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Issue #2 October 11th - 17th 2002
A guide to the beach
Once upon a time in a mess?
If she doesn't smile (it'll rain)
MOZ ODYSSEY- A Travelogue (part2)
Are Geneticists evil? (and other questions)
A GUIDE TO THE BEACH
Before you venture onto a beach you would be well advised to spend a little time doing some research. Many beaches contain possible dangers which to untrained could be proove hazardous. However with some care and preparation a trip to the beach could be one of the most rewarding of your life.
Let me take you back to a cold day in the middle of May. I was just regaining my land legs, after my taking first trip on a train. My eyes were peeled for discarded chips. Travelling works up an appetite, and combined with the slightly salty smell in the air I could have eaten anything at that moment-even a mushroom. Suddenly I spotted a long yellow strip on the horizon. I know what you are thinking- custard- I'll admit that was my first thought too. It wasn't custard, however it was, my first sighting of a beach.
Beaches are made of a yellow substances known as sand . As I was now in enemy terrotitarty I thought it might be advisable to adopt some form of cover. And as luck would have it sand offers the perfect disguise. By rolling around on the floor for just 2 minutes I was transformed from white and orange into a lovely sandy coloured yellow. I then paid particular attention to my nose and tongue, which being black and pink would of course have blown my cover. After dragging them along the ground for another minute my transformation was complete. I was no longer visible to the naked eye. The girl's super powers obviously increases her eyesight and she was still able to see me, but I think that even her extra sensory vision was having trouble making me out because she started to brush the sand from my nose.
The girl chose a spot to sit down. I did try to persuade her to sit down next to the people eating the chicken legs and large chocolate cake, but she told me she didn't think that we would be very welcome. I couldn't see why. They had a very large chocolate cake and would probably love the opportunity to share it. As she pulled me on a little further a kept an eye on the cake in case it got too much for the people and they wanted anyone to help them eat it. /p>
The girl sat looking at shells and as the people with the chocolate cake had unfortunately managed to finish it all on their own, I stopped watching them and began to investigate. I noticed a patch of sand which was almost certainly covering treasures such as vast quantities of chocolate or perhaps the odd sausage. I started to dig.
At first the girl didn't seem very interested in my possible discovery... then she noticed what I was doing and started to get a little bit more excited. Soon she was laughing hysterically. I took this as a good sign and kept focused on my task and kept digging. Suddenly the girl shouted:
Much to my dismay, she got up and brushed the sand off her. My dismay soon faded as she said... "lets go for a bit of a walk instead shall we?" I have discovered that beaches are very often next to the Sea. This beach was no exception. The sea is shiny and smooth and as I was quite surprised to discover it was wet. Very wet. In fact the sea is made entirely out of water which stays quite still the sea moves. You think you are standing at a safe distance nose down, trying to work out what exactly the sea does, and suddenly the sea has crept up on you leaving you with a nose, mouth and if you are unlucky two eyes filled with water.
Getting used to the strange movements of the sea wasn't easy and I got a bit wet. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the girl and were heading up the beach I made my most amazing discovery of the day. Sand may well be a good disguise when you are dry, but when you are wet it stick to you like glue and even the girl can't brush it off.
The girl, unsure what to make of my new found invisibility was now laughing, again and saying
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Once upon a time in a mess?
It was late. Time was running out. We were tantalizingly close to finishing this issue of 'Friends of The Heroes' but we were one small, scrappy article short of a fully pledged product. Ain't that just like life? A collective scratching of furrowed temples ensued, followed by one silly boy and a bold, brave statement. "I shall write a review of a film" I said, grandly. "what, by tomorrow?" they said. "Er, yes! YES! I will watch a film and write about it. All by tomorrows deadline" I said, suddenly feeling like a hero to their collective friends. So that was it. Sorted. All I needed to do now was to watch a film and write about it....
My weapon of choice was 'Once Upon a Time in the Midlands'. The director, Shane Meadows, has called this film the third and final part of his 'Nottingham Trilogy'. The first two episodes ('Twentyfourseven' and 'A Room For Romeo Brass') won rave reviews, featured great soundtracks, and enjoyed critical, if not commercial, success. This third installment had already been well received at the Cannes Film Festival, and so the hope and expectation of this particular filmgoer-cum- critic was rather high. I left with my expectations only slightly disappointed, and, if truth be told, a little flummoxed by the whole experience.
The plot, as such, is something of a weird, albeit occasionally refreshing hybrid of social realism, spaghetti western, middle England farce, and romantic comedy. It centres on the efforts of the wayward Jimmy (played by Robert Carlyle), trying to return home to Nottingham and regain the affections of Shirley (Shirley Henderson) and their now-teen daughter (ably played by relative newcomer, Finn Atkins), who he abandoned years ago to lead a life of crime in Glasgow. Absconding with the takings from a bizarre mugging on a group of clowns, he hits the trail South. The trouble is Shirley is now in love with Dek (Rhys Ifans), even though she's not quite sure about their future. Meanwhile, Jimmy's sister ( Kathy Burke) and her mad family (including a stetson-wearing Ricky Tomlinson) are also dragged into the fray, along with a trio of stereotypical Scottish gangsters, who descend on Nottingham in search of Jimmy and the money he stole from them.
If this all sounds a bit incongruous, it's not half as incongruous as some of the accents featured, with Robert Carlyle's broad Glaswegian dialect alongside Kathy Burke's finest north London vernacular. You see, they're supposed to be brother and sister - but we can rest easy- it's ok, there's a line inserted into the screenplay that says they are foster siblings. Still, it doesn't quite ring true and this uneasy mix of dialects (add Ricky Tomlinson's Liverpudlian and you can easily be excused for feeling disorientated) reflects a mix of genres which, as the film fluctuates wildly between broad slapstick comedy and heartfelt tragedy, seems to indicate that Meadows could not decide exactly where to pitch his film. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking that the film was set not in Nottingham but in the ubiquitous 'City' of a film set. I personally wouldn't have a problem with this, were it not for the fact that a lot of the pre-release publicity was explicit in it's references to Nottingham, that this was the third film in Meadow's celebrated 'Nottingham Trilogy'.
There are still a lot of good points about the film, though. The wide camera angles and extensive use of crane and exterior shots give the film a feel of an unexpected openness, so cinematically at least, it does become a modern version of the western.
There's also just about enough going on here to keep us entertained--the film is energetic and funny, with decent performances from the entire cast. But everyone looks like they're just a bit too relaxed. While Henderson and Ifans create surprisingly meaty characters, Carlyle never sinks his teeth into the character or situations. Meadows continues to show a gift for discovering teen talent; Atkins is superb, emanating a depth of self-confidence that is astonishing for an actress her age. while Shim (aka Romeo Brass) has an amusing marginal role. But the overall film has a gimmicky feel, like the filmmakers were so pleased about their "tinned spaghetti western" that they forgot to make these people fully believable. It's all a bit contrived and constructed, with handy plot points that echo the structures of almost every other film you've ever seen. It's enough fun to keep us smiling sporadically throughout, even if it never becomes real enough to engage us.
Still, it beats going to work for a living, I suppose....
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If she doesn't smile (it'll rain)
Ever since the hot and hazy August day I flew back to Greece the summer had been dying a slow and boring death. Everyone could tell the end was near, but just as you got ready to say goodbye it got hot all over again and you sighed and decided you had to wait a few more days. I wrote to a friend about it all and he suggested I buried it in a bar somewhere. Bound to be disobedient as I am, I got on a train that moved slowly south to go and see the Belle and Sebastian concert they had been advertising as 'the perfect end to the season'.
And if the summer's wasted, how come that I can feel so free , the organisers had quoted them.
In Athens Nick was waiting for me. He had made a mixtape called If She Doesn't Smile (It'll Rain), which I found funny because he couldn't have known how much I would smile. Needless to say, it rained anyway.
It was okay though: it had been raining every day in Athens for the past two weeks - something so strange, Athenians take it as sign or something - so the gig had been moved to some indoors venue. We walked and walked uphill on the streets of some horse-training centre in the dark, following other people hoping they knew where they were going.
It turned out they did. My best description of the building they were heading to is 'it looked and felt like a warehouse'. It was long and tall and its long narrow windows were placed high on the walls. The door was on one of the narrow sides, the stage was near the opposite one. There was something like a balcony behind it and yet more windows. There was going to be no support group, and the stage was already set for Belle and Sebastian. We were a little bit early (half an hour before the show is supposed to start is early in Greece) and there were only few people there. And they were sitting on the floor in front of the stage, smoking, drinking and talking to each other.
It seemed as if everyone was there by accident and the lights made it all seem even more like that. We got in and it started to rain. And as always when this happens, I couldn't help but think, Geoffrey is the kind of guy who always gets away with that sort of thing.
More people came, we stood up, clapped, the band came on stage, they played Fuck This Shit and everyone was happy. The finished it, we clapped some more and the lights went off for a second - and I really, really wanted to cry.
Have you ever had a dream, where your favourite band played in a warehouse, and you happened to be there and watch?
Well, I had. And it almost came true.
I think this is where I have to tell you: this was the seventh time I've seen Belle and Sebastian. Seven times in just over a year. This one was different because it was in the county I come from. Where everything, regardless of whether I hate it or love it, is familiar. I was curious, even anxious, to see if the crowd would like the band. And if the band would like the crowd. I was almost feeling responsible for it.
But the lights went on and the band played and sang: everybody is happy/they are glad that they came/and you go to a place/where you finally find/you can look at yourself... Sleep the clock around! And everybody smiled and bounced and I think outside it kept on raining. And I didn't feel like crying anymore, not until the song was over and the lights went off for another second.
Me. And other people. And Belle and Sebastian. In the same room. In the darkness. And the rain falling. It honestly felt like a dream.
When the lights went on again, I turned around and smiled at Nick.
You know. It's easier to dream your dreams than live them.
And as if that wasn't enough to keep me from being ecstatically happy - as I could have been; but do I know how to do it? I really doubt I do - the room was getting hotter and hotter and I was getting tired. And I think they were feeling the same way, and much as they were great, they weren't great enough to make me snap out of it. I didn't even expect them to, I just stood there occasionally bouncing and smiling to Nick and singing all the time throughout every song; and I waited for whatever it was that kept me from really being there to go away.
And I'm not sure when it did go away, but it did. It might have been when they played Dog On Wheels, and the crowd sang louder than Stuart Murdoch and I'm sure I wasn't the only one with tears in their eyes. I hope I weren't. It might sound strange to you, but Dog on Wheels is their biggest radio hit in Greece. This is because it sounds like Love -like Alone Again Or- and like Summerwine; and we may make fun of it, and yet we love it. It's the sort of innocence we understand, the sort that makes sense to us and we accept: poignant and nostalgic and simple to the point it brings tears to your eyes, and yet sounding somehow adult. I think someone must have told them, because I don't think they play that song often.
Or it might have been when they smiled at each other and played the first chords to I Know Where The Summer Goes and it was as if they had travelled all the way from Glasgow to sing an elegy to our dying summer. I thought of the summer they were talking about: it's grey and blue and green, the skies are bright even when cloudy, it gets light very early and dark very late and the rain is warm, and that's why it's called summer. Here summers are five months long, they're yellow and the heat and light are just too much; and yet when they're sweet, they make you say they're the sweetest thing ever. And yet somehow it made sense, and Stuart Murdoch looked gorgeous while singing it, too. I even thought he was smiling.
No one likes a smart arse/But I've seen a pattern emerge/I will race you up the hill/where the boy who makes records out of postcard messages/and flowering cherries rain on kids like you
And for while, for that moment you were busy watching him sing that and singing along, the phrase kids like you made sense; and you could even say it out loud - sing it - and no one would think of laughing at you.
Honestly, what more can you ask from a band?
Or it might have been during Scooby Driver, which is my favourite Belle and Sebastian song at the moment. I love it because it is -quoting a friend - poptastic: you can't help but dance to it, and you can't sing along to it without smiling, and it has Stuart Murdoch and Stevie Jackson singing together, which I like because it is unusual and heart-warming. And as the extended version they play live can't be found anywhere on record and I can't make out half the lyrics, it makes the moment all the more important. You have to be there for it will be gone soon.
But even if you can't do it, don't worry. Belle and Sebastian say they know where the summer goes when you're having no fun and you kitchen looks like hell; they may not tell us where it is, but if it's where they come from, then it must be a wonderful place. And someone I know says they've heard a rumour: the summer goes to the hearts of those that stay young and to those that still believe.
MOZ ODYSSEY- A Travelogue (PART2)
Our heroe's odyssey to see Morrissey in London had got off to a bad start when their chariot wouldn't budge from whence it was set, outside Bob's house. Having acquired an alternative mode of transport and several cans of Oranjeboom larger, the boys settled into luxurious aisle seats by broken toilets and a frustrated disenfranchised Scottish football hooligan, and enjoyed, or endured, a train ride into England's deepest darkest depths. Arriving in London a couple of hours later, the boys stumble upon the rather belated realistion that they have nowhere to stay the night. Yet. A trip to the nearest bar to discuss their next move was not only called for, but was, indeed, a matter of life and death.
The story continues...
An hour later, thanks to the helpful assistance of the trobled-looking barman of the Zetland Arms, we were heading in the direction of Old Brompton Street. This was where the cheapest hotels in South Kensington would be, he told us. "cheap, really cheap for raand ere" he drawled. "ninety-eight quid? for a twin room? we only want it for one night.." Fuelled by an alarming amount of pre-lunch alcohol, we were debating the cost of a room, both with each other and with the rather terse and impatient receptionist of the imaginatively titled 'Brompton Hotel'. Alcohol does several things to you, and we were displaying characteristics of at least two of these syptoms, namely irrational thought patterns ("yes, I REALLY fancy this 57 year old emaciated receptionist- I will ask her for her number later. I WILL you know..."), and overly agressive debating techniques. So there's Bob and I shouting at each other:
An hour or later, showered, changed, and suitably refreshed, we were heading to the Royal Albert Hall. It was easy to find. A left out the hotel, then a right. Just follow the glandoli.... The queue. The famous Morrissey queue. Some people queue from first light, or they used to. It's funny what time does to people, because scanning the queue I can sort of recognise a few faces from years ago, except the quiff's that were a mainstay of many a Morrissey fan, are receding somewhat. Not that this is a bad thing or a good thing, but it is sort of sad, and rather weird, to see some die-hard Morrisey fans of the older ilk, desparately coifurring their remaining strands of hair into a limp looking quiff, a shadow of it's former self.
At the same time, what was impressive (seeing as Morissey hasn't had a record out in years, nor is he signed to a record company) was the amount of young people in the queue. Word of mouth, older brothers/sisters music collections- somehow these young people have heard of Morrissey and the Smiths, and have felt enough, been moved enough, been impressed enough, to stand in a queue outside the Royal Albert Hall for hours on end.
Bob crawls off to get us some more alcohol, and I'm travelling back and forth in time again. Back to when I first heard the Smiths, and then forward with an anticipatory gaze to tonight's show. I try to imagine what everyone else felt when they first heard a song by the Smiths or Morrissey, I wonder if they take it as concrete fact that the Smiths were and will be the greatest pop band that Britain has, or will ever, produce. There is, for me at least, no need to elucidate further on that subject. They just are, that's all. They just are.
Finally inside the Royal Albert Hall. Standing, we are part of a collectively clenched fist, a coiled up spring ready to explode when HE finally arrives on stage. The support acts pass by in a blur. You want themout of the way, you want them to finish, you always do, and this, for once, has nothing to do with the alcohol.
Then there is nothing but noise in the darkness, a football chant "morr-iss-ey, morr-iss-ey, morr-iss-eeeey", then the chime of bells, big bow bells of London, and the he, HE, is finally there. That's when the first boot hits my face, a sudden rush and a push forward, and the noise, the noise as he launches into "I want the one I can't have", which is an old Smiths song, and staying up on your feet is the hardest thing but also the easiest thing to do because just when it feels like you are going over you are pushed back the other way, and then you remember, THIS is what it's all about, THIS is what it is like being at the front at a Morrissey concert.
Bob is nowhere to be seen through the next few numbers, but then, as if by magic, he returns a big, sweating, grinning fool as 'Sudehead' is played and Morrissey sings "why do you come here, when you know it makes things hard for me?" and it feels as if he is looking directly at me, speaking just to me, but then he always does, and that is part of the appeal.
The night always passes too quickly. There is a heart-stopping version of 'Late Night Maudlin Street' which reduces Bob and I, and a number of other twenty-something butch men, to quivering wrecks. There are new songs, which suggests that a record deal may be imminent. The best of these, for me at least, is 'Irish Blood, English Heart'. It is a pop song, with one of his catchiest choruses in years, the type that Morrissey, at his best, does better than anyone else. But it's the encore, 'There is a Light that never goes out', another old Smiths classic, that produces the biggest cheer of the night, and is sung by an audience that suggests that their very life depended on it. And, for an hour and a half, it feels as if it does.
The walk back to the hotel is energy-sapping. It has been a long day, we've both lost our voices, and the cold wind cuts through our sweat soaked clothes. We talk about our next trip, and about the current muting of a possible Morrissey renaissance. For Bob and I, and for countless others, however, the man has never really been away. With the current crop of disposable jaw lines and manufactured inanity that make up the popular music climate in this country, it seems that we need our heroes now more than ever before.
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Are geneticists evil, and other questions
We were filling in our timetables on the first day of secondary school. The room was filled with an air of anticipation as each subject was rated with different levels of approvals or disapproval. Maths, was met with a groan, French, with apprehension, PE got a mixed response. But one of the loudest of all cheers was for science. A subject none of us had ever done at primary school. A subject which surely involved boiling cauldrons, test tubes filled with brightly coloured frothing liquids, explosions and many other magical experiments.
One year later, and if we had still been 'un-cool' enough to show any positive emotion for the subjects being read out I would have probably been one of the only people in the room to have shown any enthusiasm for Science. The previous year, there hadn't been a cauldron in site, very few explosions, and the brightly coloured test tubes hadn't really frothed but I was beginning to learn about things around me. "Observe and infer". That was the take home message from the year. Look at things and then ask why? why? why? It was like being a detective but without the danger. Everyday objects, became the crimes, day to day occurrences became the intriguing who dunnits, or more precisely how dunnits.
In our 4th year of secondary school we were given leaflets of describing possible jobs. I found I could be a biochemist for a living! It sounded perfect a mixture of biology and chemistry on a day to day basis. I told my friend who wanted to be a paramedic, or a chef. She said it sounded boring. The next day she told me her mum said it sounded boring. I told her I wanted to be a surgeon but kept my ambitions of becoming a biochemist a secret. As it turns out I'm glad I took her advice and didn't become a biochemist I'm sure it would have been boring. I'm also quite glad I decided to become a geneticist.
Unfortunately, geneticists have been demonised in the media and the minute I tell people what I'm doing, they start to look anxious and then back away slightly, until I reassure them that I'm not cloning anything, nor am a modifying anything, nor do I have any intention of modifying or cloning them or their offspring. So what else do geneticists do? Am I evil? And more to the point why am I writing this?
Genetics is an exciting branch of science and it is part of my life. It is part of who I am. Just as art enthusiasts want to show you paintings they find beautiful I want to tell you about a subject I find fascinating. Like a lot of people my introduction into genetics began with a story starting in 1823.
1823 saw the birth of a person who, like many of us, had little idea what the future had in store for him. Neither he nor his parents had heard about the internet and even if they had they probably would not have guessed that nearly 200 years later his name would produce 27,000 hits in 0.34 seconds on a google search engine.
It was a remarkable day indeed, in the world of science, when this man, an Augustinian monk by the name of Gregor Mendel decided crossing pea plants might be a fun thing to do. Having crossed his pea plants, I imagine him, he would get up early each morning to see their progress in growth. Jumping around when he saw a yellow one or a green one emerge he would have probably rushed back in to tell a bunch of nuns who would nod kindly, before telling him to sit down and eat his porridge.
It was an even more remarkable day when from simple observation and inference he was able to produce a theory that would become the foundation for modern genetics. A theory that, despite advances in technology and future research, would hold true. So what did he infer?
Mendel noticed, undoubtedly on a pre-breakfast trip to the garden, that the peas inherited characteristics from their parents in certain numerical ratios. Good fortune meant he had been paying attention in his mathematics class and was swiftly able to work out the most probable way that these ratios could arise.
He inferred that each parent plant had distinct factors which controlled the appearance of a specific characteristic and that these factors did not combine, but instead were passed onto their offspring as a discrete unit. In other words he noticed that the height of the pea plant did not effect the colour of the pea plant in much the same way as mouse and an elephant won't necessarily be the same size just because one is grey.
His theory then goes onto say that each parent contains two versions of the heritable factor and that some forms of the trait showed dominance over other traits. Dominant traits are those which mask the appearance of the other form of the heritable factor. An example of this are the heritable factors controlling tall pea plants and short pea plant. If a plant possesses both forms it will be tall rather than short. It won't be a medium sized pea plant. Mendel's theory states that each of the offspring receive one copy of the heritable factor from each of it's parents.
At this point in my discussion I shall take a brief break to tell you about the time shortly after the birth of my sister I asked "where do babies come from?" My mum told me that my dad had given her a seed which she had planted in her stomach. And my sister, the baby in question had grown in there in the same way a flower in a flower pot might grow. I asked whether my dad had blue seeds, for boy babies and pink ones for girls. She wouldn't tell me. When I asked my dad he said "I'll tell you when you are older"
What my mum also didn't tell me was that inside of her she had the other half of the baby, and she wasn't just a flower pot. It seems such a shame that she neglected to tell me about Mendel's second law at this young age. In an obvious attempt to compensate for that oversight my parents bought me two guineapigs, who produced many multicoloured babies. I was able to observe first hand that these babies ended up looking like both Henrietta and Jeremy but that there were more dark brown babies similar in colour too Henrietta than light yellow ones.
Mendel's work did not involve a single cauldron, frothing test tube, or an explosion of any kind but it is based on the kind of observation and inference that my first year science teacher would have been proud of. It re-affirms my belief that the world is just one big detective novel waiting to be solved. His work was exciting in its simplicity, and it has influenced the field of science greatly. I would have to conclude that Mendel was a very clever man or geneticist from a large multinational corporation who wished to speed up his exploitation of human-kind by an unethical use of genetics, so travelled back in time from the year 2136 to the year 1823 to give scientists a bit of a hint. I think, however, that is an issue that you yourself should decide...
Rachel QueenBack to Current Issue