Litany of Hate

Some people actually chose to cast doubt on the veracity of the week before last’s editorial, in which I documented my encounter with a Tube Loonie — they didn’t seem to believe that such a mild-mannered citizen as myself could be so upfront. But it all happened as described (allowing for literary hyperbole); there are just some things which push my buttons and cause me to react in a way which can seem excessive to those who don’t share the particular dislike.

TC reader Mal Aitchison pointed me in the direction of page 576 on Ceefax — a corner of this usually staid and straight-laced medium given over to people ranting about the things that they hate. Entitled, “It Makes Me Mad”, it is populated by, in Mal’s words, “the largest collection of oddballs, fuckwits and psychos outside of Rampton”. And largely he is correct, with lists of things like “foreigners talking in their own language in front of you” and “modern underwear, because the elastic perishes, but you can’t replace it like you used to” — world hunger, the Kosovo crisis and the destruction of the rain forests don’t get a look in.

But there is something curiously infectious and cathartic about the process of compiling such a list. It defines your persona, and it is only by confronting your demons that you can control them. Thus, here are the things that make me go AAAAAAAAAARGGGGH!

  • On public transport, people who put their bags on seats — see the aforementioned editorial. I make a deliberate policy of sitting next to these bastards, even if there are other empty seats.
  • Car drivers who accelerate on zebra crossings. To get to Tulse Hill station, I’ve to use two of them, and barely a week goes by without some twat choosing not to stop — even though he’s got to stop ten yards up the road. If you time it right, you can clatter your bag into the side of their car with a most satisfactory thump… On at least one occasion, the driver in question has come screeching to a halt, before realising that the South Circular is perhaps not the best place to park.
  • Johnnie Vaughn + Denise Van Outen. Those faux-flirty couples on daytime TV are bad enough, but these two REALLY piss me off, with their forced ad-libs, and a rapport as natural as margarine, just greasier. Vaughn’s “I’m so clever” attitude is utterly unbearable, making even Chris Evans seem like a choirboy. And how Van Outen makes it into so many of those “most fanciable women” lists beats me.
  • People who choose not to queue. You’re in a shop; there’s two or three tills open, but people wait in one line for whichever becomes free. But there’s always some imbecile who ignores the large queue and decides to start their own.
  • Supermarket customers who pay for a pint of milk with a credit card. This is self-explanatory. Just as bad are those who queue up, then decide to wander off and get some more items, leaving their basket behind them. Hey, do your shopping FIRST, huh?
  • Pedestrians who insist on walking three abreast down busy pavements. Inevitably at the speed of an arthritic slug too.
  • Closely related, in the “should be a capital offence” category, are those who stand on the left hand side of escalators.
  • People with umbrellas. Especially those who have golf umbrellas large enough for a herd of elephants to shelter beneath.

There are a whole bunch more: Big Issue sellers, everyone over 65, politicians, feminists, anybody who thinks horse racing is interesting, the undeserving rich, the undeserving poor, cycle couriers, Cleo Laine, Carla Lane, anyone involved with the National Lottery TV show, and animal rights activists, all to varying extents deserving of extermination. On the one hand, I am a bitter, misanthropic person given to sweeping generalisations; on the other, all the above combined probably account for much less than a billion people, and the other five billion or so are fine by me. I’m sure they are cheered by the knowledge.

Readers are encouraged to try the above for themselves, and see just how satisfying it can be. Once you get started, it’s difficult to stop! Feel free to submit your lists to me as well: I’m sure I can sympathise with some of them. Or have a good laugh at least. As for me, having safely unburdened the above, I’m off for a pint…

Jim McLennan is…asleep (again!)

[Sorry for the non-update. I’ve just come back from a rather good anime convention in Birmingham, where I was up 40 hours straight – no, make that 41, the clocks went back – including running an all-night film show. I am thus incapable of writing anything coherent. Luckily, here is our American ambassadress to pinch-hit…]


This American Ambassador had her first taste of a ritualistic form of female bonding involving many types of distractions, leading up to, but fortunately for this group, not quite including, eventual slaughter and sacrifice. Not by the participants themselves, but by the aforementioned American Ambassador, whose only function was to make sure that the event ran smoothly, the natives well-fed and the rituals kept fair, mediating all differences of opinions (fights), administering first aid when necessary and diagnosing all manner of odd hypochondriac symptoms.

I am describing the horrible details of a pre-pubescent female slumber. I lived through it! I have always said “no” over the years whenever my daugher asked if she could have a slumber party. But it was her 11th Birthday. And those Bambi Eyes…pleading with me, begging me…”Ohhhhhhhhh Pleeeeeeeeeassssse”
Call me sentimental.
Call me a good mother.
Call me stupid.
I caved. I said “yes”. 10 small women showed up. Yes they were small, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t have personality. They were drenched in personality. And they were loud. And each had distinguishing traits. And all played the weirdest games…. I watched in horror as they played:

  • THE SANDMAN: One person lays down on the floor. The rest sit around her body and watch as one person kneels by her head and massages her temples then other parts of her body as she recites this: “I am the Sandman, I will be operating on you today. First I will cut off your legs and fill them with sand” (run fingers lightly over the victim’s legs, then press on them) “Then I will cut off your arms and fill them with sand” (run fingers lightly over the victim’s arms and then press on them) “Then I will cut out your stomach and fill it with sand and cement” (runs fingers lightly over victim’s stomach and presses on it) “Then I will cut out your face and fill it with sand, cement and bricks” (runs fingers lightly over face and presses on it) After this ritualistic chant, the victim is then asked to get up, whereupon she says she can’t. They all laugh.

A couple more games similar to this one were played entitled:

  • CAT SCRATCHES: Victim is led to believe her back has been scratched by a crazed kitten
  • LIGHT AS A FEATHER, STIFF AS A BOARD: Victim is led to believe they are light as a feather and the rest of the group can pick up the body with two fingers

All very strange to observe. Then, of course, I was asked to participate in a few other activities entitled:

  • FREEZE DANCING: they dance, I pause the music, whomever moves is out until only one person is left
  • HAND IN THE BOX: feel inside and guess what is inside the box
  • BLIND MAN’S COTTON BALLS: really… Don’t ask.

I ordered Pizza and Hot wings for dinner. They ate snacks consisting of crackers, cheese, chips, salsa and apples (hey, they’re my kids, I can feed ’em whatever I want!)

Ten girls. Screaming, running, dancing, displaying and comporting themselves borderline between still being children and giggling that some boy is in love with them and hysterical giggling when one of them points to a water balloon with a tail and screams that it’s a BOY, causing them all to shriek. Oh, brother… What new and exciting adventures await all these budding pre-women in only a few years (or from what I observed, in the case of a couple of these, only a few months!).

Jim, eat your heart out! [Who, me? JhM]

Of course, the end of the evening brought them sprawled on the floor of the living room in their nighties and sleeping bags, watching “MERLIN” with all the lights out, and whispering spooky stories, playing pranks on the ones that had already fallen asleep. Ahhhh…. I remember those pranks in my youth. We used to put shaving foam on the open palm of the unsuspecting sleeper and tickle their nose. Or place their fingers in a bowl of really warm water, watching carefully to see if they would pee on themselves as they slept… Yes… the good ‘ol days.

Well, in the end I didn’t murder the little pre-menstrual darlings even though there were a couple of bitchy moments there that I had to quelch. All in all, a very good time was had by all. Well, most. One of them kept walking around the house, holding her neck, making strange noises, saying she felt sick, and had asthma, and her stomach hurt, and she had a sore throat, and could she go swimming?

Quite an experience I must say. I am not a party “pooper” by any stretch. But if I hear “YMCA” one more time, my PSYCHO knife is coming out of the drawer ……

REE!!! REE!!! REE!!! REE!!!

Chris Fata

Going Underground

When TC’s American ambassador Chris visits London, one of her favourite outdoor pastimes is playing ‘Spot the Psycho’ on the Underground, even if she does seem to think that the majority of fellow passengers should be locked up in strait-jackets. I reckon this is largely the result of “tube catatonia”, the fixed stare adopted by most passengers in order to get through the hell of moving from A to B. Rush hour is bad enough for us locals, never mind someone from Arizona (a state bigger than Britain, but with a sixteenth of the population) to whom it must seem like cruel and unnatural punishment.

One was thus inclined to take her tales of encountering the seriously disturbed with a grain of salt, despite some corroboration of public transport weirdos from TC’s ‘zine reviewer, Lino. But they do exist, and I bumped into one on Thursday night — probably my first such genuine encounter in ten years of using the tube.

I was coming back from Euston, where I’d met a briefly visiting friend for a couple of pints, and was now heading to Tulse Hill, groaning under the burden of a large cardboard box of videos. This was still the tail end of rush hour, so the train was busy; the only seat was in the corner, next to a woman, in her 50’s. She had her bags on the seat.

I said, “Excuse me, can you move your bags please?”

Looking straight ahead, she ignored me.
Ordinary people might have taken the hint — not Jim McLennan after two pints.
Very pointedly, I repeated the question.
Equally pointedly, she ignored me.

Yet again: question, but no response. I reached across her to move the bags.
Oblivious no longer, she snapped, “Don’t touch them!” and held onto her scabby luggage.
Umpteen possible responses flickered, Terminator-like, across my brain; I settled for ‘sarcasm’.

“Oh, so does your luggage have a season ticket then? Or do you simply not understand English?” — from her accent, she sounded East European, maybe some kind of Czech gypsy. This probably explained why my withering satire was, indeed, withering on the vine. One other passenger, however, stood up to offer her seat to me — gratifying, but not the point, so I politely declined.

King’s Cross. A lot of people got off, so I could now sit down on the seat opposite her. I was *miffed*, latent British xenophobia boosting my anger (how DARE they come over here and behave like this!), though her behaviour would have been unacceptable from the Queen Mother. Adopt tactic #2: replace Terminator with Rambo, something about “you wanna fight a psycho; you gotta become a psycho”. I start staring at her, fuelling my gaze with every ounce of hatred in my veins.

She noticed. Then looked away. Looked back, clearly unsettled, then away again. Result. She said something to me; I didn’t hear it, and kept right on staring, cold and level. If her head had exploded, I wouldn’t have been too surprised. She snapped something else at me, another unheard question. Stare. Stare. Stare. Angel station. One more incomprehensible piece of gibberish, then just before the doors closed, she broke, scooping up her rubbish and slinking out of the carriage. Tube psychos 0, Mildly Pissed + Severely Pissed-off Scots 1.

To my surprise, someone opposite said, “What was THAT all about?”. This rare break with tube protocol (don’t look at anyone, and never speak to them) allowed me to rehash the story — or at least, my side of it, her mileage may have varied. Still, I’m sure it kept the rest of the carriage entertained for a couple of stops. I can’t deny it was gratifying; if I ever get out to Arizona, I’ll try it on the local psychos there. Or perhaps not — out there, there may be fewer loonies, but they probably all carry big guns…

Flesh & Blood: Book One

Editor: Harvey Fenton
Publisher: FAB Press
Price: £12.95
Pages: 208
Web site + ordering info:


I’ve had the latest issue of ‘Flesh and Blood’ lurking around for a while, but haven’t yet got round to reviewing it. This is largely because it is one BIG mother: over two hundred pages of really quite small type, accompanied by the sort of illustrations which make it “interesting”, shall we say, to read on public transport. Still, with some nifty folding, I finally managed to read it at work this lunchtime — hell, everyone there thinks I’m strange anyway…

There’s something slightly familiar about F&B: like a certain other publication I could mention, they’ve gone perfect-bound, spread out beyond the boundaries of film, and have got Lino in to do the ‘zine reviews. Fine choices in all the categories, albeit with variable success. While the format is good, and Lino is as Lino as ever, F&B is on weaker ice when it tries to cover non-film territory. There are two obvious pieces which do this, and there which are borderline: to take the latter first, there’s an okay article on Willam Burroughs, two pages of incomprehensible and unreadable text on the noise group Merzbow, and a pictorial of “Gina Velour” — aka Marne Lucas, whose “photos deal with body issues, using self-portraits as a forum to inspire women to confront their sexuality”. Yeah, whatever.

Ever further on the outer fringes, we have a rather good piece on shrunken heads and [Harvey, you KNOW what I’m going to say!] a large waste of space on ‘Rockbitch’, a Satanic collective-cum-heavy-metal-band who do moderately dodgy things on (and indeed, off) stage. Oh, and they’re women. How much space do you think they get? Four pages? Eight, maybe? Try TWENTY-SIX. Yet what’s actually interesting is the media reaction to them, which is covered perfectly adequately in a neat side-bar. Editor Harvey Fenton has tried to explain to me why he considers them so important; I remain resolutely unconvinced, and still reckon he just wants to shag ’em. 🙂

This straying into ‘Headpress’ or ‘Divinity’ territory aside, the good news is that there is easily more than enough excellent material in the remaining pages to justify its existence. From Pete Thrower’s merciless shredding of ‘Scream’ (spoiled marginally by describing ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ as “flawless” — two words, Pete: flared trousers) through to Mitch Davis reporting on the hell of the American Film Market, there is a LOT of good stuff. They’ve carried over some of the features from the magazine version i.e.the British horror filmography, which gives a sense of continuity. However, new readers need not be put off, and the interviews cover the whole spectrum of film-makers from Coffin Joe through Gerard ‘Deep Throat’ Damiano to Freddie Francis.

Plus there’s stuff on Jack the Ripper films (he operated within an entrail’s throw of where I’m typing this, by coincidence), Marco Ferreri, ‘Cafe Flesh 2’, the abortive efforts of the BBFC to legalise porn, an amusing one-pager on the erotic exploits of French President Mitterand’s astrologer, and more reviews than you can shake an engorged body part at. The sheer volume of effort that went into this would be impressive on its own, regardless of the quality. And when the quality is as generally high as this – the odd self-indulgent piece aside – it becomes even more imposing.

The major qualm will be if F&B also follows TC down the line of infrequency — worryingly, this last issue did take longer to come out than anticipated. But even if this does turn out to be the case, at least you’ll have plenty to keep you going in between times.

Stall-ing for time

I don’t go to the theatre often, ‘cos I’m generally put off by the stuffy atmosphere, cramped seats and exorbitant prices — for thirty quid, I can have an entire night out, involving beer, curry and table dances. But on special occasions, for special people, I have been know to let myself get dragged along, and generally have a blast: the last time was on my mother’s 60th birthday, for ‘Riverdance’.

And so, I found myself in the front row at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket, alongside a host of tourists, awaiting ‘Phantom of the Opera’ with some trepidation, since I’d always viewed Andrew Lloyd-Webber as the spawn of a particularly easy-listening Satan, fit only for Radio 2. On the plus side, at least it would be Grand Guignol easy-listening, given the subject matter inherent in Gaston Leroux’s source novel, much adapted in Hollywood since, with everyone from Lon Chaney to Robert Englund putting on the mask.

Luckily, however, it was nowhere near as bad as I’d feared, with the story being fairly faithful to the original, dispelling doubts about Lloyd-Webber tacking on a happy ending. It’s still dark, melodramatic and fairly heavy on the Gothique, while the costumes and sets were very impressive, especially given the rapid scene changes. Indeed, they were occasionally perhaps TOO impressive, you found yourself admiring the backdrops and the other technical aspects, rather than paying attention to what was happening.

And what was happening, to Lloyd-Webber’s credit, was also a lot less banal than I anticipated. The opera-within-a-musical format seemed to give him some leeway for experimentation, and while there were still the obvious hits i.e. ‘Music of the Night’, they were gratifyingly unrepresentative of the overall thing. Though it IS a little hard to pick out the lyrics, when you’ve got half a dozen people, all singing different things at the same time.

Not that this was a major problem, since we all know the story. Roughly: hideously deformed freak meets girl. Hideously deformed freak loses girl. Hideously deformed freak gets very upset and starts offing people. Given this, it’s no surprise that the overall feel was as much Lamberto Bava or Michelle Soavi, ‘Demons’ or ‘Stage Fright’, than ‘Cats’ or ‘Aspects of Love’. That is wasn’t yer usual musical fodder was probably a good thing in the circumstances. The girl in question was not what you’d call a ravishing beauty (Asia Argento need lose no sleep), but I suppose you have to take what you can get when you’re a hideously deformed freak…

This being live theatre, there were a couple of embarrassing moments, notably when the Phantom’s mask fell off a little prematurely while singing to his love. To both their credits, she affected not to notice his (sigh…) hideously deformed face, while he swiftly covered up with his hand, while he groped around for the mask, not missing a beat along the way. Some of the pyrotechnics were distinctly of the “damp squib” type, but I guess you can’t expect ‘Armageddon’ on stage.

After two and a half hours (including interval — drinks not too badly priced, to my surprise), the curtain came down. I must confess to stifling a couple of yawns in the second half, but I was never in danger of actually falling asleep. Admittedly, this WAS because the seats were less comfy than your average bus — they really need to sort that out, if they want to compete with other entertainments. In no way has it usurped the position of cinema in my affections, and it’ll probably be another couple of years before I go again, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.