the stephenhead

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january 30, 2003

Since I cannot think of anything absurd to write about at the moment I have decided to list my top five movies of all time - in order of viewing preference - with my own little capsule reviews.

1. Odd Man Out 1947
Directed by Carol Reed with a tremendous performance by James Mason in the lead role, and all the other actors are brilliant too, especially the guy who plays Shel and whose name has escaped me: "They say his eminence the Pope is queerin' rich". Lovely black and white photography. Great stuff.

2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943
A Powell and Pressburger classic featuring Roger Livesy and the very young Deborah Kerr. "There's always room for you here, and whatever you shoot, well there's room for that too."

3. Les Mepris 1963
My personal edited version.
All of the usual Jean Luc Godard crap has been cut out by me. All that remains are the shots of Bardot sunbathing in Capri and the truly superb musical score by Georges Delerue.

4. Zulu 1973
Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins versus millions of spear-wielding "fuzzies". Really poor historical version of events at Rorke's Drift during the South African campaign in 19th century. Great film though.

5. L'Annee Derniere Marienbad 1961
Directed by Alain Resnais with a script by Alain Robbe Grillet if I remember correctly . What's it all about? Beats me. Lots of roccoco plasterwork in french country house. Champagne. Women in dark ballgowns. Would I like to be stuck in time here, repeating the same actions over and over again? Yes. Yes I rather think I would.
stephenb 14:08 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 29, 2003
I regret to announce the death of Miss Victoria Secret, who died in my sleep last night aged sweet sixteen and three-quarters.
I had just climbed into bed after a large cheese meal and fallen into the REM stage of slumber when I suddenly found myself lost in a shadowy maze of De Chirico-like corridors with Kafkaesque overtones and Victoria was there demanding a piggy-back. The giant purple ostrich with a squids head, wearing a fine silk gown and scarlet garter belt, came charging around the corner, past the fat guy from Channel 4 who does the weather, and carried Victoria away to the Sea of Anxiety. Here, on the six-masted Schooner of Despair, as the weeping waves lapped nervously against the prow, Victoria was transformed into a really massive chocolate fudge-nut ice cream cone covered with a variety of delicious toppings. And then, as I gave my timbers a damn good shivering, Victoria started to melt in the hot sun until she was just a sort of creamy brown puddle on the deck with bits of nuts floating in it, and the ships Hearties swabbed her away as the rest of us set sail for the West Indies to watch cricket being played by human jellies wearing the same shoes as me.
Unfortunately there was nothing I could do because for some reason I was completely nude with only an enormous lettuce leaf to cover myself, and everyone from my old high school was there. Poor Victoria, may she rest in peace in whatever bucket she has been squeezed out into. Amen.

stephenb 11:38 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 27, 2003
Over the weekend I thought a great deal about the Victorian Terror known as Spring-Heeled Jack. Wearing his spring-heeled shoes, Jack would jump over walls and into private gardens to frighten the pale Pre-Raphaelite maidens of impeccable virtue sitting on the garden terrace contemplating domestic floral arrangements.
If I acquired a pair of spring-heeled shoes, I thought, then perhaps I could organize a Sponsored Leap across the Grand Canyon to raise money for people less fortunate than myself.
Obviously leaping across the Grand Canyon in a pair of spring-heeled shoes would be a complete and utterly unmitigated disaster. Taking off from the cliff side, I would only be able to leap about five yards across the gaping chasm before rapidly plummeting to the desert floor, breaking every bone in my body in the process and pulverizing my flesh so that all remains of me is a barely functional brain.
However, I figured such a heroic and spectacular failure could be translated into a successful and lucrative career as a popular After Dinner Speaker.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," I could declare, "I appear here today before you as merely a brain sloshing around in a jar of formaldehyde attached to electrodes, and only able to communicate via the miracle of computerized synthetic voice production, yet I say unto ye, never let go off thy dream, yea, even if thy dream be inspired by some Victorian pervert with a massive Mr. Punch shaped nose... excuse me a minute, can somebody move my jar back from the edge of the table because I'm afraid I might accidentally get knocked over on to the floor if we are not careful. Thanks. It's better to be safe than sorry. You see I get these falling flash backs from time to time...Anyway, where was I..."

stephenb 10:59 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 23, 2003
I have become extremely weary of hearing the phrase "the lunatics have taken over the asylum"; you seem to encounter it everywhere these days, even more so now that another war may be cavalry charging itself over the horizon. Therefore I have decided to think up a few phrases of my own that have similar meaning and can be easily used in place of the boring one. Some of them maybe a bit of a mouthful but I think they wipe the floor with the original. Here they are:
"The wizened eighty-year-old men with severe back problems, disturbing limps, and club feet have taken over the limbo dancing competition."
"The spotty, teenage girl bareback equestrians wearing spangly tutus and tiaras who are having a bad time going through puberty have taken over the circus. Oh no! Gasp! They have fallen off their horses. Oh well. The Ringmaster is back in charge again."
"The skull of Yorick and stage props from Act III Scene IV have taken over the King's Cankersore Players amateur production of Hamlet (7pm performance only, for other times please see Box Office)"
Or, on another track altogether.
"The polyunsaturated fats have taken over the recipe."

stephenb 10:09 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 22, 2003
"Hello my name is Charlotte and I am an alcoholic, binge eater, drug addict, shopaholic, nymphomaniac, caffeine freak, compulsive liar, chain smoking agrophobic with control issues and I weep hysterically for no reason."
If this person pops up at your Group, will you let me know because she left her persecution complex on my bedroom floor. Thanks.
Strange, isn't it, how those people who demand to be accepted "as they are" rarely extend that same courtesy to anyone else. Strange, also, how you are actually supposed to know who they are, when they themselves spend so much time claiming that they need to "find" themselves.
Frankly I think ninety-five percent of the world's pyschotherapists should be forced to walk through the streets at bayonet point in their bare feet with their heads shaved, wearing cheap, nasty plastic hospital gowns hemmed above the knee. It's the only language these people understand.

stephenb 16:32 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 21, 2003
One of the things I admire most about the 1938 film serial Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars is that The Emperor Ming is such a good example of Western ideas of the old China, both observed and imagined. (You can read my own views on old time Chinese Restaurants here)
Also to be admired in the serial are the jerky firework-propelled art deco space ships that must circle several times like cats before they come to rest. Then there is the 1930s swanky nightclub-style oyster shell throne that Queen Azuria sits upon; those post-moderne Roman Centurion tunics, Viking helmets, and Renaissance cloak ensembles that her soldiers wear. And the strange Olympic bobsleigh team meets Chinese coolie meets Metropolis garb of the amorphous Clay People.
Even if you lose interest in the story, the set design, props, costumes, and hairstyles of Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars can keep you absorbed for hours.
Seventy years from now, will the same be able to be said of The Lord Of The Rings?
No. No, it absolutely most certainly will not. This is because The Lord Of The Rings has no style: it is the combined work of computer nerds and hippies; the losers that Larry 'Buster' Crabbe used to beat up in high school; the pot deluded dropouts who believe that Alice In Wonderland is about drugs. Lets be honest here, the main "hero" - the cuddly pointy-eared one - looks like the tambourine player from Tangerine Dream. And that ridiculous elf woman! Only the truly nerdy could envision such a sickeningly virginal Hallmark creature such as that. "Ethereal"? There is a difference between ethereal and anemic, you know. Somebody should tell the film makers. Too busy staring misty-eyed at their Stevie Nicks posters, I imagine.

stephenb 09:48 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 20, 2003
The following extremely short story was composed by me during my visit to the store at the Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston, and upon my contemplation of the stores contents:

After Vincent Van Gogh had applied the final brushstroke to his Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear, he stood back from the canvas and thought to himself, "You know, one day this picture is going to make a damn fine jigsaw." He began pacing back and forth, warming to his theme. "Over a thousand pieces," he decided "Suitable for ages twelve and up, but it should be kept away from children because they can swallow the smaller pieces." Vincent threw his paint palette and brushes into the corner of the room, "Yes, I can see it now!" he cried out loud "One day many years in the future, a young man will spend an entire morning trying to complete the jigsaw on his mother's dining room table. And at noon, with only sixty pieces left before completion, his mother will ask him to remove the unfinished jigsaw from the table immediately because she needs to serve lunch. And in his rage the young man will seize a knife from a table place-setting and slice his ear off. And then he will run into his mother's kitchen pointing at his bloody head and screaming, There's A Piece Missing! There's A Piece Missing!"
And Vincent kicked over his easel and laughed and roared his way up the road and into the Asylum.
stephenb 10:13 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 17, 2003
I have just obtained a franchise from The French Connection, and will now be selling French Connection branded nipple-hugging t shirts with FCUKWIT printed on the front. Made from 100% whatever that horrible, shiny, cheap-looking material they make nightclub clothes from, these chintzy garments feature "beefy style" extremely short sleeves that barely stretch over your shoulder blades so that your nasty, sweaty underarm hair can hang out and disgust the passerby. This pathetic excuse for a fashion statement is perfect for slouching around the entrance to a clothes store in, slack-jawed, while deafening everyone with so-called techno music played at ear-splitting and stomach-churningly unnecessary volume.
Why not buy one for the moron in your life? Available in black, white, grey, and transparent. One size fits all idiots. $100.
stephenb 13:29 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 15, 2003
Since she leaves a silver dollar for every tooth she collects from under a child's pillow, it's a great pity there is no adult equivalent of the Tooth Fairy - like, for instance, the Hair Fairy.
If there were, I personally would be a millionaire by now.
The way I see it, the Hair Fairy would live in the shower drain, and for every strand of hair he harvested he would leave a quarter in the soap dish. For the average male - sorry girls - that probably works out to something like ten bucks a day! And what about the Ear Wax Elf? Actually, we would probably have to pay him - I'm figuring a going rate of about a dime per ounce of earwax he removes. So with the ten bucks per day from the Hair Fairy, minus the earwax deduction and ubiquitous toenail tax, that's still roughly thirty dollars a month clear profit, just for getting old! It's not a great deal of money, I know, but it's probably a damn sight more than we'll get from Social Security.
You can read my earlier comments on the Tooth Fairy here

stephenb 15:17 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 13, 2003
I was thinking of taking my vacation in Italy this year. Perusing a map of that great country, I decided to base myself in a place called Detail. Apparently it is a very large city so I thought there would be lots to do there and lots of flights in and out of the airport. ActualIy I was very surprised I had never heard of it, since according to the map Detail is twenty-times the size of Rome! I also encountered some difficulty finding a hotel in the area, and when I enquired at the Italian Tourist Bureau, the man just gave me a blank stare.
"Look." I explained to the fool, brandishing the map under his nose, "Detail is right there. Exactly where the Adriatic used to be!"
But he just tossed the map in the trash and then he had security throw me out. So much for traditional Sicilian hospitality.
So now I'm thinking of scrapping Detail and going to place called Scale instead. According to the map it's an extremely thin, but very long island in the Mediterranean.
Perfect for me.

stephenb 17:32 - [Link] - Comments ()
My Multicultural Fayre will now be held in the Botanical Gardens, I'm calling Viva le Difference. There will be clowns, acrobats, arse painting, Princess Diana impersonator, and a Spot The German Competition. Music will be provided by Jean-Claude and his Accordianaires.
I have already decided upon the menu and it is as follows:
Boiled Eggs Voila!
Super Zuppe (Super-sized bowl)
Prawn Rigatoni ala Last Of The Mohicans.
Haddock Anglais et Pommes Frites
General Franco's Chicken in Guernica sauce.
Cheese Smorgasbord by Bertie.
Porto ('Flags Of The World' souvenir plastic cup provided)
Tickets are forty euros payable in advance to:
The Stephenhead Account 001, Suisse Bank, Geneva.

stephenb 09:53 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 09, 2003
What a tremendously superb instrument the accordian truly is. How I recall sitting outside the bistro at twilight in that Bretagne harbour, the last dying rays of the sun playing over the sultry waves of the Channel. Glass of vin de rouge at hand, smoking gitanes with one hand and pressing garlic cloves with the other, cocking an ear to the mournful melodies of the accordianist.
The prostitutes flitting by now and then to cadge a light. The rotting fish heads in the gutter. The moustachioed man with a basket of baguettes slung around his shoulders, hawking amusingly shaped cheeses. How I waited with baited breath and great expectation for the appropriate moment to lean over to the musician and whisper, "Excuse me, but do you know any of those fabulous Jaques Brel tunes? I'm particularly interested in that one about death."
And then the two gentilhommes in hooped, scooped neck T-shirts and berets who roughly escorted me off the premises and threw me out into the Rue Marshal Petain. Ah... Francais! Marvellous country.
stephenb 09:44 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 08, 2003
Hopefully you will have noticed that the picture that tops this page is no longer a representation of myself. I actually stole this particular image from The Lileks Collection which is well worth taking a look at, especially the Gallery of Regrettable Food.
stephenb 14:48 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 06, 2003
A diagram illustrating developments in telephonic communication would resemble the chart of human evolution in reverse. We begin with the sturdy, well constructed, civilized privacy of the fully enclosed classical phone booth. Then comes the rain-splattered medievalism of the semi-alfresco box on a pole. And finally we have the nomadic, often signal-less, full knuckle-dragging horror of the modern cell-phone; users broadcasting the most tedious minutiae of their Neanderthal private lives to the world, the fascinating and riveting narrative of their cookery options for that evening revealed for all to hear, and we have no choice but to listen. Sit in a subway car or a public square and listen to the cell phone users - you cannot avoid them - it sounds like feeding time at the zoo.

Why do women no longer wear those Jacqueline Kennedyesque headscarves and figure-hugging, ankle-length raincoats with high heels? It is perhaps the most sweepingly attractive and stylish look ever to grace the face of the planet, with the possible exception of the barefooted Roman Vestal Virgin draped in nothing but a skimpy, mini-hemmed toga.

stephenb 12:02 - [Link] - Comments ()
january 03, 2003
Just a few idle thoughts:

Firstly, it's January. The bleak mid-winter. Welcome to Stalingrad. I hope you like frozen mule soup. Unfortunately the final dregs in the schnapps bottle were drained many weeks ago. There is some potato wine left but I don't recommend it. We are encircled by hostile forces. The last plane has departed. There is no hope. Hunch your shoulders, stamp your feet, and prepare to draw your last icy breath.

Secondly, long-haired, conceited romantic poetry is without doubt the muzak which complements the ruins of classical antiquity. If the Akropolis had an elevator we would all be forced to endure the works of Byron as we traveled up and down and back and forth. If the Colosseum had a restaurant we'd all have to swallow Keats' syrupy Odes with our chianti. If the Temple of Herakles had an automated phone system we'd have to.... Still, I suppose it's better than Freddie Mercury's greatest hits orchestrated for strings.
stephenb 12:02 - [Link] - Comments ()