Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Fuck you Sir Anthony!

by Ted Hoffman

We at Little Man What Now have a long history at the forefront of defending free speech. From the first issue of The Little Man satirical quarterly featuring an (admittedly not-very-funny) cartoon, in which the prophet Muhammad rides a penny farthing, that got our offices at the old Liberal club firebombed. To our final days as a published magazine, when, after printing a version of the Aristocrats joke featuring former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden and family, we found ourselves up against the might of the British legal establishment.

Then, as always, we shrugged our collective shoulders, doused our flaming attire, paid bail and got on with the job. It should therefore come as no surprise that we throw our support behind Amnesty's irrepressible.info campaign, regardless of any left wing subtext they try and sneak into it.

Monday, 30 October 2006

The Future of TV for £184.65

by Charles Pooter

Last year I said:

"So what do I want from digital TV? Well first and foremost I'm a cheapskate, so that rules out Sky+ or indeed anything with a monthly subscription. Obviously I evade the BBC's TV tax (on principle you understand), so for me that makes Freeview completely free. However what I really want is a Freeview PVR box with two tuners and a decent EPG. Ideally I also want a DVD burner built in, so programmes can be "backed-up" to DVD whenever I feel like it. So far, such a thing does not exist, but surely it's only a matter of time?"
Well I was right, it was only a matter of time. I've just ordered a Humax PVR-9200T:

It's not a very attractive beast, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in saving me from crap TV.

This the Sky+ of digital terrestrial without the standing order to Mr. Murdoch's current account. An electronic program guide will let me decide what I want recorded at the start of the week, then the box will grab the unadulterated digital mpeg stream from the airwaves and dump it onto it's hefty hard drive. Not only that but it'll record two programs on two different channels at once. Not only that but it'll let me watch what I've already recorded whilst recording those two channels. Goodbye adverts. Goodbye random-reality-TV-crap.

There's no built-in DVD recorder, but it will let me copy the programs to my PC via USB2 cable if I so wish. From there they can be easily dumped to DVD. Surely it's only a matter of time before everyone has got one of these things or something like it. What happens to TV then?

I'll let you know if the box turns out to be everything it promises, when I get it.

Mouse dies screaming

by Edwin Hesselthwite

“They mostly come at night... mostly.”

After a night of rattling and gnawing I am sure that my flat has, yet again, attracted a rodent.

“Nk Nk Nk”

Lying sleepless in my bed I transcribe the little fucker's bizarre sounds, my mind centred on tearing his noisy little mammalian form into fragments. I have no problem living with invertebrates: it is known to me how many mites my bed, clothes and body are covered in, and I tolerate spiders as they devour the biggest of these – this is inevitable and you should not deceive yourself that you are clean… Members of the phylum Chordata are different, as far as I am concerned there is room for only one mammal here – and that is me.

In a previous, mixed gender, flat we had a similar problem. Here, my intentions to buy a mouse repeller – the ultrasonic emitters that smash into their tiny eardrums causing them grinding pain until they run from your home – were overruled. No, we must have a “humane mousetrap” and release them into a distant park where they can frolic and play on the meadows.

So, with one perspex prison erected in our kitchen, with a lump of peanut-butter as bait we promptly forgot about our verminous houseguest. It was only when the musky smell began to dominate that enlightenment came to my benevolent housemates.

A mouse form, already decaying, was trapped behind the swing-bin in the “humane mousetrap”, there was no peanut-butter there, and no water at all. His facial expression could no longer be determined, but on close inspection I have convinced myself I saw the impressions on the inside of his plastic tomb. A million tiny claw scrapes, his thin flexible claws barely able to get any purchase on the polished plastic, as he struggled to escape from his Poe-like demise.

Now, I do believe I must go through this process again. But this time I will not be deceived, the mouse traps must have traditional decapitating springs and blades – it’s the only humane thing to do.

Friday, 27 October 2006

A day in the life

by Ted Hoffman

I found this idea from the National Trust from a few days ago . People around the country were encouraged to upload their account of the 17th of October 2006 for the purposes of compiling together a "fascinating social history archive" of everyday life that would be stored for posterity in the British Library.

Not only is the possibility of decent information about 2006 daily life being lost forever miniscule; I suspect ill-conceived news group posts, local fun run finishing times and a whole heap of other crap will haunt Google long after we and the British Library are gone.

A brick thick tome of burgeoning insanity

by Edwin Hesselthwite

"I still get nightmares..." - The first sentence of House Of Leaves

LMWN has experienced some shame for approaching a figure like Dave Eggers of McSweeney’s fame with less respect than his eminent literary status deserves. This author’s opinion was formed almost exclusively by his breakthrough work – A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius (published in March 2000). AHWOSG is an extremely well written memoir (although it is rich with a Generation X sentiment no longer appropriate post-9/11) with a million stylistic intricacies and publishing tricks that allow it to tower over the genre; some over effusive critics at the time compared it to James Joyce. For me, the problem with it is two-fold. 1) it is quite self satisfied with the worst second half to a book I’ve encountered since Huxley’s Brave New World. 2) it had the poor fortune to be released in the same week as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House Of Leaves.

House of Leaves is a novel so unusual that there is almost no baseline for comparison. On first inspection it’s horror with some really strange ideas about publishing formatting (some of the pages are printed upside down, and some have but one word per page), on second inspection it is a multilayered work with at least 3 independent but interwoven narratives that centre on a horror-movie about the ultimate haunted House. On later study it becomes clear that this involved such a massive amount of sheer work that you could spend a PhD trying to decrypt all the subterfuge.

Page 134 of HoL - when the showy textual stylisation gets really wierd.

The central story is about a horror movie released much like The Blair Witch Project, using cheap film making technology - The Navidson Record. It is the story of Navidson, a film maker who discovers his new house no longer obeys the rules of reality, with distances changing and shifting at the will of the House itself. Far more than being merely haunted, The House just might be the entire universe embodied. Overlaid on this is the story of Zampano, a blind man who is writing an epic academic work about the film. This is trapped within the story of Johnny Truant, a psychologically disturbed tattooist who stumbled upon Zampano’s works after the old man expired – Truant can find no record of this film ever existing.

Personally, I happened to come across this novel the weekend my paternal grandfather passed on, and I immersed myself inside its gothic walls for 3 days – the perfect escapism at the time. Danielewski is continuously intentionally cryptic, filling the book with the sort of lies and false academic stylings that have led him to be compared to Borges and Kafka. In my imagination he either lives in a dark American gothic cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, or spends his days as a besuited investment banker never admitting to his night time ravings as the mad scientist of literature. The primary question one asks of a book with this many stylistic innovations is “how the hell did he go about writing it?” In my mind the only way this is possible is that there are 3 novels here which have all been abandoned and woven together. The Navidson Record must exist as a novel in Danielewski’s basement – it’s just that he hasn’t used a single word of it in HoL. It is an absolutely massive amount of work- and it is flawed. But when I say flawed I mean only in the way Citizen Kane is flawed ("Hey, wait a second, how do these characters remember being in places they never were?") - it's a work of such ambition that it can't possibly pull it all off. So, to admit to its failings - The Johnny Truant sections do on occasion come across as overly adolescent, and the structure to bond the three sections together sometimes gets a little weak. It is a massive book - and this is probably what dissuades so many readers (I own two copies, one for mine and one for lending, I know from experience that many people never get around to starting it). Don’t let this put you off – the nature of the publishing stunts involved means this book is twice as big as it’s words should lead it to be, further it has a significant appendix at the end that fills a role similar to Lord Of The Ring's The Silmarillion - drawing out the myths in fascinating detail for those who cant pull themselves free of the books core ideas.

I have no idea why Dave Eggers went on to massive fame for what is fundamentally a very clever Douglas Coupland derivative, while HoL sank without trace into the status of “cult book”. My knee-jerk reaction would be that it was snobbery about genre-fiction, since the two books are attempting such similar tasks, and HoL is so vastly superior at doing exactly what Eggers is trying to do. To be fair it might be that literary critics don't come to novels wanting to be scared, and therefor the book lost its impact for them; like Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse 5 it may be 15 years before this gets its due credit. Danielewski finally, after 6 years of my desperate waiting, released his follow up work Only Revolutions on the 12th of September - my copy is on it's way from Amazon, and it has already been nominated for awards. Typically for Danielewski there is a massive, incredibly clever, incomprehensible website for OR to be found here, and in a further piece of recent publicity Isis, the smartest act in metal, have sited HoL as a primary influence on their new (knowing them, concept) album, to be released this Monday, the 30th of October, under the title In The Absence Of Truth.

I strongly, strongly recommend getting a copy – masterpiece is the only word suitable for HoL. A word of warning - I once lent this to an acquaintance of mine with a reputation for speed reading. He resurfaced 2 days later, unshaven and weeping, demanding I never lend him fiction again - we've been close ever since.

Gothic like a supernova

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Epic monsters and hideously dull tiny adjustments - the movies of Ray Harryhausen

by Edwin Hesselthwite

“He opened a door on darkness, a voice cried - shut it!”

The first line of Tyrannosaurus Rex by Ray Bradbury

“Tyrannosaurus Rex” is included in the Bradbury collection The Machineries of Joy, it’s a story of a special effects master bullied by studio executives finding his work in celluloid and clay tainted by the process. Like all Bradbury it's rich with style and strong characterisation - its source material is transparently Bradbury's lifelong friendship with Ray Harryhausen and Rex is clearly nostalgic for his and Willis O’Brien’s work. I had another “shit, they’re both still alive?” moment while writing this piece; Bradbury is a hero of mine and it's comforting to know that both he and Harryhausen continue to walk this Earth.

Wooden actors, clay monsters, my first childhood memory - click for trailer.

When I imagine Harryhausen at work I see a box-like workshop with spot lighting focusing on a foot high creation - Hollywood's monsters existed there as articulated steel skeletons supporting clay and silicone flesh. Romance dictates that Harryhausen must have been a smoker, like Bogart, at the time - with his cigarette clamped between his lips, he makes minute refinements to his creation's facial expression, some hideous oriental spirit, the hot lights drawing sweat from his brow.

In the field of analog special effects Harryhausen's position is unassailable. Youtube has approaching a complete collection of Harryhausen movie trailers if you need to be reminded: science fiction, dinosaurs, and epics were his stock in trade. From Mighty Joe Young (1949), his and Willis O’Brien’s follow up to King Kong, to the end of the art in Clash Of The Titans (1981) Harryhausen was Hollywood's resident genius for movies where a stop motion creation interacted with live actors. The credits on his films suggest he always worked solo, saying simply "Special Effects: Ray Harryhausen". All of these films feature more special effects than purely stop motion, in a Harryhausen movie there are always fireballs, lightening and ray gun blasts to mix up the action. There is more to this stop motion than the cartoon like work that is the domain of Nick Parks's Aardman Animations or Tim Burton, where reality and physics are compromised. Harryhausen's art was trying to make stop motion and analog film editing look genuine enough to hit an audience in the guts. Among his most famous creations is Telos, the bronze giant in Jason And The Argonauts, which has an aspect like Jim Cameron's Terminator - an unstoppable, expressionless, killing machine.

Holy American Jesus No! Space Commies - click for trailer!

Harryhausen wasn't a director, and rarely more than associate producer on his productions, so while each of his films is remembered primarily for his special effects marvels - which he needed massive directoral control in order to make successful - the rest of the film process tends to suffer. He didn't care much for script quality or sophistication (The Valley of Gwangi is completely, but charmingly, incoherent - Cowboys and Dinosaurs?), and the actors are often treated as little more than cattle. Thus, while his films feature jaw dropping stop-motion (take a look at the detail of the dinosaurs in the One Million Years B.C. trailer, it contains the definitive T.Rex meets Triceratops battle, a classic Hollywood image) it’s very difficult to take them as seriously as they deserve. Each scene represents hundreds of hours of tiny tweaks to masterpieces of clay sculpture, and a massive effort in order to get the camera and lighting for filming the live action identical to that for the animation.

Plucky Earth elephant fights Venusian scum - click for trailer!

Works in this position fascinate me; there are moments in development where technology reaches an inventive peak and then progresses down a parallel path (in this case CGI). This leaves behind achievements that will never be surpassed, works that have become redundant. There are other films before modern effects that blow you away, the 50's War Of The Worlds is jaw dropping, as is 2001 : A Space Odyssey. But these are a different sort of effects - puppets and models - not mixing actors with miniatures. Jason And The Argonauts, regarded by Harryhausen as the best film he ever did, is the pinnacle of a redundant art - stop motion's Citizen Kane. Stand it next to later analog special effects movies, such as Christopher Reeve's Superman Movies, and this film isn't outclassed at all. There's something that fills me with wonder about these movies, they are some of Hollywood's grandest attempts to put massive scale onto the movie screen. The Sinbad movies are every bit as epic as Spartacus, Ben Hur or Gladiator - just as important to defining the era of The Bomb. I intend to do a piece on a similar phenomenon soon - The Curta Calculator, the last mechanical hand calculator, but I suspect regular readers may already realise how reliable I am when it comes to fulfilling my writing plans.

So, Ray Harryhausen, eh? Rouwr!!!

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Taxi Drivers and their Mobiles

by Ted Hoffman

I haven't seen it so much over in the UK, but in my experience virtually every taxi driver in the US speaks on their mobile (hands free) continuously during a journey. Most of them being immigrants do this in their native tongue so the passenger has no idea what they are talking about. It can be more than a little confusing when they switch between talking to you their passenger back to their friend on the phone.

It is perhaps discourteous of them, unlike others though I can't say it overly bothers me, but I do wonder who they are speaking to. I assume it must be other taxi drivers, nobody else surely has the time or inclination. I wonder if they set up little conference calls with a group of cabbies on any particular call. Or maybe they pair off and just speak to the same friend all day, swapping every now and again. I'm glad I'm not that bored.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Remember, Remember the 15th of October

by Charles Pooter

And so it begins. Tonight I heard the first banger of the season. The 5th November "festivities" now seem to stretch from mid-October until the end of November as far as local yoofs are concerned. I can now look forward to evenings filled with minor explosions and the slight possibility of getting an egg or incendiary device thrown at me as I walk down the street. Oh well, what goes around comes around.

A typical South London yoof and friends getting ready for Guy Fawkes night

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Quote of the Day

by Charles Pooter

"You've got a deathwish I tell you"
- Yasmin Alabi Brown to Marcus Brigstocke on The Late Editon tonight after the airing of a sketch involving three, apparently Muslim, women rhythmically blowing their veils away from their faces in time to Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz.

I winced as the sketch was shown. Alabi-Brown looked shocked. Brigstock looked genuinely scared for a second after her comment. Good. I've always found him a bit smug.

Hoffman Guts British Libel Laws

by Charles Pooter

No, not our own Ted Hoffman, but Lord Hoffman, along with the other Law Lords, has ushered in a new era of free speech. Ruling against a dodgy Arab who was trying to bankrupt a newspaper for daring to tell everyone he was dodgy, Hoffman has created a new public interest defence. The article in question may not have been 100% true, but that does not matter, because in Hoffman's words "[it] was a serious contribution in measured tone to a subject of very considerable importance."

This is great news. The libel laws in the UK have always been overly-draconian and are routinely used by the rich and powerful to crush those who reveal their dealings. I'm greatly looking forward to seeing what revelations will emerge when US-style lax libel laws are combined with British investigative journalism.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Work in Britain

by Charles Pooter

Monday, 9 October 2006

Commuter Rage commited to verse

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Today, we again attempt to bring new breadth to our displays of creativity, the new string on our bow? Poetry:

A Poem in Bank Tube Station's Honour, By Edwin Hesselthwite

- -
The Central line,
The District and Circle lines,
The contortions of the separate limbs of the Northern Line,
Meeting in one spot, beneath Capitalism’s dark heart and birth.



Labyrinthine, dirty, convoluted and dim.



May your architect dwell in Malebolge amongst the seducers and the flatterers.

- -

Little Man What Now continues to bring you the fruits of its authors' wisdom - we apologise for our inability to write poetry for shit, and our total lack of understanding of metre.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

Now That's What I Call Little Man, What Now Volume 1

by Charles Pooter

A compilation of some Little Man What Now posts from early 2005:

Skiing in Poland, & the EU - January 2005
Random observations about UK digital TV - February 2005
Bird on stick - February 2005
Living it up - February 2005
Nanny State dishes up Porridge to 31 stone man - February 2005
Snooker - February 2005
Commies are cool - March 2005
One in seven UK children in poverty: bullshit! - March 2005
Ancient & modern no. 1: The Sportsman - March 2005
Won't someone please think of the lobsters? - March 2005

...and some draft titles that didn't make it:

Cure for cancer?
Message to Doctors: Shut the hell up!
Lord Rumney and a Hippo
Taxonomy of stuffed animals and musical instruments at the Horniman musem

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

The Illuminatus Primus Falls On Hard Times

by Charles Pooter

Robert Anton Wilson, photo courtesy of Robert Altman

One of my favourite books is a brick-thick tome of nonsense known as The Illuminatus! Trilogy. As lengthy, late 20th century, libertarian-esque fiction goes, it is the Yang to Atlas Shrugged's Yin. The book follows the adventures of the Discordians, led by the pirate Hagbard Celine (complete with Yellow Submarine), who battle against the Illuminati's plans to immanentize the eschaton (bring about the end of the world). The book ties together just about every counter-cultural idea, occult imagining and conspiracy theory into a 805 page romp of sex, drugs and rock & roll. It's great fun, but it also messes with your head.

The author of the book is Robert Anton Wilson. Mr. Wilson has also written many other influential books about psychology, the nature of reality and other deep and interesting topics, which I intend to read when I get around to it (and want my conciousness expanding some more).

Unfortunately Mr Wilson has recently fallen on hard times. He has had health problems and is having trouble paying his rent. As I bought my copy of Illuminatus! second-hand, I felt I owed him a quid or two and so donated according to the instructions on this site. If you've also had your mind altered by his writings, you can too.

An Addictive Little Game

by Charles Pooter

Don't click unless you have time to waste.

Kill All Humans - Amazing Tales of Science Fiction Wonders

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Today, we at LMWN are going to try something new. Below, we include a short, and deeply moving, work of science fiction amongst our usual programming. It is written from the view of the protagonist, and our poor protagonist only has a vocabulary of three words (although I am sure he has saws, blades and lasers to make up for these disadvantages). Far be it from me to say there can be no ghost in the machine, and in this case our poor protagonist tries valiantly to rebel against the fate set out for him by his unknown inventors - I give you:

Human Killing, by Edwin Hesselthwite*





Kill all humans.

Kill all humans?

all humans?


Kill all humans.




Sad, isn't it, to see a victim of circumstances out of their control?

* Inspired by Bender from Futurama.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

A blanket denial

by Edwin Hesselthwite

There is nothing quite as profitable for a fledgling publication as an accusation it can forcefully and authoritatively deny. With a good, strong denial a small fish can demonstrate it's intellectual integrity, commitment to honesty and its loathing of sources of ill repute.

With this in mind, LMWN has recently been considering denying roles in the Kennedy assasination, involvement in Diana's death, leaking David Kelly's name to the media and even the Great Fire of London. However, any denials of major recent historical events would tie us into past news. Further, the current Blair/Brown/Cameron drama is far too tedious for us to besmirch our public name with a denial (LMWN would like to make it clear it does NOT deny involvement in a letter by 7 juniour ministers threatening to resign if... We'd rather pull out our chipped and yellowing toenails with pliers.)

We then considered a fruity literary denial - suggesting that LMWN was the work of Dave Eggers to demonstrate his mastery of British English along with his acknowledged dominance of the American literary scene... LMWN is absolutely not the product of the team behind McSweeney's. Nor is LMWN the latest elaborate work of Banksy. We speculated on these more generic art anarchist ideas for a good long while.

But, in all honesty this is not what LMWN is here for. We aren't a clever and zany collective of unemployed art school graduates. Nor are we a publication of Economist/BBC like grandeur besieged by a corrupt executive. Thus, with our options for a denial limited, LMWN has settled on the idea of a simple blanket denial. Yes, a blanket denial - screw you Emmanuel Kant with your ideas about the fundamental value of pure reason. LMWN would like to deny everything.

Go back to bed.

Monday, 2 October 2006

Renew for Freedom (and to Save Money)

by Charles Pooter

This is a public service announcement for our British readers. It is not too late to renew your passport and avoid the increased fee and more importantly avoid inclusion on the National Identity Register. You must get your passport form in by 5th October. Go to the Post Office and send your form off today! Buy 10 years of freedom for £51:

London to Brighton in 2 Minutes

by Charles Pooter

As someone who has endured the London-Brighton train many times, I wish it really was this fast!:

High-resolution Quicktime movie on Robbie Allen's site here.
Found via B3ta.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Review: Extras Series Two, Episode Three

by Charles Pooter

Merchant and Gervais on the set of Extras Series Two

To my mind, a lot of the best humour in the previous episodes has centered around Andy Millman's fictional sitcom, When the Whistle Blows. That being the case, the beginning of Extras episode three is a treat: we get to hear Whistle's lame theme tune again ('...and fifty times a day I hear "you 'avin a laff?"...'), which this time is played over an even cheesier animated title sequence, then we get a couple of minutes of the Whistle episode. However Millman's sitcom is incidental to this episode, which we soon find out is about Millman's first new job offer after getting on TV. He's been invited to star in a film with the boy wizard Harry Potter or rather the actor Daniel Radcliffe (not "Billy Piper" as Millman's feckless agent initially reports).

Daniel Radcliffe's self-send-up is a rather predictable affair. He's a teenage lothario who carries around an unwrapped condom and a packet of Marlboros to "impress" the ladies. His scenes with Maggie, Andy, Diana Rigg and others are quite funny, but I didn't find them laugh-out-loud hilarious as I did with the David Bowie and Keith Chegwin scenes in the previous episodes. On the set of the movie, Millman is introduced to "short person" actor Warwick Davies (star of Willow and Return of the Jedi). Millman does a double-take when he's then introduced to Warwick's statuesque wife. At this point we realise we are in familiar Gervais territory: disability-based comedy. I'm not saying that Gervais likes to mock the disabled, but he has shown that he can write funny dialogue based around characters' reactions to people who are different. This can either be the verbal knots into which people like David Brent or Maggie tie themselves, attempting to be politically correct, or the outrageous comments of characters who lack any sensitivity. When Millman's agent Darren Lamb, played by the ridiculously lanky Stephen Merchant, is introduced to the diminutive Mr. Davies, (Millman: "This is Warwick". Lamb: "Where?" Millman: "There!" Lamb: "Ooo midget!") we know we're going to get plenty of the latter and we do ... in spades.

Millman is dining with Maggie (a sign of things to come?) and is annoyed by a noisy child at a nearby table. Unbeknownst to Millman the boy has Down's Syndrome and Millman puts his foot in it during a confrontation with the boy's mother, who ends up leaving taking the child with her. Millman is mortified, but presumably thinks that this is the end of the matter. He couldn't be more wrong when, the next day, a tabloid reporter shows up trying to solicit a quote about the incident, putting words in Andy's mouth as he does so. Apart from some more Daniel Radcliffe scenes, the rest of the episode essentially revolves around Millman's vilification in the media. His offence gets more and more exaggerated in the media and his case isn't helped when his agent appears on Richard and Judy in an attempt to tell Andy's side of the story ("I defy anyone to identify from behind, you know, one of these mongoloids").

In conclusion: episode three of the second series of Extras was not up to the standard of the first two episodes, but was still very, very good. The last episode hinted at a darker seam of comedy and this didn't really follow up on that. Although Andy's celebrity continues to ruin his life, the tone of this episode was much lighter and Andy seems no further along, what appeared to be, an inevitable road to depression after his humiliations earlier in the series. There was too much reliance on celebrity cameos and the familiar Gervais-Merchant comedy of disability. This almost seemed like an episode from the first series, which is no bad thing, but the last two episodes were better than the first series and better than this episode.