Scene Unseen:
Josie And The Pussycats: Melody Showers

Film The cartoon, Josie And The Pussycats never really made her mark in the UK. The fact is that people do not sit about in pubs getting nostalgic about the cartoon about the girls with cat ears. I don't even remember seeing them on British tv, so when I saw the film it was very much from a fresh perspective. I adored it. Although outward appearances would suggest that its a film for forteen year old teenage girls (and I'm sure it works on that level) it has a deliciously subvsersive streak which works against the expectations. The film is laced, in fact smothered in product placement, every scene oosing with mentions for Mtv, clothing companies, drinks companies, sports companies. It's enough to make No Logo's Naomi Klien give up writing. But, the plotline revolves around the record company who sign the band subliminally using the music to advertise to listeners. Two faced or a subtle way of telling viewers that the company images on display are incidious. I'm guessing its the latter because when the Pussycats are being themselves, the ads slip away.

Then there are the songs. At the start of the film we meet fictional boyband 'Dejour' (featuring a post-Buffy Seth 'Oz' Green) bickering away about the trivial until they rumble the record company's plan and meet an untimely death. Here are the lyrics to their hit 'Backdoor Lover'. I should point out this is a PG film:

This kind of love is wrong
but you know it feels so right
Runnin' my hands across your cheeks
they're oh so smooth and white
so leave the light on baby
and unlock your back door
i'll be comin' through that way tonight
to love you for sure

Lyin' on your bed starin' up at the moon
you got me crazy
but i'll love you soon

i'm your back door lover
comin' from behind
with the lights down low
back door lover
just you and me
no one has to know
lemme meet you there at your secret spot
i'll show you a love thats
more than hot

Has there been a more cunning satire on the culture which follows the boyband and the subliminal double meaning which surrounds them as they start out at least (remember that Take That video with the sweat, the caps and the half nakedness? I try not to). The pop video for this song which appears on the dvd might look like it was knocked together in five minutes but it's shockingly close to the average clip which might appear on The Box.

What really makes the thing are the over the top performances. Its a visual cartoon and no one, not even Rachel Leigh Cook as Josie gets to be totally normal (although Rosario Dawson as fellow band member Cal comes closest). If I'm being honest, especially considering a cast that includes Eugene Levy and Parker Posey, its a rock version of A Mighty Wind which scews younger. But most of the jokes and references work for the older viewers and this is one of them. Tara Reid, one of the sassy ones in American Pie plays against type as Melody Valentine an airhead with a heart of gold (imagine Joey from Friends without common sense). Here she sings in the hotel shower, which is decked out in Macdonalds livery complete with sponges in the shape of a happy meal, but rather than practicing one of her own hits, or The Clash she sings:

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap clap)
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap clap)
If you're happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap clap)

And she really claps her hands, each time, dropping the sponge (which is shaped like a packet of fries), each time picking it up and starting the process again. She's happy in what's she's doing -- even though each time it drops to the floor it lengthens her shower time, its part of the process. It reminds me a little bit of the Tibetans who spend years on pilgrimages because they have to stop every few steps to bend over and pray. Within moments we find that its the preamble to a twist on the traditional thriller shower scene as a shadow passes by in the background. Unaware of this Melody leaves the cubicle and screams as she sees a mirror with the words "Beware of the Music" drawn on in lipstick. Rather than rushing out of the bathroom, she stops and carefully draws a face on the 'o' and turns the dot on the 'i' into a heart.
"That's better..." she grins as she leaves, completely failing to heed the warning.

It's a great scene because like I said it subverts expectations completely. Seeing Tara Reid in the shower should be sexy in an FHM way, but instead because of the character, the song, what she's doing and because the camera is locked off, it becomes an image of innocence of something that's lost in some people when they grow older and responsibilities kick in. Sometimes I feel just like Melody -- I'll try not to walk on the lines on the pavement, I'll splash in puddles, lick my plate and yes sing silly songs as the water sprinkles down my back. And when something hoves onto the horizon and scourges into this idyll, something shocking to throw us off track, can't we all take a lipstick out of this girl's purse and modify it so that it looks prettier. Very often its our attitude to something which is the problem, not the thing itself.

Which is kind of like this film, ignore the box, the trailer and the reviews and just watch it. It'll really take you by surprise.
Life Life continues to be a nostaligic trip into Northern Exposure territory as the Moscow State Circus' stay on our front lawn stretches into its fourth day. The tent loomed over me as I walked across the field to buy my newspaper. As I passed by the compound in which the performers have parked their caravans I noticed that some have a large satellite dish sitting on the grass nearby. The part of my brain which watched Moscow on the Hudson too many times fantasises that inside their curled up with vodka watching Russian television and thinking of home.

But it's been that kind of a day. After hot cross buns, I relaxed on the balcony watching Carol Reed's The Third Man for the first time. Considering the hold that Orson Wells has over the publicity and image of the film and how ubiquious the Harry Lime character is, he doesn't appear in the film all that much, he's a shadow, and idea of a person, it's all about him so his stature increases. But the film looks amazing and its a great chance to see Trevor Howard in something other than Brief Encounter, even if his moustache makes him look oddly like The Brigadeer from Dr Who.

The doorbell rang just as I was putting out the Bolognese at tea time. As we dashed out to see who it was I realised that all of our neighbours were out of their flats as well. They'd been someoned by a man carrying a shopping bag from Hush Puppies.
"Did anyone just take a taxi out from town?"
Someone had left the shoes in the back of his cab and he had driven all the way here and was walking down the tower block, stopping on each floor and ringing all the bells hoping that the owners of the shoes will appear to reclaim them. It would doubtless take him an hour especially if sods law comes into play and having gone to every flat it turns out to be someone on the first floor. I hope someone is going to be buying this benevolent taxi driver lots of easter eggs on Sunday.
Music A truly evocative piece by Lisa Grossman regarding music in the Kurdish community of Istanbul:
"A bone-rattling wail pierces the silence of the room. Shivers run down my spine. It’s hard to believe that this primordial sound is emanating from the lips of the young man standing before me. He seems to be channeling something ancient and unearthly. Slowly, other sounds emerge to fill the space around his voice: a slow and rhythmic drumming, the trilling of a wooden flute, melancholy chords of the stringed saz and the fluttering of an oboe-like instrument called a mey. Then come the words – lyrics that were long relegated to the dustbin of cultural oppression. That is, until now."
It's hard to imagine what it must be like under a regime that would ban a form of music completely in an attempt to wipe it out. Insert flip comment here about Pete Waterman and Simon Cowell.
Games Retro Gamer. £5.99 at all good newsagents in the UK. Classic Gamer. Free and downloadable here. I'm suddenly getting flashbacks -- should I buy Zzap! 64 or Commodore User. Choices, choices ... [latter link via ReBlog]
Life Confusing day. Our benevolant masters at work allowed a dress down day because it was effectively the end of the week anyway so I've spent much of the time thinking it was Friday, coming to a head tonight as I realised that a certain New York sitcom wouldn't be on tv until tomorrow. My general boredom continues to be a problem, although I did buy a DVD player for the tv on our balcony so that I can sit out there and watch old movies in the way that nature intended. There is always something enthralling about a new gadget.
Film Still massively looking forward to the semi-Spaced spin-off Sean of the Dead. BBC's The Collective takes a gaming angle to their interview with Simon Pegg which underlines that this isn't going to be like any other horror comedy:
"In this case, it created in a comic distinction between how adept the boys were with a PS2 but how inept they were with a Winchester rifle. “Shaun's very good at gaming, but when it comes to actually firing the gun he's crap at it. It takes him nine times to actually hit somebody in the head.”
I'm thinking about getting out my old VHS copy of I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle in preparation.
People Particularly massive picture of Elizabeth Wurtzel. Build your own desktop wallpaper.
The Internet April Fool?
"From the beginning of June you will need to buy a licence to access the Internet or risk facing a fine of up to £1,000. Computers with their monitors set to a resolution of 1024x768 and above will cost £121 a year to license, while resolutions of 640x480 and below will cost £40.50 a year....

The new charges will be enforced by Internet detector vans which will scan neighbourhoods for the telltale signs of Internet use. "We'll be on the lookout for closed curtains and the phosphorous glow of a computer monitor in the dead of night," said Harrow. "Subscriptions to computer magazines, a penchant for take away Pizza and Linux T-Shirts are also dead giveaways that you're using the Internet."
Does that mean because my monitor is 800x600 I'll be exempt?
Life I saw a man have a truck driven over him on purpose tonight. Luckily I was at The Moscow State Circus and he was the strong man and a strong man. I would like to tell you his name but in the din of the music and the screaming of the children I didn't quite catch it even though it was read out five times. It was a deeply impressive sight as the tires heaved up the ramp and up and over, the unbearable strain marking the man's face. I'm sure there are all kinds of techniques in play to do with the spreading of weight around the body and the conservation of energy but eventually it's just him and the undercarriage.

The show is littered with these moments as human interacts with apparatus in a physical struggle. Like the rest of the world, circuses have become more complicated, extending the abilities of the performers. The live wire act for example becomes a matter of angles and height - so we can see the man walk in a straight line, but how about on a rope set at 45 degrees? Or sixty degrees? Or on a unicycle? And if you're going to juggle why not do it while standing on someone else's shoulders balances on a board and Diablo using five balls?

The seats were wooden hard and the air filled with the smell of sawdust and candyfloss. The tent was warmer than I was expecting. For some reason the audience reaction seemed inadequate. Some of the human achievements on display were mind boggling and all we could do was clap or be silent in the right places. Something new I noticed here was the muted gasp, which greets the moment when the performer makes a 'mistake' which we cynically think has been worked into the act to add tension. There was also lots of video-messaging and mobile phone chattering in evidence during the show which also seemed a tad pointless. What did you people actually buy your ticket for? And after the grand finale as the performers came out to do their lap of honour, people started to leave, rushing for their cars as though they needed to get somewhere really quickly. People can very rude.
TV I completely missed Freaks and Geeks when it aired in the early days of E4 but the reaction seems to have been similar to My So-Called Life so that alone would make me interested in buying the DVD boxset. But then I hear about the ingenuity which has gone into the 29 audio commentaries which appear on the 18 episodes there-in:
"All of the actors appear on at least one track, even people like Linda Cardellini (geek-turned-freak Lindsay) and James Franco (hunky freak Daniel), who have gone on to bigger things. (It's also funny to hear John Francis Daley , who was a squeaky pre-pubescent on the show and now has a voice only a half-octave above Isaac Hayes).

But there are also tracks with writers, tracks where fans talk about why they loved the show, a track where three actors who played teachers discuss the show in character (including the hilarious Dave 'Gruber' Allen as aging hippie Jeff Rosso, who tries to discuss educational philosophies with the gym teacher). There's even one where Apatow asks executives from NBC and production company DreamWorks why the show failed."
That's comprehensive and amusing. Who needs to actually watch television on television any more? [via tvt]
Life The Moscow State Circus are in town. The window in my room overlooks the tent in this news report and I can just about hear music as they practice for the opening night through my double glazing (which disconsertingly sounds like 'Lust For Life' by Iggy Pop which should be great for the kids). The free ticket man who visited my Dad's work last week means I'm going to see them tomorrow night. I'll let you know what happens ...
Music I think the following speaks for itself:
"In a pre-planned, live sketch last night at The 2004 JUNO Awards, Canada's music awards, host Alanis Morissette made light of the recent Super Bowl controversy in the United States when she "exposed" herself on Canadian television. The songstress appeared on stage in a robe and stated that Canadians "live in a land where we still think the human body is beautiful and we're not afraid of the female breast."

She removed her robe to reveal a comical nude body suit with cartoonish nipples and pubic hair. To wild applause, Morissette stated that "I am proud to be able to stand here and do this." Morissette continued her playfullness and removed her "tear-away" nipples and pubic hair when the in-house announcer advised that "we can't show nipples on national TV...and you can't show your pubic hair either."
Can I also point out that the line-up for the JUNO awards "Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado, Michael Buble, Nickelback, Simple Plan and Barenaked Ladies" sounds as though someone decided to make a live version of my CD collection? [The BBC have a photo]
Blogging in the style of ...


Following the usual trend I've signed up to Kinja and created a digest. I've fiddled about with RSS feeds before but never been completely satisfied. I like visiting the websites and see the words in their original context and formatting. Suw says everything I would want to say about this new enterprise. The snippets are too short and currency is a real issue. Only a couple of sites I can tell have been updated lately have reflected as much on Kinja. But it is still only in beta so these things will hopefully be ironed out.

I'm in Vinyl Exchange last Tuesday and having grabbed the soundtrack albums of The Dreamers and Everyone Says I Love you and with limited time to get the cinema I realise I haven't picked up the obligatory bargain album by a female vocalist. To keep up the French theme I'd noticed in the other two cds I grab Kate Ryan's album from the racks -- some of the albums are in that language even if her name isn't terribly gaelic. But she's written a couple of the tracks herself, and although I don't notice a mention of any instruments (so not folk then) there is always the possibility of something faux-Charlton. £3.

Sadly it looks like an attractive blonde lady turned my head. The album is dance music. And generic dance music at that. The kind of dance music you expect dance music to sound like without actually being very good. It's clear she has a pretty good voice and could have gone far if her producers hadn't been idolising the Vengaboys in the creation of the album. Every track sounds the same, using samples and drum beats which the Pet Shops Boys abandoned in the mid-nineties. Track Four in particular sounds like a Eurovision entry and not in Dana International ironic sense. In other places it's like someone doing a cover version of a Girl Aloud track over and over and over again. It's also particular monotonous to hear some tracks in French and English. Or at least I think that's what is happening ....

I wasn't feeling at all rock and roll yesterday, hence the post below which I refuse to delete on the grounds that to do so would re-write history and that's the sort of thing they do in communist regimes. Today was -- better. I managed to get through work with mostly the minimum of fuss. Sometimes the monotony of my workplace really helps because I don't have to take things home with me. The seven hours I sleep, the nine hours I spend on the work thing and the other ten hours are up for grabs. Which is lucky because the Buffy: Season Seven boxset was released today, looking all green and healthy. So here is an entirely gratuitous picture of Willow ...

Congratulations to Chris who backed the first and second place horses on Saturday in the Grand National and managed to bring in £125. Mum also picked the third place and made a fiver which is the most any of us have made ever. Sadly neither of my horses warranted even a mention in the commentary, although I'm satisfield that my choice the 100-1 shot 'The Bunny Boiler' is out somewhere making some male horse's life a misery.
Life That day, that day. What a mess what a marvel. I walked into that cloud again and I lost myself, and I'm sad, sad, sad small, alone, scared, craving purity a fragile mind and a gentle spirit. That day, that day. What a marvellous mess, this is all that I can do, I'm done to be me, sad, scared, small, alone, beautiful. It's supposed to be like this. I accept everything. It's supposed to be like this.

That day, that day. I lay down beside myself, In this feeling of pain, sadness. Scared, small, climbing, crawling. Towards the light. And it's all I see and I'm tired and I'm right. And I'm wrong. And it's beautiful.

That day that day What a mess What a marvel We're all the same And no one thinks so And it's okay And I'm small And I'm divine And it's beautiful And it's coming But it's already here And it's absolutely perfect

That day, that day When everything was a mess
And everything was in place And there's too much hurt
Sad, small, scared, alone And everyone's a cynic And it's hard and it's sweet
But it's supposed To be like this

That day, that day
When I sat in the sun
And I thought and I cried
'Cause I'm sad, scared, small
Alone, strong
And I'm nothing
And I'm true
Only a brave (wo)man
Can break through
And it's all okay
Yeah, it's okay

[I had written something else to post here. But there was far more detail than I should include here, so I thought I could post these lyrics instead. Funny how a Natalie Imbruglia song can express how I'm feeling with the same clarity as my own words. It's just some late twenties angst which needs sorting out. See what happens when you read an article about weblogs and it pleads with you to start writing about yourself.]
Weblogging The author Simon Garfield has a book coming out shortly Our Hidden Lives: The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain:
"In 1936 anthropologist Tom Harrison, poet and journalist Charles Madge and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings set up the Mass Observation Project. The idea was simple: ordinary people would record, in diary form, the events of their everyday lives. An estimated one million pages eventually found their way to the archive - and it soon became clear this was more than anyone could digest. Today, the diaries are stored at the University of Sussex, where remarkably most remain unread." -- Amazon synopsis
Blogging is an obvious successor to this on a mass scale. In a hundred years historians will be able to look back at this time and be able to understand how people felt and what life was like in an unprecedented details (baring mega-war or asteroids). So with this book in mind it isn't surprising to see Garfield's photo peeping out of one of those creepy little windows in The Observer this morning accompanying a great little article about what I'm doing right now. Some of the usual suspects are namechecked but the piece generally introduces readers to everyone else:
"If you want to know what ordinary, literate and computer-savvy people are thinking and doing today, you can wait an age for the mythical great British novel or you can speak to a random sample of strangers on the phone, but it's simpler to log on to the UK Blogs Aggregator to find that last Thursday between 9am and 11am, 66 people had updated their blogs with recent news. These included the sites Rogue Semiotics, funkypancake, holygoat, the Coffee Grounds, Foe Romeo, Linkmachinego, My Deep Thoughts and Memetank. Among them you could find observations on loud phone users on trains, the Today programme's April Fool, the new Batman film and the killings in Fallujah ('Why are these people being called "defence contractors" and not mercenaries?')."
Wonder how long it will take for Garfield's piece to turn up on Blogdex ...