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Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Curse of Wizzard

“It does seem really hard to get consumers to do the right thing. It is stupid that we use two tons of steel, glass, and plastic to haul our sorry selves to the shopping mall. It's stupid that we put water in plastic bottles in Fiji and ship it here.”
- John Doer

Me vs Street Shopping - The Battle Begins

I like to think that I am in touch with my so-called feminine side, but even I struggle to meet the metrosexual fashion of loving the shopping experience. The street shopping experience for me, which hasn't happened properly in a long time, is typically faced with "weekend eyes". I am tired and unenthusiastic. Arguments with partners nearly always inevitably arose from shopping excursions. It is a constant theme with me, so the blame probably rests squarely on my shoulders and I acknowledge it. I clearly do not want to be there and my every action is a move to get to the checkout and away from the place. When it comes to most types of street shopping I want to go in and get what I came for.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Icon Series: Bram Stoker and Dracula

English: Bram Stoker (1847-1912), novelist bor...
English: Bram Stoker (1847-1912), novelist born in Ireland, author of "Dracula" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Seeing as Google has reminded me that it is Bram Stoker's 165th birthday, I almost felt obliged to put something up here on the bloke. He is not what I would consider to be an icon, but he certainly created one. The Dublin-born Stoker seems to be cast as a most unlikely candidate to pen one literature's most successful figures of the Gothic and the macabre. He was no Edgar Alan Poe in his lifestyle and psychology and, despite working in showbusiness, couldn't have been further from a Lord Byron. Being the business manager of the Lyceum theatre, accounts have him trying to impress and being totally dominated by the overbearing actor, Sir Henry Irving. However, Stoker was a close acquaintance of Oscar Wilde's - going back to their student days where Stoker had proposed him for membership to The Philosophical Society - and I heard once on a "South Bank Show" special documentary that Wilde had an affair with Stoker's wife. I am not sure what the evidence is for this claim, but Wilde was certainly a suitor for Florence Balcombe, a celebrated beauty of Victorian society. Wilde was apparently upset about Stoker marrying Florence, but later they reconciled and they remained friends even after Wilde's fall.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Remembering Extreme World Warfare Part II

It was October 1998 and I was stood dressed in a pirate costume complete with a polka-dotted handkerchief wrapped around my head and a live macaw on my shoulder. The business of supplying and training animals for the entertainment industry is a rocky ride with varying highs and lows. Some days you can be enjoying the company of the world's most celebrated stars. My father has been personally summoned to Prince Rainier's palace, John Cleese's London apartment and many other places to receive recognition for his work with the most dangerous and beautiful animals on the planet. Other times you are sitting on the set of a basement level budget production with a box full of moths. That night in October, I and two female employees of my parents had been booked to appear at the 21st birthday party of a millionaire's daughter. Under a huge marquee an elaborate pirate party had been put together. The entrance to the event was off the end of a life-size replica ship, overhead there were fire-breathing entertainers on top of a specially constructed bridge and on the ground level paid actors walked amongst guests dressed as pirates and around tables decorated with "treasure chests." We were the parrot handlers, paid to walk around dressed like seafaring scallywags off a Christmas pantomime.

My mind wandered back to another time. Just two weeks ago my creation, "Dead Souls", the world's first Gothic martial arts act, had debuted in front of a shocked professional wrestling audience. Amid an array of lighting effects and pounding music, I, under the guise of the Spirit of Instinct, had done battle with The Gatekeeper in a routine that looked part ritual part fantasy performance with clashing blades, spinning high kicks and tumbling tricks. Nothing like this production had been presented before to a professional wrestling audience and certainly not a British one. It had become the climax of two exciting months of realising old dreams. My emotionally destructive relationship with my longest running girlfriend at the time had also been given its death stroke. I felt free and ready to explode with ideas and enthusiasm. The excitement of producing a show was over, but I, along with the wrestler, Stuart Allen, knew that there was a fantastic world out there to discover.

Then, just when I felt my soul being transported back to the cheering crowds and coloured lights, a voice broke through the haze. "Fetch me another ashtray." One of the many guests at the birthday party had mistaken me for being an elaborately dressed waiter. Keeping what little dignity I felt at the time I politely explained that I wasn't what she thought I was. At that very moment I was aware of a warm sensation creeping down my shoulder. The parrot had shit on me.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bring me Cordelia! (review of "Bright-Sided")

Cover of "Bright-sided: How the Relentles...
Cover via Amazon

Positive thinking has become so integrated into the value system of our modern culture, it might seem somewhat odd to find an argument against it. And yet that is exactly what Barbara Ehrenreich does. The release of this book, which was published as “Smile or Die” in the UK has corresponded with the publication of more bold books, willing to challenge the power of positive thinking. A little while back I read Steve Salerno’s unrelenting attack on the self-help movement, “SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless” and since then we have had “The Art of Failure: The Anti-Self Help Book” by Neel Burton. Even the great psychologist Richard Wiseman has taken positive thinking to task and looked at the real science behind self-help in “59 Seconds”, which came out the same year as “Bright-Sided”. This book was not an overt criticism of the self-help movement but rather a genuine attempt to use case studies, raw data and proven psychological methods to help people improve their lives. However, in keeping to the science Wiseman highlighted just how much of the self-help movement was bogus and even damaging. His first chapter, “Happiness”, began with a total debunking of positive thinking and revealed that far from being innocuous at worse, these techniques endorsed by the vast majority of the self-help movement could actually be harmful.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Remembering 'Extreme World Warfare' Part I

It seems very strange now looking back on the relatively brief time I was co-promoter of an extreme professional wrestling outfit. My life now is so different, that although I can see me back there and feel the energy I had then it just seems like another life altogether. What seems even stranger still was the path that led me there. Tell anyone now who either knows me through my work as a self-protection/martial arts coach or even through my current connections to showbusiness, that I was once a Gothic sword wielding wrestling manager that had a penchant for wearing red contact lenses, getting cut up with razor blades and barbed wire, and spewing Kensington Gore all over the place they are likely to ask “Is this the same Jamie Clubb we are talking about”. It’s no secret. I appeared in Combat martial arts magazine on the front cover with an eight page feature, covered in corpse paint and did the best I could to court media attention. And yet, years later I find myself training in an MMA gym in Birmingham and one of the receptionist starts teasing me as if this part of my history was comparable to being closet transvestite. A friend of mine pretty much summed up the incredulity of those that have known me since my days running a pro wrestling promotion are over: “Why Jamie? Why?”

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ten Must-See Movies

Quills (Image via

This isn't a top ten. I would find it very difficult to do that, as there are so many films that I, more or less, love equally. In fact, there are films missing from this that are certainly among my favourites, but I have covered them in my 10 favourite horror films list. So please see that for why I think "Psycho", "Jaws", "Nosferatu", "The Bride of Frankenstein" and "Silence of the Lambs" are masterpieces and would otherwise be on this list. There are no animated or children's films on here either, as I also think that "Watership Down", "The Secret of NIMH" and "Transformers: The Movie" probably need their place on a separate list.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Masters of Sitcom - Review

My first memories of the work of Alan Simpson and Ray Galton came in the form of a video rental my dad brought home to please my mum. I hadn’t a clue who Tony Hancock was and couldn’t understand the excitement. My mum and her cousins on the circus were huge fans of the Tony Hancock records and radio shows. They knew many of the scripts off by heart and would often fall into scenes at the drop of a hat. The only connection I made with the video was when Sid James popped up in “The Missing Page”. Terrestrial TV in the 1980s ensured that its children grew up on the entire “Carry On” collection. However, even then, I noticed that there was something about Hancock that seemed better than the very broad and brash strokes of the seaside postcard humour that these later films exhibited. Later I was introduced to “Steptoe and Son” on TV and couldn’t help but be drawn to its on-going comedy drama. Again, it seemed remarkable how it could pick such a depressing setting and even creepiness and yet make it so funny. Fast forward a few years and we had just moved into our cottage on the farm. It was the night of the terrible and under-anticipated hurricane. Mum had bought the first set of BBC released audio recordings of “Hancock’s Half Hour” and we had a battery powered tape recorder to listen to them on. Since then the Hancock radio work especially has been a source of comfort to me. It has accompanied me on long car journeys, recovering in hospital (appropriately listening to “The Hospital Visit” episode for the first time) and it has got me through some tough emotional times too.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Flesh and the Fiends - an under-rated classic

Cover of "The Flesh and the Fiends"
Cover of The Flesh and the Fiends
So, yet another friend of mine said they hadn't heard of this picture, 1. Like me, he thought Donald Pleasence was a very under-rated actor. However, he had not seen this, perhaps one of his greatest performances. Unfortunately the film, much like Pleasence, has been dismissed into the sub-genre it was marketed under. My feelings on marketing art are a sensitive issue with me at the moment, but I will address that another day. Anyway, this film is a classic example of a product that is far more than its lowest common denominator promotion would lead you to believe...

 "The Flesh and the Fiends" was the second British feature film to tackle the real life horror story of 19th century murderers, William Burke and William Hare. These Edinburgh multiple killers were responsible for murdering 16 confirmed victims, which they then sold to Dr Robert Knox for his anatomy lectures. How much Knox suspected that the gruesome twosome's "products" were murder victims is a matter for speculation and it has helped turn the story into a Faustian fable. This is largely down to movies such as this. In fact, this is perhaps the one that really put the idea across. 1948's ultra low budget "The Greed of William Hart" did not present a very sympathetic Dr Knox at all. Peter Cushing who could play both an evil and a good Dr Frankenstein for the Hammer films, was the perfect person to take on the role.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Reflecting on 2011

Image by Groume via Flickr

2011 was a year of beginnings for me with many long sought after ideas coming into physical fruition and the bones being laid for 2012’s major projects.

The Gate House

I could hardly say anything about achievements in 2011 without mentioning the completion of our house. January 2011 saw my immediate family and I huddled in a stationary caravan (wagon to us show folk). Outside the snow had been relentless. We were stranded on my parents’ exposed hilltop due to our local lanes