Why I Love The Following

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

In 2003, FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) captured Edgar Allen Poe obsessive, Briton and serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).  He was also stabbed in the heart and banged Carroll’s wife.  Carroll has become the leader of a cult from behind bars, and when he escapes to pursue his homicidal hobby, Ryan is drawn back in to hunt Carroll and his disciples down…

Episode 4: Mad Love

At the house:

Emma: Paul, you and me got some serious sexual tension to go with our inexplicable mutual jealousy over Jacob even though he looks like his own waxwork figurine and is totally wet.  Also, you shouldn’t go round kidnapping and gagging random young women even if that’s what we do as members of a deranged death cult because, y’know, standards. Oh and we’ve got Carroll’s idiot son running about the place and even he might get suspicious if he sees her.

Kidnapped woman: Mmph mmph mmph.  (“Yes, Carroll’s boy does appear to be unusually stupid.”)

Paul: Fuck you Emma.

Emma: Not ‘til the end of the episode.

Paul: Jacob, I got this woman for you because you’re a killing virgin, and frankly it’s a little embarrassing.  I don’t judge but Emma definitely will, because that girl is all kinds of crazy and I definitely don’t want to have sex with her in a shower.  You should stop lying to her.

Jacob: Wait, I’m confused, lying about not having killed anyone, or lying about how our make-believe relationship involves a lot of real man-on-man action and a genuine emotional connection?

Paul: Yes.

Jacob: Come to think of it, do you not think that our relationship is a little demeaning to the gay community?

Paul: You mean how we’re two murder crazy straight guys who have to pretend to be a couple for no logical reason particularly while we were engaged in a highly sensitive, heavily pressured surveillance mission and as such our relationship is almost entirely gratuitous and one of us could have easily been played by a woman and kept the kinky love triangle thing with Emma and how implying a link between homosexuality and murder craziness is perhaps insensitive given the relative paucity of gay couples on the tv?

Jacob: Yes.

Paul: Can’t say I’ve thought about it.

Jacob: Well that’s fair enough.

____

At the FBI:

Ryan gets a call from his sister but ignores it.  There’s a flashback to 2009 to remind the audience that Ryan’s totally an alcoholic, which helps him self-medicate his emotional issues even though both ideas are massively cliché.  In the present Ryan goes to talk to Carroll in a nod to Silence of The Lambs.

Ryan: You look like shit in orange.  How’s the hackneyed Edgar Allen Poe obsession going?

Carroll: Don’t be silly, Bacon – I’m quite literally the sexiest serial killer ever.  I don’t even need charisma because I look like James Purefoy.  That’s why you spend so much time flirting with me despite me being almost entirely useless as a source of reliable information.  You’re not bad yourself considering you’re an alcoholic with a literally broken heart.

Ryan: Yeah you got a good pouty squint going, and ok maybe we’re getting a bit homoerotic, but you can’t out-intense-eye-acting me – I’m Kevin Bacon.  Tell me about Maggie.

Carroll: Didn’t she shoot Mr Burns?  She’s very special – I’ve got very high hopes for her, Bacon.  Thanks for killing her husband by the way, now she can really flourish even though she’s an established serial killer in her own right.  Oh damn, I totally didn’t mean to let that slip.

Ryan: Ha! I’m going to take your info leak at face value even though that would never happen.

Carroll: Cough-ARKANSAS-cough.  Sorry, bit of a tickle in my throat.

Later…

Ryan receives another call from his sister, which he ignores.  There’s another flashback to 2009 to remind the audience that Ryan has a pacemaker fitted as a result of being stabbed in the heart and is an alcoholic with emotional issues, which is impacting his health.  In the present he gets another call from his sister.  He picks it up.

Ryan: Go for Bacon.

Maggie: Tricked you! If you want your sister back, you have to come to her restaurant that is the first place any investigator would probably look.  And you have to come alone and unarmed.

Ryan: Sounds reasonable.  Bacon out.

Mike: Bacon, I’m YOUR creepy follower, so I know who Jenny is and what you look like when you’re sleeping.  Don’t worry, I didn’t tell anyone at FBI though – they just think we’re going for ice cream or something.

Ryan: I’m pretty sure that Maggie’s insane and I shouldn’t risk my sister’s life by breaking her rules needlessly.  But what the heck, it’ll be nice to have some company on the drive over.

____

At the house:

Emma: Look Paul, I know your secret – I know that you’re totally gay for Jacob.  I get it, he has a face like an unlit candle, you guys were always gonna’ get your gay on.

Paul: That’s a surprisingly crude way of putting it, but actually that’s not the secret.  The secret is that Jacob is a killing virgin.

There is a flashback to 2009 when Jacob tells a spectacularly unconvincing lie about his ‘first time’ which they all believe because they’re exceptionally dull-witted. Paul has curlier hair and wears glasses to emphasise that he’s a total loser-outsider.

Paul: Man I was such a loser-outsider then before I met you guys and formed this weird threeway thing.

Emma: Threeway comes later.

Paul: What?

Emma: Nothing.  I can’t believe Jacob lied to me – that is so not cool.

Paul: I know, right.

Emma: Here’s a knife, Jacob, go into the basement alone and kill the girl.  We don’t need to be there, we’ll just take your word for it that you killed her and didn’t let her escape.

Later Jacob will go to the basement, find that he’s unable to kill the girl and instead help her to escape so she can hide in the barn.

____

At the restaurant:

Ryan: Wow I can’t believe that after I read the note and put on the blindfold like you wanted, you hit me in the head and tied me up.  They don’t train you for this at FBI.

Maggie: I know about your pacemaker, here is a magnet, which will totally kill you.  The likelihood of you actually coming here alone without alerting anyone at all is vanishingly small, but I’m going to accept your word at face value and kill you in a slow, James Bond villain sort of way.  By the way I’m totes off message on this, so don’t think I’ll let you live just cause’ James Purefoy gives me a total lady boner and he wants you to suffer at least until the end of the series unless we get picked up for another one.

Mike: By the power of FBI I demand you stop this nonsense.

Maggie: You really want to go, kid? I’ve got a knife.

Mike shoots her with his gun.

____

At the house:

Emma: Wow.  I am totally turned on after killing that girl.  Look Paul, I know you love Jacob and I know this is hard for you.

Paul: You mean I’m hard for you.  (he raises a hand for a high five which will never come)

Emma: Let’s wash this mud off in the shower together.  But we’re definitely not getting it on, ok?  By the way, I’m sending mixed messages here.

They start going at it.  Jacob shows up, also a bit muddy.

Jacob: Guys I’m feeling a bit emotional right now, I’m properly sorry for lying to you guys, lying is pretty much the single most awful thing anyone can do. I’m also pretty sure I should be upset that you’re both cheating on me with each other.  Wait Paul – I thought you’d gone straight up gay?

Paul: It’s ok Jacob, we don’t need labels – this is the 90s.  Now get in here so the three of us can do some kinky porno stuff to each other.

____

Ryan: Claire, we traced Maggie’s phone call to upstate New York so I’m going up there even though I probably need some medical attention and time to recuperate, having a pacemaker and an alcohol dependency problem and all. But the Bacon won’t rest until he’s saved your son.

Claire: I appreciate that, but things have been pretty tough for me since my serial killer ex-husband set his cult on me and kidnapped my boy.

Ryan: With hindsight you should’ve known he was a bad guy in the first place – he is British for Chrissakes.

Claire: You’re right…I could really do with some company and support, just someone to reach out to even just for one night because I’m terrified and emotionally wrung out.  Please stay with me – we don’t need to talk because I know you’ve got emotional issues and you’re trying to be a modern twist on the stoic John Wayne type.  I, I just need someone to hold me close, even if just for five minutes because it’s been so long since someone reached out to me and, I’m really struggling.  It, it feels like I’m drowning.  Please, I’m literally begging you.

Ryan: No can do, babe, Bacon’s gotta’ do what Bacon’s gotta’ do.

Ryan leaves.

 

The end.

10 Things Not To Say To An Interview Candidate

“Are those real?”

 

“Let’s see, Mr…uh…no, there’s no way I’m going to be able to pronounce that, so I’ll be calling you…er…Steve.”

 

“Sorry about the delay – we just need to clean up the mess left by the last candidate and air the place out a bit.” (to a passing employee) “Can you fetch me a mop? And something absorbent.”

 

“No, no, I mean; where are you from originally?”

 

“Before we begin, we’re legally obligated to ask you whether you need a safe word?”

 

“What benefits do we offer? How about this – you get the benefit of getting my coffee in the morning and giving me all the credit for your hard work, including any and all bonus payments. Oh, and sometimes you get to work on Sundays.”

 

“We like to think of the company as a big, happy family. Like the Manson family.”

 

“Right if you’ll just pop your clothes off then we can begin. No, just leave them in a neatly folded pile in the corner. NO. Do. Not. Make. Eye contact.”

 

“Oh Christ, look at your shoes – they’re just awful. And that jacket… Who dresses you?”

 

“…And that’s why I believe Hitler was right all along.*”

__

And the bonus…

 

“Let me just say that I for one look forward to seeing more of you in the next round. Maybe even all of you.”

 

*callback, yo.

Friday’s Mental Exercise

People in general have more than the 5-senses-plus-ESPN mantra we recognise. Here are 2 examples: you can feel heat emanating off things without touching them. You always know where your hand is in relation to your body, even if your eyes are closed.

For this week’s mental exercise, close your eyes and try hitting yourself in the face without knowing it’s coming. That’s right, make a fist or an open slappy hand and ambush your own face.

In order to achieve this, you may need to disengage your conscious mind in favour of your subconscious, which would only be too delighted to make you hit yourself in the face. Your subconscious hates you, which explains all those dreams you keep having.

There is no prize for winning, except the knowledge that you’ve done something that’s theoretically impossible. Go you.

Smartphones Are A Blessing And A Curse

You know what everyone loves?  Lists.

  • In 1948, George Orwell’s 1984 basically foreshadowed webcams (cameras in the tv screens enabling Big Brother access into every home).  But no video phoning.  Fail.
  • In 1966, Star Trek posited a time in which people have portable flippy communication devices.  But no angry birds app.  Fail.
  • There’s no jerky, pixelated, handheld footage of the 1968 Paris riots.  Fail.
  • 1971’s Harold and Maude didn’t include a scene in which the titular protagonists bond over a shared cat-based Youtube video.  Fail.
  • In Wall Street (1987), Gordon Gecko’s murder weapon of a cellphone couldn’t scroll down up-to-date stock information.  Fail.
  • In 1989, Back To The Future 2’s Biff couldn’t lay bets on sporting fixtures using a mobile phone.  Fail.
  • In 1989, Back To The Future 2 reckoned we’d still be widely using fax machines.  Epic Fail.
  • In 1991’s Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin couldn’t use his dad’s iphone to post a “Free House – party at my gaff hashtag lollz” update on Facebook.  Fail.
  • In 1993, Demolition Man suggested that Taco Bell would in time own all restaurants.  But no means of ordering takeaway food without the need to speak to another human being.  Fail.
  • In 1999, The Matrix claimed that year to be the pinnacle of human society.  But there were no Samsung whatever-friendly social networks like Twitter or Instagram.  Fail.
  • In 2005, James Bond got a mobile phone instead of an exploding pen that was also a submarine.  Fail.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) – no Tatler app. Wilde (1997) – no Grindr. Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986) – no Craigslist. Dawn of The Dead (1978) – No Plants vs Zombies. Amadeus (1984) – no Virtuoso Piano Free 3.

…Actually, come to think of it…

THAT Speech In Full: A Few Good Men

Col. Jessep: You want dancing?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: *You want dancing?*

Kaffee: *I want the funk!*

Col. Jessep: *You can’t handle the funk!*

pauses

Col. Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has Coldplay, and Coldplay has to be guarded against by men in platform boots. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Funkadelic. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s slap bass, while tragic, probably got funky. And my moves, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, get funky. You don’t want the funk because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me laying it down, you need me laying it down. We use words like honor, coda, groove. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent making funk. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and dances under the blanket of the very funk that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a guitar, and bring the funk. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Kaffee: Did you free your mind?

Col. Jessep: I did the job I…

Kaffee: *Did you free your mind?*

Col. Jessep: *You’re Goddamn right I did!*

Side 1, Track 1

Blame it on John Cusack, blame it on High Fidelity.  This isn’t a top five as such, so there’ll be no Beatles, Clash or Marvin Gaye here; nor is it in any order.

Although if it were, the first one would be at the top.

Instead, here are five album openers that have maybe been overlooked by list compilers in favour of Welcome To The Jungle and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The Night – Morphine, The Night (2000)

Morphine should never have been interesting at all.  Mark Sandman sang in a spartan baritone accompanied by a bass guitar (typically played with a slide) and a saxophone plus drums.  Chords and even particularly complex arrangements weren’t a possibility with such a setup although they did utilise a wide variety of instruments in their studio mixes.

But they rehabilitated the saxophone from the Kenny G wilderness, and between that, the voice and the bass (3 monotonal instruments) and a properly decent drummer they proved that alchemy does in fact exist.

Call it a tone poem if you will; a series of strangely evocative images wrapped in a pleasing cadence.  But in its vaguely meaningless way the song conveys a sense of profound emotions deeply felt, of longing for something that’s never entirely clear – Lilah is possibly a person, or perhaps it’s metaphorical.  In fact it’s possible that Lilah refers to the sound of the song itself – deep and dark, bittersweetly melodious.

The name Lilah means seductive, languishing, lovelorn, night beauty.

Mark Sandman died before the album could be released, which means that the song almost inevitably feels like something of a parting gift, a final distillation of his talents into what in my opinion is his most accomplished song.

Five Years – David Bowie, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust (1972)

If The Night makes me want to dust off florid superlatives, Five Years inspires the opposite.

Traditionally, side 1 track 1 is supposed to excite you and serve as an introduction to the sounds and themes of the rest of the album.  But aside from the rather tenuous thought that 5 years represents the longest possible shelf-life for the majority of pop groups, Five Years at first seems to have little to do with the rest of the album.  Moreover it doesn’t throw down the gauntlet so much as disinterestedly drop it.

In many ways the song is standard pop fare – 3 or 4 chords bashed around in 4-4 time with a hook-laden belter of a chorus.  But it subverts the typical structure by lumping all the verses together and following up with an extended chorus that would go down a treat at your average sporting venue.

In that sense it comes off as pastiche, opening the album with a desultory drumbeat leading into precisely the sort of prosaic, middle-of-the-road pop for squares that the Ziggy Stardust character seemed designed to reject.  In fact by the end of the verse section you might find yourself feeling bored (unless you’ve paid attention to the unsettling lyrics).

And then the song cranks into life as Bowie bellows out the chorus, sounding increasingly unstable as it progresses.  Bowie’s voice teeters on the edge of control, as though the singer is peering into the abyss wondering when he’ll hurtle into it.

And in that vein – the conflation of plastic popstar and sense of heading for a fall – it’s the perfect primer for the themes of the album.

Flatlands – Chelsea Wolfe, Unknown Rooms: A Collection Of Acoustic Songs (2012)

Moving back to another artist who remains criminally underexposed, Chelsea Wolfe is a singer-songwriter and band leader whose music is described as a drone/metal/art/folk hybrid.  But despite that she’s actually pretty good, with a startling voice and strong songwriting chops.

Her 3rd album, Unknown Rooms, is not an album so much as a gathering together of songs old and new that have failed to find a home on ‘proper’ releases.  Between them they convey a sense of sadness laced with menace, the sparse production and quiet arrangements creating an intimacy that is faintly uncomfortable at times.

It also serves as a solid platform for her reverb-accented voice, which (again) is chills-up-the-spine sublime.

Flatlands opens with a simple fingerpicked acoustic guitar and builds to an unhurried peak, an elegiac rejection of the attendant baubles of modern life.  As a statement of intent it’s calmly powerful, although (as with The Night) the rest of the album feels lacking by comparison.

I find it oddly reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins during one of their more reflective moments (such as the first track of Adore, appropriately enough), which might be reason enough to leave well alone for non-Gen Xers or those who managed to get over the 90s.

But you’d be missing out.

Gold Lion – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones (2006)

A good opening track might be the song the artist feels is best placed to grab the listener’s attention.  It might be a statement of intent setting the tone for the album, or it may seek to summarise the themes – CliffsNotes for the band.

In the case of Kurt Cobain, the first track of In Utero served as a caustic rebuke to the label, the fans and indeed the world at large.

Gold Lion is very much a statement of intent, but not just for the album.  Their debut Fever To Tell was critically lauded as a jagged slice of glitzy, sleazy New York ‘punk’ – following a long tradition of achingly cool, camp New York outfits from the Velvet Underground to the New York Dolls and beyond.

I call it lipstick grunge.

And like all zeitgeisty, terribly fashionable bands they were expected to have the lifespan of your average mayfly.  They were also expected to follow up with more of the same – shiny but shallow, like a person who’s fun to date for a while but who won’t ever break your heart.

Instead they produced an album which is largely led by the acoustic rather than electric guitar.  And nowhere does the acoustic feel quite so prominent as it does on the opening track, which puts me in mind of a night round a campfire, albeit with a drummer somewhere off in the distance keeping the wolves at bay.

The band would repeat the trick with their next release It’s Blitz!, yet again receiving critical acclaim for reinventing themselves without distancing themselves from what came before.

I’m A Fool To Want You – Billie Holiday, Lady In Satin (1958)

Even soundtracking a Chanel perfume advert couldn’t detract from Holiday’s take on I’m A Fool To Want You.

Today Billie Holiday is most famous as something of a tragic figure – a supremely talented jazz singer beset by the demons of a neglected childhood, heroin abuse, racism and domestic violence.

It may be confirmation bias that leads us to attribute extraordinary talent to extraordinary pain – that the likes of Van Gogh, Holiday and so on wouldn’t have shone so brightly without the darkness.  And each iteration of the artist who’s too sensitive to live reinforces the archetype.  But this seems too mawkish to my mind, too romanticised a view; perhaps even a little brutal in the way that the pain of others is waved away so easily.

Whatever, by the time Holiday came to record her penultimate album, Lady In Satin, the years had chipped away at her voice.  There’s a cruel irony that it was towards the end when her voice had lost its power and lustre that she returned to the orchestral arrangements of her Decca years.  The weary, scratchier tones would have seemed more at home with the smoky jazz accompaniments she’d mostly performed and recorded with.

But great music is as much about flaws as it is polish, and however much Lady In Satin’s chocolate box orchestral flourishes should cloy, however much the production would seem to be geared towards hiding her vocals, the contrast elevates the material to something wonderful.

I’m A Fool… isn’t exactly subtle lyrically, but Holiday delivers it in a way that imbues it with the feel of a more profound truth than the song really warrants.  Tired old Billie should know better after a lifetime’s worth of heartbreak and sadness.  She wears her scars on her sleeve so that when she sings that she’s a fool for her feelings of longing for a wrong ‘un, she really can actually understand what she’s banging on about.

Other versions of the song may be better sung technically, but as with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, this is an old dog’s love song, not a gauche young pup’s.

I live in constant dread of the day this pitches up as an X Factor winner’s Christmas single.

__

So there’s your lot – as a challenge why not try and come up with 5 side 1, track 1s that don’t routinely feature in top five lists and share in the comments below – see if we can’t all spread the love around.

TV Comedy: 1 Line Reviews

There are some shows I’ve wanted to write about but have been too lazy or stupid to get to grips with. There are others in which the writing was as unremittingly bitter as Miss Havisham’s coffee (ahemMrsBrown’sBoysandMirandaahem).

Some I liked some I didn’t. See if you can spot the difference.

Mrs Brown’s Boys

Some motherfuckers do ‘ave ‘em.

House of Lies

Even lies about the existence of a house. And about being a drama.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

An incredibly poor decision by David Cross.

Girls

Enough nudity, it feels like we’re paying for your therapy. Otherwise, I heart Girls: the tits.

New Girl

Not even a new schtick for Zooey Deschanel.

It’s Kevin

It is Kevin, but sadly it’s not Kevin being funny.

Miranda

All involved ought to be arrested.

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PS: post number 69, hur hur hur etc