Saturday, 30 March 2013

Most Awesome - TV Openers

With the return this week of Game of Thrones (wibble) and it's lovely opening credits sequence, I've been pondering what makes a memorable opener. Some credits go on for far too long (I'm looking at you, Dexter), some are clever, some are fun, and some I'd be hard pushed to remember at all. Here's my round-up of the most awesome opening TV credits of all time:

10. Six Feet Under

Niknak tells me the music is by Photek, and that if I don't include this he's moving out. Also has the distinction of most memorable last episode of all time.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

9. True Blood

This one should have been M*A*S*H, but I can't find the actual opening credits sequence anywhere. So instead we get this sexy/creepy slice of Americana (look away for the fox!), and a song that really does make me want to do bad things...

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

8. Veronica Mars

While this probably wouldn't rate so highly if I wasn't quite so obsessed with the show, I love the little doodles that pop up with each character, and the song lets you know instantly what the tone will be. Well played, Dandy Warhols, well played.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

7. Grange Hill

If you grew up in the 80's, you know this opener. And love it (wonky quality, but what do you expect? It's not so young anymore...)

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

6. Freaks & Geeks

A great song, a great way to introduce us to our characters, plus Bill (Martin Starr) giving the best school picture smile in the history of school pictures.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

5. Oz

I watch this series a lot, to the point that whenever I see the HBO insignia I expect this to follow. Contains tons of drugs, sex and violence - and that's just in the credits.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

4. The Sopranos

Probably one of the most iconic credits of recent times, it's easy to see why.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

3. The Fresh Prince

It won't let me embed the proper, short version so you'll just have to pretend the middle part doesn't exist...but if you say the words 'In West Philadelphia' in a crowded room, I guarantee every single person will rap the rest of this back at you. 

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

2. The A-Team

They really don't make them like they used to. When I think of the A-Team, I think of Hannibal smoking a cigar in a croc-suit, BA being gnarly, Face being handsome and Murdoch popping out of a hearse with a machine gun. You get everything you need to know about this show in the opening credits - except the bit where they build an armoured truck out of a laundry hamper.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

1. Farscape

Hands down my favourite credit sequence ever, this pulls of the neat trick of telling you everything you need to know while being completely bat-shit at the same time. 

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

Honourable mentions

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - for getting me so damn excited every time I hear it (still)

Blackadder closing credits - specifically those from the second series

Red Dwarf - Even if youtube doesn't want me to show you it.

So, these are my favourites. What are yours?

Friday, 29 March 2013

Great Screen Beards

There's nothing I love more than a good list. I also happen to love a good beard. So when Rerab asked me for a list of top beards in film and TV, I couldn't resist.

1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

With so many beards to choose from, it's hard to pick a favourite. There's even bearded ladies for those whose tastes skew that way (as there were so ruddy many of them, many of Theoden's army are lady-beards). My own personal favourites, naturally, are on Aragorn and Eomer. So pretty...                  
(for iPhone/iPad click here)

2. Game of Thrones.

Much like the above, we're pretty spoilt for choice thanks to a lack of disposable razors in Westeros and beyond (as noted here on Pajiba). But this one's the best.

I'll come at you....wait, I don't think he means it that way. I'll be in my bunk...

3. Horrible Histories.

One of the best shows on TV - ever - and containing a variety of historical beards, it's always especially nice when the beard's on Matthew Baynton.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

4. Serpico.

A great film, and a smoking hot beard, from before Pacino got all shouty.

5. The Big Lebowski.

I'd love to hang out with this beard. It totally ties his face together.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

6. Four Lions.

Bomber beards. And Toploader.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

7. The Royal Tenenbaums.

Not only starring an excellent beard, but notable for a highly distressing beard-shaving scene. The Royal Tenenbaums gets bonus points for also starring a bearded Bill Murray.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

8. Carnivale.

Lila steps up for the ladies, with a particularly silky beard. This beard gets bonus points for being in the same series as Clancy Brown.

9. Alcide - How I Met Your Mother/True Blood.

Showing off this beard's range, it not only features as Marshall's lawyer bro in HIMYM (now I really want to go to Frog Lake), but also insists on being frequently naked on True Blood.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

10. Dark Star.

Space(d) beards.

(for iPhone/iPad click here)

Bonus Beard.

Erin's pube beard in Jackass, proving it is possible to look like Gary from Team America in real life.

So, which are YOUR favourite beards?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Scott of the Antarctic, or why Tom Daley isn't the Greatest Janner...

It’s July 2011 and I’m happily minding my own business, wondering what book to read next, when I come across this:


Up until this point I’d had no real interest in Captain Robert Scott, even though he’s a hometown boy, but the book looked fairly interesting and would help plug up the gaps in my knowledge just in case I ever happen to appear on Pointless. I had no idea what was about to happen to me.

At the tender age of 24, Apsley Cherry-Garard became a member of Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition (though not of the last dash to the pole). The Worst Journey in the World (WJITW) is his comprehensive and compelling account of the trip, painstakingly compiled not only from his diaries and remembrances but also through those of the other men, from letters home and the many, meticulous scientific records of the journey. He certainly wasn’t lying with that title, but what it doesn’t tell you is that it’s the most incredible journey too, and one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read.

Garrard does a truly fantastic job of immersing you in his material, not only giving you all of the detail surrounding the expedition down to temperatures, wind directions, logistics, etc but also painting a vivid picture of their lives there. Alongside the hardships there are moments of wonder and joy; in the beauty of their surroundings, of their discoveries and studies and in the way Garrard writes of the personalities of the animals and men (I adored the indomitable Bowers). Sitting alongside is unhistrionic documentation of the most unimaginably inhospitable environments and acts of incredible endurance, bravery and generosity that I don't think I'll be ever able to forget (Crean's solitary journey of 35 miles, on foot and with no equipment, to raise help for a dying man, completely awes me). Waking afloat on a patch of floating sea ice, teeth splitting due to the cold, frostbite, hourly drops into crevasses and the terrible blindness of blizzards are just some of the other horrors within. I can't even begin to imagine what a temperature of -75 feels like, but if I ever whinge at a festival that my clothes are damp again, you have my permission to slap me. Throughout Garrard fully presses home the ideal that these men strove to uphold even in the face of certain death - to shine a little light on the darkest, most inhospitable corners of the world and bring forth a little more knowledge, laying a foundation for those who came after to build upon.
I finished the book and wrote a glowing review on Goodreads– and that’s where things would usually end. But not this time.

Soon I was ordering huge coffee table books full of Antarctic photography. Next I was hunting down The Great White Silence – the documentary footage compiled during the expedition by Herbert Ponting. Then it was Captain Scott’s Journals (this time, knowing what the outcome would be made for incredibly heartbreaking reading, particularly when the party was at its most optimistic. It was so easy to get swept along and almost start hoping for a different outcome, only to have my hopes dashed as time went on. This was particularly so whenever it came to Bowers. I’d developed a rather serious case of hero worship of the man during WJITW, and so I roller-coastered back and forth between feeling immensely pleased that Scott found him so impressive, to the point of adding him at the last minute to the party making the last dash and being horror-struck at knowing that his awesomeness would mean his untimely demise). I found myself scouring the internet for the expedition’s photographs in the hope of catching a glimpse of Bowers’ extraordinary nose (that's him on the far right).

I got a tattoo:

I went to a museum exhibit with a friend (who I’d since made read WJITW) and cried when I saw their sleds. We went to visit Captain Scott’s memorial on the anniversary of his death and cried again. I’m still busy trying to make everybody else I know read the books too, or at the very least listen to me while I bang on about them.

So I was thrilled when readers of our local newspaper voted Tom Daley the Greatest Plymothian, and even more so when a columnist noted that Scott hadn’t been a likely contender due to ‘the taint of failure that surrounds him’. So a boy that is, admittedly, quite good at keeping his toes pointed while smashing into water in tiny pants, beats Scott? Seriously?

Sure, Scott failed to reach the Pole first and yes, a lot of mistakes were made on the expedition. That tends to happen when you’re one of the first people to try something. We all know now became of Scott's last expedition and it's very easy to look at it with the benefit of hindsight and point out mistakes. I spent quite a lot of time cursing the horrific distances between depots and there were plenty of shortcomings and miscalculations as well as plain rotten luck experienced by the party. But having read these books, and feeling like I've come through the journey with them, I find it hard to condemn any of their actions and am instead struck with a feeling of awe at what was accomplished and endured, and what a debt we owe to all of the people who have gone out and discovered all of the wonderful things we know about the world. 

I can’t imagine the courage it must take to try something so audacious and I certainly can’t imagine the courage with which Scott and his men faced certain death. Scott took the time as he lay dying, when lesser men would have been in the foetal position, weeping uncontrollable tears of self-pity, to write to the relatives of his comrades offering comfort and endeavouring to see that their families would be taken care of. Those letters were some of the most beautiful I have ever had the privilege of reading, and speak volumes of his character.

In his 'Message to the Public', discovered with his body, Scott wrote:

"Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale..."

Even if it's just in one tiny corner of his hometown, this Englishwoman's heart was well and truly stirred and my soul captured by their tale, and though they're now long gone Scott and his comrades will never be forgotten for as long as I live.

You can keep Tom Daley. This is the Greatest Janner:

All About Me, Me, Me...

You’d be forgiven for thinking on my starting a blog that I may have something important, new or interesting to say. I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like saying stuff anyway. Preferrably loudly and often. So, on the urging of a couple of friends who most likely wanted me to please, for the love of Lestat, please stop cluttering up their newsfeeds with my frequent Facebook rants, here I am. You lucky, lucky people...