Author: J.W.Johnstone

The problem with Essays

As accustomed as I am to the existence of essays I’m still, as most are, vehemently opposed to writing them. There’s so much to hate about them that you’re not quite sure which aspect to despise most (bit like heart FM or the works of shakespeare.) But among the word counts, forced sentences, questions that make no sense, tedious footnote adjustments, and bibliography struggles, there is one aspect that really makes my blood boil. And that’s reading critiques on writers, that have been written by critics. I have never read anything like it. If my eyes could puke they would. Never have I seen such deluded and forced use of unnecessarily elongated language in my life. The sheer thesaurus abuse has made these thinly disguised pieces of horse s**t utterly incoherent. It is truly reprehensible. These people squeeze as many words into a sentence as they can to try and sound as intelligent as possible, it’s tragic really as it actually makes them sound like a tosser. I’ve been forced to read pieces so bad, they make you want to get a gun from the drawer, load it, put it back in the drawer, and then write a strongly worded letter to the publishing authority that sanctioned these atrocities to be printed. Here is one such a line on Angela Carter to show what I mean-
“Carter stages her audacious forays into a radical interrogation of the tortuous processes through which notions of identity, relation, power and historical embodiment came into being.”
What a load of wank. Just look how they forced all those long words in. You can picture them stopping and thinking as they write this drivel “Hmmm-ten words to mean ‘explore’-ten words,ten word ten wor- where’s my thesaurus? I need to make my work sound more intellectual.” It is truly reprehensible. You can picture them feeling so pleased with themselves as they use the phase “Bob perambulated with such volositous authority into the uncharted depths of confined trade and obsequious capitalism bearing no identity” to replace “Bob walked quickly to the corner shop.” I bet they stand there, thesaurus open, pen poised rubbling their nipples like Kreager on LSD, excited at the prospect of ruining the lives of students across the Country with their pretentious, meaningless shite. The example above however, pales in comparison to this next one. This one makes absolutely no sense, and is what i would call a prime example of pretentious crap at its finest. Check this out, it is really is the last nail in the f***ing coffin-
“There can be little doubt that the spark-breathing prodigy of polychormos fleese and protean anatomy that is Carter’s revision of the classic fairy tale yields unsurpassed synthesis of the writers most distinctive powers.”
I mean piss right off! If I put *THAT* in an essay i would be immediately failed. This doesn’t even make sense!! It reads like a Taiwanese to English instruction manual for a knocked off electric dildo- and worse! It totally undermines the point of these critiques. They’re there to educate you. To help you understand the workings of a writer. However these have received such a pretentious helping of thesaurus abuse that the work is now meaningless! I might as well use these books as a doorstop or a novelty hat, which brings to question what the hell the point was writing them in the first place?
If I buy a cream bun. I eat the cream bun. I don’t try and assist in childbirth with it. I don’t try and use it to play a DVD. So what on earth are these people thinking when they were doing their critiques? Because they’re certainly not critiquing writers. They’re making lubricated holes in dictionaries and f***ing them, before making old muggins here have to read the proceeds from their sticky, noun filled orgy!
On a lighter note, I’ve got a soft boiled egg with toasted soldiers for lunch!

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Album Review: Bjork – Vulnicura

Wrote this a little bit ago and meant to post it, heres a review of the new Bjork album.

Björk_-_Vulnicura_(Official_Album_Cover)

Bjork’s latest and ninth album is a record of her divorce from husband Matthew Barney, and the songs contained within it are unflinchingly vulnerable and wrought with heartache. It’s a side we’re not used to seeing from the woman who once cut such a ferocious, imposing figure on albums like Post and Homogenic. Sonically, however, we’re in more familiar territory. Vulnicura contains the same mix of icy electronics and expressive strings that made Homogenic so singular, but the relatively straight-forward pop structures of that album are pulled apart and sent spinning into orbit as sprawling, six to ten minute pieces.

The interplay of these two separate but harmonizing elements neatly reflects the albums lyrical themes, its obsession with examining duality and companionship through the minutiae of a crumbling marriage. There are some moments of hypnotizing beauty to be found in the rubble, such as album highlight ‘Lionsong’, where mournful strings grandly follow Bjorks voice as she sings: ‘Maybe he will come out of this loving me / Maybe he won’t / I’m not taming no animal’.

Her dedication to capturing the chaos of this collapse is perhaps to her own detriment, however: as the album goes on, and the story it tells becomes one of increasingly painful separation, so too its instrumental elements seem to have little to do with one another. Songs such as ‘Mouth Mantra’ become a mess of aimless beats and erratic strings which build towards nothing, and offer no kind of resolution. But maybe resolution was not the point. Vulnicura, as its name suggests, is a process of emotional healing for both creator and listener, rather than a conclusion. It is an attempt to answer the question which Bjork so candidly asks on ‘Family’, looking as much at the listener as at her ex-husband: ‘How can I sing us out of this sorrow?’

7/10

Album Review: Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Hi everyone! I’m Stuart, new to the Picklepants review team but hoping to be a regular contributor going into the future. Here’s a review of the latest Panda Bear album for you.

Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

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The latest solo album from Noah Lennox – AKA Panda Bear, one quarter of the Animal Collective – sounds something like a combination of his previous two efforts. There’s the same washed out, percussive psychedelia of 2011’s Tomboy, but filtered through the colourful folk deconstructions of 2007’s landmark Person Pitch. The result is a breezy, woozy grower of an album that, while not as immediately arresting as some of the AnCo discography, slowly threads it’s winding melodies and hooks around your ears, growing more essential with each listen.

Key to it all is Lennox’s vocals, which tie each track together with their reverb-soaked buoyancy, while at the same time remaining poignant and relatable through the simple, melancholy prettiness of Lennox’s lyrics, even when they aren’t wholly decipherable. Mid-album cut ‘Come To Your Senses’ is a perfect example of this, a track that wouldn’t have been particularly remarkable without Lennox’s simple, infectious refrain ‘Are you mad? Are you mad?’, which seems to be clawing itself out of the noisy, psychedelic swirl that surrounds it. The achingly beautiful ‘Tropic of Cancer’ is another highlight, full of lilting guitars blowing away in the tropical breeze of Lennox’s vocals, as he laments the sadness of partings and the struggles of fatherhood.

Not every song reaches these same heights, however – a couple of tracks, namely ‘Principe Real’ and ‘Acid Wash’ – are lost in the bulk of the album. And the handful of 30 second, glitchy instrumentals which bridge some of the songs, such as ‘Davy Jones Locker’, are largely a pointless annoyance. These aside, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a wonderfully enigmatic record, and the strongest release from anything AnCo related since 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion.

8/10

Johnny Dangerously – Michael Keaton With An Adverb!

Johnny_Dangerously_movie_poster

 

Oscar season is upon us and it is a fantastic time to be a film fan. The other day I was sat with some friends discussing the nominated actors/pictures etc. when I brought up a little known gem tied to Michael Keaton. People sat, confused faces twisting when I mentioned it. Johnny Dangerously, the 1984 gangster parody film that almost kick started Michael Keaton’s career as a film actor. When I found out that no one I knew had seemed to even hear of this film my heart sank, It’s sad that when people think of Keaton they only think of Beatlejuice and Batman (And now Birdman) but never bring up this little beauty. So here I am giving it a little bit of attention and affection.

Johnny Dangerously Is a tale about a young immigrant trying to make money for his family and ends up joining a local gang. However this film is so much more than just a simple tale of rags to riches, the comedy in this film is not only incredibly funny but timed and executed perfectly by the like of Michael Keaton. It’s use of breaking the fourth wall is reminiscent of films like Blazing Saddles or Airplane. The characters are memorable and there are some rather good performances from the likes of Danny Devito, who makes a small appearance. With jokes ranging from sight gags, to slap stick to satire this film epitomises what parodying really is, and shows us just how dead it has become.

Filled with quotes and one liners, especially from Johnny’s rival Danny Vermin, this film will have you beside yourself laughing. Even over 30 years since its release the comedy and jokes are still easily accessible and funny due to the nature of the film. Honestly I can’t really say enough about this film without spoiling it but all I would say is that you haven’t seen it then go out and grab yourself a copy. It’s sad that such a funny and well put together film doesn’t ever seem to get the credit it deserves and with Keaton getting nominated for an Oscar it couldn’t be a better time to see where he started his career.

 

-Grand Pickle

88. Magnum, "It shoots through schools."

88. Magnum, “It shoots through schools.”

 

The Theory of Everything- Review

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Directed by: James Marsh

“A wonderfully put together film, coupled with a phenomenal performance by Eddie Redmayne.”

I have never been a dab hand at science, or anything for that matter. The only really good impression I can do is of a man with no talent. So when buying a ticket to see James Marsh’s the Theory of Everything, I was a trifle concerned. I assumed that even the most layman explanation of one of Stephen Hawkins’s ideas, would’ve left me scratching my head wondering when the staff were going to hand me a Winnie the Pooh colouring book. I braced myself for the moment I would be handed some crayons, and ask politely to wait in the corner, until the biopic of one of the world’s greatest minds had finish. I’m pleased to say that this film is neither baffling, confusing, or boring. It is in fact brilliant.

Based on the life of the great physicist Stephen Hawking, this is a wonderfully put together film, coupled with a phenomenal performance by Eddie Redmayne. It’s a performance that may just seal the deal of an Oscar. Starting in Hawkins’s early school years where he meets his sweetheart Jane, (Felicity Jones) the couple seek to battle Stephens debilitating disease-motor neuron syndrome (MS). Both Redmayne and Jones give a wonderfully evocative and convincing performance that, on numerous occasions, draws heartbreaking light on living with MS. Redmayne acts the role of an MS sufferer so convincingly, that you completely forget he’s an able-bodied actor.

As Stephen Hawkins’s story is told over the years, the film does a sterling job of both outlining his life and his work in a comprehensible and coherent way. There are no moments in the film where the pacing seems to drag. It’s also eager to show the achievements Hawking has made, despite his crippling battle with MS.

Verdict

Whether you already possess a wealth knowledge on Stephen Hawking or not is irrelevant, and wont mar the enjoyment if you (like me) don’t. The filmmaking is solid as are the acting performances, and provides an interesting insight into one of the world’s greatest physicists.

4.8/5

Luke H

Danger Mouse Reboot: “OH CRUMBS DM!”

Does he have to be?

Does he have to be?

Although not born in the time of airing of Danger Mouse I was exposed to it as a child and have always had a strange fascination and love for the characters and series as a whole. Now I’ve never been one to get too sentimental when companies reboot old franchises, I have learned to accept that no one involved with the handling of media can ever have a new idea (I’m pretty sure it’s a prerequisite for the job) and that by “rebooting” old shows and cashing in on people’s nostalgia they feel better about their own existence and convince themselves that they aren’t heartless bastards shredding every last inch of other peoples childhood memories. Okay I lied maybe it does bother me a bit. What’s worse is when they pretend that they’re doing it for “the kids”. “Oh we just think that since we enjoyed this so much as children it would be unfair not to let this generation experience it too.” If you really cared that fucking much then maybe you’d put some goddamn effort in for once and, Oh I don’t know, come up with an original show for them! Also if that is why companies reboot things then why not just show re-runs of the original show? Oh because it seem dated and “kids” might not be able to relate to it, well gosh how rude of the original not to keep up with modern fads, I mean it’s not like it was written for a completely different generation of people or something. Sorry I need to take a minute.

You can guess my shock and horror when I then found out that Danger Mouse, yes the 80’s cartoon series was getting a reboot. My heart sank faster than the Costa Concordia. I started to look a little bit into the plans they had and yes some of the voice actors do look promising and I am happy that they are attempting to diversify the cast with more female characters but a turd covered in glitter still stinks of shit, it just shines a little better under a lamp. Even the news the Stephan Fry was to join the cast couldn’t make me any happier about the project. I mean let’s be honest Danger Mouse isn’t exactly a unique concept, A mouse that’s a spy and goes on adventures, They could have just easily come up with new characters and scenarios based on a similar ideas but then they may have actually had to done some work or you know maybe hired a writer and they aren’t about to let that happen! Also name me one child out there that is excited for this to be a thing? Were there petitions and riots because children just couldn’t take not having a modern Danger Mouse? No! Because none of the little fuckers even know who he is and probably don’t give a shit either. It would be like your mother pulling out an old dusty suit that your grandfather used to wear before he died, brushing it off and making you wear it for the sole reason because your grandad liked to wear it, Yeah grandad also liked to live in houses with lead based paint and asbestos in the ceiling but I don’t see you bringing back either of those any time soon!

I guess it just saddens me that the only gem in the crown of British cartoons has now been cut down and flogged for spare change.

 

-Grand Pickle

 

What show(s) do you hope they never make a reboot/remake for? Or on the flipside are there any shows that you really wish they would make more of? Let me know in the comments and be sure to subscribe for more articles.

If they change any catchphrases I am going to choke a bitch.

If they change any catchphrases I am going to choke a bitch.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder (or at least more accepting of abandonment)

Picklepants cuppa1Hello there! I know I bet you never thought you’d have another update from little old us! All the apologies in the world would not suffice for such a long absence but know that I am truly sorry that you have had such a drought of our amazingly witty, insightful and entertaining writing.

What’s that?

You didn’t even notice?

Wow.

I mean I appreciate the honesty but still.

Well fuck it! I can’t stay mad at you. I will work harder than ever so that things like this never happen again. Mark it in your calendars! 2015 is now THE YEAR OF THE PICKLE! (Don’t worry that’s just a working title.) Aaaaaanyway, this site may start to seem a bit different but please never fret we will still aim to bring you great reviews and discussions but now just in a more accessible way. You may even see more rants here and there. And I don’t mean little shy annoyances but fully fledged rampages!

So without further ado I welcome you to PicklePants. Come in, leave your shoes by the door and I’ll pop the kettle on.

Carmilla Mini-Series – a review

c1Published in 1872 by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 20 years before Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, ‘Carmilla’ is a gothic novel told from the point of view of a young woman named Laura, who becomes the target of affection for a female vampire, Carmilla Karnstein. Since its publication, it has been adapted numerous times, but the most recent adaptation, a YouTube mini-series, is something that has really taken the internet by storm. The web series, aptly titled ‘Carmilla’, was released in August this year, and since its release it has exploded, with the series raking in over 1 million views overall during its rise in popularity. The mini-series is portrayed as a video blog, kept by university student Laura Hollis. Each episode is broadcasted as a ‘segment’ of her video diary, lasting from roughly 2 to 4 minutes each time, which brings a sort of ‘can’t-stop-watching’ feel to the show, as many fans will tell you.

The series maintains a certain degree of accuracy in terms of the original story, however much of it has been modernised to fit into the 21st century – in begins by introducing us to Laura, who is perplexed by the array of strange and mysterious happenings that begin to occur after the arrival of her new roommate, Carmilla. Laura expresses her fears and worries to her audience through her live video broadcast, and the story begins to unfold further when Carmilla begins to exhibit certain vampire-esque characteristics, although at first Laura is adamant that the red liquid she sees Carmilla drinking so often is just a strawberry smoothie. Things unravel further from this point, with more characters being introduced and more secrets being revealed (but I won’t include any spoilers, so that you can all savour the feeling of being surprised by the twists and turns!)

carmilla cast

Danny, Laura, LaFontaine, Perry, & Carmilla (the vampire drinking blood out of a cup that is stuck to her with duct tape because this show is brilliant).

Along with encompassing a fascinating supernatural element, the series is also fantastic in regards to LGBTQIA* representation. Carmilla and Laura are both presented as being openly interested in women, along with Danny Lawrence, a friend of Laura’s who we meet around episode 7 and we soon learn also has a Sapphic streak within her. The show also has a character named LaFontaine, who identifies as genderqueer and uses ‘they/them’ pronouns – this in particular has meant a lot to fans of the show, as LaFontaine is, for a lot of us, the first genderqueer character that we have seen in a widespread media production like this, and having that kind of representation is important, not only for people who benefit from seeing themselves reflected in the shows they watch, but also for people who may not be very informed about these issues and who may need a way of learning that doesn’t feel too commanding or formal.

The actors are also a major part of the show’s success – the chemistry between Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) and Laura (Elise Bauman) is electric, and they manage to portray so many emotions and evoke strong feelings within the fans watching, despite the episode lengths being a little restrictive.

The show as a whole is entertaining and very well put-together, especially when you take into consideration the fact that it’s all filmed in front of one camera in one room, and the show’s producers don’t have a very large budget with which to make the show. They’ve done a brilliant job, regardless of the fact that ‘Carmilla’ isn’t a glitzy television show, and they certainly deserve the recognition and praise they’ve been receiving in these past few months.

5/5 – It’s got lesbian vampires and spooky principals and weird occurrences, what more could you want?

~Steph.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth – My thoughts.

Hello there! I wholeheartedly apologise for such a lack of content recently and I’m not going to bore you with excuses but I will say that this isn’t so much of a review rather than my thoughts and experiences with the game so let’s just get on with it.

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If you own a computer or are in to strategy games and haven’t heard of the behemoth that is Sid Meier then where the fuck have you been? The strategy game giants have graced us with another instalment to their Civilization series this time however there is a twist. It’s set in the future! Instead of doing the usual business of building a famous empire from the ground up over thousands of years this time we take on the job of setting up a colony on a distant planet. Each Civ is funded by a sponsor so instead of having separate countries you have different corporations. Now for the interests of impartiality I will admit that I am quite the Civilization fan but for the sack of this article I have put aside my preconceptions and tried to play this game with an open mind.

First off I am going to address an issue that I have seen a lot of people have with this game and that is that there is a lack of personality from the A.I. leaders. I don’t really think this is as big a deal as what some are making it out to be. Yes their aren’t as many leaders(as of yet) as there have been in previous games so most playthroughs are similar but you can clearly see patterns in behaviour and individual characteristics of each one. I think the major difference in this game is that none of the names are recognisable as in previous Civ games so we have no previous ideas of what that person is like. I do agree that the level of personality isn’t as high as in previous games but it is undeniably still there. I found myself many times getting angry with how certain factions were acting and even being very spiteful in different playthroughs because of how a leader acted in a different game. Anyway rant over.

The game plays a lot like any other Civ game so if you aren’t a fan of the previous ones then this probably won’t float your boat however if you are a fan of the earlier games or the genre in general then this will be a happy edition to your collection. For most part the game is almost identical to Civ V as they run on the same engine however it is the new setting and tweaks that they have made that make the game feel drastically different. The most notable change is the tech web, previously being a tech tree, allowing for much greater variation in advancements and giving science an even greater level of strategy as it makes each technology you research that little bit more significant. It also separates the different countries/corporations quite drastically as there are now hundreds of different orders to unlocking things like buildings and new units. The next most significant feature is probably the Affinity system. By acting in certain ways or researching certain things you gain affinity points and increasing your chosen affinity will lead to stronger units, new perks and also affect how other Civs react to you. This is a welcome addition however can prove a bit distracting as sometimes you focus on growing your affinity rather than your own Civilization.

There are so many choices to make in this game that it borderlines on the ridiculous. One of the reasons there aren’t that many starting leaders(in this game they are called sponsors) is because after picking which one you want to be there are then three more choices for you to customize your Civ with such as starting bonuses etc. This can be really fun as it really feels like your Civ is your own however as all the A.I. also customize themselves can make it difficult to work out how the opponents will play. The game also runs a quest system helping you to feel like there is a progression to what you are doing and with certain quests you are given a decision to make which will change what certain buildings output or give different buffs again further customizing your Civ.

Level design is a bit lacklustre as most places feel very similar however knowing Firaxis, the company behind the game, they will be releasing a bunch of dlc maps as they normally do. This is cushioned as from day one this game came with steam workshop support so modders have already been hard at work making the game have even more content.

Civilization: Beyond Earth is another good instalment in the franchise and is well worth a play if you are a fan. There are a few things that I think don’t make this a less fun game but do impact replayabillity and so I doubt it will eat up as many hours as say Civ V will/has/is but given the history of these games once a few large expansions have been released I would not be surprised if this game could eat away around 60hours+. Let me know what you guys think and what things you would like to be included in the expansions or made as a mod, thanks for reading!

Civilization: Beyond Earth is out now for PC.

 

-Joe

Blackfish – a review

blackfish1Many of you may be familiar with the movie ‘Blackfish’, an eye-opening documentary film released in 2013 that depicts the shocking events that have occurred at SeaWorld, which have resulted in the deaths of multiple people including several of the animal trainers. The film synopsis really stood out to me when I stumbled across it on a website last year, and so I was anticipating something hard-hitting and honest when I arrived at the cinema in London where it was being shown. My anticipation did not prepare me for what I was about to see.

The movie, which begins by showing the procedure used to kidnap whales from the wild to bring them into captivity, focuses on the whale that is infamous for his aggressive and sometimes fatal run-ins with people – Tilikum, a six-ton, 22-foot orca who was caught in 1983 off the coast of Iceland. The first few scenes document the arrival of Tilikum into his first captive environment – a scene showing him being taken from his mother is included, and this scene is not pleasant at all. Through a gritty camera lens, we see the baby Tilikum being hoisted out of the water in a harness, while his mother floats beside it, her cries plain for all to hear. A man who was involved in the capture of Tilikum, or ‘Tili’, speaks about the ordeal, saying that he was just following orders, and the regret in his voice is clear as he explains how they snatched the whale calf away from his mother and his home to bring him into his new life of floating lifelessly in a tank that is much too small for an animal of his size, that is until he is needed to perform for miniscule buckets of fish and monetary gain for his captors.

The movie then moves on to show Tili in his various homes before SeaWorld – after being kept in a tiny concrete holding tank for a year, the orca was moved to Sealand of the Pacific, a small aquarium in Canada. There, Tilikum suffered severe physical abuse from the bigger female whales he was housed with, and this stress is thought to have contributed to the violent actions we see him commit later on in the film when he is transferred to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. 

Tilikum in the performance pool at SeaWorld, Orlando

Tilikum in the performance pool at SeaWorld, Orlando

‘Blackfish’ is essentially a look into the life of captive killer whales, and serves as an expose into the treatment of these animals and whether a life in captivity leads to emotional trauma and eventually violent outbursts from these animals, who have been known to very very rarely attack any humans in the wild, and these attacks were deemed to most likely be accidental and a mistake made by the whale in thinking a human was another animal like a seal. The film is a mixture of interviews with previous SeaWorld employees and people involved in the attacks, blended with footage from the whale shows and even some original tapes which contain harrowing footage of some of the attacks.

However, this film isn’t an attempt at picket-fencing orca whales – on the contrary, it delves into the idea of whales suffering from psychosis due to being kept in cramped conditions with little to no stimulation, and looks into how SeaWorld’s treatment of these animals is not up to par. Evidence from lawsuits involving animal rights agencies is also included, and this makes for a fascinating look-in to how the attacks were handled and, in some cases, justified, albeit poorly and wrongly.

I personally think this film is crucial in terms of educating people on the dangers and immorality of keeping animals like killer whales in captivity for our own entertainment, and I urge any animal lovers out there to give this movie a watch – not only is the story important, but the whales themselves are beautiful, majestic creatures, and some of the footage of these wonderful animals is just too good to miss.

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5/5 – (This is a random titbit that may not even be prudent to this review, but the original ending to the upcoming animated film ‘Finding Dory’ involved the depiction of a marine park, but it was revised after Pixar’s employees saw the film and spoke with the director – I just thought this was a very cool thing for them to do as it’s not perpetuating this form of ‘entertainment’ as a thing that should happen and it’s therefore not going to be teaching kids that this kind of treatment of animals is acceptable.)

~Steph.