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SPANK GOLD: Younger Than The Stones: Pick Of The Year 1993

Because I wasn't doing sleeves back then, obviously This is where it all started. I've already told the origin story behind the Pick Of The Year compilations back in 1998, which was the first year that I made one on a CD. But in the five years prior to that, they were cassette-only affairs, with only two copies in circulation: one for Lou, and one for me.

As a result, the track listings for the compilations we'll be covering here over the next five months may turn out to be a little more idiosyncratic than those of the CDs you already know and love: there are a couple of in-jokes between myself and Lou buried in there, some of which I might discuss here, some of which I might not. Where possible, I'll include links to videos of the songs in question, with all the usual caveats about those videos being at the mercy of IP lawyers (especially those bastards at WMG). Here we go, then...

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TV Burp Australia

TV Burp Australia. What are the chances of that happening? The Taliban: hardline religious extremists who back their beliefs with bullets. The Irish Republican Army: unstoppable urban guerillas who waged a bloody savage war for Irish independence. WHO IS DEADLIEST? There's only one way to find out. FIGHT!

It's a joke that's been made several times since Deadliest Warrior started on TV in the UK. For those of you not watching Bravo at 10pm on Tuesdays, this is a show that uses computer simulations and re-enactments to compare fighters from different periods in history, to see who would win in a scrap. Rumour has it that the series finale, the IRA vs Taliban face-off alluded to above, has been deemed a little too close to home for UK transmission. So one lunchtime, I lashed together a quick video that rammed Deadliest Warrior's macho posturing up against Harry Hill's whimsy, topping it off with a ten-second montage of landmine and flamethrower killings edited to the Riverdance music.

Sadly it was rejected from YouTube (for reasons of copyright rather than atrocious taste), so you won't be seeing it here. But here's a funny thing I discovered while searching for relevant clips on YouTube to cannibalise: for the last month, an Australian TV channel has been showing their own adaptation of the TV Burp format.

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SPANK GOLD: Edinburgh Festival 1996

See if you can guess how many Fringes they'd had by 1996 Part of the fun of these Spank Gold thingummies is the tension between the time I'm writing about, and the time when I'm actually doing the writing. And that's definitely the case here. Right now, it's August 2009, the Edinburgh Festivals are well under way... and I'm not there. One year off in every three, you know the score. (Nick's leading a posse up there instead: we might hear from him in due course, you never know.) So I'm here in London, writing about 1996... a year when I did go to the Festival, but had a slightly mediocre time of it, which led me to formulating that one-year-off-in-every-three rule.

The most talked about production at Edinburgh that year was one that didn't happen. Robert Lepage's one-man Hamlet adaptation, Elsinore, was set to be the highlight of the International Festival... until the entire run was called off at the last minute, when a wonky rivet in the stage machinery scuppered the show. There were a couple of big names in the Film Festival, at least, and they sort of compensated: but you'll see below that I was drifting back into old bad habits, rather like I did back in 1992. A break and a rethink were definitely on the cards. But in the meantime, here's what I saw that year.

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Playing The Building

When was the last time you saw a piece of art that you could have a decent lie down to?

I know exactly when it was in my case: the Spring of 2004, when Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project was coming to the end of its six-month installation in the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern. A combination of a mirrored ceiling, a faint mist in the air and a bloody enormous lighting rig came together to generate the illusion of a gigantic sun glowing away at one end of the hall. Faced with something of that magnitude, people reacted in the only way they could: lying on the floor and soaking it up (with the odd group of pranksters rearranging themselves or their belongings to spell out messages in the ceiling mirror).

David Byrne's Playing The Building, showing at the Roundhouse until August 31st 2009, may not be on the same gargantuan scale: but if you're not directly at the centre of it, I suspect that lying down may be the second best way of experiencing it.

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SPANK GOLD: London Film Festival 1995

It looks like a woman in a frock. That's the best I can do, sorry.Despite my misgivings about the BFI handing over control of the LFF poster designs from artists to graphic designers, I have to admit that Nancy Fouts made a brilliant job of the 1995 one. It's an incredibly simple idea but utterly eye-catching, and perfect for a film festival. They even ran a competition based around the poster, offering two Closing Gala tickets if you could identify the film used from the stray frames at the end of the reel. Unfortunately, I've not been able to track down the answer, and any copies of the full poster on the web are too small to make even a vague stab at it.

1995 was the second year for which the LFF had an official website, once again outsourced to the IBM PC User Group. By now I'd managed to wangle myself internet access at work, so even though the site's mainly just links to IMDB entries, it proved to be very useful for getting more background information about the films I was seeing. Here's what my schedule for 1995 looked like.

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GI Joe: Resolute

Sienna Miller's lumpy arse, yesterday GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra opened in cinemas worldwide last weekend. Here in the UK, we don't particularly care about GI Joe (other than being vaguely aware that Hasbro's toy line is the US equivalent of our own Action Man): so we've been blitzed with posters for over a month in advance, all based around the image of Sienna Miller's lumpy arse. In the US, though, it's a much bigger deal: so Paramount have taken the opposite strategy of releasing the film without showing it to critics first, and are actually boasting about doing that.

Why is it that when newspaper reviewers are refused access to a film, they don't just use the review space to say in big letters "I haven't seen it, but I've seen the trailer, and it looks like cock"? Well, obviously, they'd lose all their advertising revenue from Paramount if they did that. But I don't get any advertising revenue from Paramount. So: I haven't seen GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, but I've seen the trailer, and it looks like cock. Any action movie that chooses to rip off one of its setpieces from Team America: World Police doesn't deserve the oxygen of publicity, and its makers (in Linda Smith's memorable phrase) barely deserve the oxygen of oxygen. There's no amount of brain damage possible that can make this movie even the slightest bit interesting.

Besides, they've already released a better GI Joe movie this year. If you've got an hour to spare, you could watch it right now.

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Simian Substitute Site for August 2009: Gorilla With A Human Brain

Gorilla With A Human Brain (image by Lordmitz) Right. Was that enough new stuff for you, then? (And posted in the face of rampant opposition from the Chinese government, no less.)

There's still a little more to come from Year Of The Monkey 2009, as promised. It's currently a week since we got back home, and we still haven't really had time to look seriously through the photos and video we took while we were in China. As soon as we've sorted through the best bits and uploaded them to various places, there should be an epilogue piece with lots of handy links. Might be in August, might be later, we'll have to wait and see.

Inevitably, things will be slowing down here a little in August to compensate. A few more Spank Gold bits - Edinburgh 1996 (wrapping up that particular strand), London Film Festival 1995, and - new thrill this month! - a look at the early days of the Pick Of The Year compilations, beginning with the cassette that started it all in 1993. Possibly a new bit in there somewhere tying in with a film being released in a week or two, but that's probably all you're getting from me for now. I've been on holiday, I need a rest.

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