Monthly Archives: March 2009

Ready, steady …what?

That’s right, kids! It’s fOwl! Episode TEN! It seems like just last week I was uploading episode FOUR, to which this is the sequel, dealing as it does with the subject of shrove.

But that was a whole year ago. So much has happened in that year… none of which I can now recall. Protective autoamnesia.


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The Inadvertant Trilogy of Awful

So here was the opening dialogue as we took our seats in the cinema this evening:

Me: I’d be more comfortable with my coat off, but I’m leaving it on.
Jay: I needed a shit just now, but I didn’t have one.

…allow me to explain.

Here you see the faces of two young men primed – primed with resignation, that is. Jay is a cinema-going colleague of mine, and our exploits into the land of terrible have been documented previously. But tonight we were gearing up for something really special – something which was to finally align our tradition of movie-viewing with Jay’s hurt-owning life philosophy.

What philosophy, you ask? Well, you can see it all there in Jay’s face, and it is simply this – if you can’t make a situation good, then make it as bad as possible. This promotes good storytelling and gives you the pleasing illusion of remaining in control. It also promotes making the best of a bad situation and being able to laugh at yourself, and I think these are two important things. Those close to me have had this idea explained to them (some are beginning tentatively to adopt it for themselves, which I applaud), and perhaps one day the theoretical side of it all will find its way into a post of its own on here.

In the meantime, though, all you really need to know is that whilst I have yet to accept Jay’s ideas unconditionally, they can certainly be usefully applied to many day-to-day situations. Today we learnt how succesfully they can be applied to the cinema, and how they morphed staggering defeat into triumph. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Owning Hollywood’s Hurt
The Three Phases Of Awful
inscribed for future generations by FaceOmeter
comrade and methodological consultant Jay-dog “Seventeen Euros” S.

Hollywood, you see, doesn’t make them like they used to. Have you seen Con Air recently? Then you know what I mean. In the Con Air age, big odious blockbusters knew what they were doing. They were good, in fact, because they sort of revelled in their own badness. There are times when you don’t want to be challenged, times when you just want an awful cinema experience. But there’s a key difference between a Bad Film in the “heeyyyyy” sense of the word, and a Bad Film that’s just.. well, bad.

I present to you Wanted, a film in which Angelina Jolie can shoot around corners. Oh, how I remember the day it all started. Jay came round to my pad, all full of beans. “Watch this trailer!”, he cried, punching up the IMDB.

“That looks bloody awful”, I said, having done so.

“Doesn’t it?”, was the reply, or words to that effect.

And so, of course, we went to see it. Because we wanted a nice terrible film which we could eat popcorn to, switch off our brains for, and then cheerfully forget about.

What we got was a painful aneurysm of a movie which, far from going away after we left the theatre, squatted on our brains like an octopus as we analysed and re-analysed the reasons it had been so awful. Was it that different from are usual fare? What was it lacking? Why had we fallen for it? Remember, we didn’t want it to be good, we just wanted it to be the enjoyable kind of bad.

So, a while later, we tried again, this time with Taken:

Now the trailer for Taken is totally hilarious (we still use the ‘certain set of skills’ line amongst ourselves quite frequently), so we naturally assumed that some cheery action romp with Liam Neeson was in the offing, and went along to investigate.

The hippier end of my friend spectrum may have seen this coming, but Taken was also dreadful. I won’t go into why – that’s not what I’m writing about – but it basically had entirely the wrong tone for its indescribably serious subject matter, as well as an almost sinister level of unwholesome American right-wing paranoia underlying everything. We left feeling cold and broken, unsure whether we’d seen an oversentimentalised documentary or a really bad episode of 24.

As the months passed and we thought about it, resenting more and more our decision to shell out on seeing these two total wastes of time, an in-joke sprang up between us regarding films with two-syllable generic verb titles. Matters reached a climax last week when I told Jay that what I really resented was that the burgeoning trend hadn’t at least been a trilogy – then, I said jokingly, we could have drawn a line under the whole sorry incident and forgotten about it.

The next day, Jay sent me a link to the IMDB page for Knowing:

Knowing, from the director of I, Robot, stars Nicholas Cage and is about a secret code of numbers and children predicting the end of the world or something like that. It was just too bloody perfect. I inhaled deeply.

“We have to go, don’t we?”, I asked, nervously.

“Absolutely”, came the reply.

“Oh”, I said, softly, to myself. But it was just too good to not do, however badly I yearned to stay home and masturbate instead.

The days leading up to the film’s release were spent inadvertantly confirming that God wanted us to finish this trilogy. Everywhere I looked there were posters for the film. Every newspaper I flipped open at random carried a one-star review. When eventually the day came, we both knew we had to see this thing through together – to complete for ourselves and for each other what had accidentally become the worst trilogy project of all time.

And that was more or less the mood in the photo at the start of this post. We walked up to the cinema together. “I really don’t want to do this”, I said to Jay.

“I know”, he said, tenderly. We bought tickets and entered the building. At the concession stand, Jay stood in the longest queue, and when he contemplated moving to a vastly shorter one at an adjacent counter, I stopped him.

“As bad as possible”, I reminded him.

Jay nodded and, about ten boring minutes later, we reached the server. “I’ll have a ‘Perfect Co-Stars Combo’, please”, said Jay, using, to the shock of both the server and myself, the full trade name which the cinema has for some popcorn and a drink. ”
As bad as possible”, he reminded me, in response to my glance of horror and disgust.

This guy knows what he’s doing.

In the auditorium, Jay was all about making sure we were surrounded by people on all sides, “so there’s no escape”. It was at this point that I reached my determination about leaving my coat and scarf on for the entire film, and that Jay declared the toilet visit he had been avoiding.

Then the film started. I pass over the subject matter – again, not my theme – but I will tell you that yes, Nick Cage’s character is called John. After about an hour of some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen, Jay leaned my way.

“There’s something I didn’t tell you”, he said.

“Oh?”, I asked.

“This film is really long”, he said.

“Oh”, I replied.

“Like, over two hours”, continued Jay.

By the time the jaunt was drawing to a conclusion which I think its director thought was epic, though, I was feeling much better. Do you know what, I thought to myself, as we sat wallowing in shittyness, I’m enjoying this. It’s dreadful, but I’m not having a bad time. Our preparations, our assumption of the worst, our efforts to magnify the film’s smallest shortcomings, had produced exactly that essence of the bad-film experience which we had initially “wanted”, but which we realised had been so cruelly “taken” from us by a misfiring Hollywood. Only “knowing” that it was going to be awful-bad, as opposed to assuming that it was going to be awful-good, allowed us to recapture the relish of the action movie whose absense we’d been feeling so much.

In what proved a deeply satisfying coda for me personally, Knowing concludes (and I spoil nothing by saying so) with the incidental destruction of the Empire State Building. This magnificent edifice has recently become an unofficial symbol of the Jay ideology that everything embarrassing should be played out on the grandest stage possible, and I really think this technique allowed us to get to almost the same place Con Air took us to, albeit by a different route.

Let me conclude by saying that unlike Wanted and Taken, Knowing is not an outright despicable film. It has graces, however few, and whilst riddled with problems is not entirely unenjoyable on its own terms. Our terms, though, are better. I don’t yet know if it’s quite true that Hollywood has forgotten how to laugh at itself since 9/11, but if it has then we need to hang onto the realisation that we can teach ourselves to laugh at it despite itself, and get in some important self-mockery while we’re there.

Me: So it turns out angels really like pebbles?
Jay: Yeahh.

(I swear that the unfathomably apposite progression of those movie titles is a coincidence, btw. Although if Knowing is right, there are no coincidences…?!)

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I’m back from one trip (Brighton, Oxford) and about to embark on another one (Edinburgh)! Crumbs! This doesn’t leave much time for discussion on the blog, but I thought it might be worth resorting to bullet points for some things I’ve done recently…

  • Rediscovered the University of Birmingham
  • Seen incredible canal-living people in a fleet of narrowboats chopping wood with dogs* and having the best time
  • Eaten an organic tofu burger (I know, I know)
  • Got involved with Unreal Tournament 3, which may have the most forced ‘story’ of any video game so far, and I’m including Tetris &c.
  • Acquired another two Tom Waits albums, bringing my iTunes total to 7.2hrs (still pathetic)
  • Speaking of 7.2 hours, that’s the amount of time I spent watching this today (in real life, not this video). I now feel quite strange so I’m going to stop blogging and go away.

* not literally

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Oh my god oh my god

Watch this. Quick!

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And saying so to some means nothing…

I wonder how many times I’ve used that title. Anyway,

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Travelling Musician Credentials presented for Upgrade

Back in the good old homestead after various rambles through time and space. I’ll post something more diverting when the moment is ripe but in the meantime I shall pot-roast my last week for you all, or, more likely, for me in a few years when I’ve forgotten all about this and, discovering this entry, will smile ruefully to myself.
  • The Climpson’s gig went really rather well. Not quite what we were expecting, perhaps, but definitely onto something.
  • The Oxford Tube is absolutely the best thing ever. Props to the also-obviously-english-student girl beside me, miraculously at the front, who was enjoying the sunset as much as I was. Low-flying aircraft. Boyfriends (potential boyfriends, I think), on telephones. Brilliant. THEN LATER, the unexpected Oxford Tube mug for the deal-seal.
  • Graduation ceremonies are extremely strange.
  • Germans who, with limited English vocab, have made sure to learn the word “fag” are extremely awesome.
  • Wadham chapel is excellent, Wadham porters less so.

Coming up soon… will I like the Watchmen movie? I’ve been persuaded to give it a chance! How will I fare? Find out later!!!1111one

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Nationalist Typo

This was going to be an extended essay about this little ‘incident’, but I’ve managed to withold myself to whimsy thanks entirely to this advert here:

I think you mean ‘1940’, guys. Though it’s vaguely comforting to know that your propaganda is as ostentatiously backward as your opinions…

PS. If the BNP actually had Spitfires, I think we can all agree things would be a lot more interesting

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Well, it’s been a tiring few days, largely because of some exciting musical action I’m happy to say! More on that in a few days, but for now I have two gigs that I really want to tell you about, both coming up very very soon! And a third, slightly less soon!

Climpson and Son’s, Hackney, London
London is a city in the South East of England which you may have heard of. A few minutes walk from the central station of its slightly inaccessible suburb ‘Hackney’ lies a cosy little coffee place which, thanks to Kerry “Triple Rosie” Tyrrell is about to sidestep into the world of acoustic venue love. FaceOmeter is honoured and excited to be opening the first night there, and will be trying to set a precedent for extremely awesome ambience. Long has it been a gripe of mine that venues stop serving tea and coffee at around seven, so here’s a chance to kick it back a notch, grab an artful coffee, and enjoy! Doors at are 8:30-ish on Thursday March 5th (tomorrow) and entry is free.

Wadham College Chapel, Oxford
I’ve now been to watch a couple of shows in this extremely sexy venue, courtesy of Roxy “The Best” Brennan, she of

I recant my Catholicism

I would like to issue an internet-wide apology for this blog post no-one remembers from December 2007, in which I jokingly linked to this pseudoscientific plate of claptrap in an effort to get a Science Fiction Nerd Laugh out of my readers*.

Having read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, I now realise that even sarcastically linking to these stories contributes in however small a way to the perverse public misunderstanding of science, and in an effort to redress the balance I would like to provide you with links to his blog, his twitter feed, a video of him being incredible, and a link to the Amazon page where you can buy his book, which you should, damn you. He talks about things which make Humanities graduates like me blush, mostly because we all know deep down how right he is, and are doing next to nothing about it.

* A tactical error in itself, since neither Jim nor Packo are Science Fiction Nerds.

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