Saturday, November 26, 2022

MY NAME IS MOK, THANKS A LOT [372]

Angel & Omar

There is nothing like getting yourself to watch a DVD copy of a film you haven’t watched yet, by telling yourself you are going to write about it.

“Rock & Rule”, a 1983 Canadian animated film that mixes a post-apocalyptic landscape, pop music and dog-like mutant humanoids, while being targeted at a more grown-up audience, has been covered as thoroughly online as another film I have talked about, “Animalympics” [link], creating enough furries from its audience for that term not to need inverted commas anymore. I am not a furry, but I love animated films, as apparently do the Germans – both DVDs I own of “Rock & Rule” and “Animalympics” are from Germany, having no UK release beyond VHS, although the BBFC gives “Rock & Rule” a PG rating, advising it “contains mild language and sex references”.

The plot involves a rock star supervillain, Mok, who retires to Ohmtown, a ravaged place whose power plant could help him secure immortality. From the opening crawl, “high in the hills above Ohmtown, Mok’s computers work at deciphering an ancient satanic code which could unlock a doorway between his world and a darker dimension while Mok himself searches for the last crucial component – a very special voice.” 

Mok

The correct voice will have just the right frequency for the plan to work, much like Ella Fitzgerald breaking a glass in the ads for Memorex tapes [link], but by this point, we have already been told the film features the voices of Cheap Trick, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Earth Wind & Fire... and Debbie Harry of Blondie. Unless they surprise me and Maurice White’s voice fits the plan, it will be Debbie Harry.

As it turns out, the voice is found in an Ohmtown band featuring Angel, their keyboard player, and Omar, its lead singer and guitarist. Angel’s voice is identified by an audition, leading to Mok kidnapping Angel and taking her to Nuke York by airship. Omar mistakes this for ambition being placed over their relationship, until he gets caught up in Mok’s machinations and sent home – by this point, it has become clear that another voice could disrupt Mok’s plan, but there is also no one that can be found to fit that description, until Omar makes his way back.

Unfortunately for me, the mutated humanoids – the film’s American release explained that humanity had been destroyed and replaced war – border on obnoxious most of the time. Angel, as the heroine, is spirited but bland in a “damsel in distress” manner, until she sings, and the English-accented Mok approaches a Disney-type villain, but many supporting characters are noisy and abrasive, and even Omar begins as such, making the film feel longer than its hour and twenty minutes.


The art direction, however, is impeccable. The ruined cityscape and street level grime are reminiscent of “Blade Runner”, not yet a classic, but far away from the run-down, unsafe 1980s New York – it is both fanciful and lived-in, with suitably muted colours. If rotoscoping was not used to exact the characters’ movements, I will be surprised.

Ohmtown, at night

Despite this, you may be here for the music more than the story. Just as with the soundtrack by 10cc’s Graham Gouldman on “Animalympics”, the songs in “Rock & Rule” were written by the performers, like Mok’s grandstanding numbers “My Name is Mok” by Lou Reed, and “Pain & Suffering” by Iggy Pop, just as Debbie Harry’s songs as Angel were co-written with Chris Stein of Blondie - both of Mok's songs are the highlights, of course, and are perfect examples of each artist's qualities being infused into one villain. Earth Wind & Fire’s “Dance Dance Dance”, essentially the background to a nightclub scene, was also written and recorded for the film. However, with the recording artists being signed to different labels, no soundtrack album was released, and only a few tracks have surfaced commercially, with the version of “Pain & Suffering” not being released until 2019.

“Rock & Rule” was produced by Nelvana, the studio that made a big splash by animating the introduction of Boba Fett in the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special”, later producing the series “Droids” and “Ewoks”. The failure of “Rock & Rule” at the box office, released on few screens with little publicity, nearly bankrupted Nelvana, but their subsequent concentration on children’s shows, most notably the “Care Bears” film series they instigated, built the company into the major force it remains today, although nothing as adult as “Rock & Rule” appears to have been attempted since then, which is a shame when considering the attention it has received since.



Sunday, November 20, 2022

THROW OUT THE HARDWARE [371]


Considering how often I have written here about the virtues of home media, and owning copies of films, music and TV and radio shows, I should have had much to say about the abrupt removal of shows and films from the HBO Max streaming service, plus the cancellation of upcoming projects. The reason I had not done so, apart from HBO Max not being available in the UK, was because I had already covered similar ground back in 2018 [link], when Netflix took down the 1978 film version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” - this led me to buy a Blu-ray copy, which has a higher-quality picture than the variable bit-rate of online streaming often delivers.

What has changed since then is that online streaming has slowly become the norm. HBO Max, Discovery+, Apple TV+, Paramount + and Peacock are among the services that launched since 2018, and Tesco and Sainsbury’s are among the supermarkets that have stopped selling DVDs.

Worse for me, films I have watched at the cinema have not yet become available on a physical home video release in the UK, namely Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch”, originally released in October 2021, and the Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, from April 2022. I have been so used to a 13-16 week between a cinema and home video release that I am seriously considering buying the German issue of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” over having to buy a download of it from Amazon Prime, which is subjected to digital rights management avoided by having a physical copy to use as you wish. Meanwhile, I could watch “The French Dispatch” by subscribing to Disney+, but I have already once chosen to buy a box set of a Disney TV show over subscribing to Disney+ - that show was “Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers”.

I have no answer to these problems, except that if physical home video is to become a niche pursuit, available for purchase through specialist stores or online, that having the ability to buy a physical release must become as easy as possible. The Warner Archive Collection has been a North American success I wish they would replicate in the UK, being an operation that produces DVD and Blu-ray copies of films on demand. If it means they need to have the money upfront before making a DVD of, for example, the 1931 pre-Hollywood Code release of “The Maltese Falcon”, it guarantees the availability of films for which there is less viability in producing a wider commercial release.

Likewise, it has been customary for other distributors to licence TV shows and films to release themselves. In the UK, I have Network Distributing Ltd to thank for releasing brilliant sitcoms like “Whoops Apocalypse” and “Hot Metal” on DVD, shows that broadcaster ITV, who own the rights, have not released themselves, like they did with “Inspector Morse” or “A Touch of Frost”. 

“The Strange World of Gurney Slade”, a surreal 1961 sitcom starring Anthony Newley that plays with reality in ways next seen in “The Prisoner”, was released by Network in 2011, which I bought on the back of knowing it was a major influence on David Bowie, before realising he could only have seen it at age 12 on its original airing, or on its single repeat run in 1963. TV used to be ephemeral until the advent of home video, but the shift to online streaming puts all the power back in the hands of rights holder to display or withdraw content as they wish – you can no longer grab a copy out of the air in the way that a VHS or DVD recorder provided to you.

If I return to this subject in another four years from now, I can only expect that the situation will have become worse – “home video” as a concept may be dead by then, and even The Criterion Collection may be online-only. Keep your DVDs.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

LIKE A DOG WITHOUT A BONE [370]

Rhodes MK8 with optional effects unit

It absolutely makes sense that I would covet an electric piano that costs from eight thousand pounds to buy. As much as the opening theme I composed for my YouTube channel, and my song “Nostalgia’s Gonna Get You” [link] both use synth chords recreating the “E Piano 1” sound of the Yamaha DX7, what that sound is itself recreating is a kind of electric instrument holy grail – and one that no longer has to be bought second-hand.

Ray Manzarek’s piano line on The Doors’ song “Riders on the Storm” proves that “Rhodes” is an electric piano brand that evokes a certain mellow tone, almost like an electrified glockenspiel, especially on higher notes. Like a standard piano, Rhodes pianos are mechanical, its keys connected to hammers that hit thin metal rods connected to tuning-fork-shaped bars, the vibrations feeding to electric pick-ups. Used by The Doors, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock among many others, the Rhodes sound is highly prized, but with the original Rhodes factory having closed in 1987, outside of a short-run production in 2007, the older units have been kept running continuously, meaning few have experienced hearing one that hasn’t been “broken in” through years of use.

This is until the British sound design company Loopmasters bought the rights to the name, producing a new Rhodes MK 8 piano, based on the Mark I stage model introduced in 1970. I have watched a good few videos featuring it being put through detailed musical tests by people who could afford to buy their own, one of which had to remind themselves its keys were firmer than on previous Rhodes pianos because they were brand new.

I am naturally jealous that some people can afford to drop eight thousand pounds on a musical instrument, which approaches ten thousand once you add the extra effects unit with more digital options to shape the analogue sound, and once you want it in a colour other than black. It all depends on what you want, but when a Yamaha baby grand piano – a standard one with strings, not a sample-based electric CLP model – approaches that figure, your only concerns are what sound you want, and how much weight is your floor able to take.

Arguably, I already have the Rhodes sound with my Yamaha reface DX synthesiser, which cost one thirtieth the price of a base Rhodes MK 8, and I am very happy with it, but I know it is a copy of a copy. The original Yamaha DX7 of 1983 was much lighter and more versatile than a Rhodes with the sounds it creates, entirely by digital means that the owner doesn’t have to think about - the rise of similar synthesisers at the time will have hastened the end of their production. 

I guess it may be that you develop a taste for certain sounds over time, and once you have heard one sound being approximated so many times, or reproduced on online plugins that recorded samples from a Rhodes, you want to experience the real thing directly, being in the presence of its particular tonal quality that cannot be emulated owing to its mix of mechanical and electronic machinery. 

I am sure there will be a Rhodes MK 9 by the time I can afford a MK 8, but when it comes, I will take one in pink, thank you.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

AND THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHANGE [369]


You shouldn’t “punch down” if you can help it, but when we are all below Elon Musk, and he has just bought the online home of “punching down”, the rest of us have nowhere to go but up, or away altogether.

I had already decided I was going to write about Twitter’s “blue tick” verification before its new owner started firing half the company’s staff, triggering lawsuits, recriminations and an exodus of both users and advertisers, so whether I decide to take Musk’s offer of a “blue tick” Twitter Blue account, for $7.99 per month, depends if Twitter remains long enough in its current form to be of any use, let alone whether the subscription cost goes on improving the experience of using the site, or paying off debt loaded onto it through Musk’s buyout.

The question that remains for me, in case it remains a proposition on Twitter or elsewhere, is this: if I do not have the influence or following on a social media account to earn a “blue tick” verification, should I just buy one if the opportunity presents itself?

I have Twitter and Instagram accounts using the handle @msleighspence, and both have follower accounts in the tens because I only use them “for work”, posting links to these articles, and re-Tweeting the “CheapShow” podcast and occasional other thinks I like. Right now, using these accounts more would count as “work”, meaning I perhaps do not use them enough to justify any clarification from the sites that I am the person named “Leigh Spence” on them.

Until now, account verification is something awarded when it is earned, in the case of YouTube’s unlocking of features once subscriber thresholds are achieved, or when it is needed: both Instagram and Twitter (up to now) verify accounts featured in various news sources, with the user needing to provide proof demonstrating you are well-known public name that people are willing to seek out, bringing traffic to the site involved. The verification is then in the interest of the site as much as of the individual.

Now, I was thinking that buying a “blue tick” for my Twitter would act as the cheapest form of paid advertising I have come across – yes, I use Twitter and Instagram for advertising, but verifying one account would improve its visibility, and if that increases the number of people viewing these articles, then that is money well spent, so long as that is the only outcome. Increased exposure cuts both ways, and if reducing or eliminating your presence on the site becomes the better option, then being verified that you are yourself, and all the money you spent, is a waste of time – no wonder people like to be anonymous if they can.

I have still to make up my mind about opening a Twitter subscription in order to have a verified account, as Elon Musk’s plans for the site are currently changing like the weather, or whether Stephen King objects to them, his opposition to a $20 per month cost for his “blue tick” prompting Musk to offer $8 instead – all King needs to do now is two write Musk into his next novel as either revenge or as a warning. 

What I am currently anticipating is YouTube introducing social media-like “handles” for its users, at no cost, which may find my videos easier to find, at no cost – when that goes live, I will be at @leighspence there.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

DANCING IN THE NIGHT [368]


Coming up, I take advantage of the eternal popularity of Halloween to stitch together slow-motion footage of the bats circling the back garden.

Thank you for watching, if you would like to see more videos like this, please like, comment and subscribe, and as ever the nostalgia culture crisis continues at www.leighspence.net, the home of dancing with the gatekeepers.

Monday, October 24, 2022

AND IT’S NO GAME [367]


Official photo issued during Johnson campaign

The problem with writing about politics is that events often travel at break-neck speed, so I am not surprised at having eschewed politics as a subject for discussion at all. Give me postmodernism, pens and cars any day, along with any subject that remains evergreen, or slow-moving enough to pin down.

What rendered my previous article about the latest Conservative Party leadership election having been rendered out of date later the same day [link] was the announcement by one candidate that they were withdrawing from a race they never actually said they were standing in, like they had shown up to run the London Marathon with a hand-drawn number, withdrawing after realising whatever time they placed would never be counted.

The assumption made by Boris Johnson, returning from his holiday in the Dominican Republic to pick up from the point he had left in July, speaks of a man who hasn’t been in the country much at all in the intervening time. That he could ask the other two candidates, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, to stand aside for him, is spectacularly arrogant – Sunak’s meeting with Johnson ended without agreement, while Mordaunt perhaps won some respect by asking Johnson to step aside for her. It also didn't help that the two photographs taken and issued on Twitter by supporter Lee Anderson MP, of Johnson calling MPs on the phone to secure their support, shows him looking like he is lacking sleep, visibly jet-lagged, or having been hit in the face by a football.

Then the statement he made on Sunday night – the first and last time during the weekend that someone did not speak for him – was delusional: “I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago - and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now... I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 - and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations... and I could put my nomination in tomorrow... There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members - and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.”

Once he had placed himself on a pedestal, Johnson paints the portrait: “But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can't govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament. And though I have reached out to both Rishi [Sunak] and Penny [Mordaunt] - because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest - we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this. Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

The other official photo issued

What we have now is a way for Johnson to say, further down the line, “don’t say I didn’t warn you, I’m afraid”, while also still saying he is the only person that can unite the country, based on the General Election result of 2019, before so many other things happened. 

Marina Hyde, writing for “The Guardian”, had pointed out that Cincinnatus, the Roman emperor referenced by Johnson in his resignation speech who returned to his plough, and referenced because he came back and governed again, had only ruled for three more weeks before stepping down, once a plot to usurp power in Rome had been dealt with – his rule being a dictatorship is a fact that will just have to sit there.

Still, the situation means that the spectre of Boris Johnson hangs over the Conservative Party like a bad smell. Rishi Sunak was elected leader on Monday 24th October, after Penny Mordaunt withdrew her candidacy at the last minute, leaving Sunak as the last one standing, and as someone who had only sent out two messages on Twitter during the race, both in reference to Johnson dropping out.

Now that we have the fifth Prime Minister in the last six years, they have to pull their party together before they can hope to pull the country together, and whether the Conservative Party can do the first one, or is they are even willing by this point, is the next question. Popularity polls suggest that calling a General Election would currently be a death wish for the Conservative Party, but it has two years left before one has to be declared anyway. 

I resolve to myself that the General Election, whenever that may be, will be the next time I talk about politics.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

KEEP ME RUNNING, RUNNING SCARED [366]


My mother said I shouldn’t write about politics, for fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention. But what if politics is all anyone is talking about, again, because it is all we are given to talk about, again?

The extremely short version of the last week is this: Liz Truss, the fourth Prime Minister since this website began in May 2016, resigned on Thursday 20th October, having only become leader on Tuesday 6th September. In that time, her free-market, low-tax, high-growth economic policy was trashed both by the world markets, leading to higher interest rates, a weaker Pound and higher government borrowing costs, and by the replacement Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed by Truss, the rejection of her policy making her position untenable.

I had already decided I had written enough about Liz Truss by the time she became Prime Minister, like that matters much now: when she mischaracterised postmodernist philosophy as having no space for evidence [link]; when that speech began my own series on postmodernism’s continued relevance [link], how another speech railed against “ludicrous debates about language, statues and pronouns” [link]; and questioning what the “post-Elizabethan age” will be under King Charles III and a Prime Minister Truss [link].

I am tired of being told we are living in unprecedented times. Boris Johnson was still Prime Minister as late as July, when anxiety already running high over the cost of living and energy prices, but the Conservative Party since then appear to have expended more energy on keeping itself together. Even if the current week-long leadership contest is a recognition that two months was too long for the last one, especially when it didn’t produce a satisfactory result, the course of events are still up in the air: either one person gets more than one hundred MPs supporting them to be a candidate by 14:00 on Monday 24th October, making them Prime minister immediately, or we could have as many as three candidates, who then need to be voted on by the same Party members that elected Liz Truss.

This doesn’t reduce the outrage at having to go through the process again. In order just to follow the news, which feels like it is changing with every moment, you are reduced to the “doomscrolling” of live news feeds reporting every event as it breaks, watching the government being contradicted in real time on Thursday 21st October: everything is fine; Truss has called a meeting; no speech is planned; they’ve got the lectern out....

I had already reduced the amount of news I watch on television by the time Boris Johnson resigned as Prime minister in July 2022, although that was easy in the week of this event as my TV had broken [link], but the continued rumbling of unease about, well, the national situation, has not subsided despite trying not to take as much notice of it. I don’t know how long it can go on, or when it will end.

The Conservative Party assume they can keep thinking they can fix their own mistakes, and Boris Johnson, having flown back from his third holiday since being thrown out, appears to think his old job is his for the taking again, without acknowledging that he is Boris Johnson, and that name comes with baggage.

Even as I write, I am sure this won’t be the end of it. We can’t guarantee at this point that whoever is elected as the next Prime Minister can hold their party together, only because that questions was not answered by the last PM.

My objections to the Conservative Party right now are moral, not ideological, resulting from the situation they have created. These people are not my betters, and they do not command my respect. This isn’t even about wanting another party in charge, this is just about wanting stability, and if they cannot do that, then they need to give the people the chance to decide who can.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

AROUND THE WORLD, AROUND THE WORLD [365]


The Ford Escort was the biggest-selling car of the 1980s, a statement that applies both the United Kingdom and the United States.

 

Whether that statement applies to one car is another question. Created as a “world car” between Ford’s American and European divisions, ostensibly to share both expertise and production costs, the Escort on sale in North American showrooms from 1980 shared little more than its engine with its European counterpart, and its design is different enough to call the effort of sharing its development into question.

 


I had not heard of there being a separate Ford Escort until a couple of weeks ago, but looking at pictures of it brings a sort of an “Uncanny Valley” effect – the European version was so prevalent on British roads, seeing something that purports to be the same thing, while looking almost like it, but not quite, produces an unwarranted feeling of unease.

 

Reading the 1982 brochure for the North American Escort reveals the difference in approach with Ford of Europe: placing emphasis on its “world car” status, and on having outsold every imported car in the US in 1981, Ford introduced the Escort to replace both the Pinto, a “subcompact” coupé-looking car with a poor safety record, and the Fiesta, Ford’s first attempt at a “world car” that was too small for the United States (and which I have talked about here: link). Both the targets and the stakes were set high, but this situation was only found in North America, and its half of the plan must have inevitably diverged to meet them.

 

The European Version

Meanwhile, the focus of the European Escort was squarely on aerodynamics, fuel economy and simplicity of design, having launched in the UK with the slogan “Simple is Efficient”. Unlike Ford of America, which attached a globe logo to every Escort sold there in its first year, Ford of Europe make no mention of having developed the car with anyone else. The European Escort’s straight line design was by Uwe Bahlsen and Patrick Le Quément, following it with the futuristic, for the time, Ford Sierra (also discussed previously: link).

 

The North American Escort could serve to indicate the main differences between American and European cars in general. It has the same wheelbase as the European model, but is nine inches longer, two inches wider, and one inch shorter in height, with a more sloped nose, and chrome trimmings on even the base L model. Only a 1.6 litre engine was offered initially in America, the largest of the engines offered in Europe, and the interior was entirely redesigned, with black, fawn and blue colour combinations joined by an all-interior blood-like colour known as “Medium Red”. The “Squire Option” of faux wood panelling was available on the estate car.

 


Contributing to the design changes to the North American Escort may have been differing safety standards. Many European manufacturers in the 1970s seen their sleek designs essentially ruined through the process of “federalisation” to meet US safety regulations, often through the addition of thick black shock-absorbing bumpers to protect the headlights and engine in a 5 mph collission – Ford would do this with the Capri coupé when it was sold as the Mercury Capri in the US. This led British Leyland to redesign the MGB and MG Midget to suit, but because the US was their main market, it had to be done.

 

The Escort would become more of a “world car” through the 1980s, adding production at Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela to the factories in the UK, West Germany, Spain and the United States. However, the Escort produced in South America was the European version – the North American version was only sold in North America, and was only made there too. When Ford of America updated their Escort in 1990, it opted to rebrand the Ford Laser, a car sold mostly in Asia and Australasia, and based on the Mazda 323. Meanwhile, successive updates of the European Escort continued until the Focus began replacing it 1998, the Escort name disappearing in 2002... until it reappeared in 2015, on a redesigned Focus saloon car sold in China and the Middle East. Perhaps the name travels further than the car.


"Medium Red"


Sunday, October 9, 2022

BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE, I WALK THE LINE [364]


Most of what I write will start as half-thoughts recorded on a scrap of paper, or even a couple of words scrawled on my right hand. This is borne from a belief, made many years ago, that I had forgotten more good ideas than I had written down, so therefore all ideas must be caught, with a paper and pen – the finished work can then be typed up later.


To that end, when I write – when I am actually in the headspace of writing – I use a felt-tip pen, specifically the Paper Mate Flair, introduced in 1966. Their current advertising makes big mention of fun and expression, selling in a range of bold and expressive colours of ink that won’t smear or bleed through the page. I don’t really doodle or draw, or write bullet journals, so the appeal is purely functional: I avoid the mess I always end in when using a fountain pen, and I avoid the extra force required to write with a ballpoint pen. Instead, it is just me, and essentially a very stiff brush soaked in ink, and I love how that looks on the page.

There is no accounting for how people wind up with what they need to work. Pinned up at my workspace is a copy of David Bowie’s handwritten lyrics to “Fashion”, because it showed the process where he attempted to rewrite the end of the line “we are the goon squad and we’re coming to town, beep beep”, proving that sometimes the first idea you have is the best one. Like other Bowie lyrics I have seen, these were written with a felt-tip pen, red on this occasion, on squared paper. I did wonder if he also used the Flair pen, and the recent biopic “Moonage Daydream” confirmed it for me in a photograph of Bowie writing, the distinctive Flair shape blown up to fifteen feet long on a cinema screen. It was a happy coincidence for me.

With felt-tip pens most often found in packs for children, and adults, to colour between the lines, I forgot that felt-tip pens became popular enough for Parker, maker of higher-end fountain pens, made a felt-tip version of their Big Red pen in 1970, itself a copy of the Duofold pen that dated back to the 1930s, and oddly marketed as “a glorious handful of solid pleasure”, so faithful to the old design that you have to unscrew the lid, rather than just take it off. Withdrawn in 1981, Parker never made another felt-tip pen, keeping to ballpoint and fountain pens, but like Paper Mate, they are part of Newell Brands, formerly the delightfully-named Newell Rubbermaid, so there is still time to share some ideas around.



Saturday, October 1, 2022

IT’S THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING WONDERFUL [363]


Last week, in downloading an episode of the comedy and advice podcast “My Brother, My Brother and Me” already on my phone, I realised I had caught up with myself: in the fifteen months since discovering the show, I had now heard all six hundred and twenty-eight episodes released since its debut in April 2010. 

The first I heard of the three McElroy brothers, and “MBMBAM” was the notorious moment, in “Kickeo”, episode 514, when “your babiest brother” Griffin said he was known as “Porky Pig” at high school, because of the noise made by his “technique”: “ba-de-ba-de-ba-de-ba-de...” For forty-five solid seconds, Griffin, “your oldest brother” Justin and “your middlest brother” Travis were convulsed by the kind of laughter that only comes from a moment of “where the hell did that come from?”, before Travis laments that people confuse their voices, because they will think he said it. 

As someone for whom the sound of people laughing may be their version ASMR, this was a brilliant moment, but also one that, like a large amount of their “bits” from the show, have been animated and placed on YouTube by creative people, and devoted fans, inspired by the McElroys and the imagery their “playing in the space” has created.

I felt like I had seen about a hundred different versions of the brothers before hearing my first full episode, which was number 562, titled “It Helps to Have a Cube”. With my only regular podcast being “CheapShow”, which I once described here as “the celebratory mix of trash culture and body horror that pushes taste for the perfect laugh” [link], I had caught “MBMBAM” on an appropriate week: Griffin began the episode as a cassette tape that had to be wound up, and who can also sharpen pencils with his behind; the brothers discuss how competitive hot dog eater Joey Chestnut deals with the inevitable trip to the bathroom; they answer a plea from a listener who wants to stop being the office jokester, before sharing how to hide from a murderer; they review the latest album by pizza play place mascot Chuck E. Cheese, and conclude that you should pour a ring of salt around a ghost to keep them in place.

With its surreal and absurdist humour not overlapping the scatological, almost Dadaist force of “CheapShow”, its shared grounding with “MBMBAM” as magazine-like formats in the safe space of “wholesome filth” made me feel like I was in the right place, so I kept listening, but went backwards for a bit, from the 500-range episodes, into the 400s, then 300s, but in January 2022, as I wrote about One Times Square [link], I heard the first four episodes from 2010, and progressed from there – having jumped around previously, the last episode I hadn’t heard was number 291, “Most Likely to Boat”. 

Having now heard every episode so far, including the latest episode number 629, “Millennial Seinfeld” – a welcome moment for every time I heard a listener’s predicament and thought “what kind of ‘Seinfeld’ plot is this?” – what have I learned from “My Brother, My Brother and Me?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” is where the often-cited ten-thousand-hour rule for becoming an expert in a given field comes from. Once you realise there aren’t that many hours in a year, you appreciate the slow grind of putting in the work to get gradually better over time. While the McElroy brothers discourage listening to the first hundred episodes of “MBMBAM”, it is there where you hear the graft, the refinement, the encouragement and guidance from the show’s audience, the endearing talk of listening parties, online forums, and burning episodes to a CD for a friend, and later the liberating challenge of creatively advertising Extreme Restraints, a literal online sex shop. Hearing the show’s form and tone take shape, its hosts both in charge and along for the ride, was a liberating experience – you too can have a creative career, but you must put in the work.

Despite Bob Ball’s opening advisory that “the McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed”, it is only an advisory. After thousands of questions, they have arrived at major lessons like “act strong”, “keep your grades up”, and “will a sign help?”, but it can also be concluded that horses are essentially sacred, that a religion can be formed from eating a mango, “the man who sleeps with a machete is a fool every night but one”, and “if you nut in space, it push you backward”.

But with three people playing off each other like a TV writers’ room, entire passages have been created that put me in the mind of a sketch show rather than an advice column, like “The Ravioli Monster”, Traci Chapman’s “Faster Car”, Travis creating a “mango cult”, an entire episode taking apart the Robert DeNiro-starring comedy “The War with Grandpa”, and nearly “Clockwork Oranging” themselves over “hating” the celebrity-led podcast “Smartless” for winning an award for which they were also nominated (for their advertisement reads). A particular favourite is from episode 539, “Quantum Beef”, where a discussion on barbecues turns to the children’s TV science host Mr Wizard using dry ice to shatter a hot dog, before shouting, 

“we’re all just meat! I’m basically 225 hot dogs strapped together with casing. Old casing, that saw some shit in ‘Nam! If you wanna look at the eclipse... you just burn a little bit of your eye meat, what do I care? It’ll grow back, or it won’t, then we all die. It’s meat. Life is a great experiment... You’re my son now? Your mom said I could adopt you. I promised to teach you science... I revealed to your mom the arcane meat secret, and she said she gave up. Now you’re my meat. I love you.”

I doubt anyone would have come up with the above passage by themselves, and the escalation, the lore, and the unexpected tenderness at the end marks out the three people that created it, and where their creative journey has taken them.

While I start looking into the role-playing game podcast “The Adventure Zone” that the McElroys began in 2014 with their radio presenter father Clint, my choices for five “My Brother, My Brother and Me” episodes, in no particular episodes, are:

#562 “It Helps to Have a Cube”: a listener’s first episode is forever cherished by them.

#468 “Down the Soda Hole”: presented with the force of “standing energy”, it is Justin’s asking “have you seen the movie Big Daddy?”, and Travis’s weary answer of “yes”, catches them all off guard.

#265 “The Ballad of Tit Liquid”: two words inspire a character that derails the rest of the show.

#482 “Face 2 Face: Big Stitch Energy”: a live show begun with a recap of the show’s history to date (October 2019), to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, by superfan Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the McElroys’ use of “unless, unless, unless”, to change tack on their advice, into the musical “Hamilton”.

Special “The My Brother, My Brother and Me Guided Sleep Experience for Spiritual Harmony”: sponsored by Casper mattresses, ASMR becomes deliberately quiet and unintentionally tense, followed by a Cockney countdown from 100 to zero.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORLD THIS WILL BE [362]


I distinctly remember the hope that, when the Covid-19 pandemic eventually drew to a close, the ensuing momentum that would follow such a seismic event could have been the beginning of a new “Roaring Twenties”, last seen following the First World War and the flu pandemic of 1918.

Of course, it does not feel like this has happened, replaced more by a need to return things to normal, just as the proposals to redraw the map of London following the Great Fire of 1666 was replaced by a need to rebuild as soon as possible.

This has left me feeling like the 2020s haven’t really started yet culturally, much like when the 1960s were said to have started with The Beatles in 1963, or when the 1990s were ushered in by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1991. The pandemic acted more like a stress test than a creative inspiration, before counting the threat it made to live music venues, in places like Liverpool and Seattle, that help foment the scenes that changed popular music.

The reason I have started thinking about this now was its having been prompted by reading many articles about the prospects of a “post-Elizabethan age” – following the death of the Queen, having been a symbol of stability and consensus for so long, what country is the UK going to become, and how will things progress under King Charles III and Prime Minister Liz Truss? 

It feels like fundamental changes are expected, but it is not known what they could be, or what for they should take, because elements of that expectation were themselves not expected. Who are we counting on to enact the change? Someone creative? A ground swell? 

I don’t think it is possible to expect a paradigm shift, unless this a result of anxiety. Beatlemania and Nirvana may have ushered in the “Sixties” and the “Nineties”, but the ironic detachment and post-Cold War relief that characterised the “Nineties” was definitively ended by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, just as the end of the “Elizabethan age” was not an event to prepare for. If the lockdown caused by Covid-19 is considered a paradigm shift, it is only in the sense that the standard procedure for progress to take was interrupted or stopped, while happening to coincide with the beginning of the decade.

I think this is one of those times where I don’t know what to expect. The UK has seen uncertainty in one form or another caused by Brexit, Covid, and by changes in Prime Minister and Monarch, unless this proves to be the character of the 2020s – we are already nearly three years in, so it might be time to either call it now, or start preparing to make the 2030s as great as possible.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

ON THEE OUR HOPES WE FIX [361]


With the UK still in a period of national mourning as I write this, I decided that discussing the prospects for the country and monarchy can wait for now. 

 

What I do know is that the passing of Queen Elizabeth II will be noted most visibly when the face on the UK’s money and postage stamps begin to change. I have already been witness to this, when the smaller 5 and 10 pence coins introduced in 1990 and 1992 respectively removed one and two shilling coins featuring King George VI, and possibly still George V, from circulation, but that was a change due to progress. Any change this time will be felt more keenly, especially when for the last fifty-five years, the UK has had perhaps the best postage stamps in the world.

 

The Royal Philatelic Collection is one of the largest and most valuable stamp collections in the world. It was begun by King George V, although stamp collecting has been a part of the Royal Family since 1864, not so long after the Royal Mail introduced the Penny Black in 1840 as the world’s first adhesive postage stamp. The Queen continued the collection, currently stored at Windsor Castle.

 

With the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland substituting the monarch’s face for writing its country name on its stamps, Arnold Machin’s standard “definitive” stamp design used since June 1967 is the most simple and effective design possible: the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, created by Machin in clay, wearing the George IV State Diadem, a crown that includes the roses, thistles and shamrocks that featured separately on the former, more busy standard stamp design; the price value of the stamp; and a single colour used, helping to differentiate from other values of stamp.

I have a stamp collection, mostly kept within one book, and in looking back into it now, the cumulative effect of seeing so many of the “Machin series”, in so many different colours, across so many pages, puts me in mind of Andy Warhol’s pop art screenprints, again reproducing the same image in different colours, except they cost substantially more.

 

This simplicity and effectiveness of this design has doomed attempts to change it. A proposal to change the Queen’s portrait in 1981, just as Machin’s separate portrait for the original set of decimal coinage was also being replaced, was met with a letter from the subject’s private secretary: “Her Majesty is very content with the Machin effigy and thinks that a work of real quality is required if this is to be replaced.” 

 

Other attempts to change the design were rejected by Royal Mail’s Stamp Advisory Committee and by Machin himself, but the Queen’s gentle intervention does make you think that, if your face is the only change that can be made to something, you will more than likely say no. With the Queen having final say over her 1967 portrait, and even requesting the colour of the original 4d. stamp to closely match the original 1840 Penny Black, the sense of personal investment is palpable. It has made this portrait of the Queen into possibly most reproduced picture of a single person there has ever been, or will ever be.

 

Of course, Machin’s design will now have to be changed. My prediction, and hope, is that King Charles’s portrait will simply be used instead, the rest of the stamp staying as it is, but it remains to be seen if the opportunity will be taken to create an entirely new design. 




Sunday, September 4, 2022

COLOURS OF THE WORLD, SPICE UP YOUR LIFE [360]

Left: digitised VHS source. Right: colour boosted in video editor.

Having completed my video about Memphis furniture [link], I am confident I have made a well-structured piece of television with good use of archive material, but I also learned how terrible the Video Home System (VHS) really was.

Having decided to include a fake advertisement break that reflected the influence of Memphis design, I realised that the recordings I used literally paled in comparison to my photographs of the real-life furniture. I already needed to boost the colour of the Weetabix ad I used, using a different VHS copy of it for reference, having being unable to find a copy that was higher in resolution and also not muddy in colour, but then I realised the colour of Warninks advocaat is yellow, not cream, and the swimming pool ladder in the Kitekat ad had to be brighter to match the more obvious influences in the colours and patterns used.

This is not a case of my digital photographs versus (the digital sample of) an analogue tape, the relative age of the tape, or the decline in quality of the recording over time, but more the technical limitations of the VHS format that have largely been overcome by the switch to digital formats, through no longer being constrained by a physical form.

On a 12.5mm-wide VHS tape, the top 0.65mm is taken up with one or two audio tracks, and the bottom 0.75mm is a control track used for synchronising recording and playback. The remaining 9mm is used for the picture, with a signal bandwidth of 3 MHz for luminance – the black-and-white signal that forms the picture - and a 400 kHz sub-signal for chrominance, reproducing the colour. 

These numbers obviously doesn’t mean a lot by themselves, except that less space on video formats are reserved for colour signals because your eyes react more to changes in brightness, so a colour signal can be compressed more without much change in colour. However, the bandwidth of the original TV signal being recorded is much wider, with the PAL video standard using 5.5 MHz for luminance, and 4.43 MHz for chrominance, SECAM using 6 MHz and 4.43 MHz respectively, and NTSC, broadcasting a 525-line picture instead of 625 lines, using 4.2 MHz and 3.58 MHz respectively. 

In order to fit your recording onto the tape, VHS has to throw much of the signal away in a manner that befits having tape only half an inch wide, playing at 1-1.5 inches per second – older professional, broadcast quality tape standards like 2-inch quadruplex, 1-inch Type C and U-Matic recorded a better quality by simply having more surface area to play with, running a wider tape more quickly to pick up as much information as possible. The later S-VHS standard increased the luminance signal recorded to 5.4 MHz, but kept the chrominance signal, and the speed of the tape, exactly the same.

While the picture quality of the contemporary Betamax format was better than VHS, the throwaway nature of TV advertisements often mean that the format that won out in the video format war often winds up as the archive format for those ads. One point of my video as to show how colourful 1980s design was but, without me doing anything with some of the images, another point would have been how our recordings of the decade washed out that colour.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

DO I REALLY FEEL THE WAY I FEEL? [359]


[See above for my video, which uses the below script.]

Coming up, I tell you what this is, what this is, and what this is, and explain why the answers don’t really matter.

[Opening titles: 359. Walking in Memphis Furniture, or “Do I Really Feel the Way I Feel?”]

Hello there. “Memphis” is the name of a group of international designers that ran from 1980 to 1988, led by Italian architect and Olivetti typewriter designer Ettore Sottsass. The group existed to question the functional nature of modern design. I am not here to explain and analyse the history and philosophy of this group, or to analyse their work in detail. I only want to share with you how wonderfully overwhelming it all is.

In June 2021, I took a trip to the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes to view “Memphis: Plastic Field”, a touring exhibition that gathered over a hundred and sixty examples of furniture, textiles and glassware from across the group’s timeline. I am grateful to the gallery for letting me take pictures, letting me walk through the exhibition twice, and dressing the galleries in high-contrast black and white, like the exhibits needed help to be seen. To be clear, these are not intended to be works of art, even though they are: they are tables, chairs, bookshelves, lights and glasses, and were made to be used as such. It just so happened that the colours and designs that permeated the rest of the 1980s also came from everything you see.

The first time I saw an item of Memphis furniture was in Minnie Mouse’s first TV special, “Disney’s Totally Minnie”, from 1988, where one of their chairs is shown in a suitably multi-coloured room. The curved shape of the chair had been burned into my mind since I was five or six years old, and there it was, just sitting there in front of me. Called the “Bel Air” to fit a scheme of using international hotels for names, it had presence, it had status – it was a postmodern throne.

Even before the “Bel Air”, colours and patterns like those used by Memphis had been splashed through the opening titles of the Channel 4 music show “The Tube” from 1984. I saw this on Friday evenings when I was about two years old, as the word and numbers game “Countdown” was on from Monday to Thursday, and I guess that what impressionable small children need is colours and movement, so I got the best there was. I kept asking my mother to draw the “Tube” logo until she asked me to do it, which I apparently did first time. What I don’t get is why I kept asking for the “Tube” logo to be drawn, when this [Channel 4 ident] was the logo for the channel it played on – some things we’ll never know.

In a moment, I will go further into why Memphis design continues to matter today, and provide the answers to the opening quiz, following this short break. [Advertisements for Weetabix, Warninks advocaat and Kitekat cat food.]

Welcome back, and it’s time to confirm what those Memphis items were from the beginning of the video: the first item was a teapot, the second was not a plate but an ashtray, and the bird-looking sculpture was a lamp... and yet, the fact these items had any sort of intended use really isn’t the point. 

As I mentioned earlier, the Memphis group questioned the functional nature of design, and that included the nature of an item existing only for its intended use, and any need to be practical for that use – once liberated from those needs, a designer can begin to play. Take, for example, the Tawaraya bed, or sofa, or Japanese tatami mat, or boxing ring, depending on what you needed in that moment.

My family’s living room and kitchen in the 1980s was defined by wood, by pine, and by a child’s teeth marks in pine, but the construction of Memphis furniture was new, and prescient, using the brand new medium density fibreboard – MDF – and it was possible to laminate it with coloured or patterned surfaces - anything other than simulated woodgrain. 

There is little difference between the materials of Memphis furniture and Ikea furniture, other than Memphis being hand-built from the start, and using more ostentatious names like Plaza, Carlton and Bel Air, instead of Billy and Malm. I should make that clear: these Memphis items are not one-off custom builds, but they were available to order out of a catalogue, despite being very expensive. Likewise, intricate glassware items could easily be created by colouring and gluing separate pieces of glass together.

But if this is where furniture could have been headed, why did Ikea, Habitat and Argos continue with woodgrain and white laminate, and why do we persist with magnolia and grey paint? It is one thing for a room to make you feel cosy, but what if you want to feel elated, overwhelmed, challenged? Is furniture meant to do that? Am I supposed to not be hypnotised by my curtains? Can I admire my bedside table? It is all well and good taking the colours and patterns from Memphis and swathe your entire popular culture in it, but in doing so, it removed it from the context in which those colours and patterns originally appeared – it dazzled the public, but they didn’t want to sit on it. It has made Memphis into a moment in history, a period piece, a museum exhibit. That doesn’t feel good enough somehow. 

It has taken me over a year to work out how to present these pictures, because I didn’t want to present another history of something that people don’t do anymore, carefully listing the names and years for future reference, and manoeuvring it into a discussion on the defined historical period of postmodernist design and blah blah blah – other people can do that this time. I remember leaving the MK Gallery feeling like I had been set on fire, like I am never going to witness anything that eye-opening for a long time, and it was all over looking at furniture. That is the important thing for me. Memphis is a hauntology, a vision of a lost future. This is what you could have won. Some things are worth losing your mind over.

Thank you for watching, if you would like to see more videos like this, please like, comment and subscribe, and as ever the nostalgia culture crisis continues at www.leighspence.net, the home of dancing with the gatekeepers.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

PEOPLE SAY I’M THE LIFE OF THE PARTY [358]


A visual shorthand for the 1970s, the 8-track tape cartridge appeared to peacefully co-exist with the competing Compact Cassette format for its entire time on sale, from 1964 to 1990, even if its popularity dwindled through the 1980s. I have only limited experience with the format, through an 8-track car player my father owned, but they only felt at the time like a “big cassette”. What allowed the 8-track to stick around for so long?

Both formats appeared around the same time. Philips unveiled the Compact Cassette in Europe in 1963, and in the United States in 1964, the same year the first demonstration 8-track players appeared from the Lear Jet Corporation, which spearheaded its development as an in-flight entertainment device. The first in-car units were offered as optional extras by Ford in 1965, alongside the first pre-recorded cartridges from RCA. Home-based hi-fi players and recorders for both formats would both appear before the end of the decade.

Like almost all tape formats, cartridges existed to make reel-to-reel tape easier to handle. The Compact Cassette miniaturised the reels and tape, to 0.15 inches wide and played at 1.875 inches per second, but the first pre-recorded demonstration cassette would not appear until 1967, the Compact Cassette’s initial poor recording quality only useful for dictation purposes. Instead, an 8-track cartridge used the same quarter-inch tape used in reel-to-reel players, playing at 3.75 inches per second, twice that of the Compact Cassette, but half the maximum speed of a reel-to-reel player, making 8-track almost an “audiophile” format by comparison. However, in splitting the tape into four programmes, each made up of two tracks, the 8-track increased both tape hiss and the possibility of “crosstalk” between the tracks and a misaligned playback head.

At four inches wide, each cartridge can play for up to eighty minutes, housing enough tape for four programmes of up to twenty minutes in a single-reel “endless loop” design, like the earlier 4-track Stereo-Pak and Fidelipak “broadcast cart” cartridges used for playing radio jingles, leading from the middle, and windingback around itself. The join in tape was bridged by a silver foil splice which, once it moved past a sensor, moved the playback head to the next programme automatically. The pinch roller usually found in the player mechanism was moved to inside the cartridge, allowing it to automatically engage and play upon being entered into the player, particularly useful when travelling.

With this form to play with, the albums that resulted on 8-track were, to me at least, not the greatest aesthetically. In terms of packaging, the hard plastic cartridge eliminated the need for the case required for a Compact Cassette, but the album cover and other information would be provided as a sticker that would deteriorate with age, along with the silver foil and foam pads inside the cartridge.

The biggest problem, however, is the inflexibilities of arranging an album onto an 8-track cartridge. With a C-90 cassette providing up to 45 minutes per side, you could fit the equivalent of an entire vinyl record on each side of a Compact Cassette, as Pink Floyd did with their double album “The Wall” in 1979. The maximum 8-track programme length of twenty minutes should accommodate one side of a record, but to minimise the amount of tape used, the maximum programme length will be the total length of the album, divided by 4. 

The worst example of this I could find was David Bowie’s 1976 album “Station to Station”, a six-song, 38-minute album, meaning 9.5 minutes per programme is available... but the title track is over ten minutes long by itself, taking up the entire first programme and the beginning of the second. “Word On a Wing”, song 3 of 6 on every other issue, is now song 2 on the 8-track, followed by “Wild is the Wind”, usually the album closer, itself broken up between programmes, perhaps to take advantage of a quiet moment in the song. This means that the final three rockier songs, “Stay”, “TVC15” and “Golden Years” (usually tracks 5, 4 and 2), can play without interruption. Make your album fit, or forget about it.

Meanwhile, the average length of each side of “The Wall” vinyl album was twenty minutes, fitting relatively easy onto the four programmes of an 8-track without making any changes to the songs’ length or running order, except that “Hey You”, the first song on side 3 of the vinyl version, begins at the end of one programme, and starts the next one. It is not possible to lengthen one programme to make the rest of the song fit, as you will have a gap at the end of the other three programmes, disrupting the flow of the album in a different way.

While 1978 was the peak year for 8-track sales in the United States, sales of pre-recorded albums by mail order clubs continued there until 1988, while the electronics retailer Radio Shack sold its Realistic-branded players and blank cartridges until 1990. Meanwhile, the more portable and cheaper Compact Cassette had caught up through constant improvements in tape and playback quality that did not happen with 8-track, although Dolby B noise reduction was licensed for both formats. But by then, the Compact Disc had allowed for seventy-four minutes of high-quality music, later eighty minutes to be played back on one side, without interruption.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

EXPRESS YOURSELF, YOU CAN’T BE WRONG [357]


“Sports Report” had read out the classified football results on BBC radio since 1948. “Classified” in this sense appears to be in a measured tone, in descending league order, with voice rising and descending with each club’s fortunes. This formula, replicated by “Final Score” on BBC One, and by Independent Radio News for commercial stations, is ingrained and ritualised across generations of fans, listeners and viewers as the culmination of Saturday football, still mostly played from 3pm, and as a sports equivalent of the Shipping Forecast, itself a methodical yet poetic rendering of information that has taken on an importance in British culture – marking the time of day, a moment of calm, a moment of order, a moment of nostalgia – beyond the information it imparts which, in changing times, is now more readily available in other ways. 

The 2022-23 football season on BBC Radio 5 Live marked the beginning of live commentaries on matches starting at 5.30pm, which resulted in cutting “Sports Report” in half, to half an hour, as previously announced on Monday 25th July. On Saturday 6th August, the first abbreviated edition of the season changed its approach to reading the results, preceding each league roundup with the results for that league, delivered in a faster, more informal tone – the focus on the Premier League meant no other league results would be heard for at least fifteen minutes. 

Because I am British, I have heard the football results read in the “classified” fashion countless times on television, while the results being read where displayed on screen. The one time I remember hearing it on “Sports Report” was not long after former BBC Radio 4 announcer Charlotte Green began reading them in 2013, although I remember her reading being interrupted by goals being reported by another presenter. Whenever I do want to find the football results, which is rare, I will find them online, where I read them in the “classified” way, because that is what you do.

Because I do not really follow sport, I misjudged the ability to manufacture outrage from changing the way in which football results are read out on the radio. On Monday 8th August, Henry Winter, chief football writer for “The Times”, said on Twitter that the classified results “has always been part of the Saturday match-day fabric for many fans. [The BBC’s] decision to scrap the service shows a lack of understanding of fans. It’s about continuity, the pyramid, information…” The story made Tuesday’s front page, an editorial inside describing the change as “an act of cultural vandalism... the BBC’s claim that it no longer has time in its schedules for results that are widely available on television and online, cannot be allowed to stand... There is a value in familiarity that cannot be easily measured. In a world of satellite communications, who really needs the shipping forecast? Yet the BBC would never dare touch it, just as it should have left the classified football results well alone. Or one must hope.”

On Wednesday, “The Times” reported that 86 per cent of readers responding to their own poll believed the classified results are vital to the BBC’s coverage, and former “Sports Report” host Mike Ingham said, “I don’t believe this was a malicious decision. Whoever made it is probably from the age of smartphones. But I believe they will have to reconsider; that they will realise this was an editorial mistake and reverse the decision. It was clearly not thought through.”

Later that day, the BBC issued a statement acknowledging complaints they had received: “We appreciate the strength of feeling towards the classified football results within Sports Report. It’s always difficult when a programme with a special history changes, but there are good reasons for the change... The classifieds were taking around five to seven minutes to read, which would have taken up around a third of the programme – constraining the range of sports we could cover.”

On Thursday, “The Times” reported this on their website as “BBC will not bring back classified results despite hundreds of complaints”, along with other stories putting pressure on the BBC: “Private paid work of BBC broadcasters is revealed” and “Paul O’Grady is latest star to join exodus from Radio 2”. However, their main story reverted to type for the newspaper in recent times: “Hard-left academics ‘plotted gender ID witch-hunt’ on colleagues”.

On Friday, the paper carried another editorial, saying “the BBC should take heed of the outcry over ending the classified check”, along with reporting said outcry from Age UK and the Royal National Institute of Blind People. By this point, I had stopped buying the paper even for research purposes, because subjecting yourself to relentless coverage over something that is, personally, a trivial matter, becomes draining over its continuing insistence of its own importance.

On Saturday 13th August, “Sports Report” proceeded in exactly the same manner as last Saturday. Competing commercial stations TalkSPORT and LBC News formalised their existing results coverage, the former swapping their previous informal tone for the “classified” version, and the latter moving the time of the results to 5.05pm, the time at which Independent Radio News provides them to other stations. The odd one out was also the elephant in the room: News UK, owner of both “The Times” and TalkSPORT, also operate Times Radio, a news and features station set up ostensibly to promote the newspaper, while also in direct competition with BBC Radios 4 and 5 Live and staffed with many former BBC presenters. They did not carry the classified football results on either Saturday, restricting their reporting to the usual sports bulletins.

My only possible answer to all this was to think of horror film sequels: “Exterminator 2, Death Wish 3. Hellraiser II, Friday the 13th Part V. Amityville Horror 2, Scream 2, Pools Panel: Home Win.”