fist-bumps and SPOILERS!!!]

Harley Quinn in “Justice League Action” (ep #1.25)After her brief cameo in an earlier instalment of the short-and-snappy Justice League Action cartoon series, our ‘Harley’ (Tara Strong) returned for a slightly more substantial (though still sadly subordinate) appearance in ep #1.25, aka “Garden of Evil”. Once again written by co-creator Paul Dini, the episode saw her playing bridesmaid to gal-pal ‘Poison Ivy’, who was using her apparently-unlimited plant-control powers to manipulate ‘Swamp Thing’ (Mark Hamill) into marrying her, and destroying the eponymous super-hero squad as a wedding gift! I have to say I found Ivy’s voice especially alluring this time around, but it wasn’t until the end credits rolled that I realised that was because she was being played by none-other-than Natasha Leggero! Although Ivy was the main antagonist of the episode, Harley did get to bust out her old “Boingy! Boingy!” catchphrase while bouncing around on spring-heeled shoes, and even managed to take down the far-more-powerful ‘Firestorm’ (P.J. Byrne) with nothing more than a sucker-punch with a boxing-glove! Hurrah!

Many months later, she managed to score a more central role (and titular namecheck) in ep #1.42 (“Harley Goes Ape”), though she didn’t actually show her face on-screen until two minutes into the episode, which only ran to ten minutes total! Tch! Still, at least she was credited with the crazy criminal cunning to exploit the distraction/danger of a giant ape attack in Metropolis to sneak into an abandoned jewellery store and bag herself some bling. Her heist was rudely interrupted by the do-gooding ‘Stargirl’ (Natalie Lander), who turfed Harley back out onto the street, where she had an impromptu encounter with the rampaging primate, ‘Titano’, an old chum from her days as a behavioural zoologist at S.T.A.R. Labs (who was subsequently shot off into space and embiggened by a Kryptonite comet). Unfortunately, he was now being piggy-backed and worked like a furry meat-puppet by ‘Gorilla Grodd’ (David Sobolov), so the reunion was sweet, but short-lived.

Harley Quinn in “Justice League Action” (ep #1.42)After ‘Superman’ (Jason J. Lewis) and Stargirl managed to prise the malevolent mind-controlling monkey* off of Titano’s back, he went rogue, and scooped Harley up for the inevitable King Kong spoof. “I seem to remember seeing something like this in a movie”, she observes, as they scale the Daily Planet tower, before noting that “It didn’t end well!” Thankfully she and Stargirl were able to sooth the savage beast with a song (and a giant promotional teddy-bear), before he took a fatal tumble… but then Supes “rewarded” our anti-heroine for helping to save the city by shoving her in the back of a meat-wagon with Grodd, simply because she still happened to have some “hot rocks” on her person! Harsh! That said, it did give her a chance to bust out her therapy pad, and offer the stewing simian some free psychoanalysis, so all’s well that ends well, eh?

Overall, this episode (once again written by Dini) was a very enjoyable romp, with numerous humorous highlights… such as Harley hyping herself as “America’s screwball sweetheart” (and rather less plausibly as “Batman’s arch-enemy”), and the ease/alacrity with which she casually picked the lock on her standard-issue police handcuffs! I also dug her odd-couple dynamic with Stargirl, who she nick-named “powerpuff”… presumably as an in-joke-y reference to one of Strong’s (many) other voice-over roles, as ‘Bubbles’ on The Powerpuff Girls…?

Harley Quinn in “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017)Meanwhile, over in a whole other animated “universe”, Harley returned to the world of sticky toy-bricks in The Lego Batman Movie (2017)… which, much like its predecessor (The Lego Movie (2014)), made me chuckle and gasp many times, but never laugh-out-loud. They’re both superficial frantic fun, and very enjoyable in the moment, but much harder to care about after the credits have rolled, imho. Although I’d been looking forward to hearing Jenny Slate’s take on Harley, I found myself rather underwhelmed by the end result… largely because she wasn’t really given a substantial role to play, or any ear-catching dialogue or memorable jokes to work with. The same goes for the other supporting female characters, voiced by ringers like Riki Lindhome (as ‘Poison Ivy’ and ‘Wicked Witch of the West’), Kate Micucci (as ‘Clayface’), Zoë Kravitz (as ‘Catwoman’), Ellie Kemper (as ‘Phyllis’, gate-keeper of The Phantom Zone), and Laura Kightlinger (as ‘Reporter Pippa’ and ‘Orca’)… though Rosario Dawson fared a lot better as ‘Barbara Gordon’ (aka ‘Batgirl’), one of the main antagonists in the movie, who succeeded her father as Gotham’s Police Commissioner, and attempted to end the egotistical vigilante’s lone-wolf law-bending. Btw, why does every single Lego-based Batman movie have to kick-off with ‘The Joker’ (Zach Galifianakis) recruiting the rest of the “rogue’s gallery” to wreck up his home city? Seriously, this is the third time that’s happened now, and it’s getting kinda boring… meh…

Note: IMDb has now discontinued its character-centric filmography pages, which will make it much trickier to keep track of Harley’s appearances as she flits from screen to screen. Dammit!

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* I know that technically Grodd’s also an ape, not a “monkey”, but that spoils the alliteration/pun.

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