Dec 18, 2013

Tis the season to watch corny movies about miracles and misers and last night I watched my first festive movie of the year, Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers (aka Babes in Toyland). It's typical Stan and Ollie stuff but set in the magical world of Toyland, and they're called Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee.

Stannie and Ollie are toymakers who mess up an order for Santa, making 100 six-foot soldiers instead of 600 one-foot soldiers, and get fired. This is the catalyst for a series of inevitably comic misadventures as they try to save the widow Mother Peep's house (which they also live in), and her daughter Bo, from the evil Silas Barnaby who owns the mortgage.


Stannie Dum and Silas Barnaby tie the knot


The film features every nursery rhyme character you could think of, a few musical numbers (it was based on an operetta) and a same-sex marriage, though surprisingly not between Ollie and Stan. There's also some interesting old school special effects, one of the things I love about the Laurel and Hardy movies, and a very scary mouse that looks like a Lynchian Mickey (which was apparently a monkey in a costume).


Monkey Mouse


There are plenty of good laughs in the movie and it would definitely make a fine addition to any collection of Christmas favourites, even if it's not as good as some of Stan and Ollie's other features.


Rating: A festive 4/5




Dec 10, 2013

For the last few months I've been working on the National Trust's E-Advent calendar for the South West, creating content which includes the words, most of the videos and some of the images. The following video is, for me, the holly sprig on top of a Christmas pudding that I've been contributing a few key ingredients to.



I travelled to seven National Trust places to make the video, where I filmed staff and volunteers singing 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' around a piano. Some places had pianists and where they didn't I stepped in to put my ivory tinkling skills to the test (and I really mean to the test as I'd never played with a large group of people before and wasn't used to playing a real piano).

Everywhere I went I felt we managed to conjure up some Christmas spirit even though it was mostly filmed in October and the time we had to get a good take was limited.

Not having attempted something like this before I was anxious about how it would turn out, as it was only possible to see how it worked when all the clips were in place. I also had no plan how to regulate the speed of each different performance. I decided not to worry about some technical aspects and to just make sure that each piano part was in the same key and that everybody was having fun.

I'm glad to say now that it all came together as I saw it in my head (whether that's a good thing or bad thing is for the YouTube trolls to decide), and I hope anyone watching gets a sense of the fun we had while making it. Merry Christmas!


Nov 19, 2013

Last year I was watching ‘Pawn Stars’ on the History Channel and was shocked to see Bob Dylan make a rare TV appearance on an episode of the reality show. Fan as I am of that program it was the last place I expected to see the legendary songsmith. It seems to have been more than an unplanned appearance now as Rick and Chumlee have returned the favour and turned up in Dylan’s latest, and revolutionarily interactive, music video for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.



That is very cool, but what’s even cooler is the incredible video itself. You’re put in control of a TV where the programming on each station is perfectly lip-synched to the song. Flip through each channel and in whatever show is on the dialogue is the words of the classic Dylan tune, you’ll never have the same experience twice.

Unfortunately the video isn’t embeddable as it’s worth watching, even if you’re not a Dylan fan. Even if you’re not a fan of music. Even if you’re not human. If you’re a thing that has eyes and ears and something to hit the up and down arrows with you should watch this video.



There are 16 channels altogether, with more to come, and one of them features the famous live performance of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ at the Royal Albert Hall. My personal favourites are Rick and Chumlee from ‘Pawn Stars’ on the Reality Check channel and the cartoon ‘Zoey and Socks’ on Just for Kids (I mean really, why is the cat floating?).

Kudos to whoever came up with this idea, seriously good moments when Rick lip-synched “ you want to make a deal?” and “’d better pawn it babe”.


Oct 9, 2013

There are many ways people amuse themselves in hotel rooms. For me two empty sugar packets, a mirror and a well-placed spotlight kept me entertained (at least briefly) in a Holiday Inn I was staying in last week.

When the spotlight was turned on a face appeared and I couldn’t resist adding a little expression.

Without the sugar packets the mirror merely looked surprised:



But thanks to the expressive power of my improvised eyebrows it became angry:



Then sad:



And then I contemplated using the Sharpie in my bag to give Mirror Man a moustache, but came to my senses.


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Mark is a freelance writer specialising in technology, television and social media, but is adept at writing about a range of different subjects and in different styles.

As well as writing Mark has experience of creating other forms of content for the web and print including photographs, videos and illustrations. 

Riding the Dartington Donkey
Iron Portal
High Cross Piano
National Trust - South West Christmas Card 2013
Banana Hair

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