comedy

Wall #7


Digging into my saved Youtube clips once more, rediscovering the gems I found over the past decade or so. I think the kind of things we like to watch says a lot about who we are.


When the one and probably the only talent a comedian has to have is an ability to make us laugh, we should perhaps have a special high regard for guys like Bill Bailey. He is nothing short of being superb; broad in scope and insight. And now he can dance too!

The west London I knew has definitely moved on yet I’m aware of some of its changes, youth culture in particular. Here, the juxtaposition of acting cool even in mundane situations expresses the ridiculousness of taking that stuff too seriously.


George Formby is from another era. Not allowed to be overtly indecorous, these comedians relied heavily on innuendo. Ridiculous really as risqué was the humour those audiences wanted.

Unlike Bailey, Formby was poorly educated, left school too early in years and, I understand, was more or less illiterate, a thing he regretted later in life.

While he could play the banjolele, he hadn’t the knowledge to play in different keys. To get around this, he had someone tune a performance set of banjoleles with different tunings and played them the same way, only matching a particular instrument with a particular song.


A beauty of Youtube is when it throws up a performer I probably wouldn’t get to know otherwise; some of the talented people might be amateurs. I don’t know Danny James and I don’t know why the reference is to Hendrix; he does well on his own merit.

In my early 20s, I shared a house with a couple who were in a band, or trying to form one. The guitarist would often practice riffs or just a few bars of a tune, but never playing what sounded like a complete piece. This would annoy me a bit: it sounded good and then he’d just stop and go on to something else, over and over.

I’ve tried to play the guitar but haven’t the patience. If I could, I’d play whole pieces. I think I could no more play bits and bobs anymore than I could write half a sentence or draw half a portrait.


I’m a fan of Commissario Montalbano, both the novels by Andrea Camilleri and the dramatised series starring Luca Zingaretti. The theme tune used is from The Dance of the Macabre composed by Saint Saëns, a jolly sounding piece despite the title.

However, in one of the later episodes, the end theme was replaced by the haunting Malamuri sung by Olivia Sellerio. What a beauty! Sellerio is Sicilian and the song is in Sicilian too, not Italian. I tried to find a translation but couldn’t. I’m sure the title means bad love, or something like it.

Some years ago we took a studio apartment on the Greek island of Zakinthos. The owners took us to a local tavern for an authentic Greek dinner and there was a trio of musicians playing folk music by the side. Knowing no Greek, I ask our hostess what the songs were about; they all sounded feisty, and some sounded really bawdy, like rugby songs. “Oh, love, love, love, always about love, nothing else,” she said.


Further up the Italian coast there’s Venice, and further back in time, there’s Baroque, and in that space there was Barbara Strozzi. I read from Wikipedia how she was the most prolific composer in her time. Not merely for a woman, mind, but out of all composers of either sex.

When I hear this piece, I get the same sense as hearing the blues. It’s profound and soulful, and I love that kind of thing.


As an antidote to the seriously cold weather presently here in England, I’m putting up Third World and 96° in the Shade.

I had a copy of the studio album, bought after the hit single, Now That We Found Love, and it is one of the most musical reggae bands I think I’ve heard, mainly down to the lead guitarist.

Although a protest song, but like all reggae tunes, I find it exudes warmth and energy which envelops the soul and makes you want to move around and sing. Wonderful music.

Wall #5

Another wall of videos I’ve collected from Youtube. I appear to have saved a lot of videos over the years – decades by now, I imagine – and looking over these I had this idea about theme walls: there were plenty of interesting song covers; clips from feature films; many film shorts; philosophy; art; extraordinary science; ordinary science!

But then I thought, that’s the opposite to how I watch Youtube and how I’ve come across these ones to save. It’s a jumble, a random, some might say eclectic. Homogeneity, it ain’t, so there.


I think I’ve mentioned, and included, stand-up comedian, Stewart Lee, before. The first video, on which Lee narrates, is a sweet little documentary about repair shops in Hackney, a suburb of east London.

Long ago – well, not too long ago – things used to be repaired when they broke or malfunctioned, as a first step before considering a replacement. Somewhere during the past forty years, this tradition diminished significantly and we became what’s sometimes referred to as a throwaway culture.

And now the savvy are saying we’re paying for this careless extravagance. We may need to return to prior methods; it’s encouraging to see not everyone has forgotten the skills.


Geoff Marshall has made a series of these “the secrets of…” aesthetic eye tours of the stations of the lines of the London Underground. The Central Line was my line, the nearest station about a fifteen minutes walk. I could have walked to the Piccadilly Line (25 minutes) or the Metropolitan Line (25 minutes), but the Central, as it’s name implies, got you into the centre of London in the shortest time.

I admit, I took a lot of it for granted and wasn’t too interested in the architecture of stations aa a youth. M has done his homework and delivers a good job.


I’m always fascinated by stop-frame animation (you can keep CGI animation: no skill, not interested), and I don’t believe anyone who hasn’t had a small go at a flip-book, probably drawing in the corner of a pocket book or diary.

This guy from Andymation takes it to another level, even composing a storyline. Follow the dots, it’s amazing.


Ever wondered about that equation giving the area of a circle?

A = 2πr^2

The definition of π is simply the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter (or to twice its radius). But what about that area equation! Dark magic, eh?

I love mathematics and teacher Eddie Woo explains it simply and brilliantly.


Omeleto is one of a few channels on Youtube dedicated to very good short film dramas. I liked this one about the difficulty an orthodox jewish woman has with a secret sex toy during Shabbat.

I’m not Jewish but I understand for the orthodox followers, it is forbidden to work or cause work to be done during their Sabbath.


I’ll finish up with a piece of unusual music; that is, music not normally heard on the mainstream. There’s often something pleasingly mesmeric yet playful about Steve Reich’s compositions, especially pieces for multiple instruments of the same kind. Enjoy two marimbas played by the duo, Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins.

The World, AI and Memory (and a bit of telly)

An interesting piece on AI from Learn Fun Facts, a blog I follow.

Should we worry about the doomsday scenario of AI and robots taking over the world? Maybe it’s inevitable. Maybe they’ll be welcome to it, once the devastating effects of climate change are realised.

My binging of the Walter Presents… archives of World telly drama from the All 4 app, continues. I’ll list a short appraisal below but the most recent drama was the brilliant Tabula Rasa from Belgium, though spoken in Dutch. It’s a nine one hour episode series, complete with no sequel – the kind I like. It has a clever plot with several twists along the way, and one big one midway which I doubt many viewers would predict. The opening titles are very stylish too, you sense you’re about to see something worthwhile.

Tabula Rasa is latin and translates as Blank Slate. In this drama, this is a metaphor for memory. Our protagonist suffers from amnesia following a traumatic experience. This means she fails to remember anything after the trauma very quickly and relies on keeping a notebook in lieu of a normal working memory. (This is similar to the guy in the film, Memento, who wrote notes on his body.) Whenever she needed to verify something, a person’s identity, for instance, she would rush through the pages of her book trying to find the relevant note or drawing.

This is, more or less, how AI data retrieval works, isn’t it? I mean, it’s more refined and therefore extremely efficient, but nevertheless the same. I don’t think anyone yet knows precisely how the human memory works – or doesn’t work, sometimes – how all that data is squirrelled away within the grey stuff. And it’s very energy efficient.

Imagine having to rely entirely on note taking for memory. Or, say, keeping a blog. In time, it would become enormous, and probably unusable. Long before then, you’d probably be chucked off WP for using up your storage allocation; you’d have to start paying and, in no time, bankrupt yourself.

What a marvellous instrument the old brain is. I ought to look after it.


A quick summary update of my Walter Presents.. viewing, most recently watched first,

Tabula Rasa (Belgium, 2017)

A woman suffering short term amnesia is a suspect in a missing person’s case, and probable murder. She is committed to a clinic where, with the aid of a notebook, she struggles to make sense of the situation and events from her recent past. A stylish and clever psychological thriller utilising several horror story tropes.

Blue Eyes (Sweden, 2014)

A political drama about the rise of right wing factions, both legitimate and terrorist. It’s general election time and the plot centres on two women, one a newly appointed civil servant finding herself in the middle of ongoing political corruption and the strange disappearance of her predecessor, the other a single mum who, wanting to avenge the murder of her activist mother, joins a new extreme right wing group. A good thriller.

The Mind of a Murderer (Germany, 2017)

Following the death of his family, a police detective returns to work as a new head of a city crime unit. His methods are unconventional and puts him at odds with his subordinates who themselves have personal issues which affect their work. The quirkiness of the chief character just about raises this drama above average.

Kabul Kitchen (France, 2014)

A not too outlandish comedy about an ex-international journalist, Jacques “Jackie” Roberts, who quits journalism to make money running a western style restaurant and bar in Kabul, during relative peacetime. His estranged daughter turns up unexpectedly as an NGO, and the local criminal boss decides to be his friend and equal business partner, but his problems don’t end there. A very entertaining double series carried admirably by the lead actor.

Norskov (Denmark, 2015)

A policeman returns to his economically impoverished hometown, recruited to clean up its high drug related crime. There, he reunites with two old friends, one serving as the town’s mayor and the other runs his own building contractor company. A brooding Scandi drama, slow at times, maybe, but deep enough.

Spin (France, 2012)

Les hommes de l’ombre, (the shadow men), the original French title is better. Three series of this political drama centred on the work of a spin doctor, his adversary and one time partner in business, and the assorted politicians he mixes with. Not much politics seems to happen oddly, it’s mostly about politicians climbing, and sliding down, their greasy poles. Nevertheless, good plots and well acted performances.

Tainted (Brazil, 2014)

A disgraced police officer finds work as a bounty hunter, working for an ex-colleague’s sideline business. Meanwhile, he attempts to find the evidence to clear his name and get back to living a legitimate life. So-so, macho cop kind of thing.

The Cleaning Lady (Argentina, 2017)

Conscientiously efficient professional cleaner, Rosa, is contracted to clean up an assassination scene by the local mafia. She does such a good job eliminating all the evidence, she inadvertently becomes the mob’s go to cleaner of choice, thwarting the efforts of the two detectives investigating their crimes. I thought this was going to be a comedy, but no, it’s completely straight. I quite enjoyed it too.


My other Walter Presents reviews can be read here.

World Wide Watchables

For what it’s worth, here is a rundown of series I’ve seen from All4’s On-demand “Walter Presents”, a channel dedicated to International Telly Dramas.

There must be around 70 or more programmes to choose from and I simply picked these at random by thinking of a number beforehand.

I’m of the opinion that any review can be a spoiler but I hope I’ve kept it to a minimum. Cast, director and further gen contained in the IMDb links below each.


Clona (The Lens) (Czech Republic 2014)

Roman is a film and media student who wants to go to college to study filmmaking. Unfortunately, he gets rejected a number of times. He hates making do with photographing or filming weddings and his father, a traffic cop, thinks he’s wasting his life. Eventually, Roman accepts the offer to work alongside his father, photographing scenes of road traffic accidents.

One of these assignments ends tragically and Roman’s future takes an unintended path. He is offered a position as forensic photographer as part of a small, special crime squad. He has the support of his boss but the team are not so convinced; they quickly nickname him “Fellini” and regard him as a liability. As a cop, he knows he isn’t a match for the others, but as a detective, he seems to hold his own.

This is a series of separate case episodes though continuous character storylines run along side: relationships between colleagues, family issues and Roman’s development, and acceptance, as a cop. While the premise seems implausible, it’s an entertaining series. I liked it.

Clona IMDb


Hellfjord (Norway 2012)

Having watched the Norwegian movie, Jackpot, a few months back, I’m inclined to think Norwegian comedy has no boundaries. Oh, I found both Jackpot and Hellfjord funny but not without feeling slightly guilty about it.

The premise here is that Salmander, a rather inept mounted police officer, is sacked after publicly and brutally killing his horse in an act of mercy – that isn’t a contradiction, you’ll need to watch the first episode otherwise it’ll be too great a spoiler. As his superior is obliged to give him three months notice, he posts him to an island in the far north, Hellfjord, where he will act as community sheriff. There he is reluctantly assisted by the vulgar and hobbit-like local man, Kobba, and his beautiful and multi-talented “mail-order bride”, Riina.

It should have been a quiet gig if it wasn’t for a slightly scatty, local investigative journalist, Johanne, who’s convinced the island hosts a nefarious secret centred around the fish export factory run by Swedish businessman, Bosse Nova. If it’s true, Salmander is convinced he’ll get a reprieve if he cracks the case.

It’s a bizarre and often absurd comedy, near the knuckle in places. I liked it.

Hellfjord IMDb


Dupla Identidade (Merciless) (Brazil 2014)

I don’t know anything about Brazilian telly but my first impression from this series is that their audiences are shown a greater amount of brutal, graphic abuse than I think would be granted to British audiences. But hey, here we are in the UK watching it.

This is a police manhunt drama. The guy they’re looking for is a psychopathic sexual predator and killer. Apart from the violence shown to the victims, it’s standard police manhunt trope – for UK audiences, think Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren – though the perpetrator here is revealed from the start. There is sound reason for this and it does create extra tension in the drama.

Running parallel to the investigation is a political corruption story, involving a career politician hell bent on elevating his position at any cost. This creates problems for the senior officer handling the case as his own promotion is decided politically. If that isn’t enough, the independently minded and strong willed psychologist appointed as criminal profiler turns out to be his former lover. All the parts are then intertwined.

Violence aside, it’s a tense, captivating plot. They must have cast the actor (Bruno Gagliasso) playing the killer on his ability to alter a look of angelic innocence into cruel-hearted sinister on the turn of a sixpence. Gripping. I liked it.

Dupla Identidade IMDb