Monday, 20 November 2017

Lost in King's Cross

I had occasion to go to that there London recently, for the best part of a working week. Not for a holiday, nor for a jolly, but for a fairly intensive training course for the day-job. It's nice to have an employer who's happy to invest me again, after a good while without.

Now the training company are a big of a beast in their field; they've been around a good while too, have a good reputation and are a global training brand. So much so that I used to be a customer of theirs way back in the past, when I worked for a corporate multi-national behemoth and had a personal training budget. Back in those days, I would think nothing of taking three or four courses, four or five days each, per year. How times change, eh?

I'll tell you what else has changed - the nature of training itself. This training company, fifteen or more years ago, used to occupy all five floors of a brick and glass cube near Euston Station, and would play host to so many trainees, every day of every week, that they had their own canteen on the fifth floor to keep their students fed and watered. But time moves on. Technology, more than anything, moves on. These days, most of the company's students take their courses remotely, with a virtual desktop and a webcam - why travel to London and spend the week in a generic hotel when you can take the course from the comfort of your office desk and go home afterwards, right? Except where's the interaction with your classmates and, more importantly, trainer? Where's the space to reflect on the day's learning, as you eat dinner at your table-for-one in the hotel restaurant? And most of all, where's the time and space away from everyday work, to just concentrate on learning. I'm no Luddite, and I completely understand the financial pressures at play here, for both the training company and the trainee, but it does feel to me that something has been lost, and going on a course is not what it was. The training company now occupies only two floors of the same building, and has no canteen any more. For lunch, trainees have to make their own way to the M&S across the road for a sandwich. I wonder what, if anything, will be left in another fifteen years? Why go on a course anyway, when you can just Google the hell out of everything instead, right?

Meeting Place
The biggest change of all though is that whole area, from King's Cross and St Pancras up to Euston. Back in my younger days as a trainee, it was - well, there's no other word for it really - a bit of a hole. Seedy, run-down, decrepit. Dirty, in every sense. Back then, my employer used to book me into a nice hotel, quite upmarket. And in that hotel, posh at it was, there would always be a concierge in the bar in the evening, part of whose job it was to identify and remove call girls who would linger there in the hope of picking up well-heeled customers. Whilst at the other end of the scale, venture out of the hotel in the evening to find a bite to eat and you often couldn't walk thirty yards without being propositioned: "You wan't business?" And every phone box (of which there were still many, back then) was plastered with business cards for all manner of escorts, eager to part the transient population of the area from their money. I remember seeing someone cleaning the phone boxes one morning as I walked to that day's training, assiduously removing every card. By the time I'd finished for the day, eight hours later, they had all been freshly plastered. And looming over everything, at once disapproving and complicit, was the gothic and ever-so-slightly faded grandeur of St Pancras station.

Identified Flying Object
The transformation now is marked. Let's stay with St Pancras, shall we? Now the end of the line for Eurostar, it's clear to see the investment that high-speed link has brought. Still gothic but no longer faded, the building looks fantastic, rejuvenated. There are champagne bars in there, for God's sake, and more shops than you can shake a stick at (station or mall, you decide). And then there's the statuary, like the Meeting Place (aka "The Lovers"), a 30ft bronze of a kissing couple that is frankly breathtaking, or the statue of Sir John Betjeman, or (currently) the mechanical clock installed in front of the more traditional Dent Clock (more here on all of this if you're interested). And this rejuvenation carries on into King's Cross, where the ceiling of the western concourse is a dazzling, dizzying piece of architecture (or is it art?) And of course Harry Potter's Plaform 9¾ brings a queue of selfie-taking tourists, all keen to spend oodles in the adjacent shop - wizard, no doubt, though I didn't venture in. Outside the station, Battle Bridge Place is currently home to Identified Flying Object, a 30ft-high birdcage that is lit in neon at night - bizarre but beautiful. Swish bars are everywhere, none finer than the German Gynasium (which is a very fine building, more than worthy of its fascinating history). Walk from there up past Google's huge new office (another very conspicuous sign, and source, of inward investment), over the Regent's Canal towards St Martin's, and there's plenty more redevelopment on show, none more arresting than the redeveloped old gasholders, two of which now house apartment buildings with their exterior ironwork intact (to dramatic effect). The third gas holder stands empty, but it artfully lit at night, with the foot of the ironwork clad in subtly angled mirrors and steel, encompassing an undulating lawn - the overall effect is quite beautiful.

Gasholder Park

All of which sounds great, doesn't it? I certainly sound enthused, hopefully. The art and architecture is wonderful, the bars and restaurants infinitely better than their equivalents of yesteryear, and (whilst I was only staying with the hotel chain Lenny Henry now purports to like for cash) I am happy to report that hotel bars no longer seem to need policing. And not that many phone boxes are left, but those that cling on have only a half-hearted smattering of cards posted in. So, the area is much improved all around... but sanitised too much, maybe? I felt a little out of kilter, otherworldly, uncanny - the familiar had become unfamiliar. The changes taper off as you move towards Euston, and there are still a lot of homeless people rough-sleeping in doorways (maybe more so than when New Labour were in their pomp, fifteen years ago). Beneath the steel and glass, and shiny new paint job, London's rusty hindquarters and matted underbelly cling on. That's probably how it should be.

The Pet Shop Boys had a song called King's Cross, and maybe you were expecting that. But since I very nearly became lost, metaphorically if not literally, in King's Cross, there can only be one song to end this with. I know, any excuse for a bit of Gene...

Friday, 10 November 2017

The single most important television of my youth

Given that I've recently blogged about Starsky and Hutch and The Bionic Woman, it seems only natural to continue the TV theme. They were both programmes I predominantly watched in the late 70s, as were other blog subjects Paddington, Happy Days and The Two Ronnies. I've also waxed lyrical in the past about The Prisoner, a 60s programme but new to me in the 80s when the nascent Channel 4 screened it. Over the twelve (!) years of this blog, I've written about television quite a lot... all of which makes it even more surprising that I have never written about the most important programme of all to the young me. For whilst I once blogged about a spin-off film, I've never written about the original television series of Star Trek.

Just three series. 79 episodes. A cast of regulars and a whole host of red-shirted security guys. Occasionally hammy acting and special effects that, whilst state of the art for 60s television, were, in a post-Star Wars world, pretty basic to behold. Leading men who looked like they couldn't believe their luck. Leading women who were always in soft-focus for close shots. A science fiction show that played fast and loose with physics (when asked "How does the Heisenberg compensator work?" ST technical adviser Michael Okuda famously replied "Very well, thank you."). And storylines, in the third series, that often didn't measure up.

So what was the appeal? Beyond the science-fiction of transporters, warp speed, phasers and photon torpedoes. Beyond the catchphrases ("Beam me up," "Illogical", "He's dead, Jim", "She cannae take the strain, Cap'n", and so on). Beyond the mostly bipedal aliens, all of whom could be understood by the miracle of the universal translator (no doubt something else that worked very well, thank you), and beyond the interplanetary women, who all wore revealing costumes and fell for James Tiberius Kirk. Beyond an emotionless first officer from another planet who could render you unconscious by pinching your neck and perform mind-melds just by holding your head. And beyond an impossibly glamorous communications officer who had a bluetooth earpiece 40+ years before such things were invented (and the shortest mini-skirt of the lot).

So quite a lot going for it then. But genuinely beyond all that were the stories. The space setting was, to a degree, secondary to the premise that a band of friends would roam around in altruistic exploration, encountering strangers and having scrapes, resolving them in a positive way. It could have been set in the old West, or ancient Rome, or anywhere in-between. The sci-fi accoutrements of the 23rd Century added some excitement, made it new and even more colourful, and maybe enabled fantastical elements to enter some of the stories but, when you boil it down, the series survived (and later, in syndication and repeats, thrived) because of the stories and the interplay between the principal characters. That's the reason people are still buying merchandise, attending conferences, reading books, watching movies and TV spin-offs, and, most of all, revering the source material. And that's how it's entered the pop-cultural lexicon: everyone knows what warp speed is, everyone has had a "beam me up" moment. And it's why, in an episode of The Simpsons when Bart prepares to shock his classmates, he puns, "Crew, set your faces to stunned."

I had a hard time choosing a clip to illustrate these virtues of story-telling and crew camaraderie. I considered The Devil In The Dark, Amok Time, The Trouble With Tribbles, The Day Of The Dove, Assignment: Earth, A Piece Of The Action, Charlie X, The Galileo Seven and Arena before settling on a clip from perhaps my favourite episode of all, The City On The Edge Of Forever. If you're not familiar with the plot, all you need to know here is that Kirk and Spock have gone back to 1930s New York to retrieve a similarly displaced McCoy. Whilst there, Kirk falls for Edith Keeler, a pacificist. Long story short, he has to let her die, otherwise her campaigning will delay the US entering the Second World War long enough for Germany to win, thereby changing the future irrevocably (and Kirk et al's past). This, for me, is great stuff. I appreciate your mileage may vary.

And because lots of you that come here are music bloggers, or readers thereof, there's this, from Amok Time. Kirk agrees to fight his best friend, for that friend's sake, not realising it is to be a fight to the death. And it's of interest to fans of music trivia because...? It's where 80s power-poptarts T'Pau got their name...

Growing up, I always wanted to be Spock most of all. Sure, Kirk had the swagger and got the girl and McCoy was funny, but Spock was cool, logical, detached, intelligent, and always knew what to do. Plus, you know, the tricorder, neck-pinches, mind-melds and "fascinating"... Or maybe I just fancied myself as a bit different, who knows. I certainly hold dear his view that "there are always alternatives", and I can raise quite an arched eye-brow. And whilst I don't have pointy ears, I do sometimes wonder whether the Starfleet ideals of altruism, positivity and peaceful exploration might, in part, explain why I have spent the majority of my working life in public-sector or non-profit roles. Just how influenced was I?

Whatever, the bottom line is this: whilst I like Star Wars I love, and will always love, Star Trek. You could do a lot worse than immerse yourself in the original series and, to a lesser extent, the (even numbered) films starring the classic cast. Enjoy... and live long and prosper! (Not you, Ensign Ricky)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Disentangling

I have something of a love/hate relationship with being online.

I love the possibilities the Internet provides, the inter-connectivity, the access to the riches of the World Wide Web.

I hate the capacity of mankind to fill the World Wide Web with unmitigated bobbins.

Just lately the balance is getting increasingly out of whack. Example: I used to think Twitter was great - the social media it was okay to love. Concise, pithy, and interactive, if you had something of value to say it could be picked up and shared, your message was out there. And it was a door-opener, allowing you to communicate with people that you'd never otherwise be able to. But now? It's a bot-ridden, fake news propagating, cesspool of hate, where a thread can go from innocuous comment to outraged splenetic insults in four tweets or less. It is the demesne of the professionally angry, provocative, hateful and the first recourse of the competitively correct. Trolls, attention-seekers, hate-mongers, virtue-signallers, bots, propaganda, lies, fakery, extremism, inanity, ridicule, scorn, derision, loathing, self-loathing... pretty sure this is not what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind.

It wears me out, it really does. And it's not just Twitter. It's anything and anywhere online that requires you to have a username.

What makes it worse is that we've got to this point incrementally, and by stealth. The idea now of renouncing all online activity, deleting every account, cancelling email addresses... well, it's hardly to imagine. But if the whole shebang was invented today, complete and in its current form rather than developing over many years, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. Would you?

All of which doesn't really even scratch the surface of why I am trying to disentangle myself from the Web somewhat, though it gives you a flavour. And I am aware of the irony of making these points in a blog post (attention-seeking, inane, loathing, self-loathing). Whatever. I shall be having a purge, reapplying the pub test to my Facebook friends list (as in, would I enjoy having a pint in the pub with you? If not, unfollowed), the reciprocity test to Twitter (is our interaction mutually beneficial or are you getting more out of it than I am? If the latter, unfollowed), maybe just binning LinkedIn completely, and even pruning my blogroll (I currently subscribe to 39 RSS feeds). And I'll be sending Do Not Track requests from my browser, not-accepting third-party cookies and browsing incognito as much as possible. Stick that in your algorithm and smoke it.

I will not be entirely successful - it's impossible now, we're all too entangled. But I shall be trying to get back towards, oh, let's say... 1989. When the Internet existed but life in general was a bit more like this:

Friday, 3 November 2017

What you got?

Thanks to C at the always-excellent Sun Dried Sparrows for the heads-up that the final series of Detectorists starts next week on BBC4. You really should watch it. Here's the trailer:

I've eulogised about Detectorists before, so won't go on again, other than to say you'll be glad you tuned in. The Beeb's programme website has a lot of clips from the first two series, if you want to see what you've missed already.

Oh, and there's the theme tune too, of course, which is perfect.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

I am at stage four...

...in the five stages of grieving over the climate. Stage four is depression. Where are you?

Monday, 30 October 2017

Instinct, overheard

Overheard, earlier today...

A (downcast): Anyway, I'm sorry. I've been a bit down on myself lately, and it's made me a bit grumpy.

B (slightly disinterested): Don't be so hard on yourself.

A: I know, I've just been having a bit of an introspective phase, and -

B: Introspection's over-rated, if you ask me.

A: Well, I can't help it.

B (slightly more interested now): You can, actually. You can choose how you are, choose to give introspection a miss.

A (unconvinced but perhaps not wanting a debate): Well, maybe.

That's from memory, so apologies to A and B for misquotes and paraphrasing. That was certainly the gist of the conversation, anyway. So what do we think? Can you choose your mood, like B suggests? Or is choosing not an option, as A reckons? Is introspection, or any number of other behaviours, instinctive or reasoned?

You might think this slice of early Spandau Ballet would be the obvious choice to go with musings on instinction, but who likes obvious? It's alright, but I prefer a bit of tunesmithery, thanks.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Cryptic-schmyptic - the answers

Earlier this month, I posted a music crossword: 75 clues of varying difficulty - some cryptic, some anagrams, some straightforward. I hoped it might be a fun test, albeit a test that would be easier if you knew my taste in music and/or were a regular reader of the blog.

Anyway, a week is quite long enough to mull over a crossword, so here's the solution. There are no prizes but hey, by all means have a kudos point for every answer you got right.

The clueThe answer
ACROSS
1Purveyors of dead air space (9)Dead Air Space is the current title of Radiohead's website.
4Pentito (10)Pentito is Italian for someone who is repentant and is commonly used to describe criminals who help the judiciary, much like a Supergrass.
5Covered 41A's feast day (7)41A is Billy Bragg, who sang about St Swithin's Day. Dubstar did a lovely cover of this.
7...but neither Jane Fonda nor Donald Sutherland (1,2,5)Jane and Donald co-starred in the movie I Am Klute, from which I Am Kloot took their name.
9Panacea, they dropped the 'easy' (3,4)A panacea is a cure-all. Robert Smith's band were originally called The Easy Cure - they dropped the 'Easy' and became The Cure.
11A hand reached down to him (5,5)The lyrics to Oh You Pretty Things by the late David Bowie describe "A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me".
13Over experienced (4,7)His breakthrough band was The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
14Oh Susanna! Plus three. (3,7)The gorgeous Susanna Hoffs was lead vocalist with The Bangles.
16The beginning of all bands (7)Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 1: In the beginning...
21She stopped wearing cardigans (4,7)The sublime Nina Persson was singer with The Cardigans before going solo.
23Dancers of the leggy mambo (3)Leggy Mambo was the second album from Cud.
24Bickle boys (6)Travis Bickle was the protagonist in Taxi Driver, and gave the band their name.
25Time for Sleep for these indie also-rans (6)Time and Sleep were minor hits for forgotten indie nearly-men Marion.
27Insistent insect (4,3)Insistent could be adamant, an insect could be an ant, hence Adam Ant.
28Allowed the country to quiver (1,1,6)Let England Shake was an album by P J Harvey.
30Shoegazing was easy (4)Easy might imply an easy ride, hence Oxford shoegazers Ride.
31They bore a rose banner (4)Rose banner = Pink Flag, an album by Wire.
32Rearrange Mancunians (3,5)Not an anagram but if you arranged those Mancunians you might put them in a New Order.
34Locus of deoxyribonucleic acid (4)Deoxyribonucleic acid being DNA, this is one definition of a Gene.
37Sad aviation (4,10)Sad = blue, aviation = aeroplanes: Blue Aeroplanes.
40They reflected in the en-suite (3,4)Mirror In The Bathroom was a big hit for The Beat.
41Still suitable for miners (5,5)Note, miners, not minors. Who's more suitable for miners than Billy Bragg?
42Gift chosen from a list (3,7,7)Wedding gifts are often chosen from a list, hence The Wedding Present.
45Goes well with Streetband hit (3,3)Streetband had a hit with Toast, and what goes well with toast? The Jam, of course (Marmalade wouldn't fit).
46Gave 41A an extra verse (6,7)41A being Billy Bragg, the late Kirsty MacColl added an extra verse to her cover of Bill's A New England, which he subsequently adopted in tribute to her.
48After-hours training for the philharmonic (1,1,1)After hours implies in the Dark. Training implies Manoeuvres. Philharmonic implies Orchestral. So, O.M.D.
49The Office Block Persecution Affinity (3,5)One of a number of groups The Kinks identified with in The Village Green Preservation Society.
50Gave Val Kilmer his finest hour (3,8)Val played Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's Doors biopic.
52Not as hard as stainless steel (4)Sheffield is indelibly associated with stainless steel, as are the much softer sounding Pulp.
55Their sophtware did not sell well (9)The Sophtware Slump was an album by Grandaddy.
57They always sounded so happy (1,1,1)Ecstatic even, or in a state of X.T.C. perhaps?
58Multiple stationers (3,6)More than one branch of W H Smith would surely be The Smiths?
61Scouse anglers? (4)Fishermen Cast their line.
62Change for vending machine (6,4)Forgive the playground joke, but this is Johnny Cash.
64Kubrick's favourite band? (11)Probably not Stanley's favourite band, but Strangelove were excellent, as is Kubrick's film Dr Strangelove.
66Handy for nurdling, if Gallic (5)A nurdle (think of the Aquafresh logo) would be easy to draw with a French curve. Or just Curve, if Gallic.
67Not the high street soap pedlars (4)As well as the soap company, Lush were also shoegazers signed to 4AD.
68Kept in a creel? (4)Sylvia Plath's poem You're memorably compared a baby to a creel of Eels.
69Oh, duo screwed (7,5)Confusingly not a duo, just an anagram of Crowded House.
71Not Screaming Lord Sutch's backing band (7)Sutch's band were The Savages. So not them, just Savages without the The.
DOWN
2Essential French duo (3)Air is pretty essential, I find.
3New York childminders (5)Nanny In Manhattan was the jeans-ad-powered one-hit wonder for Lilys.
4Velveteen trash (5)Velveteen is an adjective that might be applied to Suede who had quite a hit with Trash.
6Bald, bony? (3,5)A straight anagram of the bony but still hirsute Bob Dylan.
8Suicidal Swedes (3,9)The Wannadies were from Sweden.
9Liverpudlians who always had one eye on the cover (3,3)The La's eponymous debut album had a close-up of an eye on the sleeve.
10Symbol's mother (5)For a while, Prince went by the name of an unpronouncable symbol. Who's a prince's mother? A Queen, of course!
12Neither acoustic nor heavy but philharmonic (1,1,1)Not acoustic implies Electric. Not heavy implies Light. Philharmonic implies Orchestra. So, E.L.O.
14A modest, dizzy bunch (3,6,5)(Im)modest sounding The Wonder Stuff helped Vic Reeves with his hit cover of Dizzy.
15Spanish archer (5)El bow... Elbow. Geddit?
17Tight fit (but not Tight Fit) (7)A tight fit is, literally, a Squeeze.
18Kopavagur's finest (8,7)Kopavagur is a little town in Iceland, home to singer-songwriter Emiliana Torrini.
19When Bob was sweet, not mouldy (5)Bob Mould's other band, Sugar.
20Sounds like they should be Alan's favourite band (1,2)Knowing me, Alan Partridge, knowing you, New Amusements... A-Ha!
22Shy poets bop (3,4,4)A straight anagram of Pet Shop Boys.
25Ann Coates (9)Credited with backing vocals on Bigmouth, Ann Coates was actually a pitch-shifted Morrissey.
26Quite good (3,12)In their early days, this band had badges proclaiming "The Housemartins are quite good".
29He plays guitar (6,4)The lyrics of John Kettley Is A Weatherman by A Tribe of Toffs include the line "Johnny Marr, he plays guitar."
32They saw off the fear (5)There Goes The Fear was, in my view, Doves' finest moment.
35The decline of ... (7,3,5)...British Sea Power is an excellent album by, unsurprisngly, British Sea Power!
36Alternate heroes' stetson (3,5,5)A straight anagram of The Stone Roses.
38No longer an attraction (5,8)Since Steve Nieve doesn't fit, another ex-Attraction would be Elvis Costello.
39Changing man (4,6)A descriptive reference to a mid-90s release from Paul Weller.
43Not Middleton, not burning (4,4)Not Middleton, so another Kate. Not burning, so another bush. Kate Bush.
44Gaussian smudge (4)A Gaussian Blur is a common image processing effect used in many graphics software packages.
47Is Georgia the dream state? (3)Rapid Eye Movement is what you do when you're dreaming and Athens, Georgia, was home to R.E.M.
51(W)hole lot of water (5)A waterhole might be an Oasis.
53Fallen in French farce (7)The farce in question, 'Allo 'Allo, featured a painting entitled "Ze Fallen Madonna With Ze Big Boobies". Yes, really.
54Diminutive Cornish or Devonians (6)Those mythical little fellas would be Pixies, of course.
56Pre-Banksy stencillers, Essex anarcho-punks (5)I remember the stencilled art and logos more than the music. This was Crass.
59Gudmund's daughter, once sweet and die-shaped (5)Ex-Sugarcube, Bjork Gudmundsdottir.
60Left the opera Scott-free (5)She left her soap opera husband Scott behind and went on to become so big she could dispense with her surname. She is Kylie.
63Grunge Yoko and co (4)Grunge Yoko was a label thrown at Courtney Love, who had her own band, Hole.
65White Van men (4)Van Morrison first found fame as the singer in Them.
70Entwistle (2)Who bassist and archetypal quiet man John Entwistle's nickname was Ox.

So that's it. How did you do? And don't worry, I doubt very much that I'll be doing this again - okay, it generated quite a lot of interaction in the comments (no cross words though, ho ho), but it was disproportionately hard work for all concerned!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Who was your favourite?

I cannot imagine a time when this title sequence will fail to make me feel joyously young again, even if only for one minute ten seconds...

And what a theme tune!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Cryptic-schmyptic

I may or may not have too much blogging time imminently, for reasons too numerous to go into. In case I don't, I'd thought I'd just leave something here that might last passing readers a while. And I'll be honest, I was also inspired by Rol's Saturday Snapshots series, with their cryptic clues.

So here's a crossword. All answers are bands or solo artists. If you've been reading this blog long enough you'll have an idea of my musical taste, so you'll have a head start there, I should imagine. Either way, you'll probably solve it all in a lot less time than it took me to compile. Some clues are cryptic, some are straightforward, and there may even be an anagram or two. Oh, and you might want to click the grid to view it a little larger than it displays below.

Click to embiggen

ACROSSDOWN
1Purveyors of dead air space (9)2Essential French duo (3)
4Pentito (10)3New York childminders (5)
5Covered 41A's feast day (7)4Velveteen trash (5)
7...but neither Jane Fonda nor Donald Sutherland (1,2,5)6Bald, bony? (3,5)
9Panacea, they dropped the 'easy' (3,4)8Suicidal Swedes (3,9)
11A hand reached down to him (5,5)9Liverpudlians who always had one eye on the cover (3,3)
13Over experienced (4,7)10Symbol's mother (5)
14Oh Susanna! Plus three. (3,7)12Neither acoustic nor heavy but philharmonic (1,1,1)
16The beginning of all bands (7)14A modest, dizzy bunch (3,6,5)
21She stopped wearing cardigans (4,7)15Spanish archer (5)
23Dancers of the leggy mambo (3)17Tight fit (but not Tight Fit) (7)
24Bickle boys (6)18Kopavagur's finest (8,7)
25Time for Sleep for these indie also-rans (6)19When Bob was sweet, not mouldy (5)
27Insistent insect (4,3)20Sounds like they should be Alan's favourite band (1,2)
28Allowed the country to quiver (1,1,6)22Shy poets bop (3,4,4)
30Shoegazing was easy (4)25Ann Coates (9)
31They bore a rose banner (4)26Quite good (3,12)
32Rearrange Mancunians (3,5)29He plays guitar (6,4)
34Locus of deoxyribonucleic acid (4)32They saw off the fear (5)
37Sad aviation (4,10)35The decline of ... (7,3,5)
40They reflected in the en-suite (3,4)36Alternate heroes' stetson (3,5,5)
41Still suitable for miners (5,5)38No longer an attraction (5,8)
42Gift chosen from a list (3,7,7)39Changing man (4,6)
45Goes well with Streetband hit (3,3)43Not Middleton, not burning (4,4)
46Gave 41A an extra verse (6,7)44Gaussian smudge (4)
48After-hours training for the philharmonic (1,1,1)47Is Georgia the dream state? (3)
49The Office Block Persecution Affinity (3,5)51(W)hole lot of water (5)
50Gave Val Kilmer his finest hour (3,8)53Fallen in French farce (7)
52Not as hard as stainless steel (4)54Diminutive Cornish or Devonians (6)
55Their sophtware did not sell well (9)56Pre-Banksy stencillers, Essex anarcho-punks (5)
57They always sounded so happy (1,1,1)59Gudmund's daughter, once sweet and die-shaped (5)
58Multiple stationers (3,6)60Left the opera Scott-free (5)
61Scouse anglers? (4)63Grunge Yoko and co (4)
62Change for vending machine (6,4)65White Van men (4)
64Kubrick's favourite band? (11)70Entwistle (2)
66Handy for nurdling, if Gallic (5)
67Not the high street soap pedlars (4)
68Kept in a creel? (4)
69Oh, duo screwed (7,5)
71Not Screaming Lord Sutch's backing band (7)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Rose(-tinted) crush

Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers. Sigh.

My first real crush as a boy, after the prototype crush I had on my second teacher (the brunette-hair-down-to-her-waist, guitar-playing, hoop-ear-ring-wearing Miss Broad) was Lindsay Wagner. Or, more precisely, her most famous screen role, Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman. You could keep your Charlie's Angels as far as I was concerned (although I watched that too, of course, and did sort of like Jaclyn Smith), it was the tennis-pro turned schoolteacher who somehow warranted a multi-million dollar upgrade after a parachuting accident that always did it for me. She had brains (a schoolteacher knows everything when you're that age, right?), was super-powered (a bionic arm to go with bionic legs and, erm, one ear) and looked nice enough to make me feel funny in a way I didn't really understand at the time. It's no coincidence that the girl I always ran after when playing kiss-chase in the primary school playground looked like a pint-sized Jaime...

Watching clips now, The Bionic Woman hasn't aged terrifically well. It's hard to imagine watching whole episodes, even through the rose-tinted haze of nostalgia. By contrast, contemporary shows like Columbo and The Rockford Files still hold up, I think. But anyway, Jaime Sommers... the title sequence is archetypal Seventies US fare: the premise, the background, and lots of lingering shots of the star. And then there's a little clip of Jamie defeating a HAL9000 rip-off, in a race against time before they get nuked. Yes, really. Heavy stuff for a show aimed at kids, and actually pretty well done, I reckon.

Now, let me wallow.