This is about the chart, not art.

Magne FWhen I declared in a hyperbolic manner a few days ago that Magne F fans were “horrified” with the new a-ha single I was quickly pulled up for my “exaggeration”.  Which is fair enough – that’s what hyperbole is.  So let me simply say that they many seem discontented.

The focus of their ire?  The new a-ha single “Foot of the Mountain” is a shameless re-working of a track called “The Longest Night” that appeared on [a-ha keyboardist] Magne’s 2008 solo album “A Dot of Black In The Blue Of Your Bliss”.  How shameless?  Well, you decide.

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Listen to “The Longest Night”

on Magne F’s MySpace page.

Listen to a-ha’s new   

single “Foot of the Mountain“.

So what’s the big deal?  The vocal majority of Magne fans have issues with the new a-ha song.  Points made publically on a relevant Facebook group are many and varied.  Some think that interfering with the song in the way the band did was completely unnecessary given what a strong recording the original was … and that the new one does not match up.  Some think the new chorus is lyrically detached from the rest of the song.  Other points made are that it is “lazy”, that one should not cover “god”, that hearing Magne’s song first makes it hard to appreciate the new one and that it is “too polished”.

Some counter-points include the view that Morten’s vocal is superior to Magne’s and improves the song; and that the track may actually have been written for the band before Magne decided to throw it on to his solo record.  That’s a good point.

But what do I think? 

I have to admit to not recalling the Magne song at all when I first heard “Foot of the Mountain” – in fact I immediately thought I was listening to something Keane had written for them.  It turns out I did hear “The Longest Night” on Magne’s webpage about a year ago and saw him perform it at a gig last May.  I think it’s a very good track but that’s in the context of the lower expectations I have for Magne’s music. 

Without the handicap of being attached to the Magne song, and so judging “Foot of the Mountain” on its own merits, I think a-ha have a really great pop song on their hands.  

This single is all about getting on the radio, not creating an artistic masterpiece.  To that end they have a polished, catchy pop-song with a great hook and a superior vocal from Morten.  

To hold a-ha to some higher creative moral standard is really counter-productive.  They should do whatever it takes to get a hit whether it be a cover version (“Crying in the Rain” was an immense recording) or with the assistance of Max Martin or any other songwriters for hire.  This is about the chart, not art. 

As far as I’m concerned the solo albums should be nothing more than a sandbox and not a place for the band member’s best material.  There aren’t significant numbers of fans buying the solo work these days so if they write 12 solid tunes (which Magne did on his “Past Perfect Future Tense” album) it will go unnoticed (“What’s the point of writing songs that no one hears?”).  

I’m fairly certain that 99% of Capital Radio’s audience who might hear “Foot of the Mountain” have never heard “The Longest Night” or had any idea that Magne releases solo music – in fact many may not know specifically who Magne is.  And it’s this audience that are key to putting a-ha back in the charts – a few thousand loyal a-ha fans can’t do it alone.  

Unfortunate as it is that some fans are disappointed that the band have plundered an existing recording, I can assure them that, as someone who is not “Magne-fied”, I think the new a-ha single is a winner.

And if it’s not? Well it’s only pop music.

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Dr 9Tendo’s Parenting Slot [Week 3]

Parenting Blog

Greetings to you once again from Dr 9Tendo.  Thank you for all the feedback and comments from the last few weeks.

Regrettably I have been informed by my editor that the axe hangs menacingly over my column like a big sharp blade suspended by some elementary means (perhaps some pulleys and levers…or maybe just sticky tape).  Apparently some of my advice has been declared “irresponsible” by parent groups based in North America.  One group – Parents Against Artificial Flowers In Dental Surgeries – said: “Dr 9Tendo may be devoid of any intellect at all save for his ability to write absolute rubbish and use a spell-checker.”  

So I have taken the views of these left-wing zealots on board and will endeavour to bring you the best parenting advice this side of getting your mad Uncle Albert drunk and asking him to describe the best way to peel a baby. 

First up this week is Len from the 51st state, Canada.  She asks:

Today I noticed that my fashion magazines somehow wound up in the cupboard under the bathroom sink and now some of the pages are stuck together. I’m annoyed because if my teenage twins had just told me to they wanted to start designing ladies swimwear, I’d be happy to let them use my sewing machine and I’d even take them shopping for fabric to show my support.  Should I punish them for taking my magazines without asking or would it be better to say nothing & surprise them with enrolment in a design course?

Hi Len. Clearly you didn’t grow up with any brothers.  The glamour magazines with pages stuck together is a common phenomenon of teenage life.  The origin is still unknown despite years of study and analysis from some of the most celebrated male scientists of our time.  It is unclear whether or not the male teenager’s fascination with glamour magazines is related to a distinct interest in street chic or maybe just a belief that they contain the most accurate horoscopes.  My advice is to observe the twins through a peep hole in the bathroom wall once they disappear in to the bathroom with the magazines.  

We investigated the residue phenomenon a bit closer and asked Director of Residue at Stanford University, Nick Trouserleg for his opinion.  He said: “Although our tests are inconclusive we suspect it may be some sort of involuntary reverse engineering of the paper, returning it to its natural tree sap form.”  That sounds about right to me. 

Crystal, a stripper from Bahrain, is frustrated with his daughter’s manipulative side: 

Dr 9Tendo, my teenage daughter remembers everything and then uses the information to her advantage later! She has done this since she was tiny.  How can I combat this?

It’s clear that some sort of radical technique is required here, Crystal.  I think the best thing to do – and it’s never too late to start this – is to bring on a degeneration of your daughter’s hearing.  A good way for achieving this is to squirt washing-up liquid in to her ears while she sleeps.  You can also take apart her mp3 player and manipulate the volume control so that it’s actually louder than she is used to.  Even with poor hearing you will find though that eventually she will become adept at lip-reading which will present another problem.  You will find the washing-up liquid works well again at this point.

Our final worried parent this week is Michael from Oh, Hi! Oh.  Michael has a couple of small problems with her demonic children. 

If my kids are sick I usually put a bucket beside the bed for them to be sick in to.  But you can bet your bottom dollar – or indeed a dollar located anywhere in a multiple stack – that they will end up missing the bucket, leaving me with a big clean up job.  How can I drill a discipline in to them that ensures they find the bucket at all times? 

Unfortunately distressed children won’t always be capable of carrying out simple tasks.  Picture the scene: a vulnerable six year old wakes during the night, stomach heaving with the effects of a virus or perhaps drinking the slops from Guinness cans at the family barbecue.  Instantly fear grips her – the night lamp beside her bed only throws eerie shadows on the walls, the raised corner of the duvet looking like a shark fin coming towards her.  Without thought for the bucket sitting inches away she spews forth, covering herself, duvet and perhaps some of the floor.  

Best thing to do in this situation is to spend a few quid on a small plastic bucket, the kind you might bring to the seaside.  If your child’s head is small enough hang the bucket around their neck, ensuring that it is not too tight.  Although slightly uncomfortable it will be far more convenient for your child if indeed they do need to vomit in a hurry.  In some circumstances you may need to attach the bucket using a belt and some gaffer tape.  

Michael also says: 

Another problem with my children is that they sleepwalk, wander into the living room and wee into the toy box.  How can I combat this? 

Your kids are weird.

Join us again next week for more from Dr 9Tendo!

[Movie Review] Rambo

Rambo IVStarring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Paul Schulze

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Genre: Action

Cert: 18

Released: 2007 

 

I’m thankful that the Rambo franchise pretty much passed me by in the eighties.  “First Blood” (1982), “Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985) and “Rambo III” (1988) show a troubling trajectory on review sites like imdb.com and rottentomatoes.com, the first well reviewed the latter two less enthusiastically received. 

I checked out the first movie as a means to get somewhat familiar with Sylvester Stallone’s titular character, John Rambo.  He was a Vietnam vet who had been subjected to daily torture as a prisoner of war.  After escaping captivity, he returned to the US to find the American public outwardly hostile to his part in a vilified war.  He becomes a drifter and ends up in a small town called Hope in Washington State in order to try and track down an army friend.  Local sheriff (Brian Dennehy) tells him to leave as he doesn’t like his look, Rambo refuses and goes a little bit mad, there’s a scuffle, a manhunt and, what is really a storm in a teacup, becomes a regional incident.

It was utter nonsense, hence I ignored the next two movies.

“Rambo” is seemingly set in present day, almost 20 years on from John’s last adventure (in Afghanistan, would you believe).  He now lives in Thailand, near the Burmese border, enjoying a relatively peaceful retirement from slaughtering people.  But, setting the backdrop for the story, are a series of scenes from Burma where the ruling junta murder, maim and rape villagers while kidnapping kids to join their violent army.  

A team of religious missionaries track Rambo down and request his help in navigating them up the Salween River in order for them to deliver humanitarian help to a Burmese village.  He initially refuses but one of them (Julie Benz) convinces him to change his mind through gentle female persuasion.  

During the trip Rambo is forced to violently defend his passengers from pirates and up-tight missionary leader Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze) informs him that they won’t be requiring his help to get back and says he will report the incident.  Rambo leaps in to action, throwing Burnett against the wall and yelling: “They would’ve raped her fifty times and cut your fucking heads off.  Who are you?  Who are any of you?”  That was awesome.

Anyway, they – of course – go missing and the local pastor comes to Rambo to request his help transporting a team of mercenaries back down the river to find them.  Rambo knows that the small armed team won’t be able to deal with the junta if they come up against them and in spite of being ordered to stay with the boat by angry former SAS man Lewis (Graham McTavish) Rambo can’t help but get involved in a battle to the death.  Let the killing begin… 

I had heard that Rambo had a hell of a body count and I wasn’t – if you excuse the seeming inappropriateness – disappointed.  There’s no doubt that it’s all utterly ridiculous.  Ignoring the tragic reality of what is actually happening in Burma at the moment, Stallone (who co-wrote and also directs) goes out of his way to paint the Burmese junta as being almost cartoonish in their evil – rapists, cold-blooded murderers, paedophiles and misogynists.  

So, of course you’ll be cheering on the good guys even if the captured missionaries and the hired guns are both led by unlikeable and unreasonable characters.  Rambo says little throughout (perhaps afraid that his 60 year old oddly tight-looking facial muscles might crack a little) but his silent, expressionless demeanour sets us up nicely for when he kicks off his orgy of violence with the cry “live for nothing or die for something”.  There’s also a very tiny flicker of emotion in the Rambo-shaped shell revolving around Benz’s character, Sarah.  That might be something they build on in the upcoming Rambo V

There are a couple of fairly gruesome scenes in the first couple of acts of the film so when the bloodthirsty slaughter of the final twenty minutes kicks off you’re pretty well conditioned for it.  Despite there being very little merit to the script, plot or acting and fairly bog-standard direction, Rambo ends up being just about curiously entertaining.  

3star

Dr 9Tendo's Parenting Slot [Week 2]

Parenting Blog

Dr 9Tendo is back!  We’ve a lot to get through this week so buckle up for some excellence and insight from the priest of parenting.

First off is a worried mother from Inverness called Adam.  She says: 

My son seems to have some form of OCD as he repeats everything he does.  If he comes down the stairs, he climbs straight back up and comes down again. When speaking he repeats every sentence.  Where could he possibly have developed this disorder from?

I don’t have the stats to hand but, from memory, something like 1 in every 2.15 people have a form of OCD.  The most recently reported manifestation of the disorder has led one particularly hapless sufferer to say the word “vanilla” at the end of every sentence.  This has caused huge problems when he orders ice cream that isn’t vanilla.  As for how this illness may have materialised with your own son, well it is likely that he witnessed similar behaviour close to home, perhaps with a family member.  Observe other family members to see if you can spot unusually obsessive behaviour.

We received this email from a worried mother in Inverness called Adam.

My son seems to have some form of OCD as he repeats everything twice. If he comes down the stairs, he climbs straight back up and comes down again. When speaking he repeats every sentence.  Where could he possibly have developed this disorder from?

Ah.

Moving on, Sarah, a married dad-of-three, says:

My daughter (named after me) moans when I give her heavy stuff to carry.  Last week I asked her to help carry our new 42″ plasma from the car to the house and she dropped it three times.  I mean if an ant can manage to carry up to 50 times its body weight, surely she could manage to carry a TV for 50 yards??  Sarah is 5.

Hi Sarah.  Well, this is an unfortunate problem.  Kids have a genetic disposition for doing nothing of use until their early 30s.  Hand your kid a napkin and tell them it’s very important that they lay it on the table in the living room and they will gleefully run inside with it, feeling really proud of themselves.  Hand them a chainsaw and ask them to put it in the attic beside your old porno mags and you’d swear you just asked them to circumnavigate the globe in a deep fat fryer.  

My advice is to gradually increase the weight.  Start with some batteries, then the remote control, then the transformer unit, then the TV stand until eventually she’s ready for the plasma.  If you do this every day for a year, by the age of 6 you will have an unusually strong little girl on your hands.  At least then you could send her off to join the circus if she continues to disappoint you. 

My son, Grant, injures himself frequently because he just won’t stop running.  How do I get him to slow down?

So says Mark from Toxteth.  Elaborate booby traps are the way to go, Mark.  One that I know works very well is to dig Grant-sized holes in the garden and around the house and then cover them up with grass, carpet or whatever is appropriate.  I also recommend a bucket of water perched on top of a door, a large net on the floor that will suspend him in the air when he walks on it and quicksand.  Stay away from spike trap pits, bamboo whip and landmines.  Some good movies to watch for ideas are “Predator” and “I Am Legend”.  Believe me, once he gets stung a few times he’ll proceed with far more trepidation.  Expect that trepidation to last a lifetime.

Finally, Gavin from Warrington is fed up with her twins Rio and Brasilia telling her crap jokes.

I quite like my twin sons (named after the cities they were conceived in) but they tell rubbish jokes all the time and expect me to laugh.  I just don’t think it’s right to give them a false sense of their own worth because they’ll end up trying to sing or entertain on some reality show in 15 years and completely embarrass themselves.

I totally agree with you Gavin.  I’ve never heard a kid tell a good joke as the material is always weak and their timing is poor.  Usually it’ll be some mind-numbing gag that you read in a cracker in the 80s and have heard every Christmas since.  Let your child tell his joke and then leave an awkward silence for about 5 seconds afterwards.  Rio and Brasilia will be looking at you earnestly for a positive reaction (as they have been conditioned to expect you to laugh).  

But this is the perfect time to sit them down and tell them they’re not funny and in all likelihood won’t be until they are in their 20s, and only then if they don’t become accountants.  Hopefully they will take this pep talk as the ideal catalyst for improving their joke-writing, working on impressions and bringing more variety to their sets.  But if they fail, not to worry – tell them not everyone can be Frank Carson after all.  

That’s all from me this week.  Please mail me your parenting concerns and I will endeavour to put your mind at rest in next week’s parenting slot.

Dr 9Tendo's Parenting Slot [Week 1]

Parenting Blog

Welcome to the first edition of my parenting blog!  I know it’s a strenuous life being a parent – I have two cats myself – so I’m here to lend the best advice that you can find from someone with absolutely no qualifications to do so.  Please send any parenting concerns you have to me at this address

Here are some opening gambits from my loyal readers:

Question: My seven year old son has begun to refuse his food. We will make a delicious dinner for him including fish fingers and chips and he just picks at it before distracting us by throwing his voice and then feeding the food to the dog.  We also suspect our dog is gay if you can help with that too.

It’s common for kids to refuse their food at this age due to their changing hormones.  At the age of seven young boys usually start to become obsessed with women and so are more cognisant of their body image.  My advice is not to be concerned if he goes without eating for a while because by the time he is 15 he’ll be drinking beer and eating kebabs two or three nights a week.  Any weight he loses in the preceding years will be made up with interest during his teens.  As for your dog, please consider the book “So Your Dog is Gay?” by Paul Smithers. It won’t answer any questions but there are hilarious pictures of dogs with pink ribbons in their hair.

 

Question: What is the right age to teach my eight year old son about the birds and the bees? 

This is a common question in to Dr 9Tendo’s mailbox.  I think it’s important for kids to understand the fundamentals from a young age.  If you get too close to bees then they will sting you.  Now wasps are more aggressive, true.  But honey bees can still cause a large amount of discomfort for a young child.  My advice is to point out the dangers to a child as soon as they can walk.  This may lead to a more irrational fear of bees in later years but it’s a price worth paying.  Birds are no threat at all unless you happen to be bathing in bird seed.  Just don’t bathe your kid in bird seed.
Question: My 11 year-old daughter drinks a bottle of vodka a week. I want her to cut down as I simply can’t afford it anymore.  How do I break the news to her?
It can be hard to tell a child that things are going to change.  It’s important that they understand it’s not their fault and that it is external factors that have brought about the necessity.  In this case it is financial constraints that will restrict your daughter’s drinking.  A good place to start is to suggest that she drink vodka more sparingly, perhaps suggest a few cans of Dutch Gold during the week instead.  One possible salvation is the success of budget grocery chains like Aldi and Lidl who sell cheaper European vodka at many of their outlets.  Not only is it cheaper but it is also more potent and therefore it will probably last even longer.  

 

Join us soon for more from Dr 9Tendo’s Parenting Slot.