Sunday, 30 October 2011

Electric Snapshot: Conquest of Space (1955)


A classic scene from George Pal's technically accomplished "Conquest of Space" A personal favourite.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Cult Icons: The Jetsons (1962 - 1963 and 1985 - 1987)


Tough call this one. The Flintstones, Wacky Races or the Jetsons as a personal favourite. All are classics in their own right and much loved by this author, but in the end I've gone for the Jetsons mainly because of its retro-futuristic vibe. Amazing to think this was originally aired back in the early sixties and as a kid it painted a picture of how we all thought the future might turn out where we'd all be living in automated apartments on singular columns way up in the clouds, where you went anywhere and everywhere in flying bubble cars, and you had your own personal robot called Rosie who always tidied your room up after you. Retro futures are just so much more fun and 2062 isn't that far off really. Basically just a space aged take on 1950's Americana and family life, the original only lasted for 24 episodes but they were fantastic episodes and when or if the much talked about and optioned movie eventually gets made I'll be first in line. Great cartoon and if I ever get a dog I'm definitely gonna call him Astro..

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Electric Snapshot: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)


"So close -- the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle.

"I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens ... the universe ... worlds beyond number ... God's silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of Man's own limited dimension. I had presumed upon Nature. That existence begins and ends is Man's conception, not Nature's.

"And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away, and in their place came -- acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation -- it had to mean something. And then I meant something too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something too. To God, there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!"


A classic moment in a classic movie.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Lenscap: Neon Tokyo at Night 2011


There is something about Japan and its culture that just fascinates me. A traditional society living in a neon bubble at the forefront of the technical age. Especially in Tokyo - a megacity humming to the sound of phosphor creating backstreet rainbow valleys. A proper 21st century city and how I'd always imagined the future to be.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Retro Future: Return to the Moon - July 10th 2045


Astronauts Jackson, Fisher and Hellerman exit the Lunar lander module Selene which sits in the rift Valley of Capella just north of Mare Nectaris, a region marked by small impact craters. The mission marks the return of America to human planetary exploration in preparation for a planned permanent base on the moon.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Retro Videogames: Animal Crossing (2005)

a personal selection of retro favourites

To the point: Animal Crossing on the Nintendo DS is a superb game. Superb because its brilliance is in the simplicity of its design and theme. Insert the cartridge, switch on the DS, and what happens next is up to you. You're dropped off at the train station and you begin your digital life to the rhythmn of real time. Simple. Simple done with style.

Animal Crossing is a game of interaction with the characters within that digital world. Animal characters that range from a demented gorilla to a neurotic duck.Through this interaction you begin to see the true depth of the game. You have a basic unfurnished house. With a mortgage. A mortgage that you need to pay off by getting a job. And the only job in town is working for Tom Nook at his Convenience Store. Here you earn money to pay off that debt but also to buy the essentials to get further into the game. A fishing rod to catch fish to sell. A net to catch bugs and butterflies to either sell or donate to the local museum. A shovel to plant things and to dig up dinosaur fossils. Money also buys you stuff to furnish your house. Is that a totem pole for 500 bells? A pink sofa? A spaceship? There are tons of things to buy and how you use them is up to you. The game is about collecting and the continuing urge to complete a collection on a specific theme.


The game runs on a real time calendar and day/night cycle. The landscape changes with the seasons. Leaves fall from the tree's in Autumn. It snows in Winter - the first time this happens in the game is absolutely fantastic and you run around making snowballs and just having fun like a big kid. Following the calendar gives the impression that you're actually in a living breathing world. You tell it your birthday and on the big day you'll get cards and presents from your friends. Same goes for Christmas Day. At midnight on New Years Eve everyone gathers in the Town square to watch a fireworks display. Events happen during the year when you have to be playing the game at a specific time to witness them. The game rewards the players participation and is brilliantly done. If you are away from the game for any period of time, the next time you return you'll discover weeds growing everywhere and your animal characters asking where the hell you've been. Brilliant. AC is also as funny as hell. The animal conversations are laugh out loud funny most of the time. The characters each have their own personality with some of them becoming your own firm favourites and you don't want them to leave town as the game "refreshes" as time passes and characters leave so as to bring in new faces. For me, it was Victoria the mule. She was like a hyper version of Liberace on speed and had an obsession for pink furniture. Major bummer when she left.

Animal Crossing's greatest achievement is that allusive "just one more go before bed" magic which it has in abundance. So very few games have it these days and it was no surprise that it sold millions around the world. Visually its wonderful to watch with its distinctly Japanese cutesy tone. The sound is also fantastic and I spent many an hour just sitting on the riverbank fishing listening to the chirps of crickets in the background. The game is meant to be played in short bursts which is another reason for its enduring longevity and is just one of the many reasons why this is easily one of the greatest games I've played and certainly the most fun. Come to think of it, I never did find that T-Rex skull..

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Retro Comics: Roy of the Rovers issue #1 (1976 - 1993)


Now this was a great comic featuring the adventures of Roy Race and his team, Melchester Rovers. Other notable series in the comic included: Tommys Troubles, Billy's Boots, The Safest Hands in Soccer, Hot Shot Hamish, Mighty Mouse, and my own personal favourite - Mike's Mini Men, all about a kid and his Subbuteo team. It was brilliant and great fun to read. This first issue came with one of those cardboard fold out thingys that had all the English and Scottish League Division's printed as a template on one side. Each team had it's own little cardboard tab that you slotted into the correct postion in the table after watching the results on Grandstand or World of Sport at Saturday tea-time. Then you'd stand it up on the table beside your bed and realise that your team was never ever going to win anything ever.

Each issue ended on a cliffhanger and I guess once Roy had his foot amputated - what a shocker that issue was - there wasn't really anywhere else for the comic to go. Smashing comic. Nothing like it around today sadly. Kids don't know what they're missing - again.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Electric Snapshot: Explorers (1985)


The ultimate space geek adventure and one of the best sci-fantasy movies ever made. Joe Dante's wonderful  tribute to star dreamers everywhere. EXPLORERS is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Electric Star Wars: Dominion Theatre - Tottenham Court Road - London 1977


Love this photo showing the Dominion Theatre marquee for the original release of STAR WARS. You can almost feel the sense of place, the defining decade, and creation of cinematic history oozing from the photo. From memory, I think it only had a very limited release which made the madness surrounding it and the anticipation to see it all the more fun. It seems like only yesterday I was 14 and stood in a huge line outside my local cinema for that first showing - 34 years ago. Everything was so different back then. When blockbusters were new and to see them was an experience never forgotten. These were the STAR WARS days and they were the bestest days ever. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Electric Movie Preview: the AVENGERS (2012)




Marvel/Disney have released some rather cool promotional preview pix to give us a taste of what next years megablockbuster "The AVENGERS" will look like. Though not officially confirmed, the main baddies seem to be a motley collection of "aliens" who are part of an invasion force summoned by LOKI so that he can rule the Earth and make all those hot Scandinavian women slaves or something. Rumours of the Skrulls and THANOS are plenty which would be seriously epic and expand the Marvel Universe beyond the mythic. The look of the movie so far is pretty much spot on, though I did have reservations about CAP'S new 21st century outfit. A little too sleek maybe. Dunno. We'll see. Basically impressed with everything else and as he did in THOR, I expect Tom Hiddleston as LOKI to dominate the flick and be nothing short of fucking amazing. May 2012 needs to hurry up.

- all images copyright of marvel/disney -

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cult Icons: Carl Edward Sagan (1934 - 1996)


In 1980 I first discovered Carl Sagan through his ground breaking 13 part documentary series "Cosmos - a personal voyage" and who instantly became a personal hero to this then seventeen year old who spent far too much of his time with his head in the clouds. That Cosmos is still remembered to this day as one of the great television series is in no small part a tribute to its presenter. Here was a man whose passion for his subject and life long work was so palpable and heartfelt you could almost feel it physically.

A few years back, I was wandering around the big city near here, just mooching and browsing around in a backstreet second hand bookstore when, to my delight, I came across the book of the series printed around the same time as the program was first aired. It has pride of place in my bookcase and of all the books I own, I've spent more time reading it than anything else. A wonderful book written by a true visionary who left us far too early.

Electric TV Review: Doctor Who Season 6 "The Wedding of River Song"


Alas my expectations were not met. But I'm not sure why. This last episode of Season 6 fairly bounced along on a bouncy thing of its own internal logic and was a thoroughly entertaining ride and watch. I guess I expected to be more surprised than I was. That the revelations therein would be at the more extreme end of the mass speculation that this series has given arise to. Very last "Losty" in the end for me - though nowhere near the emotional deflation I felt watching the final moments of that series. In truth, it is a very rare gem that lives up to the anticipation of expection. We are slaves to our own perceptive reasoning and timey whimeyness. More fool us and is certainly no slight to those that strive to create through love and passion that which we all cherish.

No point in discussing the plot of the thing as I'd end up tying myself up in wishful thinking knots but here are some random bubble universal thoughts on this finale. The most important being the rebirth of the shadow Doctor. Applaud this loads. Bedone with the Jesus myth and begone this intergalactic Napoleon. Season 7 has a new gameplan with a more invisible Gallifreyan bouncing around singular episodes doing good deeds and keeping a low profile. Hopefully the writers can expand this return to the original horizons for the character. Gee whizz, maybe from the get go this was Moffats grand scheme of returning the show to pre-cancellation basics. Thumbs up if so. Went the long way around and did it the hard way though..

Liked the respectful nod to the Brigadier. More so because it changed the character of the Doctor. That in sadness he came to realise than no one can escape their ultimate fate. Smith was outstanding here. Loss, pain, realisation and resignation writ large on his oblong face. Even with wonky writing, Smith has the ability to rise above such ding dong dialog and make it matter.

So there was no second Doctor as I and many others had presumed. Instead we had a clockwork doppleganger who bit the bullets for the greater good. Loved that the "other" Tardis was actually inside the robot Doctor all the time. "Look into my eye." Indeed. Enjoyed that. Oooo, when was the switch then?

Bit sad that the River Song character arc sort of withered on the vine. And that her story really was nothing more than a plot whisper to create a fixed point in time. Though did enjoy that nice little scene with her and her parents in the garden at the end. Full circle. The Ponds were peripheral to the greater plot. Amy was hot in the suit. Rory didn't die again despite the best efforts and jive talk of the Silents. Cute coda that Amy and Rory will always find each other no matter what. Their overall destiny is that they are soulmates and destined to be together. Everything is right with the world when the geek gets the hot girl.

Design wise, very impressive look to the episode. Money on screen for sure. I could live in an alt-timeline like that. A sort of Vernetopia. How wonderful to see a British science fiction show done with such imagination and sheer bravura.

Despite my overall reservations "The Wedding of River Song." was a satisfying end to what has been a very enjoyable season. The feeling that the story has progressed and moved on is obvious. Another chapter in the tale of Doctor Who has been writ. Another piece to the jigsaw has been placed. Time is no longer standing still. The future is an exciting horizon. "Doctor Who?" said the head in the box as the Timelord stepped away from the limelight back into the shadows. Exactly. A new start. A new adventure begins. Roll on Christmas 2011 and Season 7.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Retro Toys: Kerplunk!!


Most kids had Monopoly. A few had Buckaroo. Some even had Cluedo. But everyone, every kid had Kerplunk!!

It was usually the present of last resort along with the Cadburys selection box or the Beano annual bought in the local department store by your mam or dad in the last desperate hours before closing time on Christmas Eve. But that didn't matter because Kerplunk!! was just so much fun to play when playing was as much about your imagination than anything else.

Tube of clear blue plastic. Middle riddled with holes. Bunch of straws fed into and out of these holes, and then a clack of marbles are dropped onto the criss cross of straws. Depending on how many are playing, each player takes it in turn to carefully pull out a straw with the object being to stop any gaps appearing which would allow a marble to fall through into their slot. Player with least marbles in their slot wins. Simple. Yet fun. A classic game because only classic games stand the test of time.

Cult Icons: The Bash Street Kids


School hijinks with Fatty, Danny, Wilfrid, Smiffy, Spotty, Toots, Cuthbert, Plug and Sidney.  Entertaining kids and making Teachers life a misery in the BEANO since 1954.