Monday, April 30, 2018

Engine Blood: European GP Hi-Jinks

File:Flag of Azerbaijan.svg



* In the immortal words of Krusty the Clown:


Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

* Engine Blood were on a train back from York at the time of the race, so we're largely going on hearsay, especially when it comes to blame apportioning. 

What we can say with no doubt though is that this has the makings of a classic season - and we may finally be seeing three teams in genuine title contention...

* ...If Red Bull can stop their drivers from fighting, that is.  It's easy to put the blame squarely on Verstappen, as he is a foetus and has had a terrible last, ooh, forty or so races in terms of hot-headed shuntiness, but all sources seem to think this was a 50-50 affair.

* Lewis Hamilton has, to his credit, been less than his usual level of smug about a victory that he seems to acknowledge was lucky as all get-out.  So, to *our* credit, we will state that you had to be in it to win it, and Lewis was there at the end; it was Vettel's race to throw away, then Bottas' to lose, and both did.

You really have to feel for Valtteri in particular, though; he did easily enough to merit the race win, and he really could have used the confidence boost as he looks forward to re-joining Williams next season.  Vettel’s move was apparently a no-win one, but we have to give him points for trying; it’s exactly the kinds of gutsy driving that British observers don’t believe he has in him.

* Speaking of which: the world's least deserving Formula One driver, noted daddy-cash recipient Lance Stroll, finished eighth for the cash- and integrity-strapped team, meaning all the teams on the grid have now scored some points.

However he was completely overshadowed by Charles Leclerc's performance to bring his Sauber-Alfa-Whatever home sixth.  We may have just seen the flowering of a future champion...  Or a fluke finish from the new Martin Brundle.  Only time, and a seat with Ligier, will tell.

* Just to highlight the level of unpredictability this year, the battle for best of the rest is hotting up in very unexpected ways.

McLaren have shown - shock horror! - consistency, whilst Force India's third for Sergio Perez suddenly kicks them back into contention.  Haas are solid but keep throwing points away (seriously, Romain - there's a reason they call it a "Safety Car"), and Hulkenberg was Renault's only missing link this time out, a heroic recovery drive being thwarted by a wall.

* Azerbaijan, though.  Azerbaijan, for heavens' sake.

A circuit that has clearly tried to be Monaco 2: Judgement Day, but has wound up as Monaco 2: Electric Boogaloo.  Most of the race's excitement was caused by Safety Cars - and frankly, wouldn't we all love one where the excitement was caused by high-speed overtaking?  Just a thought...

Engine Blood would like to apologise for forgetting to do something about the Chinese Grand Prix.  By way of apology, please enjoy this picture of a weasel:


Thursday, April 26, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: - G.F. Hirons And His Heavy Friends Present "Simpsons Roundtable" 1

Seasoned readers of the blog will have noticed that I hate finishing stuff - I will use any excuse not to finish, usually because I'm really liking the experience of writing about Bowie/glam rock/The Simpsons/Final Fantasy (yeah, like I'm going to get round to that!)

So here's my latest, thinly-veiled attempt to beat the dead horse that is this subject; and this time, I'm bringing my friends along for the ride!  Yes, I got a bunch of my groovy friends together (...on Messenger), and we shot the breeze about our favourite episodes, characters and moments.  "Wow", I thought.  "That really killed some time".

So here's my peeps, and if you like what they've got to say, and what I've been saying these past few months, why not give the ol' links a click and sample their wares?

Karl Miller, Musician/Dogsbody/Moron

EPISODE: As a fan of music and especially mid 90s alternative rock the "Homerpalooza" episode is one of my favourites.  Homer reminds me of my dad in this episode...  Trying to listen to “what it is” and not really knowing “what it is...  Is” ....IT’LL HAPPEN TO YOU.

CHARACTER: Hands down Moe Szyslak....  He appeals to me as a strangely warm hearted outsider...  Who won’t pay his bills.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
MOMENT: As a kid I remember the episode when The Ramones play at Mr Burns' Birthday Party....  Gets me every time.

Catch Karl's popular beat combo Code Break on Spotify at this link, hopefully.

Steven Rigby, home owner, occasional guitarist, millionaire, hero to all and massive over exaggerator.

EPISODE: Has to be "Cape Feare". As well as some truly great stand out moments, it’s written really well and as animated parody’s go, it’s never been beaten. I could watch it over and over again, it never gets old for me.

CHARACTER: Predictable but true; Homer Simpson. He’s quite simply the greatest character ever created. Not sure if it’s allowed but I also think special mention should go to Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr. aka Professor Frink. I don’t think he’s ever said anything that hasn’t made me smile.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
MOMENT: So many to choose from but, simply for my reaction to seeing it the very first time, it has to be the daring escape Homer attempts to make from Moe’s car in the episode Dumbbell Indemnity. To see him roll straight back into the drivers seat is a moment that will live with me forever.

Steven has no product to shill, so has asked that I use his link to promote the fantastic Athletico Mince podcast.

Tim Worthington, writer and occasional broadcaster

EPISODE: Without question, Who Shot Mr Burns? Parts 1 and 2. The Simpsons was (note 'was' - I think they forgot how to do this shortly afterwards) always at its best when you got one character dominating the storyline and the others having to be amped up wildly in the background just so that they were in there somewhere.

I
n these two, none of the lead characters are the lead character, and you get anyone and everyone being given ludicrously pointless and silly gags: "Drive-thru's not for parkin'", "us hotheads" tearing down the sun blocking machine, Tito Puente's revenge song, Dr Colossus...  I could go on and on. It was the high watermark both of international profile and of actually being any good, and The Simpsons was never quite as good again.


Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
I should get a word in for Itchy And Scratchy Land, though, primarily on account of Disgruntled Goat. He did have his moments.

CHARACTER: Assuming I'm not allowed Smilin' Joe Fission, Rich Uncle Skeleton or Grindcore Stu (who I've just made up), I'd have to go for...  oh, let's say...  Moe.

MOMENT: It's hard to choose between The Mediocre Presidents song (and the aftermath... "you're next, Chester A. Arthur!"), "top of the line in utility sports/unexplained fires are a matter for the courts", and EXTRA! EXTRA! TODD SMELLS!, so I'm having all three. My source on that IS reliable.

You can find my official site at http://timworthington.org/, and you can hear me chatting to Garreth about half-remembered popular cultural nonsense at https://timworthington.org/2017/09/08/looks-unfamiliar-2-garreth-f-hirons-piers-morgan-i-want-my-sizzlin-bacon-back/.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Two - “The kids could call you Ho-Ju!”

Season 4, Episode 12
“Marge vs. The Monorail”
First Broadcast: January 14, 1993

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
A BUNCH OF STUFF THAT HAPPENED

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) catches Mr Burns dumping toxic waste in the park, so the city fines Springfield Nuclear Power Plant $3 million.  Stupidly, the city holds a meeting where all kinds of crazy ideas (and one good one - Mr Snrub's, obviously) are put forward.  The winner?  One Lyle Lanley - who makes the case for a city monorail, whilst dismissing all the townsfolk's fears through song.

Now you know Homer's got to be heavily involved, and after a gruelling training course he is selected pretty much at random to be the monorail conductor (driver, to us Brits), which finally makes Bart proud of him.  But Marge isn't drinking the Kool-Aid, and she investigates the other places Lanley quoted as having monorails.  On arrival in North Haverbrook she meets Sebastian Cobb, the designer of their monorail, who reveals that Lanley is a con artist, embezzling money from the project and using shoddy parts and labour.

They rush back to Springfield, but thanks to Sebastian's urgent haircut, they miss the start of the maiden voyage, which quickly goes tits up.  Not even Leonard Nimoy's presence and a total eclipse of the sun can stop the madness - but Sebastian suggests using an anchor, and Homer is able to embed the "M" from the monorail logo in Lard Lad's donut and save the day.  Lanley, meanwhile, flees for Tahiti - but his plane takes an unexpected stop in North Haverbrook, where he is savagely, savagely beaten.

MAGIC MOMENTS

Mr. Snrub.  I like his thinking!

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
The first rule of Monorail Club: "MONO = ONE.  RAIL = RAIL."

"A solar eclipse...  The cosmic ballet goes on."  "Does anyone want to switch seats?"

ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING

Now it’s time for what you’ve been playing in your head since the start of this post… Monorail.  Monorail.  Monorail.  Monorail…


HISTORY/LEGACY

I believe – in that I can’t be bothered to check – that this was the first full ensemble musical-style number; and even if it isn’t, that’s what I’m writing about anyway, so let’s talk about that and fill this space with music, why not?

To be fair, many of the better known songs have been covered in this series thus far - "We Do", "Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?", "Mr Plow" (only a jingle - totally counts though), "Senor Burns" and now "Monorail".  So we're not missing too many of the classics - but here's "We Put The Spring In Springfield" from "Bart After Dark":



There's also the many songs in the "Mary Poppins" pastiche "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiali(annoyed grunt)cious" - I can't be arsed linking all of them.  Oh, and "Canyonero" - but Code Break's version is better.

It's an odd thing with these; I like them as a novelty, and a good musical number reals lifts an episode - though it can't save a bad one (looking at you, "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken") - but I really turned against the idea after the lazy clip episode "All Singing, All Dancing", which simply presented all the songs in a row.  Though even that had the "Paint Your Wagon" parody that was pretty good.

There is one more recent song that we can all agree is a jam, though:


(Oh, and it's probably worth mentioning that the EPA go on to be the main antagonists in "The Simpsons Movie"!)

WHY I LIKE IT

Here we are in the middle of Season Four.  To call Seasons One and Two "patchy" is a tad generous towards their quality, and Season Three was much more recognisable as the show I grew to love - but here, right here is where the writing staff, voice actors, hell even the animators seem to officially kick it up a notch and start delivering a stream of fantastic episodes.  This here is a show just hitting peak comfort and confidence.

And the results?  Well they're just so very, very much fun.  An excellent romp that, refreshingly, shows the whole city to be just as collectively clueless as Homer, focuses on the many follies they have wasted time and money on, and allows seemingly the only level-headed adult in the whole city to be the heroine of the piece.

Add in one of the all-time great celebrity cameos - Nimoy, despite being a repeat guest, didn't outstay his welcome in either episode - and the musical number by which all others should be judged, and you have a slice of The Simpsons...  Nay, animation...  Nay, television itself, which is nearly - so, so, SO nearly - the greatest of them all.

But it isn't quite.  Which only leaves...

Atomic Sourpuss would like to apologise for the lack of research exhibited in this article.  By way of an apology, here is a picture of a weasel – because weaselling out of things is important to learn:


Join us next time when we'll probably pull our usual trick of delaying the end of the series for no apparent reason.  Go us!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Three - “I have to go now. My planet needs me.”

Season 8, Episode 14
“The Itchy And Scratchy And Poochie Show”
First Broadcast: February 9, 1997

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
A BUNCH OF STUFF THAT HAPPENED

A much-loved cartoon show has gradually grown stale, with later instalments lacking the insight, sass, shock value and general hilarity of earlier entries…

Anyway, on to this episode (chortle!) – Krusty threatens to axe 'Itchy and Scratchy' due to falling ratings.  After a frustrating time at a focus group that wants both of two mutually exclusive outcomes, Roger Myers Jnr decides that the answer is to introduce a new character; and of course the animal chain of command goes mouse, cat...  Dog.

Having easily been convinced that he has a hilarious voice, Homer wins the role of the new character, who is dubbed Poochie and constructed entirely from attitude, sunglasses and other such pseudo-edgy clich├ęs.  Homer bonds with fellow voice artist June Bellamy as the two do the local promotional circuit, but after an unprecedented hype campaign, the character flops and the studio decide to pull the plug immediately.

Homer believes the character can be saved, and goes off-script in his final recording session in an apparently successful attempt to give him a stay of execution.  However, the show’s producers double-cross Homer by shoddily reanimating the episode to write Poochie out of the show forever, including a legally-binding agreement never to bring the character back.  But at least that much-loved, long-running houseguest Roy gets his own spin-off where he moves in with two sexy ladies!

MAGIC MOMENTS

"Excuse me, Mr Simpson: on the 'Itchy and Scratchy' CD-Rom, is there a way to get out of the dungeon without using the Wizard's Key?"...

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
June's tale of exploitation: "I started out as Road Runner.  'Meep!'"  "Don't you mean, 'meep meep'?"  "No, they only paid me to say it once, then they doubled it up on the soundtrack.  Cheap bastards."

And the question everyone is asking in life:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING

I think the best we can do here is offer up Poochie’s totally gangster rap in his classic debut, "The Beagle Has Landed":


HISTORY/LEGACY

Despite the aforementioned, legally-witnessed documentation, Poochie has appeared in no less than 14 episodes of The Simpsons - including Matrix Poochie in "Kill Gil, Volumes One and Two" - so one could assume that the jurisdiction only extended to the Krusty The Clown television show, since the aforementioned Keanu-influenced version appeared in "Krusty's Kristmas On Ice Show" in that episode.

Or one could, were it not for the non-speaking appearance (and watch out, because we're going a bit "Inception" here with shows within shows within shows) of Poochie in an episode of "The Itchy And Scratchy Show" entitled "The Tears Of A Clone", shown on the Krusty The Clown show in The Simpsons' Season Eleven episode "Little Big Mom" - a mere three seasons later!

Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder...

WHY I LIKE IT

I’ve picked some landmark episodes in this timeline – which is a nice way of saying, I've gone for some in which fans believe the show jumped the shark, in this, “Cape Feare”, “Who Shot Mr Burns”, “Itchy And Scratchy Land” and “Homer The Great” (although I have had the very good sense to avoid “Saddlesore Galactica” and “The Principal And The Pauper”).  There is a case for this one being the shark-jump moment, but I think more people are simply sore at the target of this episode’s ribbing: us, the fans of the show.

This is an episode of a long-running television series about the making of a long-running television series, and specifically the kind of pitfalls that The Simpsons was largely avoiding at that stage: tampering with a classic formula and introducing radical (pun intended) new elements as a attempt at a quick fix.

And yes, the fans suffer the slings and arrows of a beleaguered production team, even then hearing that their best days were behind them; but I'm willing to take a few lumps for a virtual lifetime of entertainment - and I'd even go as far as to say that if the quality had stayed this high for another couple of years, I wouldn’t have cared if they'd never got to that fireworks factory.

PS: It was all worth it for this...

Image result for roman reigns died on the way back to his home planet
Courtesy...  Erm, well I got it from Reddit.  Happy to credit properly if I can find the source!
Join us next time, ‘cause here comes two!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Engine Blood: Bahrain GP update


* Random thought from research: was the Arab Spring really seven years ago?

* So this was a little bit more interesting!  Vettel and Ferrari's superior tyre management eventually won the day, in a theoretically impossible set of circumstances.  We must of course also make mention of Francesco Cigorini - for it is he who had his leg broken in two places by Raikkonen's unsafe release.  Get well soon, man.  On the minus side, Hamilton's pace from lower on the grid shows that we're in a clear two horse race...

* ...Or does it?  Both Red Bulls were out of the race within five laps of the start, but one with accident damage (Verstappen, of course; he looks every second of nineteen years old at the minute with his shuntiness and petulance) and one with what looked like a software glitch.  They remain the X-factor at present; if they're good they could be right in the mix, but every race that goes by without solid points puts that in doubt;

* We must mention Pierre Gastly and Toro Rosso-Honda's stunning fourth place, though.  This didn't look to be a fluke - great qualifying lap, uneventful but competent race, solid reliability, and Brendon Hartley in the sister car wasn't too far off the mark either, and probably would have scored minor points if not for early penalties.  Good job all round, and a penny for Fernando Alonso's thoughts on a fast, reliable, Honda-engine car;

* Williams, Williams, Williams.  What a shambles.  With Marcus Ericsson celebrating his fiftieth race out of the points by, er, finishing in the points in his Sauber-Alfa-Ferrari-whatever, they are dead last.  This is what you get for having two pay drivers.

* And finally, an off the track round-up: noted cockwomble Lewis Hamilton said he didn't feel like he lost the race in Australia.  Lewis: you look like you did...

"The Heartbreaker" Lance Stroll has stopped listening to ex-world champion and fellow Canadian Jacques Villeneuve.  He was quoted as saying: "he's not my guy, buddy".  Also, if we were him we'd be taking all the advice we possibly could, as he is pound-for-pound the worst driver in Formula One...  

And Kevin Magnusson has asked F1's owners, Liberty Media, to ignore advice from the drivers on how to make the sport better, as he believes they do not care about making the show better.  Unfortunately since he is a driver himself, Liberty Media are ignoring his advice.

And THAT'S all the blood that's fit to spill!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Four - “I think he’s talking to you!”

Season 5, Episode 2
“Cape Feare”
First Broadcast: October 7, 1993

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
A BUNCH OF STUFF THAT HAPPENED

Bart starts receiving death threats through the post and via ironic song requests on local radio, and though at least one of them is from Homer, there’s clearly trouble ahead for the Simpson boy. With his mortal nemesis Sideshow Bob being paroled, having sworn revenge in tattoo form, it's clear they're not safe, and when a showdown in a local movie theatre threatens to turn ugly, action must be taken.

Turning to the Witness Protection Program, the family are forced out of Springfield – indeed, out of their own identities – to become the Thompsons of Terror Lake, after an afternoon of gruelling (and failed) training.  They drive to their new houseboat with a Gilbert and Sullivan song in their lungs and an overwhelming sense of relief...  But tied to the bottom of their car is Bob, who arrives relatively unscathed in Terror Lake, cactus patches aside, only to have an immediate run-in with his true nemesis: rakes.

After a further incident with some elephants, involving a partial trampling, Bob overpowers and restrains the rest of the Simpson family, before trapping Bart on the deck of the now-moving boat.  Bart outwits Bob by getting him to perform the entire score of "HMS Pinafore" as a last request, which gives the boat enough time to reach Springfield and run aground outside a brothel, where the entire Springfield Police Department just so happen to be - and Bob is arrested, surely never to escape again...

MAGIC MOMENTS

Bob's performance of the entire score of "HMS Pinafore", complete with costumes, props, popcorn and reviews:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
"Uh, we object to the term 'urine soaked hellhole', when you could have said, 'pee-pee soaked heck-hole'."  "Cheerfully withdrawn!"

The rakes, obvs.

ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING

The entire score of “HMS Pinafore” aside, as that might take a fair while, this episode is blessed with the excellent sounds of The Surfaris' magnum opus, "Wipeout"!


HISTORY/LEGACY

Robert Underdunk "Sideshow Bob" Terwilliger first appeared in Season One's "The Telltale Head", looking somewhat different to his iconic appearance - apparently once the character was redrawn for his defining appearance in "Krusty Gets Busted" later in the season, they did mean to iron out the inconsistencies, but...  Well, here we are.

Suffice it to say that the events of the latter episode leave Bob incarcerated and harbouring grudges towards Bart and Krusty the Clown.  He would attempt to his revenge on one or both of them on a number of occasions, including trying to end television in "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", becoming mayor in "Sideshow Bob Roberts" and going full Lecter to help Homer flush out a potential assassin in "The Great Louse Detective".

Bob is of course voiced by none other than TV "Frasier", Kelsey Grammer - which led to much hilarity when TV "Niles", David Hyde Pierce, voiced Bob's brother Cecil in "Brother From Another Series".  The Terwilliger family has also been expanded to include a wife and a child, in the usual cases of diminishing returns - though oddly all of Grammer's dialogue was cut from "The Simpsons Movie", and the character has appeared even more sporadically since.  Perhaps a rare example of television knowing when to leave a gimmick well alone?

WHY I LIKE IT

OK, so perhaps slightly more suspension of disbelief is required for a Sideshow Bob episode - of which this is easily the best - but I really like them as concept episodes, even when they don't 100% deliver in terms of quality or comedy.  Usually there is no real peril in The Simpsons - did anyone really think Homer would die jumping Springfield Gorge? - so introducing a malevolent attempted murderer is a real switch of gears.

Helpfully, aside from all the evil, this episode is also packed with an absolute ton of great sight gags, as it cleverly places Bob into the role of slapstick crash test dummy that is usually reserved for Homer.  This means any horrendous acts he is attempting to perpetrate are undercut by repeated rake thwackings, a grating over cacti or an unnecessarily long line of elephants.

But what really makes this a next-level episode is that the absolute ridiculousness of the ending, which starts with an absurd final request from Bart and goes on to be stuffed with absolutely impossible things happening, feels earned by the quality of the writing up to that point, and even seems, for all its wacky far-outness, like a pretty damn clever way out of the narrative problem.  Once witnessed, few can forget this mad but inspired snowballing of events - in many ways, a perfect episode struture in microcosm.

Join us next time, when we answer everyone’s burning question: when are they going to get to the fireworks factory?