Mo' Blogger Blues

FruitiliciousThey say every picture tells a story. Here's the story of that one over there.

Digital photo metadata being what it is, I can say with some certainty that it was taken at 9am on December 1st, 2004, on my way into work. (In an extraordinary twist of fate, exactly one year later I would be shitcanned from that very job after 21 and a bit years, but that's another story.) It's a whimsical blackboard that I spotted by a coffee stand at Clapham Junction station, and it amused me enough that I took a picture of it with my cameraphone.

Nowadays, you'd know exactly how the story would continue: within seconds, I would have shared that picture with everyone else on the internet, until everyone else said FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP IT. But in 2004, the methods you had for doing that were somewhat limited. It wasn't until 5.11pm on December 3rd, over two days later, that I made that image my very first post on what I chose to call The Unpleasant Moblog Of Spank The Monkey.

The Unpleasant Moblog has been running on and off for almost a decade. For the last couple of years, it's been largely off: but recently, circumstances have driven me to go back on again. Let me introduce you to it.

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"Well It's Kind Of Obvious Really, But You Can't Green Screen Sprouts"

It's almost precisely too late to be telling you about this, but Mr Weebl has been responsible for the most festive collection of videos you're ever going to see. In 2012 he restricted himself to a one-off collaboration with Right Said Fred: this year he's been making one short film every day throughout December, and putting them up on YouTube as The Mr Weebl Advent Calendar. It's a task that's forced him to push the boundaries of endurance and sanity. (Not to mention the boundaries of good taste, so be careful with a couple of these.)

Anyhoo, it's the 25th now, so Season's Greetings from me and The Belated Birthday Girl, with thanks to Mr Weebl for driving himself nuts for our entertainment.  


Contains strong language, occasionally very strong, moderate sexual references, and scenes of mild perilOn July 14th 1998, I wrote this and posted it up as the first article on a new website called The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey. (Actually, because of my atrocious web design skills, it originally looked a bit more like this, but let's not talk about that.)

So if you take into account its previous incarnation as well as its current one, this means that my website is exactly fifteen years old today. Thanks to all of you who've supported it during that time, and I hope you'll continue to do so in the years to come.

In 365 days, the site will be sixteen years old, and it'll be legally able to have sex. That's got to be worth waiting for, hasn't it? (Although The Belated Birthday Girl has pointed out that it'll only be able to have sex with websites that are older than it, which could be tricky.)

MOSTLY FILM: Back Issues

This is what two years worth of Sight & Sound magazines looks like in the Digital Archive. Which is all well and good, but I'd paid for 80 years worth.

Normally when I write a piece for Mostly Film, I'll also lash together a quick bit of supplementary material for this site, so I can get in some much-needed cross-promotion. If I've written about a film, I'll throw in some video links: if it's one of my Monoglot Movie Club jobs, I'll give you some travel tips about the country I was in. It's a formula that's worked well for the last eighteen months, but this week initially looked a bit more problematic.

I'm responsible for just under 50% of Back Issues, a new post that appeared on Europe's Best Website yesterday. In the first half, I have a rant about the BFI's new Digital Archive of their magazines Sight & Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin, and how it's virtually impossible to access even after you've paid for it: in the second half, Clio reviews the archive itself, from the point of view of someone who has access even though they haven't paid for it at all. You can see the problem - it's a review of a website, and not even a website that I can see properly. What sort of backup material can I produce for that?

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A Krampus Carol

Seasons Greetings from me and The Belated Birthday Girl: to celebrate, here's a happy little tale for the kiddiewinks. (And in case you think that the guy who wrote that is some sort of psycho, he's also done this. Pass it on.)

MOSTLY FILM: Man vs. Chick

The logo's still under construction: in the meantime, here's Mr Moth's excellent image for Mostly Film's holding page, a Wordle constructed out of various people's suggestions for the site title The story so far. A month or so ago, The Guardian closed down all of its talkboards with literally no warning. Opinion is still split as to why this happened - most theories involve the intervention of lawyers at a very high level, so let's play it safe and not go any further into that. But this action left several groups of people high and dry, including the Film Unlimited crew that I'd spent many happy years with both online and offline.

People moved fast during that first weekend after the closure, and within 48 hours many of the regulars were gathered on a temporary messageboard wrapped in metaphorical blankets and sipping on virtual cups of hot sweet tea. And the question was asked: where do we go from here? The temporary board was all well and good, but it was a private affair limited solely to members of the old FU environment. One of the things that made FU so vibrant was that it was linked to an established media outlet: people came to read reviews and articles on the Guardian site, noticed that there were discussion boards attached, and stayed to chat. If we were just a talkboard with no articles to talk about, we'd die out pretty quickly.

So... welcome to Mostly Film.

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Film Unlimited 1998-2011

#RIPfu Looking at it one way: you can't deny that Film Unlimited had a good innings. When The Guardian's film talkboard finally shut up shop on February 25th 2011, it had been in operation for coming up to thirteen years, and had been in a virtually unchanged format for the last twelve of those. How many other websites do you know that have stayed that stable for that long? If you accept my previously stated hypothesis that internet years are the same as dog years, then 13x7 adds up to a long and venerable lifespan. We should all stand in admiration of its longevity.

Looking at it another way: imagine Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger stabbing your 91-year-old granny in the throat with a broken chianti bottle until she dies. Because that's what it actually feels like.

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Monkeys On Demand

Yes, I know she's an orang-utan rather than a monkey. Shut up.We've just passed the eleventh anniversary of the launch of digital film distribution in the UK - Toy Story 2 came out on February 4th 2000, and appeared in digital form in a grand total of three cinemas. I remember the scare stories about how they had to keep a 35mm copy of the film in the projection booth at the Odeon Leicester Square, for those occasions when the hard disk version crashed. But, as a distribution technology, it's matured: a large number of upcoming UK releases have that tell-tale (D) next to their title, and the absence of physical prints has subtly skewed the way in which film distribution works. More and more big films are getting UK releases on the same day as the rest of the world: more and more small films are able to get a reasonable showing across the arthouse circuit, without the crippling expense of making copies and shipping them from town to town.

But all of this counts for nothing if you don't actually have an arthouse cinema close to you. Which is why I think that Curzon On Demand is a major step forward.

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Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly. Meanwhile, Here's Ponyo On A Boat.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Three weeks into the new year, and there's been no activity since the usual first-of-the-month post. "Pressure of work" is a bit of a cliche to use in these circumstances, but it's true: I've barely had chance to draw breath over the past few weeks, and shouldn't really even be taking time out of my schedule to write this bit.

So, apologies for the lack of content here recently. There's definitely stuff in the pipeline, including the full story of our Christmas 2010 holiday (see if you can guess where we went this time), and the track listing for last year's Pick Of The Year CD. But you're used to those things appearing on here late, I guess.

To tide you over, with acknowledgements to the mad editing skillz of The Switcher, here's a video that cheered me up no end when I first saw it. If you fall inside the tiny Venn diagram overlap between fans of Hayao Miyazaki and fans of The Lonely Island, it may cheer you up too. Everyone else, on the other hand, will probably just be very very confused. Enjoy!