Sunday, June 02, 2019

Don't Mention The War

'Well, that went down like a lead balloon!' There was an empty seat in the front row when Good Omens had its world premiere in London on Tuesday. That's not because organisers had trouble filling the gigantic (and newly reopened) Odeon in Leicester Square - quite the opposite, the event was sold out. A seat was deliberately kept vacant for Terry Pratchett, the co-writer of the original novel, who died in 2015. As a tribute, his trademark hat was placed in the front row as the premiere got under way. As Peter White noted in Deadline, it is highly unusual for a TV series such as Good Omens to 'receive a glitzy world premiere in Leicester Square' as that is 'a feat usually reserved for big-budget superhero movies.' The drama, which launched on Amazon Prime on Friday, has been adapted for the small screen by Neil Gaiman, who co-wrote the 1990 novel with Pratchett. The fantasy series sees an angel and a demon (played by Michael Sheen and David Tennant) team up to save the world as the apocalypse draws closer.
While a hugely popular novel may seem fertile ground for a screen transfer, a string of producers and writers have refused to touch it over the last three decades. 'Once upon a time, Good Omens was considered unadaptable,' wrote Flora Carr in the Radio Times. 'Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's sprawling fantasy novel was notorious within the film and TV industries. Screenwriters turned their noses up at the project and various attempts over the years to bring page to screen ended in disappointment.' But, according to Gaiman, one of Pratchett's last requests was that the novel be adapted for the screen. 'He said|: |"You have to make it into television because I want to see it before the lights go out,"' explained Gaiman at the premiere. 'I said okay, figuring I had six or seven years of Terry left. And then he died, which suddenly turned into a last request.' Gaiman took on the task of adapting the story himself - giving the project a stamp of approval that helped it attract some stellar names to the cast. 'It helped so much having Neil Gaiman being the showrunner,' Sheen told Radio 2 ahead of the premiere. 'He was on set every day, working alongside Douglas Mackinnon, who directed it and was at the heart of all the creative decisions, which gives you a lot of confidence. He's not done that before.' Similarly, fellow cast member Adria Arjona, who plays Anathema Device, told the Daily Scum Mail: 'I think that this has been the job where I've felt the most comfortable because I've had the source in front of me. If I had a question, I could just go to him, and that to me was really helpful because the acting process sometimes can be so lonely in a way. But here it was such a collaboration.' The rest of the cast includes Miranda Richardson and Jon Hamm, with Frances McDormand as the voice of God and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Satan. Perhaps surprisingly, Gaiman said dividing the novel into six hour-long episodes was 'definitely the simplest part. I was very practical, I sat down with the novel, the edition I had was three hundred pages long, so I put post-it notes in every fifty pages, decided that was what was happening in all those episodes.' But, he added: 'Throughout it all, I kept wishing that Terry Pratchett was there. Whenever I got stuck, I wanted to call Terry and say, "What do I do now?|" And whenever I did something clever, I wanted to call him and say, "I did it, I figured it out!"' The show has had somewhat mixed reviews from critics - though, to be fair, nobody really gives a flying fek what those waste-of-space wankers think. About anything. But, nevertheless, many credit the pairing of Sheen and Tennant with carrying the series. 'It's a lot, and sometimes the pace is more exhausting than bracing,' Judy Berman wrote in Time. 'At the same time, the show's underlying ideas about tribalism and friendship are pretty commonplace. Still, Tennant and Sheen make an ideal buddy-comedy duo; their banter does justice to Gaiman and the late Pratchett's witty prose. Like all maximalist TV, Good Omens promises to be polarising. It isn't my idea of heaven, but your paradise may vary.' Writing in IndieWire, Ben Travers said: 'Divine turns by Michael Sheen and David Tennant get lost in an overloaded plot of diminishing returns. Douglas Mackinnon's direction makes the most of lush environments and a farcical tone, but the meandering editing doesn't always do the scenes justice. McDormand's narration, while amusing, can be a crutch and there are distinct mistakes in timing, whether it's when a song kicks in or when shots start and end.' 'The infantilist tone recalls the Harry Potter universe,' noted Suzi Feay in the Financial Times. 'Like human history, this goes on a bit but is enlivened by highly entertaining patches.' In her Radio Times review, Flora Carr noted that, if anything, efforts to stay true to the book were 'a hindrance to the flow' of the TV series. 'Reams of dialogue are almost word-for-word during episode one, to the extent that there are certain moments and scenes where one feels that the show's pace has been sacrificed in favour of preserving the "voice" of the book,' she said. Speaking at the premiere, Douglas Mackinnon stressed the importance of 'doing justice' to Gaiman and Pratchett's original text. 'We had a very good budget, but we didn't have an unlimited budget and, oddly, the training I'd got doing shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who came into force all the time,' he said. 'The challenge was keeping the story faithful to the book, to Terry, to the scripts that Neil had written, and just getting the vision out - that was the key to it all.' For what it's worth, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping thought it was great. Well, right up to the moment that odious lanky streak of worthless piss Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall turned up and, as he usually does, threatened to turn everything he appears into diarrhoea. And, there was another minus point for using Queen on the soundtrack. But, odious lanky worthless streaks of rancid piss and over-rated pomp rockers aside, dear blog reader, yes, it was great. Especially Michael and David acting their little bri-nylon socks off in what is likely to be the year's finest TV comedy-drama double act.
Nevertheless, it is necessary, once again, to repeat an oft-stated From The North truism.
Kit Harington has reportedly checked into a 'wellness retreat' in the US for stress. The actor - who is best known for playing Jon Snow in Game Of Thrones - began getting treatment several weeks ago, according to Page Six. His publicist told Radio 1's Newsbeat that Kit was 'working on some personal issues.' In a recent interview Harington spoke of 'a huge heave of emotion' after filming the final scenes of Game Of Thrones, which he worked on for eight series. In a different interview, the thirty two-year-old actor told Esquire what it was like filming Jon Snow's final scenes. He said: 'The final day of shooting, I felt fine ... Then I went to do my last shots and started hyperventilating a bit. Then they called, "Wrap!|" And I just broke down. It was this onslaught of relief and grief about not being able to do this again.' A, very fine, documentary about the end of Game Of Thrones, The Last Watch was broadcast on Sunday in the US and Monday in the UK. It showed Harington crying during a cast script read-through when he learned that his character's fate was to stab his lover/auntie, Daenerys. To death. Kit - who was in Game Of Thrones from the first episode until the last - told Variety about the effects of working on such an intense show for a long period. 'You have these in-jokes and these relationships that thrive for eight years,' he explained. 'That's a long time for those jokes to be going and they never felt old or tired. In the last season, I was like, these are getting tired now. And I think they got tired because we could see the end coming. That's a way of emotionally detaching from something: relationships very slightly starting to strain, just on the edges, just frayed.'
Joe Dempsie, who played Gendry, had a few years break from the show, but speaking to the BBC, he says when he went back he 'noticed' how much life had changed for some of the cast members: 'Just going about your day-to-day life for those guys has become slightly tricky. I'm thankful that I wasn't in that core group of actors that really has to carry the weight of the show on their shoulders. It goes without saying I wish Kit all the best and I'm sure that he'll sort himself out and get the help that he needs.' Earlier this month Kit's co-star Maisie Williams discussed how growing up in the public eye, she felt pressure to pretend 'that everything is fine.' Isaac Hempstead Wright, who played Bran Stark, told Newsbeat that from the first day of filming on Game Of Thrones they knew the work was 'relentless.' Isaac, who worked on the show from the ages of eleven to twenty, was giving his inside story before the final series was shown on TV.
Lars Pearson's excellent opinion piece, The Morning After: Game Of Thrones Emotion Versus Reason at the Sci-Fi Bulletin website is well worth ten minutes of your time, dear blog reader. (Or, however long it takes you to read it, anyway.) Take, the following: 'Fandom reacted to Daenerys's brutality with the shyness and restraint for which it is known. Actually, bile and resentment were sprayed everywhere and a petition to "Remake Game Of Thrones Season Eight With Competent Writers" is fast approaching one-and-a-half million signatures - a number significantly boosted, no doubt, by widespread media coverage of it. You can't blame the likes of the BBC for reporting on a petition that massive (a bid to remake The Last Jedi similarly got attention last year, with a paltry one hundred and sixteen thousand signatures) and yet it A) remains a spectacular example of tilting at windmills, as HBO is never going to blow one hundred million(ish) dollars on a do-over, B) leaves utterly vague the criteria by which "competency" shall be judged (good luck getting anyone to agree on that) and C) curiously absolves Thrones creator George RR Martin of blame, instead pissing lava on showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss, even though - by most accounts - they were working to Martin's story. If you don't like Daenerys going nuts, most of the blame surely lies with the seventy-year-old book writer with the impressive beard.'
Sophie Turner recently revealed that she had spoiled the ending of Game Of Thrones for her husband Joe Jonas. Now, one Reddit user has claimed that he followed her example. Reddit user 'GOTSpoilerDude' (probably not his real name, this blogger is guessing) took to the website to ask if it was 'wrong' to spoil the ending of Game Of Thrones, something which his girlfriend has been waiting impatiently for almost eight years over. Because, he claimed, she didn't organise a 'special celebration' for his birthday. 'My girlfriend and I have been going out for about a year now. Great relationship overall,' he wrote. 'We've hit a major bump though. Here's what happened: So I'm not into Game Of Thrones. It looks cool, but I've never gotten into it. My girlfriend is a huge fan, though. She's read all of the books and has been watching the series since it came out. It's by far her favourite show. The Sunday before last was the huge finale. It also happened to be my birthday. Now, I'm a huge birthday guy. For her birthday, back in January, I took her out to one of the best restaurants in [Seattle]. I also got her a necklace with real gold and it's not like I have a six-figure income either. When my birthday came around, guess how she greeted me in the morning: "OMG the Game Of Thrones finale is tonight. I'm literally dying!" Not even a happy birthday to me. It wasn't until we went downstairs that she realised it was my birthday. She made me toast, so that's something, I guess. Well, I was pretty damn disappointed she had nothing planned for me that day. Not even a gift. She's told me before she's "not a birthday person." That night, she went to her parents' place to watch the finale with her family. I was pissed at this point, so I went online and found out what happened. Just as the show was going to start, I texted her this: "Hey babe, tell me how the show goes! Especially the part where Jon kills Daenerys, the throne is destroyed and Bran becomes king!"' Needless to say, this joker's girlfriend was not happy. 'Things have been shaky since,' the man conclude. Dude, that is seriously fucked-up! Hang your head in The Shame.
'Towards the end of the opening episode of The Planets (BBC2), the new solar system opus presented by Professor Brian Cox, I found myself questioning whether this was feelgood, or feelbad, television,' wrote some smear of no consequence at the Gruniad Morning Star. 'Cox has already made headlines with his suggestion that the future of humanity may lie in stretching our living quarters from Earth to Mars, which, I suppose, is a feelgood idea, if adventures and Matt Damon are high on your particular list. The wonder of Cox’s arguments, which take in the staggering, incomprehensible vastness of time and space, provides the kind of television that made this particular viewer stop and say "whoa" every few seconds. And there is extreme joy, indeed, to be found in the miraculousness of life existing on Earth at all. When Cox dangles his hand in a rock pool on a volcano in the middle of the ocean, he marvels at all the chance events that took place over billions of years to produce these tiny creatures.'
The BBC have now confirmed that series two of From The North favourite Killing Eve will be returning to BBC1 on 8 June. Perhaps now all of those Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star and the Independent will shut-the-fek-up whinging about how viewers in America got to see the series before British viewers did. Unlikely, admittedly, but just about possible.
Doctor Who series twelve filming continues and, as previously announced, The Judoon will be featured. The creatures were spotted on location earlier in the week outside Gloucester Cathedral tooled up, frankly, looking geet hard.
Issue five hundred and thirty nine of the Doctor Who Magazine, out this week, includes an exclusive interview with yer actual Jodie Whittaker her very self. The magazine is also available as a strictly limited - Deluxe Edition exclusive to WH Smith and costing twice as much as the standard edition. The Deluxe Edition includes: An exclusive vinyl EP featuring rare and bonus tracks from The Evil Of The Daleks; a twenty eight-page supplement about the making of the Thirteenth Doctor's episodes, 'packed full of new information and previously unseen pictures' and a Doctor Who bookmark. The Doctor Who Magazine is available from all good newsagents (and, some bad ones too).
The tremendous appeal of pretty much anything Doctor Who-related was underlined at London auction house Roseberys in March when a collection of archive of photographs and copies of plans from a lost episode sold for four thousand six hundred knicker. Now, more images are on offer, this time in colour. The earlier selection demolished an estimate of eight to twelve hundred smackers and further photos from the same source relating to that six episode serial - The Power Of The Daleks - are available at the same saleroom. Offered in the Fine & Decorative auction on 18 July in West Norwood and guided, again, at eight to twelve hundred notes, they relate to the missing debut story for Patrick Troughton's Doctor, first broadcast by the BBC from 5 November to 10 December 1966. They were taken on colour film at a time when the programme was still being shot and broadcast in black and white. The master tapes of all six episodes were erased in the late 1960s, while the copies kept for foreign sales on sixteen millimetre film were destroyed in 1974. Their destruction meant that the only information to survive on the series was limited to stills photography, six short clips (totalling about two minutes and fifty seconds) recovered from various sources, a complete audio recording of all six episodes and some silent cine-films (around fifty seconds worth) made by fans when the programmes were broadcast. The collection was owned by the late production designer and art director, Derek Dodd (1937 to 2018), who made set designs for The Power Of The Daleks and and a subsequent Doctor Who story, The Wheel In Space (1968). The Power Of The Daleks marked the first time that The Doctor regenerated. The latest images to emerge at auction include a collection of twenty one colour negatives and developed photographs of scenes. They depict actors on set, interiors and other scenes, such as a photograph of Pamela Anne Davey as Janley standing next to a console station, a similar scene with her, Patrick Troughton and Michael Craze as Ben Jackson. Six scenes show various actors on set, another a scene of a Dalek in a corridor and fourteen scenes are of different sets, including the 'Prison cells' and 'Rocket Equipment Ship One'. The negatives come in three section strips within 'Wallace Heaton Ltd' folders, together with eleven black and white film strips each with eleven frames with varying lighting situations for the subject matter, the strips depicting seven scenes of Daleks in manufacture and groups with four of actors and other scenes. Dodd worked with some of the most formative of writers and directors from the television age including Stephen Frears, Stephen Poliakoff and Dennis Potter. His work has received BAFTA and EMMY nominations.
A long-lost 'alternate' ending footage for Quantum Leap has suddenly surfaced online twenty six years after the acclaimed SF series finished. For five series, from 1989 to 1993, NBC broadcast Quantum Leap, which told the tale of the brilliant Doctor Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and his journey through history after a time travel experiment went wrong. Guiding Sam on his travels was Al (Dean Stockwell), a friend and colleague from Sam's own time that appeared to him in the form of a hologram. As passionate as Quantum Leap's fanbase was (and still is) and as much as it was, broadly speaking, highly regarded by critics, the show - which this blogger was a huge fan of - was never a ratings hit. Quantum Leap came close to being cancelled several times during its life before it finally got the axe abruptly after series five's finale had already been shot. This led producers to refashion what had been intended as a mere series finale into a permanent ending, one which infamously revealed via onscreen text that Sam 'never returned home.' Of course, it was originally planned that Sam's meeting with a God-like bartender would set up a sixth series of adventures, this time with Sam leaping through time as himself instead of taking the place of another person. Now, a long-lost alternate ending scene designed to set up Quantum Leap series six has surfaced online, thanks to a Redditor using the handle 'Leaper1953' (again, as with the Game Of Thrones dude above, this blogger suspects this is probably not his real name). The scene features Al and his wife Beth - following Sam going back in time to save their marriage - discussing Project Quantum Leap's continued search for its leader. The audio is quite rough, but enough is audible to confirm that this ending matches an alternate ending script which surfaced previously on the Quantum Leap fan site Al's Place.
Amanda Holden has grovellingly apologised after shouting 'a strong swearword' during a ghost act on the first Britain's Got Toilets live semi-final. The judge was 'visibly shaken' when she was put through a spooky routine by an act called The Haunting on Monday. She let slip the naughty profanity - it was 'fuck' just in case you thought it might have been something else - near the end before clasping a hand over her mouth. After returning to the judges' desk, she said: 'I just really want to apologise if I said anything. I said a really terrible word.' The segment was shown before the watershed. Holden added: 'I know there are kids watching, I know my kids are watching, so massive apologies. I can honestly say I feel terrified.' Afterwards, presenter Ant McPartlin snivelled: 'We'd like to apologise if you heard any bad language there from Amanda. She was very, very scared as you could see.' TV regulator Ofcom had received one hundred and ninety two whinged by Tuesday morning - thirty about about Holden's bad and naughty swearing and a further one hundred and fifty four about 'the scary nature' of the act itself. The watchdog is now assessing whether to investigate the show. The segment involved Holden being led to a room beneath the stage and confronted by actresses playing the 'ghosts' of a woman called Agatha and her eleven-year-old daughter, Florence. In a video posted on Twitter, Holden said: 'I've never felt so terrified in my whole life. I wouldn't want anyone to go through that, but she's a genius. I don't know how she does it. And apologies again.' The moment has been cut out of the show on ITV Hub but was shared by several viewers on social media. On ITV2's Britain's Got More Toilets, Holden said that she had begged Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroad not to fire her from the show for swearing. And offered to take a live spanking on the next show if it would help with ratings. Probably. In response to a question from a caller about what the judges do during the advert breaks, she replied: 'I had a panic attack and went to the toilet. Lots of times.'
And now, dear blog reader, some truly terrible, appalling news. Laughless comedy series Gavin & Stacey is set to return for a one-off Christmas special according to its co-creator, That Awful Corden Individual. Tweeting a picture of a script, That Awful Corden Individual said he and co-writer, Ruth Jones, had been 'keeping this secret for a while.' Sadly, the chose not to keep it a secret forever but, instead, let it out into the open. The BAFTA-winning sitcom, about a long-distance relationship between a girl from south Wales and an Essex boy, was last screened in the UK in 2010. It was about as funny as a really irritating rash on ones scrotum. The BBC confirmed the announcement, saying it was 'hugely excited' to welcome the show back.
Imagine, dear blog reader that in a future season of Line Of Duty, the reveal turned out to be that the organised crime syndicate had been using hitmen to kill drug dealers in a conspiracy with a Crimewatch presenter to raise ratings for the show. Social and regular media would, surely, be filled with 'shark-jumping' sneering and other such malarkey. Yet, it is possible that such an absurd sequence of events happened in Brazil. This strange tale is the subject of Killer Ratings, a documentary series that has just be released on Netflix. At a time of moral panic over television ethics in Britain, an even more extreme example can be found in the story of Wallace Souza, host of Canal Livre, which became the most-watched news show ever in Amazonas in North-West Brazil. Souza's shtick as a presenter was 'defender of the public.' There is a recognisable pious relish in a clip where he confronts a criminal, live on camera, with the accusation: 'You murdered a citizen in front of a child.' Another highlight of Souza's showreel was a sequence in which holed-up gangsters agree to negotiate in person only with the TV star. They took him hostage, but the public's defender talked himself free just in time to come live to the studio to report on his ordeal. Because guidelines on editorial impartiality seem to be less strict for broadcasters in Brazil than the UK (where Martin Bell had to leave the BBC to be an MP) or the US (where someone gave up The Apprentice to be President Rump), Souza was able to both present his show and be elected three times, with ever more crushing majorities, as a member of the state assembly. From that platform, he criticised police officials and judges for their failure to impose justice quite as fiercely as he did on TV, where Canal Livre became ever more lucrative for its channel, TV Rio Negro, by featuring 'exclusive' solutions to drug-war executions that the police had not yet got round to investigating. Imagine a Brazilian combination of David Attenborough, Sherlock Holmes and Barack Obama and Souza seemed, by 2009, to have become exactly that. However, following a plea-bargaining confession by a crook arrested in a separate case, it was alleged that Canal Livre was arriving so quickly to the sites and perpetrators of crimes it was covering because it had arranged for them to be committed in the first place. Although compelling evidence was found at the presenter-politician's home, he insisted that he was being framed by ministers and police chiefs infuriated by his programme's exposure of their failings. One or two people even believed him. Of course, real stories cannot always be resolved as neatly as fiction; a sudden occurrence prevents complete closure in this case. However, the effect of this uncertainty is to make viewers into jurors, as is anyway often the case with true-life crime. Although British and US TV have seen no ethical breaches remotely as severe as those of which Souza was accused, Netflix's seven-part series does serve as an admonitory parable for all broadcasting organisations. Finding journalistic fault with the government, the police, the welfare system and the judiciary, Souza seems progressively to have assumed their functions, becoming a combination of populist demagogue and vigilante enforcer. While one consequence of the allegedly commissioned killings and their swift solutions was to raise the profile of his show, another was to reduce the numbers of criminals on the streets, which might have been given as warped justification for the murders. Without ever yet going so far, the British media have sometimes become impatient with the slow processes of justice, most notoriously in 2010 when they more or less convicted a Bristol teacher, Christopher Jeffries, of a murder of which he was completely innocent. And whatever the causal relationship between The Jeremy Kyle Show and the tragic death of a guest may turn out to be, Kyle and other such formats, are clearly vulnerable to the charge of turning a studio into a police cell or court. Some argue that British TV is over-regulated, but Killer Ratings may make us thankful that barriers are in place to prevent broadcasters with delusions of becoming politician, police, judge or jury from doing so.
Yet more long-lost footage of a performance by The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) is to be shown publicly for the first time in more than fifty years. The Be-Atles' appearance on Top Of The Pops in the summer of 1966 was thought to have been lost to history before the collector David Chandler handed over a series of eight millimetre film reels. Chandler gave the haul to Kaleidoscope, the group which specialises in recovering lost video and TV shows. Experts remastered the footage and added sound of the mute clip, featuring ninety two seconds of The Be-Atles performing 'Paperback Writer' on the BBC on 16 June 1966. Only eleven seconds of the performance were previously known to exist on film (and even that was only recovered a couple of months ago). Kaleidoscope's chief executive, Chris Perry, said: 'Kaleidoscope thought finding eleven seconds of 'Paperback Writer' was incredible, but to then be donated ninety two seconds – and nine minutes of other 1966 Top Of The Pops footage - was phenomenal.'
The newly found footage also includes Dusty Springfield singing 'Goin' Back', The Hollies performing 'Bus Stop', The Small Faces' playing 'My Mind's Eye' and Tom Jones singing 'Green, Green Grass Of Home'. Ike & Tina Turner, The Shadows, The Spencer Davis Group and The Troggs also feature in the short clips. The footage will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday as part of the latest Missing, Believed Wiped event; the screening will feature talks from experts such as Ayshea Brough, the host of Lift Off on Granada Television in the 1970s. Kaleidoscope in co-operation with the BFI launched a hunt for the UK's top one hundred 'lost' TV shows in April 2018 and says that dozens of people have come forward with clips from shows ranging from Lift Off to Do Not Adjust Your Set. Top Of The Pops was ranked at number two on the list of the most valuable finds behind Doctor Who. Organisers said the new collection of clips had filled in major gaps in archive history. Kaleidoscope also recently acquired reel-to-reel computer tapes recorded on a domestic CV2000 machine, belonging originally to Charles Henry Butler Pierce (now, sadly, deceased). So far, from the first eleven reels analysed, there is material from seven wiped 1971 Top Of The Pops episodes, eleven from 1972, eight from 1973 , five from 1974 and three from 1975. Although not all performances are complete, there are excerpts of opening and closing titles, long-missing DJ links, Pan's People routines and performances by the likes of Slade, Mungo Jerry, Dave Edmunds, Canned Heat, T-Rex, Elton John, Danyel Gerard, The Hollies, Junior Campbell, Lieutenant Pigeon, Geordie, Neil Sedaka, Status Quo, Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, The Wombles, Pluto Shervington, Showaddywaddy, Mud, The Shadows, Cliff Richard, The Rubettes, Arrows, Three Dog Night, Johnny Nash, plus two wiped variations of Rod Stewart's 'Maggie May' both with live vocals and totally different to the often-seen existing performances from Christmas 1971 (the one with John Peel miming the mandolin part), as well as the first appearance of The Bay City Rollers in 1971. From the same source, clips from four wiped Lift Off shows from 1971 and 1972 have been recovered. These include three Sweet performances (one of them, the first UK TV performance of their number one hit 'Block Buster!'), plus clips featuring Chicory Tip, Roger Whittaker and The Fortunes.
If you are a fan of The Velvet Underground - and, let's face it, if you're not then you should probably be horsewhipped through the streets to a place of execution until you promise not to be such a daft plank ever again - then Todd Haynes new documentary on the influential New York group is something not to be missed. Haynes GAVE a sneak preview of his forthcoming documentary about VU at the Cannes film festival on Friday. The US indie favourite reportedly showed buyers footage from his feature-length profile at the avant-garde art-rockers fronted by the late Lou Reed. Mystery surrounds the project which Haynes has managed to keep secret up to now, but a Cannes cinema confirmed to AFP there would be a screening.
Former NME journalist Tim Jonze's 'I feel as bad as every other Smiths fan' think-piece, Bigmouth Strikes Again And Again: Why Morrissey Fans Feel So Betrayed in the Gruniad Morning Star this week is worth a few moments of your time, dear blog reader. Mainly because it sums up perfectly how this blogger now feels about someone whom I once respected and admired but now feel nothing but disgust towards: 'For those of us whose difficult teenage years were only made tolerable by The Smiths, who considered [Morrissey] a friend as he evoked our inner turmoil through Walkman headphones ... it's hard not to feel cheated by his behaviour,' Jonze writes. '"It stinks," says Billy Bragg, who worked with and loved The Smiths during the 1980s. "They were the greatest band of my generation, with the greatest guitar player and the greatest lyricist. I think Johnny [Marr] was a constraint on him ... back then he had to fit into the idea of The Smiths. But now he's betraying those fans, betraying his legacy and empowering the very people Smiths fans were brought into being to oppose. He's become the Oswald Mosley of pop.'
What would you do if you found a fifty-year-old dose of LSD laying around? If you're Eliot Curtis, the Broadcast Operations Manager for KPIX Television, you get high, albeit accidentally. Curtis recently undertook the project of restoring a vintage Buchla Model 100 modular synthesizer. According to San Francisco KPIX 5, the instrument had been sitting in a cold, dark room at Cal State University East Bay since the 1960s, so Eliot took it home and began repairing it. After opening a red-panelled module, Eliot noticed there was 'a crust or a crystalline residue on it.' Naturally, he did what any person tasked with fixing up a vintage musical instrument would do: spray some cleaner on it, pick at the residue with his finger and try to dislodge it by scratching it off. But forty five minutes later, he started to feel some tingling in his hand. It was the start of a nine-hour acid trip. Three individual chemical tests identified the substance inside the module as LSD. When stored in a cool, dark place, LSD can, apparently, remain potent for decades. On top of that, there is written evidence from Albert Hoffman, the first person to knowingly take LSD, that he believed it could be ingested through the skin. What was LSD doing on the instrument in the first place? Nobody knows, but there are, unsurprisingly, plenty of theories. Look no further than Don Buchla, the instrument's inventor. Not only was Buchla part of the Sixties counterculture, but his synths ended up on an old school bus purchased by LSD advocate Ken Kesey and his followers in 1966. During Kesey's acid tests at Winterland during Hallow'een on that year, electronic sounds interrupted an interview with Kesey. Additionally, Buchla was a friend of Owsley Stanley, The Grateful Dead's sound engineer and an infamous manufacturer of an extremely pure strain of LSD. Curtis finished cleaning the vintage Buchla model for good; and this time around, he made sure to wear gloves.
Recently, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping was chatting to a casual acquaintance about the on-going alleged takeover of this blogger's beloved (though - allegedly - unsellable) Newcastle United as reported in a previous bloggerisationism update. 'This club,' this blogger's acquaintance noted. 'We're unique. We're the only people in football who can manage to get taken over by the sole non-rich Arab around.' Or not, as the case may be. For those who haven't been following the story closely - and, if you're in the North East that can't have been easy since there have been times this week where it has appeared to be the only news - last Sunday, that ever reliable bastion of truthful an accurate reportage the Sun published an article which claimed - with, it should be noted, absolutely no supporting evidence - that The Magpies' despised current owner, Mike Ashley had 'agreed' to sell Newcastle United. For three hundred and fifty million knicker. To someone whom the Sun claimed was the cousin of Sheikh Yer Man City's Arab owner, Sheikh Mansour. That led to a weekend of extraordinary hyperbole and increasing wild speculation both among Toon supporters and large chunks of the sport print media whilst, admittedly, a few slightly more thoughtful journalists sought clarification and further details. Following Sunday's sensational headlines about imminent new ownership, matters had calmed down somewhat by Tuesday and we returned to what has become familiar territory when it comes to Newcastle United; a land of 'ifs', 'buts' and 'maybes'. And the knowledge that there could be light at the end of the tunnel but, likely, if there is, it'll be the light of an on-coming train. Amid claim and counter-claim as to the financial state of the Bin Zayed Group and precisely whom their Managing Director, Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is, the most reliable view seems to be that both the Sun and, subsequently, the Bin Zayad Group themselves had rather jumped the gun. Initially unprepared for the story breaking and for the Bin Zayed Group issuing a hasty statement within twenty four hours confirming that 'discussions' with Mike Ashley had occurred, NUFC themselves responded to media queries by merely confirming that contact had been established between the two parties. Some speculation offered that this may have been because Ashley had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Bin Zayed Group, making any further comment impossible. Nevertheless, on one level this was good since it appeared to confirm that the two sides were, actually, talking at the very least. However, as to the price, the offer made (if any), the time frame (if any), the level of due diligence undertaken or proof of funds (if any), that's where information rapidly became speculation - most of it very uniformed. Added to the mix are allegedly 'informed sources' allegedly supplying 'news' that Toon manager Rafa Benitez allegedly 'knew nothing - naaaa-thing' about the proposed takeover and further reports that the Premier League were similarly yet to be informed of any proposed deal (they had initially given a simple 'no comment' when the Sun's story first broke). The Shields Gazette subsequently claimed that, in fact, Benitez has been 'kept in the loop' and has been assured that, in the event of the take-over happening, Shiekh Khaled is keen to retain his services and offer Rafa an increased transfer budget to that which Ashley was reported to have already sanctioned. The only undeniable truth is that we're now almost into the final month of Rafa The Gaffer's contract as Newcastle manager and the prospects of him putting pen to paper on a new deal in the current uncertain climate don't look all that bright, particular with a reported interest in his services from AS Roma. (Albeit, reported by the Sun, so we're back to where we started, really.) By Wednesday, the Daily Scum Mail - another media source this blogger would trust about as far as he can spit - was reporting that alleged (though anonymous and, therefore, almost certainly fictitious) 'sources' allegedly 'close to the club' had allegedly confirmed that an alleged 'heads of agreement' document was allegedly submitted to the Premier League by Newcastle and was allegedly signed by both parties. This alleged document, however, should it exist would merely inform the league that a price had been agreed and does not trigger a formal takeover process which has to be overseen and, ultimately, approved by the league. On the same day the Evening Chronicle, quoted the Bin Zayed Group's managing director Midhat Kidwai as saying: 'In consideration of the numerous speculations in regards to the timelines of the acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club by Bin Zayed Group, we feel the need to issue this statement. Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League. The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley's lawyers on 17 April 2019. The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process. We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines.' Newcastle United themselves continued to make no public comment on Thursday, whilst Rafa was similarly tight-lipped when speaking to Spanish media whilst he was in Madrid to attend the Champions League final. Widespread Internet rumours of a 'major announcement' forthcoming on Friday proved to be what most Interweb rumours are, a right load of old toot! So, what do we know? Well, for a kick-off Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (the boss of Sheikh Yer Man City) are, most definitely not 'cousins' although they are rather more distantly related. Khaled's grandfather, Saqr bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Mansour's grandfather, Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan were half-brothers, meaning that Khaled and Mansour are, in fact, second-cousins twice removed. As an interesting side note, it's also probably worth noting at this juncture that Sultan killed another of his brothers, Hamdan, in 1922 to gain the throne of Abu Dhabi, but was subsequently himself toppled (and killed) by Saqr, in 1926. Nice family - they're almost as bad as the Lannisters, they'll fit into a boardroom previously occupied by Mike Ashley like a glove. One trusts that Khaled and Mansour (and their dragons, if they have any) have a somewhat better relationship than their respective granddads. Otherwise, in the event of Khaled actually gaining control at St James' Park, the next game against Sheikh Yer Man City (which, this blogger supposes would, in that case, be dubbed The Abu Dhabi Derby) could get as tasty as any game between the two clubs since Craig Bellamy retired. Known as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in The Gulf, Khaled was reportedly educated in the US (at Boston University) and France and went on to establish the Bin Zayed Group. The company was founded in 1995 and has, over time, diversified into various sectors including construction, real estate and financial services. He is also the chairman of Islamic Arab Insurance Company PSC and the managing director of Gulf Testing Factory Services GTFS LLC. Not unusually for a member of the ruling family, Sheikh Khaled also helps to manage a number of State-owned entities and governmental organisations. As well as being a member of the Executive Committee of Dubai Economic Council, he is a former board member of the Dubai Real-Estate Corporation. Among other appointments, he also serves as the board chair of INJAZ Al-Arab and the Rochester Institute of Technology. When it comes to sport, Sheikh Khaled sits on the board of the UAE Olympic Committee and is president of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation. Known to have a longstanding interest in buying an English football club, he reportedly failed in an ambitious attempted takeover of Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws last year. As to whether he (or, more accurately his company) actually has the wealth not only to buy out Mike Ashley but then take a club crying out for investment to the next level is, as with so much else related to this story, a question which will only be answered in the fullness of time. Which is bloody frustrating, frankly!
Incidentally, in the very unlikely event that the Sheikh - or any of his people - happen to be reading this bloggerisation, Keith Telly Topping has three pieces of advice for him should he eventually take over this blogger's beloved Magpies. Which, obviously, he can chose to ignore if he wishes; but this blogger would recommend that he doesn't. Number one is obvious: In the event that he hasn't already signed up by the time this malarkey get concluded (or, even if he has), do everything you can to keep Rafa The Gaffer sweet. The man is respected and admired by Newcastle supporters. Without him you will have twice the job to convince anyone connected to the club that you have Newcastle's best interests at heart. It's nothing personal, mate, it's just we've been down this 'be careful what you wish for, it might just come true' road before with Mister Ashley and we're very suspicious of everyone. Two: You have already produced a statement in which you made the right noises about Newcastle's 'proud traditions.' Hopefully, this wasn't merely paying lip-service but actually meant something. Anyone who takes over Newcastle has to work with those traditions, that history and that (often suffocating) pride. Sorry, but that's the way it is. Like some other clubs (and, a damned sight more than most) Newcastle supporters care about the club's past - for the most part they've had to since, for the majority of the last fifty years, they've had no present to care about. Newcastle United are nicknamed The Magpies, they play in black and white stripes and their stadium is called St James' Park - learn these things and make sure you do not even think about changing any of them; your immediate predecessor thought it was a good idea to mess with one of these three pillars (changing the name St James' Park to something else) and almost brought the whole house down around him. His excuse was that changing the ground's name could (theoretically) produce a, not even particularly large, financial windfall in terms of sponsorship. All of which proved the words of former Magpie Joey Barton when leaving the club were accurate: 'Mike Ashley, like many businessmen, knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.' Some traditions matter even if they don't make you any money. You could, possibly, also take a crash course in the details of the careers of Hughie Gallagher, Jackie Milburn, Malcolm MacDonald, Alan Shearer et cetra - there's plenty of people around who can fill you in on the basics - though, to be honest, most fans will probably forgive you if you chose not to. Win us a trophy and I'm pretty sure most supporters wouldn't give a damn whether you've heard of Bobby Moncur, Frank Clark or Kenny Wharton or not. But, don't mess with the nickname, the strip or the name of the ground or you'll find yourself in the quicksand. And, finally, and this is probably the most important piece of advice, the main problem with your predecessor wasn't necessarily anything that he did during his time owning the club it was what he didn't do; specifically, he never communicated his vision to supporters well enough (or, indeed, at all). Ashley and his people were a walking public relations disaster - every single time that they had an opportunity to articulate what, exactly, they were trying to achieve, what, in short, 'the plan' was, they failed to take it. To the point where, after a while, it almost seemed to be a deliberate policy, as though they enjoyed pissing people off. So, my third piece of advice is to hire yourself a good PR guy who can actually make a fist of explaining, roughly, what your plans are and what your vision is. Not every fan will, necessarily, agree with you but, at least, they will have been kept informed. This blogger has said this before but it bears repeating, any football club owner loses the goodwill of their customers at their peril. One would have hoped that Mike Ashley, as a businessman, understood the value of keeping the customer if not satisfied then, at least, informed. Sadly, he never seemed to grasp that fundamental basic of the retail game or the football game. Don't, please, make the same mistake as he did.
Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws became the champions of Europe for the sixth time after beating Stottingtot Hotshots in a lacklustre all-English Champions League final in Madrid. Mohamed Salah scored the opening goal after only two minutes, slamming home a penalty after Moussa Sissoko had handled Sadio Mane's cross. It was almost all downhill from there in terms of quality and action until semi-final hero Divock Origi blasted home a second late on to send The Reds fans into delirium and the Spurs fans ... home. The quality of the game in the Spanish heat will not bother Herr Klopp's Liverpool, who bounced back from losing last year's final to Real Madrid. Stottingtot Hoshots' gamble to start Harry Kane, who had been out for almost two months with ligament damage, did not pay off and he was subdued, along with most of his team-mates. Although, he had a better excuse than most of them. Spurs - who did not have a shot on target until the seventy third minute - had their two best chances with ten minutes to go with Son Heung-Min and substitute Lucas Moura having decent shots saved by Alisson in quick succession. Unlike Alissonh, however, their aim was not true. Victory saw The Reds' win their first trophy under Herr Klopp, who had lost his previous six finals - with both Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund - including two previous Champions Leagues. Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino took the gamble of playing England captain and main striker Kane despite his not having played since April, replacing semi-final hat-trick hero Lucas Moura, but he had no impact.
The next time UEFA wants to take a showpiece European club final to a new footballing outpost, they could always try the Moon. It cannot be that much more inaccessible than Baku proved to be for UK-based Moscow Chelski FC and The Arse fans and the atmosphere would surely be better than it was at the half-empty Olympic Stadium on Wednesday during the Europa League final which Moscow Chelski FC won four-one. Things did improve as a spectacle once the star man, Eden Hazard, decided to put his stamp on proceedings, but until then it seemed that this would be a final that reflected its build-up - unhappy and strangely surreal. One of the few chants before half-time which could be heard echoing across the covered-up athletic track that forms the perimeter of the pitch came from the pocket of Moscow Chelski FC fans who had travelled the two-and-a-half thousand miles to get to Baku. It was directed at UEFA, contained an obscenity and asked: 'Is this what you want?' Sadly, the answer to that, as with so much else in both European and World football would seem to be, after a quick glance at someone's bank balance, 'yes, it is.' Like everyone else inside the stadium or watching - from an extreme wide angle - on TV around the world, they were witnessing what appeared to be a pale imitation of a Premier League match, played at pre-season pace. The backdrop of rows of empty seats seemed distant and strangely detached from proceedings. So did most of the players. There were familiar faces on both teams, but we were seeing them in an alien environment, a long way from home. It made for an unforgettable final - more so for The Arse than Moscow Chelski FC, obviously - but, sadly, for mostly the wrong reasons. Only a total of about five thousand home-based supporters had followed Moscow Chelski FC and The Arse to Azerbaijan, with The Blues sending almost half of their allocation back to UEFA unsold. Fans were deterred from travelling by high prices and how long it takes to get there and, also, the fact that it is difficult to access Baku even if you did have both time and money on your hands. A lack of direct flights from the UK led to some inventive and long-winded routes to reach the port on the Caspian Sea and fans who had made it were happy to share their stories with journalists as they basked in the sunshine before the final. Some had come by plane, some by train and even some by taxi - a six hundred kilometre trek from Tbilisi in neighbouring Georgia. All of them deserved immense credit for their efforts. But, even before the game, there seemed relatively few of them about. Fans of The Arse were there with their flags in greater numbers and took over a street of bars near the city's famous Fountains Square in traditional 'fans abroad' style - good natured and loud. The Gunners sang constantly - mostly about themselves or rivals Stottingtot Hostshots, but also included more anti-UEFA chants. They did not feel fans had been put first - or indeed anywhere near the front - when plans for the final were made. Moscow Chelski FC supporters were harder to find, but they all agreed with those sentiments. They are also used to commandeering city squares for major European finals - think of München for the 2012 Champions League final, or Amsterdam for the 2013 Europa League final. This time they were scattered and could seemingly barely fill a pub on their own, even the ones they had been allocated. The occasion seemed somewhat diminished for it. The location was not a drawback for everyone, of course. There were fewer UK-based fans attending this final than usual, but there seemed to be many more from around the world. For most of them, this was a real-life 'Game Thirty Nine'. Two Premier League teams, playing a competitive match outside of the UK and with silverware at stake. The locals, too, seemed genuinely happy to have a big match and two sets of fans on their doorstep and appeared desperate to impress. It was just a shame about the game itself, especially from The Arse's point of view. If, as some of The Gunners players had declared in the build-up, they were playing for missing team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan - who was unable to play because of security reasons - then they did not show it. They also did not demonstrate much, if any, of the 'extra motivation' they had talked beforehand of having because a Champions League place was on the line. If the final was a non-event for the first forty five minutes, The Arse were a no-show for most of the ninety and the final result reflected that. Their reward is to return to this competition next season, for a third straight year. The 2020 final is in Gdansk, Poland, so at least they will not have to travel quite so far next time should they make another final. Moscow Chelski FC travel home with the trophy (having already secured a Champions League place for next year with their third place finish in the Premier League) but arguably fave an uncertain future too. Their best player, Hazard, is leaving this summer and it looks increasingly likely that coach Sarri will depart too. Despite a turbulent first season under the Italian Moscow Chelski FC finished third in the league, won a fifth European title and reached the final of the Carabao Cup. With or without him, they may have to deal with a transfer ban as they try to build on that success.
A number of La Liga and second tier players and club executives have been arrested in Spain as part of an investigation into match-fixing. Police say eleven people are expected to be arrested in total and 'at least' three matches are being investigated across the country's top three divisions. A spokesman for La Liga said that the police action followed a 'complaint' which it had made over a match in May 2018. 'Among those detained are active and retired players,' police said. Presidents and directors of a club have also been arrested the police added. 'The investigation has established that those under investigation came to arrangements with different players to "fix" at least three games in the first, second and third divisions.' The police said that, in the case of one second-division match, more than fourteen times the 'usual amount' of money was bet on a game in that league. It did not specify which teams were involved. Police that said bets were made on the outcomes of games as well as spot-betting on 'other matters' including the number of corners awarded. A lawyer for Huesca, who were relegated from La Liga this season, confirmed that 'various people' at the club had been detained on a warrant issued by a local court. La Liga side Real Valladolid issued a statement saying the club had "'earned of the arrests related to match-fixing' and that they 'are the cause of a La Liga complaint.' The statement added: 'Real Valladolid rejects any type of conduct or fraudulent behaviour, denouncing corruption among individuals, money laundering, criminal organisations or any type of behaviour that originates or could lead to the distortion and corruption of any sports competition. Faced with the arrests made, Real Valladolid maintains, as it has done since the day of its constitution, its commitment and fight against corruption or any type of illicit activity that undermines the integrity of sports competitions.' Valencia also issued a statement saying that reports of 'supposed involvement by players and directors of other clubs in illegal gambling and alleged match-fixing' are not related to the club and that 'Valencia CF is an entity completely outside of this matter.' A La Liga spokesman said: 'We want to thank the police for the extraordinary work done to dismantle what appears to be an organised criminal group dedicated to obtaining economic benefits through the predetermination of football matches. During the 2018-19 season La Liga filed eight complaints with the general commissioner of the judicial police for alleged acts related to match-fixing in lower divisions of Spanish football and low-profile friendlies between foreign clubs in Spain. We have also sent alerts to the general directorate of gaming on 18 football matches for possible identification and sanction of players from lower divisions who could have bet on their competition. La Liga continues to fight to eradicate any scourge against fair play in Spanish football.'
Neymar has been stripped of the Brazil captaincy for next month's Copa America and will be replaced by his Paris St-Germain team-mate Dani Alves. The twenty seven-year-old forward, given the role eight months ago but under pressure after recent disciplinary issues, was informed of the decision by manager Tite on Saturday. Alves will also lead the side in friendlies against Qatar and Honduras. He has captained Brazil four times, most recently in a one-nil win over Germany in March 2018. This month, French football authorities banned Neymar for three matches after he hit a fan following PSG's defeat by Rennes in the Coupe De France final. He was also reportedly involved in 'a dressing room incident' with his PSG team-mates. The Copa America takes place in Brazil from 14 June to 7 July, with the hosts taking on Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru in Group A.
Dirty Stoke have reportedly told Saido Berahino they will be terminating his contract following his recent, highly publicised, drink driving conviction. Berahino was extremely banned from driving for thirty months and fined seventy five thousand knicker for being three times over the legal alcohol limit when he was stopped by Babylon in London in February. It was his third DUI conviction, following previous court appearances in 2!012 and 2014. The alleged striker was convicted earlier this month despite claiming to have driven 'in order to escape a gang of armed robbers.' The court heard that Berahino had been robbed of his jewellery before his arrest, but held it was not a necessity for him to be driving as his partner was at the wheel beforehand. According to the Daily Scum Mail, Dirty Stoke have now 'taken action' by cancelling Berahino's contract, which is due to run until the summer of 2022. The report claims that the Burundi international is 'challenging' the Championship club's decision. Bernahino signed for The Potters from West Bromwich Albinos in January 2017 but has struggled to make an impact for his club scoring but three goals in over fifty appearances.
National League North side Blyth Spartans have confirmed the appointment of yer actual Lee Clark as their new first team coach - succeeding fellow former Magpie Alun Armstrong who has joined Darlington. The forty six year-old Tynesider has previously managed Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Kilmarnock but has been working in the media since leaving his post at Bury in October 2017. It's thirteen years to the day since Clarkie officially confirmed his retirement as a Newcastle player, joining Glenn Roeder's coaching staff at SJP until following him to Norwich City in late 2007.
A fourteen-year-old boy has been given a one-year ban from all football for 'lowering his shorts and making a vulgar gesture' at a female referee in Italy. The incident occurred on 22 May in an under-fourteen tournament in Mestre, Venice. A - very naughty - Treporti player made the gesture after his side conceded a corner against Miranese and he was sent off by referee Giulia Nicastro. The Italian Football Federation described the behaviour as 'totally unacceptable.' The boy's suspension by the Venetian Disciplinary Court will be halved if he agrees to 'undertake a re-educational programme.' In addition, the youngster is banned from accessing any facilities where an Italian Football Federation competition is held. Or, presumably, watching football on telly or having a kick-about in the street with his mates. Harsh, dear blog reader, but probably fair. FIGC president Gabriele Gravina has said that he will challenge the decision at the Federal Court of Appeal as he feels the punishment is not strong enough. 'From my side, there must be not any reduction on this behaviour: I intervene decisively, it is not acceptable, I can't hide my disappointment,' said Gravina. Nicastro, from Venice, has refereed more than forty matches at this level, the FIGC said. It has been reported that fans were abusing Nicastro throughout the game. Treporti has apologised to Nicastro, saying they were 'deeply disappointed.'
South Korea Under-Eighteens have been stripped of a trophy for 'indecent' celebrations after a player posed for a photo with his foot on it. T|he scallywag. South Korea beat China three-nil to win the Panda Cup on Wednesday, but the team were forced to grovellingly apologise after they were criticised online for the 'unforgivable' images. The tournament organisers suggested South Korea would not be invited back. Chinese fans, who watched their team lose all three Panda Cup matches in Chengdu, expressed their anger on social media. Most refused to accept the South Korea apology, led by the accused player, who was criticised for 'mumbling' and dropping his apology on the floor. Meanwhile, China's state-run Global Times daily said that the South Korea players 'acted like conquerors rather than champions' as the team 'ignored the universal ethos of sports.' Some social media users also sarcastically called for the Chinese FA to display the trophy and controversial photo as a reminder of China's shortcomings in international competitions. The Global Times said: 'The only way to stop similar incidents from happening is very simple: They must start winning.' The Chengdu Football Association, which organised the Panda Cup, released a statement accusing the South Korea players of 'serious insult' and said it would be 'taking back' the trophy. The Chengdu FA released video footage of the team's apology, in which the squad stood together with heads bowed in their hotel as the player involved apologised. 'We apologise for the situation. One of our players made a huge mistake. We humbly apologise to all of the fans, all of the players and all of the people in China,' a team official translated. The Korean Football Association sent a letter of apology to the Chengdu FA, who have lodged a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation. South Korea beat all three other teams involved - New Zealand, Thailand and China - to win the competition.
Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer lit up The Oval to ensure England defeated South Africa and got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start on Thursday. Regularly bowling in excess of ninety miles per hour, Archer - playing only his fourth one-day international - took three for twenty seven and hit Hashim Amla on the helmet to force him to retire hurt. After Stokes took an amazing one-handed catch on the boundary to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo, South Africa were dismissed for two hundred and seven as they lost by one hundred and four runs. Stokes earlier made eighty nine and Jason Roy, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan all hit half-centuries to take England to three hundred and eleven for eight in their fifty overs, a total which seemed to many at the time to be no better than par. It does demonstrate the remarkable way in which ODI batting rates have been revolutionised in the time just since the last World Cup four years ago that a score of over three hundred had many seasoned cricket-watchers muttering darkly that England might well have been 'twenty or thirty short, there.' In the event, with a pitch that looked like a perfect batting track before play began but which quickly proved to be a little two-paced, three hundred was more than enough. Quinton de Kock's sixty eight seemed to have South Africa in the hunt at one hundred and twenty nine for two, but he pulled Liam Plunkett to Joe Root at long leg to become the first of three wickets to fall for fifteen runs. When Stokes took two wickets in two balls, the world number ones and favourites completed an ideal start to the tournament. In a competition where the ten teams all play each other once to determine the semi-finalists, the hosts travel to Nottingham to meet Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Monday. South Africa, who showed enough with the ball to suggest they will contend for the semis, are back at The Oval on Sunday to take on Bangladesh. England have been building to this competition for the four years since their dismal first-round exit at the last World Cup, sweeping all before them mainly thanks to their power-packed batting line-up. But for part of a day that began with the Duke of Sussex opening the tournament, they seemed as though there was an outside chance of an upset by a well-drilled South African side. For a variety of reasons this was not, quite, the free-scoring England of the past four years. The tone was set by a clever piece of captaincy from Faf Du Plessis. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was chosen to open the bowling and Jonny Bairstow edged his second ball behind to become the first opener to get a golden duck in the first innings of a World Cup tournament. England soon steadied, Roy and Root adding one hundred and six for the second wicket and, after they both fell in the space of four balls, Morgan and Stokes shared a further partnership of one hundred and six. Roy played powerful drives while Root scored almost exclusively off his pads. Morgan pulled and drove, playing the aggressor in his stand with Stokes until he was athletically caught by a diving Markram at long-on off Tahir. Stokes began calmly - his first thirty one runs came from thirty six balls - but he gradually upped his scoring. Still, the biggest blow to England's late charge came when Jos Buttler dragged on to his stumps. In the face of some intelligent South Africa bowling, England's late assault never materialised, but their total still proved to be more than adequate. On a pitch that produced intriguing rather than calypso cricket, this was at times something of a low-key start to the tournament under grey skies. But, all that changed with the efforts of Archer and Stokes. For Archer, pace, aggression and hostility made it seem like a wicket was likely every time he had the ball in his hand. However, the moment of the day belonged to Man of the Match Stokes, who took the most incredible catch, one which is unlikely to be bettered throughout the whole tournament. As Phehlukwayo swept Adil Rashid towards the mid-wicket boundary, the ball seemed to be too high for Stokes to reach. He leaped, flinging himself backwards with his right arm outstretched. As he clung on in one hand, the crowd gasped and his team-mates mobbed him for disbelieving celebrations.
WH Smith has been ranked the UK's worst High Street retailer for the second year in a row, according to a Which? survey of seven thousand seven hundred shoppers. The poll, which covered one hundred and nine retailers, rated the chain 'very poor' for value for money and in-store experience. Homebase/Bunnings and Sports Direct were the next worst performers, while Richer Sounds and John Lewis were at the top of the table. WH Smith said just five hundred and eighty six customers had commented on its stores in the survey. Yes, but five hundred and eight six very dissatisfied customers, though. Just saying. 'This survey is neither statistically relevant nor meaningful relative to our loyal customer base,' a spokeswoman claimed, unconvincingly. One or two people even believed her. 'Every week we serve three million customers in our six hundred UK High Street stores and have maintained our presence on the high street where many other retailers are closing stores.' All of which is true, dear but, let's face it, you couldn't even rate ahead of Sports Direct and pretty much everyone hates them and everything they stand for. It is the ninth year in a row that WH Smith has been ranked in the bottom two of the survey. So, it's starting to look like a bit of a trend. According to Which?, the retailer achieved a satisfaction score of just fifty per cent this time, after consumers criticised its 'cramped and messy' stores. One customer complained that staff were 'unhelpful,' while another said that their local store was 'untidy and too small for comfort.' It is not the first time the firm's shops have been criticised - a spoof Twitter account that mocks the state of its carpets has attracted twenty four thousand followers. Last week, outgoing boss Steve Clarke admitted that it was 'an issue,' telling the BBC it was the 'most painful aspect of my job.' He said for some stores, there was 'a trade-off' between 'being profitable or redecorating.' Sales at WH Smith's High Street division have been falling amid challenging trading conditions. However, group revenue climbed last year as the retailer's biggest business - concessions at airports and rail stations around the world - expanded by eight per cent. Retail analyst Richard Hyman suggested shareholders in the company had 'pushed it to focus on short term returns' in its travel division. 'WH Smith understands that in travel locations where you need a different type of shop, it can still represent a good retail option. But that is much less the case on the High Street where it has been bypassed by many of its rivals.' According to the Which? survey, DIY chain Homebase/Bunnings was the next worst performer, with customers saying its shops were 'hard to navigate' and that it was 'difficult to find staff for guidance.' Sports Direct also did badly, with one shopper describing the sportswear retailer as having 'a very oppressive atmosphere.' Mind you, Mike Ashley was standing behind her when she said it so, that was only to be expected. Most of the highest-scoring shops were specialist retailers - like the survey's winner Richer Sounds - with customers commending them for their 'expert advice and high-quality products,' said Which? The only general retailer at the top of the table was John Lewis, with a customer score of eighty six. Which? said the survey results 'raised concerns' at a time when many retailers were struggling with the High Street slowdown. Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine, said: 'Giving shoppers a great in-store experience is more important than ever if brands want to thrive on the High Street. Our findings go to show that if retailers can deliver great value, quality products and first-class customer service, customers will keep coming back.'
The discrediting of an unqualified 'expert' - found to have cut-and-pasted the same evidence for several different cases - has led to the collapse of a multi-million pound fraud trial. Andrew Ager had reportedly been hired by the prosecution team in a trial of eight men accused of a seven million knicker carbon credit fraud at Southwark Crown Court. But, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith was alerted to the fact that Ager 'did not have any relevant qualifications.' He ruled the men should be cleared. Who snitched by Ager's lack of expertise to the judge had not been revealed. In closing the case, the judge said: 'Andrew Ager is not an expert of suitable calibre. He had little or no understanding of the duties of an expert. He had received no training and attended no courses. He has no academic qualifications. His work has never been peer-reviewed.' There are significant implications as Ager has appeared for the prosecution in at least twenty other cases and the Metropolitan Police is now referring the matter to the National Crime Agency. Lawyers estimate the current trial, which heard evidence for three weeks before it was halted, has cost millions in public money. The prosecution alleged that from 2011 to 2018 the eight men - Steven Sulley, Ashley Hunte, David Pierce, Christopher Woolcott, Christopher Chapman, Marcus Allen, Daniel Martin and Lewis Deakin - were engaged in fraud directly or engaged in laundering the proceeds of fraud. The fraud, it was alleged, was 'perpetrated on members of the public,' who were persuaded to make investments, including in the purchase of carbon credits. The credit itself is best described as a permit that can be purchased by a company so that it can emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide on the understanding that any damage to the environment is being offset by another company elsewhere in the world. There is a market in trading carbon credits but it is not really accessible to small investors and, because of the way the system is administered, it is unlikely that larger investors could expect to make much of a return. Ager's role in the prosecution was to make the case that the defendants 'must have known' they were asking investors to buy a product that could not be sold on and was 'effectively worthless.' The prosecution case relied on Ager's evidence - supplied in the form of a written statement to the court - making the point to the jury that anyone, with any knowledge of the market, would have been 'fully aware' how little prospect there was of being able to make any profit. That would enable the prosecutors to prove that the defendants knew they were committing a fraud. But the court was told that Ager had made a telephone call to Marius-Cristian Frunza, an expert in financial crime and risk management, who was giving evidence in support of one of the defendants - in an attempt to 'dissuade' him from giving his own evidence. In that phone call, just two weeks before the trial started, Ager allegedly made a number of claims, including that 'several people had died' as a result of losing their money - but the court heard there was no evidence of that or anything even remotely like it. He also allegedly told Doctor Frunza that a police report had 'revealed' the defendants had spent money 'on Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Aston Martins.' Again, there was no such report. The judge said Ager had attempted to convince Doctor Frunza that, if he spoke in court, he 'risked being in a horrendous environment' in which he would find out 'what you are defending is someone who has taken someone's life savings.' The judge said there was 'a clear reason' why Ager wanted to keep Doctor Frunza from giving evidence. Ager 'was keen that his evidence should not be challenged and he felt threatened by the prospect of a far more impressive expert appearing in an area of expertise in which he hoped to continue making a living.' After it became known that Ager had made the phone call, Ager was subsequently cross-examined in court and revealed that he did not have a degree and 'couldn't remember' if he had passed any A-levels. And, despite his assertion that he was 'fully-informed' about the carbon credits market, he admitted that he had not read any books on the subject, not even the one that had been written by Doctor Frunza. He also admitted that he had made no notes of his workings and that he had kept sensitive material provided by the police 'in a cupboard under the stairs' and this had been damaged 'by a leak.' It also emerged, during the trial, that Ager's witness statements had been 'cut-and-pasted' - albeit with the names changed - from documents he had supplied to other trials. On the handling of evidence, Judge Loraine-Smith described the disclosure in the case as 'pretty chaotic and unsatisfactory.' Narita Bahra QC, the defence counsel for Steven Sulley, told the BBC that this case 'is an illustration that disclosure failings are not limited to sexual offence cases' and added: 'Drastic action needs to be taken by the Crown Prosecution Service to manage the police and disclosure process. The onus should not be on a defence team to uncover a miscarriage of justice.' A City of London Police statement said: 'Together with our colleagues in the CPS, we apologise that the evidential and procedural issues in the case have led to its dismissal. Regrettably we haven't been able to provide these victims with the level of service we continually strive for and for that we sincerely apologise.' Disclosure is the process whereby police and prosecutors must disclose to the defence any evidence gathered by police which either assists the defence case or undermines the prosecution. It is a cornerstone of a fair trial system and came under intense scrutiny in late 2017 when a series of disclosure failures in high profile rape cases led to trials collapsing, most notably that of Liam Allen who was cleared of rape. The defence team for Sulley lodged a complaint with the Metropolitan Police about Ager. The Met have indicated that 'due to the complexity of the case' they will be referring the matter to the National Crime Agency for investigation. The judge said that only one of the investors, many of whom were elderly, had succeeded in getting their money back. 'Those investors deserved a full and proper investigation of those allegations and they have been badly let down.'
A suspected unexploded bomb on the banks of the River Thames turned out to be a 'giant glittery Christmas bauble.' The ordnance-like ornament was mistaken for an explosive when it washed up near Wapping. Met Police officers were called to inspect the device and 'luckily' realised it was an oversized festive feature before sending for the Bomb Squad. The incident comes a few days after an unexploded World War Two bomb was discovered in Kingston-upon-Thames. Students from Kingston University had to be evacuated from the campus until the device was dealt with. Officers from Tower Hamlets who dealt with the bauble posted a picture of the faded decoration on Twitter.
US energy officials appeared to rebrand natural gas produced in the country as 'freedom gas', in a statement announcing an increase in exports. The US Department of Energy - to the ridicule of billions - said that the expansion of a Texas facility meant 'more molecules of US freedom' could be produced and exported worldwide. The facility, based in Quintana, produces liquified natural gas. The move was 'a clear indication of US commitment to promoting clean energy,' the statement said. But, the rebranding comes amid a Rump administration push to 'roll back' climate change legislation introduced by Rump's predecessor, Barack Obama, which targeted vehicle emissions. Shortly after taking office, Rump announced the US would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, saying that he wanted to 'negotiate a new fair deal' that would 'not disadvantage US businesses and workers.' The move was decried by climate change scientists and campaigners - and, indeed, most normal people - and Rump has faced accusations of hampering global efforts to cut carbon emissions. And, being a very silly man with a ridiculous haircut. Wednesday's announced expansion of the facility on Quintana Island will support some three thousand new jobs in the area, according to the Department of Energy statement. 'Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America's allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy,' Mark Menezes, the US undersecretary of energy - who is, obviously, not a complete and utter bell-end - said. The term 'freedom gas' is reminiscent of 'freedom fries,' a term coined in the US 2003 as an alternative to French fries following France's opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. A short-lived policy which, equally, led to worldwide derision and thigh-slapping. Republican congressman Walter B Jones and his fellow Republican Robert W Ney also pushed for cafeterias in the House of Representatives to rename their French toast 'freedom toast.' But, it wasn't.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has criticised mad old has-been John Cleese after the Fawlty Towers creator claimed that the capital was 'not really an English city any more.' Cleese - sounding alarmingly like Morrissey - tweeted: 'Virtually all my friends from abroad have confirmed my observation. So there must be some truth in it.' Khan responded: 'These comments make John Cleese sound like he's in character as Basil Fawlty.' Only, somewhat less funny. 'Londoners know that our diversity is our greatest strength.' He added: 'We are proudly the English capital, a European city and a global hub.' Cleese's comments come eight years after the comedian made previous headlines for similar remarks, saying London 'felt like a foreign city' and that 'English culture' (whatever that ism, a question we've asked on this blog previously and at some length) was disappearing. In his new message on Wednesday, the seventy nine-year-old added: 'I note also that London was the UK city that voted most strongly to remain in the EU.' He used a series of further tweets to deny that his comments were 'about race,' claiming - unconvincingly - the character of the capital had changed since he was young. And, living in Weston-Super-Mere. 'I suspect I should apologise for my affection for the Englishness of my upbringing, but in some ways I found it calmer, more polite, more humorous, less tabloid, and less money-oriented than the one that is replacing it,' he wrote. He later stressed again that his opinions were based on 'cultural differences,' not race. One or two people even believed him. He also hit back at sarcastic comments from the public about his reasons for currently living on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. Cleese had said on his Twitter feed that he 'applauded' the island for its 'excellent race relations, a very well educated population, no sign of political correctness.' And, the fact that extremely rich white men are welcome to live there. Cleese moved to Nevis last November. In July, he told Newsnight he was 'so disappointed with so much about this country' - particularly the press and the level of debate in the 2016 EU referendum. There had been 'dreadful lies on the right' and 'scare tactics' from then-Prime Minister David Cameron and George Osborne, he said.
A speeding driver in Germany was saved from a one hundred Euros fine when a snow-white dove interceded on his behalf. The driver was caught banged-to-rights on speed cameras - but his identity was hidden by the bird's wings spread in flight. A light-hearted police statement suggested that perhaps 'it was no coincidence The Holy Spirit intervened' - a reference to the dove as a symbol of that aspect of God in Christianity. 'We have understood the sign and leave the speeder in peace this time.' But, the officials in Viersen, near Germany's Western border, added: 'We hope that the protected speeder likewise understands this "hint from above" and drives appropriately in the future.' The driver was travelling at fifty four kilometres per hour on a stretch of road with a thirty speed limit, police said. But, since only the car and not the driver, could be identified, he was spared the one hundred and five Euros fine 'thanks to the feathered guardian angel with seemingly carefully spread wings.' The Viersen police added that the dove should also have been fined for moving so fast in the restricted zone. 'However, since we do not know where it has to be on time for Pentecost, we will allow mercy over justice here too.'
Thirty-four people were extremely arrested as thousands of Hells Angels bikers gathered to commemorate the club's fiftieth anniversary in the UK. The arrests were made on suspicion of drugs offences and possession of offensive weapons. The Hells Angels Euro Run, in Sussex and Surrey, marks the creation of the first branch of the California-based motorcycle club in the UK. Bikers took part in a 'mass ride out' from Pease Pottage to Brighton. Which doesn't, quite, sound as evocative as, say, from Big Sur to Ventura County. The procession along the A23 began at 2pm under police escort, watched by spectators at the side of the road and on bridges. Up to seven hundred bikers had been due to take part, but police sneered that there were 'fewer participants than expected.' Earlier this week, Surrey and Sussex police were granted powers to stop and search people within a designated area across the two counties in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour. Or, anyone suspected of 'looking at me in a funny way.' Obviously. A total of twelve people - five German nationals, three Hungarians, one Swiss, one French, one Czech and a Greek - were charged. Seven appeared in court on Friday and were given suspended prison sentences. Three other people remain in custody and the rest were either cautioned or released without charge. Assistant Chief Constable of Surrey Police Nev Kemp said: 'We have been very clear with those attending the Hells Angels event, many from overseas, that we will not tolerate criminal and anti-social behaviour.' Or, 'looking at me in a funny way.' Obviously. 'Our activity over the last few days has been about keeping people safe, which is why I put the Section Sixty order in place. The fact that we have had seven people go through the courts and be sentenced so far, as well as the numerous arrests, has justified our actions. This weekend, especially Saturday, sees one of the busiest for both forces in the last twelve months and we continue to work hard to keep our residents and those visiting safe. Officers will be out in high numbers so expect to see us on patrol responding and responding quickly to any incidents.'
Two escaped raccoon dogs that were said to be 'terrorising' residents have been caught and returned to their owner. Nottinghamshire Police had described the animals as 'potentially dangerous' and one woman claimed that her goat and pony were attacked. Mandy Marsh - who owns the pony and goat - said that one of the raccoon dogs also 'confronted' a dog walker. However, the raccoon dogs' owner claimed that they 'never posed a serious threat.' The male and female went missing from Clarborough, on Tuesday morning after digging their way out of their enclosure. Police said they were found and recaptured in the local area late on Friday. Headlines in the local press about the escaped raccoon dogs suggested they were 'terrorising' people and that the village was 'under siege' from the 'absolutely mad' animals. However, their owner maintained they were 'terrified', which may have caused them to 'do silly things when they are in that state.' They are part of the Canidae family, which includes dogs and foxes. The RSPCA says they are wild animals, rather than pets and should not be kept in houses. 'In these cases they often become aggressive and unmanageable,' said Stephanie Jayson, senior exotics and wildlife trade officer from the RSPCA. 'And while they are too small to be dangerous, they can bite and scratch.' Raccoon dogs do not eat large animals such as goats, but they do eat small animals, insects, fish, birds, fruits, nuts and berries. The owner of the raccoon dogs did not want to comment after they were recaptured. He previously told the BBC: 'They have escaped and that is my mistake, but it's important people don't think these animals are especially dangerous. I have been up through the night, I've been really grateful for the help given and offered and it's been hard work.'
Residents have whinged about the 'diabolical' noise from a nearby music festival which could be heard over the sound of the local church organ. Oh, the inherent tragedy. Artists including The Stereophonics and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds played at This Is Tomorrow at Newcastle's Exhibition Park over the bank holiday weekend. This blogger popped along for short time since Stately Telly Topping Manor is reasonably nearby. It was a geet good laugh, as it happens. Some residents have called on Newcastle City Council to ban similar events. Which, they're obviously not going to do since the financial benefits of such events far outweighs the whinging of a few twisty-faced Nimbys. The council claimed it had 'monitored' the noise and instructed it to be turned down when it exceeded 'certain levels.' One resident from nearby Brandling Park whinged that the festival was 'diabolical, three days of totally excessive noise.' Another local added: 'It was unbelievable. I was in church on Sunday morning and even when the organ was playing I could still hear the music from the festival.' So, every cloud has a silver lining, seemingly. Newcastle City Council said that it was 'a brilliant weekend' which attracted more than thirty thousand people and would have an 'economic benefit of around six million pounds for the city.' A spokesperson confirmed there were sounds checks at the site from 10am on both Saturday and Sunday. He said: 'Noise levels were monitored throughout and we were working towards keeping them within levels deemed appropriate through national guidance. On occasions the noise did exceed those levels and in such instances we instructed the sound technicians to reduce the volume.' James Cross, from the charity Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust which recently took control of the city's green spaces, said: 'Events like This Is Tomorrow help generate revenue that we will reinvest to make sure the city's green spaces continue to be somewhere people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy.'
Work to upgrade streetlights in a Suffolk cul-de-sac has been delayed due to nesting blue tits. Electricians working in Costessey, near Norwich, found families of blue tits nesting within three of the eight lamps in the street. The electrical works had to be postponed and cannot continue until the birds have fledged. Norfolk county councillor Tim East, who lives in the close, said: 'Those blue tits have a lot to answer for.' One of the three street lamp columns is outside the home of Liberal Democrat East, who raised the situation at a meeting of the council's infrastructure and development select committee, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service. A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: 'Our contractor visited on 21 May to upgrade the lights as part of our ongoing programme. Three of the eight lights all had birds nesting either in the lantern or inside the column. To minimise any disturbance, the electrical contractor stopped any further work to the occupied lamp columns and lanterns and will return to complete the road's upgrade once the birds have left the nest.' The council contractor, Amey, is 'continuing to monitor' the situation on the street.
Viking coins estimated to be worth at least half a million quid and 'of major historical significance' have been recovered by Plod. The large number of coins and silver ingot were seized from properties in County Durham and Lancashire. Durham Police said 'a number of people' have been arrested 'on suspicion of dealing in culturally tainted objects.' The Fuzz declined to confirm exactly how many people were arrested or how they had, allegedly, came to be in possession of the items in question. The haul contains coins of Alfred the Great of Wessex and his less well-known contemporary Ceolwulf II of Mercia. King Alfred inflicted a defeat on the Vikings in 878AD and experts believe that the coins belong to an undeclared hoard consistent with the location of the Viking army at that time. Doctor Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins and Viking collections at the British Museum, described it as a 'nationally important hoard.' He said: 'The coins I have seen so far add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the 870s. This is the period in which Alfred the Great was fighting the Vikings, but which also led to the creation of a unified kingdom of England under Alfred and his successors.' The coins and ingot were handed over to the museum after being seized earlier this month. Detective Inspector Lee Gosling, of Durham Police, said: 'It is not every day we get the chance to shape British history. It is the legal responsibility of the finder of any precious metal objects that are over three hundred years old to report them to the local coroner as possible treasure under the terms of the Treasure Act 1996.'
Psychedelic rock legend Roky Erickson has died in Austin, aged seventy one. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators frontman's death was confirmed by his brother, Mikel, to producer Bill Bentley, who was responsible for producing the 1990 Erickson tribute CD Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye. No cause of death has yet been revealed. 'Roky lived in so many worlds, you couldn't keep up with him,' Bentley told Variety. 'He lived so much. And, not always on this planet.' Born Roger Kynard Erickson in Austin, he formed his first band, The Spades, after dropping out of high school in 1965. Later in the same year he formed The Thirteenth Floor Elevators with Stacy Sutherland, Tommy Hall, John Ike Watson and Barry Thuman. Releasing their debut LP, The Psychedelic Sounds Of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, in 1966, the band's fiery single 'You're Gonna Miss Me' became a regional hit and remains one of the most iconic song to come out of the 1960s US garage-rock movement. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators went on to release three further LPs - including their biggest seller, Easter Everywhere which contained two bona fide psych masterpieces, '(I've Got) Levitation' and 'Slip Inside This House'. Their final LP was Bull Of The Woods in 1969 which included one of Roky's finest moments, 'May The Circle Remain Unbroken'. It's a measure of how big the band were in their native Texas that, in 1968, Janis Joplin was their support act at several shows in and around Austin.
In 1968, while performing at HemisFair, Erickson began speaking gibberish. He was soon diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he involuntarily received electroconvulsive therapy. The Elevators were vocal proponents of marijuana and psychedelic drug use and were subject to extra attention from law enforcement agencies. In 1969, Erickson was arrested for possession of a marijuana joint in Austin. Facing a potential ten-year incarceration, Erickson pleaded not guilty 'by reason of insanity' to avoid prison. He was first sent to the Austin State Hospital. After several escapes, he went to the Rusk State Hospital, where he was subjected to more electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments, ultimately remaining in state custody until 1972. Following his release, Roky formed a series of other bands throughout the 1970s - most notably Roky Erickson & The Aliens - and released a few records, some of which were produced by former Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook. Erickson went on to find cult fame in the 1980s, when he was cited as a major influence on a range of artists including REM, ZZ Top, Richard Lloyd, Television, Spacemen Three, David Leonard, Butthole Surfers, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Julian Cope, The Shamen and Primal Scream. In 1995, Erickson released the acclaimed All That May Do My Rhyme and he published Openers II, a collection of his lyrics. Keven McAlester's 2005 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me introduced more people to Roky's music and shone a spotlight on his, at the time, reclusive lifestyle and his personal struggles. In 1989, Roky was arrested for stealing his neighbours' mail, though the charges were eventually dropped. In his later years, he toured regularly, backed by such acts as The Black Angels and could be found playing shows around North America and Europe, including at festivals like Coachella. His first ever gig in Britain, in 2007 at the Royal Festival Hall as part of Meltdown before an adoring audience - at last half of whom seemed to be from bands inspired by his work - has gone down in legend (although some wanker of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star couldn't resist whinging about aspects of it). He collaborated with Mogwai on their 2008 song 'Devil Rides'. Then in 2010, he released True Love Cast Out All Evil, which featured Okkervil River as his backing band. In 2015, Erickson reunited with the 1967 line-up of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators (including Sutherland and Hall along with Danny Thomas and Ronnie Leatherman) and headlined Levitation, the Austin psych-rock festival which had been named after one of their most famous songs.
This blogger find himself strangely conflicted, dear blog reader. As you will know he loathes the Gruniad Morning Star and all of the Middle Class hippy Communists who sale in her. Nevertheless, just occasionally, he finds something in there that makes him smile for all the right reasons. Recently, that occurred with a piece written by Marina Hyde on the 'summer of Tory fratricide and country-shafting' which, the columnist believes is likely to follow Theresa May's resignation. This blogger thought it was great, dear blog reader and, indeed, told you that. You may remember. Well, it's only bleeding gone and happened again, hasn't it? And, yer actual Marina is, again, the culprit with a follow-up piece, Opium-Pipers, Bluffers & No-Dealers Impress In This Tory Battle Of Nonentities. Bad, wicked Marina, making this blogger laugh twice in two weeks, something your po-faced and full-of-their-own-importance colleagues never manage.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is thoroughly indebted to his old mucker Jon Arnold - as previously noted on this blog, star of Game Of Thrones and all-round decent egg - who sent this blogger the following screengrab from Joss Whedon - The Complete Companion, edited by Robert Moore and published by those lovely people at Titan Books.
'Dear, Sir Telly Topping, can you please settle a matter that's been bugging me for years,' asked Jonny when altering this blogger to the existence of the highlighted passage. 'Tell me what exactly is the frequency?' To which, dear blog reader, 'Dear Sir Telly Topping' could only reply ...
As previously mentioned on this blog, Keith Telly Topping has - for some years - been a member of the daily Audience Appreciation Index (AI) panel giving his views, via a data collection company, on those TV programmes which he watched the previous day. On each completion of a daily diary some of these programmes (usually three) will have additional questions asked about the respondents thoughts on a particular broadcast beyond the usual 'give a score from one to ten with ten being really very good and one being not very good at all.' Mostly these questions are pretty straightforward and sensible and one can understand exactly why a broadcasters is asking them. There is, however, one glaring example of a question asked very regularly which is - nine-times-out-of-ten - completely irrelevant and - ten-times-out-of-ten - extremely bloody annoying. And, it's this one.
Now, this blogger can - just about - accept that such a question might have some vague relevance when its asked in connection with, say, an episode of Springwatch, perhaps. Or, some other factual format about a subject that the viewer may never have previously given much thought to but was interested enough by the programme to want to know a bit more. That's entirely reasonable. But, when it's asked about the final episode of Game Of Thrones ...? The following was this blogger's reply. 'What "something new" could this particular television programme possibly have "encouraged" me - or anyone else - to do? Take my dragons and stage a blistering attack on King's Landing in order to seize The Iron Throne? I'd very much like an answer, if you'd be so good. This moronic question is asked every single day, usually in relation to programmes to which it has no relevance whatsoever. And, it is really starting to steam my clams. The person who devised this question is a waste-of-space numbskull - why should any television programme "encourage" viewers "to do something new"? Why is that an arbiter of any sort of worth? What, in short, has this abject nonsense got to do with whether a television programme is good, bad or any number of shades of grey in-between. I am sick and tried of this question being asked of me and I demand that you change it, instantly.' They haven't, obviously and nor are they likely to. But, just getting that off his chest made yer actual Keith Telly Topping feel good, dear blog reader. In fact, it made him feel better than good.
And finally, dear blog reader, during the early part of this week, this blogger was somewhat shocked and very stunned to discover that he had over two thousand three hundred alleged 'fiends' on Facebook. Most of these, of course - the vast majority in fact - are, indeed, people whom this blogger either knows personally or has had some form of online relationship with on Facebook itself, via this blog or, previously, on one of several Interweb forums that Keith Telly Topping was a member thereof. Nevertheless, a smaller number were not 'fiends' per se, rather they were 'fiends of fiends' or, sometimes, 'fiends of fiends of fiends.' And, at some stage since 2006, they have had a 'fiend request' accepted by this blogger. Then, in some cases, Keith Telly Topping has never come across a single post from them ever again. From a brief glance at this blogger's 'Fiends' page at least a couple of hundred of these 'fiends' also appeared to be no longer active on Facebook (judging by the lack of a profile photo). So, this blogger spent a couple of days having a bit of a cull. A 'Stately Telly Topping Manor Facebook Fiend Purge', if you will. This blogger obviously prefaced this (rather melancholy) task with an announcement to all of his dear Facebook 'fiends' not to worry if they were an actual 'fiend' of Keith Telly Topping (in, you know, 'real life'), or someone with whom he has any sort of reasonably regular online interaction with or, in three cases, were members of this blogger's family(!) However, this blogger added that if he did suddenly disappear from anyone's contact list and they thought he'd, you know, 'pushed the wrong button accidentally,' they were urged not hesitate to shout, loudly, 'Oi, what are you playing at, yer actual Keith Telly Topping, you silly sausage, you?' What followed was a surprisingly enjoyable and amusing thread generating around one hundred posts - some from people assuring this blogger that, although they hadn't had a lot of contact with yer actual Keith Telly Topping in the past, nevertheless, they enjoyed reading what he had to say and wished to remain, as it were, 'fiendish.' There was also one plank who decided to use a light-hearted thread full of wit and humour to start in a completely pointless argument about whether Hawkwind are 'prog' or not (they aren't, just in case you're wondering). This blogger had discussions about the origins of the phrase 'silly sausage', lots of - mildly amusing - sausage and/or 'fiend'-related memes got posted (a small representative selection of which can be viewed below) and there was some humour in one or two of the more (entirely lovable, let it be noted) 'needy' style 'please, please, please keep me' posts (almost all of which were from people whom this blogger is in regular contact with and wouldn't have dreamed of dumping on Ze List). There was also a bit of a running commentary from this blogger on how it was going; how, for example, it was proving to be far less of a massive clear out than this blogger had, at first, suspected: 'Clearly, this blogger does have a lot of fiends,' he told one responder. 'Which, trust me, is as much a surprise to me as it is to all of you lot!' Anyway, it was all rather fun and this blogger would like to, personally, thank all of those dear Facebook 'fiends' who took part. And, particularly, for helping to turn what could, potentially, have been a rather awkward and thankless task into something that, actually, became quite enjoyable. Oh, and if you're wondering, dear blog reader, this blogger is now in possession of around seventeen hundred Facebook 'fiends', the vast majority of whom he does, actually, have a 'proper', honest-to-God idea of why they're following the abject drivel that he posts, both on Facebook and, indeed, here.