Category Archives: Up from The Cape: An occasional journal

Up from the Cape: An occasional journal

You Are Go For Orbit


Up from The Cape: 16 March 2019

If rehearsing is an effective way of preparing for an actual event, what does it mean when someone has recurring dreams – especially about falling? That’s really a confusing question because most people don’t often rehearse falling – at least not consciously (unless they’re joining a circus as a clown). There aren’t many people who can rub their hands together and decide just before bed “Right! Tonight I’m going to dream about falling so I can experience fear and panic, and also become good at it.” By the way, if fear and panic rings your bell, I’ve got just the thing for you. My shaving mirror may not be inherently dangerous, but what I see in it every day increasingly frightens me.

In the early 1970s some of the astronauts on Skylab (the first American low Earth orbit space station) found they awoke in a panic occasionally due to the ever-present sensation of falling. If you’re in space, unless you’re experiencing acceleration or deceleration, it feels literally like you’re falling – all of the time. That’s because you are. The conscious mind can adjust to this, but it takes the unconscious mind longer to adapt. In orbit you’re falling with forward momentum of 17,500 mph without air resistance. Because of that momentum you travel so far so fast that the surface of the Earth always curves down away from you as you continue to fall forward. That for practical purposes, is an orbit.

The sense of physical threat associated with falling and falling and falling triggers an occasional panic reaction in some people when they’re asleep. It’s something I’ve also been through, but in my case only on trains when they jolt unexpectedly – most often if I’ve slept on past my stop. When that happens my confused and abrupt awakening has a cattle-prod aspect to it, and probably models the Skylab experience in its essential details, though obviously without me being in low Earth orbit. That’s too far outside of the travelcard zones I’ve got a ticket for.

I also used to encounter the cattle-prod effect in the days when I worked in a corporate environment. It happened most commonly if I had to attend post-lunch meetings. Recollection of these post-lunch meetings was of distant droning voices interrupted by my irregular blackouts. It was an experience punctuated by helpful digs in the ribs from the person sitting next to me as my head listed over in slack-jawed slow motion, or I sagged forwards gradually like someone who’d just been shot by a sniper with a silencer. I’d have been useless on a committee in those days, unless it was for the obvious utility of the gavel-like thud of my forehead hitting the table periodically.

It’s easy to understand why a constant sensation of falling while in orbit triggers a panic “wake-up” call. That’s evolutionary self-preservation at work, probably drawn from our origins as tree-dwelling fruit eaters. Coincidentally I knew a couple of boys like that at school, though one of them preferred a window-ledge to trees. It’s harder to explain why it happens in bed on Earth, because it does to some people. Technically, the Earth is also falling, so in that respect, subconsciously, it may feel like being in a very big lift that’s just had it’s cables cut. If that is the reason, or it’s that our galaxy is falling off into space as well, with its cables cut, there’s not going to be an easy solution. Tablets probably won’t help either. There’s something much more fundamental at work here than car-sickness. Everything’s always moving. Being stationery is an illusion. Just because that’s hard to believe doesn’t mean it won’t seem real when you’re trying to sleep. Sometimes the numbers on my electricity bill look like total fantasy, but that doesn’t put off the energy company; it still demands the money promptly as if the bill were real.

When the sensation of falling is purely a metaphoric one instead of a real one, it’s a new sort of problem to grapple with. Again there’s an incident this touches on that reminds me of my dreary corporate days. Looking back I can see now that my attention span was inadequate to make a go of the corporate world. Predictably, it came to a head when I sent out an email to a group of ten people in which I’d made reference to how having to work on some dull minutes of a lengthy meeting had chloroformed my brain. A moment’s inattentiveness, as they say, can lead to a lifetime of regret. Laziness, disinterest, or sentient fingers with a sense of mischief led me to substitute the word “brian” for “brain”.

For days afterwards colleagues revelled in my evident embarrassment – asking me repeatedly if my brian had woken up yet after being chloroformed. Usually I knew when to expect this. Whenever I saw a cluster of grinning colleagues huddled together at the other end of a corridor, and glancing my way, I braced for the inevitable. My colleagues always looked like cheerful hyenas who’d just stumbled on some road-kill. They were filled with evident glee in anticipation of a feast at my expense. I often smiled back, but it was a hollow mechanical smile, bare of genuine warmth. It was only window dressing for my growing sense of malevolence towards them, and dark thoughts of revenge. I could never hear the silly chatter of their voices; all I heard was the distant thumping of war drums.

During this episode, mine was the sort of expression you don’t want to see on anyone’s face – especially if they’re armed, which fortunately I was not. If you see a face like that, you should leave immediately. For anyone still waiting for the lift to arrive as they jab at the button like a woodpecker, looking back over their shoulder as the lengthening shadow of their predator draws closer, they’ll probably be thinking about the stairs. By then of course it’s too late. This is a story that never ends well unless the lift arrives in time to avert a tragedy.

Attack of the Intelligent Mud


Up from The Cape: 4 March 2019

Anyone who can’t remember a time before Facebook existed will probably benefit from skipping this piece. It’s filled with references to a period of human history called the 1950s and 60s. For the social media generation that will be about as relevant and meaningful as The Roman Empire.

I’m usually disdainful of hoarders, but I wonder if I really should be more tolerant. I’ve been going through my DVD recordings and discovered an early pre-Dracula Hammer film I’d hoarded called “X – The Unknown.” It’s  a pretty commonplace monochrome 1950s story about living intelligent mud that erupts from a fissure in a quarry. Being an apex predator it consumes anyone it discovers not paying attention while it forages to satisfy its own bloated self-serving appetite – somewhat reminiscent of the way mainstream media conducts itself these days. It feeds on radioactive material, and any cheap screaming actors who get in the way.

This is not what I’d describe as a trip down memory lane for me. It’s a story off on one of those barren tracks that end at a rusting abandoned car and tangled undergrowth. What follows are some of the more memorable sights along the way. It’s not in any sense a review, though I do offer a blizzard of personal opinions throughout, for whatever they’re worth. Think of it as “a day out in the 1950s” with a few pictures for illustration.

Below a very young Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope from “Randall & Hopkirk [Deceased]”) is saying “Please Sir – I haven’t had a turn yet”. He means a turn on the Geiger counter rather than having a fit. Note also that as this was a Hammer film, there’s the inevitable presence of Michael Ripper, still at this stage evolving into the ” Coachman” or “Innkeeper” roles he nailed down later. He’s looking doubtful about the whole thing. You can imagine him thinking to himself “I’m in the wrong bleedin’ century I am – where’s me coach an’ ‘orses?”

Mr Grimsdale from Norman Wisdom films turned up as (of all things) the head of an Atomic Research Establishment – on this occasion without Norman Wisdom to look after the atomic pile. Perhaps on balance that was for the best.

An improbably youthful Frazer Hines found time from his school day to appear for a short while. He only seemed capable of repeating “ah cannie….ah cannie” when asked what he and his friend had been up to the previous night (how many public figures have been asked that to their shame?). This is the face he had on him when an adult said “But that was when Willie was fit and healthy wasn’t it?” His answer in 1950s British film industry Scots was “We went ooooot to the toooowerrrr in the marrrrshes.” Pray that isn’t a euphemism.

Below, Mr Grimsdale tried to entertain the actor Leo McKern by standing in front of him like an enormous surreal chess-piece that thinks it’s just won the game. McKern for his part was probably dreaming of better material (and actors) to work with. The distant look on his face is a bit of a clue.

After a sterile closed-mouth kiss, this Lothario (below) said what anyone with a nurse in his arms and a stirring somewhere else would say: “Darling…..why didn’t we start doing this earlier?” Did men really say “darling” when they were squeezing a nurse in the 1950s? I can’t remember. I was too young.

Mr Lothario came to a nasty end after the appearance of Private Fraser’s “slithery thing” from “Dad’s Army.”

The nurse didn’t look too happy either. Because it’s a tight camera shot she has to scream with her hands clawing up against her face (I bet women can confirm there have been wedding nights like this). The image I’m referencing is at the top of this piece.

Anthony Newley put in a passing appearance as a gore-blimey guv’nor squaddie with an edgy central casting Scots squaddie friend. Predictably his Scots friend was called “Haggis” (or ‘Aggis” as Newly truncated it affectionately). The image below reveals the moment when Newley fell prey to “shouting the same word repeatedly” disease. He kept bellowing “‘Aggis………..’Aggis………..’Aggis” into the darkness of a muddy field. I suppose that’s what bored soldiers had to do for entertainment before games on smartphones.

The film also had a stern public address system announcer at the Atomic Research Establishment, though she was only in spirit form (i.e. audio only). She sounded like the Queen would have if she’d been made to go out to work in the 1950s, and didn’t care if her subjects knew what she thought about it; rather cross.

The token American actor employed to improve the film’s chances of US distribution was Dean Jagger. He suffered from the common problem men on the phone had in 1950s films. He kept going deaf for the first part of a phone call, which compelled him to say “Where?” after being given a location. In this case saying “where?” coincided with him looking up when he’d been told that four people had just “been melted in a car”. Evidently he expected to find their remains on the ceiling. Not seeing them there he fumbled about and asked someone for a pencil, so he could write down the location of where the four people had been melted by the slithery thing. Surprisingly, to make a note of the location he seemed to do nothing but draw a single cross on the paper, like an illiterate yokel practising his signature. Then he asked Mr Grimsdale if he had a map. I couldn’t understand why. All he had for a location was the mark he’d made on an otherwise blank piece of paper. A map wasn’t going to help there.

Below – Police spot the slithery thing:

Eventually the principal cast subdued the slithery thing by using a standard portable radar-dish gizmo to which most 1950s monsters were susceptible. Unexpectedly, it was followed by an explosion that appeared to take the actors by surprise. They all stared towards smoke hanging over the set. Mr Grimsdale broke the silence and said “What was that?” – sounding genuinely puzzled. Dean Jagger looked equally confused and said in what sounded like an unscripted moment “I don’t know……but it shouldn’t have happened.” Leo McKern was speechless for a moment in a “thank God it’s almost over” sort of way. As the credits rolled, so was I.

Over sixty years ago, this would have been an evening out for some people, and a very quiet bus ride home afterwards. That journey home would have been spent in contemplation of whether it was time to think seriously now about committing to a newfangled thing called a television set. Ironically of course, that’s exactly where I saw X – The Unknown, decades after it may have driven some from the cinema into television’s treacherous embrace.

It’s been ten hours, and the Nazis still aren’t in power


Up from The Cape: 24 February 2019

I’ve been reading William Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”. It’s not a book that hides it’s subject behind a euphemistic title, so I won’t waste time explaining what it’s about. As Ronseal used to say about its products, it does what it says on the tin. What’s of immediate relevance is how the unfolding history of Nazi Germany has been a revelation to me.

The rise to power of the Nazis was neither inevitable, nor rapid. One evening I realised that I’d been reading the book on and off for about ten hours, and National Socialism still had yet to take power, though they had grown to become the largest single party in pre-war Germany. Along the way, their path was littered with the usual petty squabbles and casualties of any party on the rise. Hitler almost became one of those casualties when, leading an attempted coup in about 1925, he was the first to run for his life when the Police opened fire on his mob and killed several of them. School history makes it all seem a lot quicker and simpler. I suppose you had to be there to make sense of it all and appreciate the timeline, if not enjoy the ride.

Of necessity, history has to be compressed and simplified for school in a way that always leaves tremendous gaps. Along the way some significant nuanced detail gets lost. What we’re left with is a Twitter version of history – something one-dimensional that’s been reduced to a bare shouty minimum for the space and time available. It isn’t always helpful, because sometimes it can lead the unwary astray. I had a classmate when I was in my mid-teens who was a bit of a Third Reich fan. I can’t judge why he was a fan. That secret will probably have to remain with him. Perhaps like me he was an only child (though that never did me any harm I like to say in a shrill attention-seeking voice). It may be that sometimes there are aspects of history that appear glamorous over half a century on from the events. What I can say is, like the Nazi invasion of Poland that kicked off the second world war, my classmate’s interest in all things Third Reich had some unfortunate consequences for him too.

The universal consensus when I was at school was that Nazis were bad. All of the war films said so, along with boys’ war comics. Nazis said things like “ach!” or “himmel!” whenever they were jumped by a Spitfire, or a ruthless British Commando. They weren’t much good for anything beyond that unless it was delusional gloating over a tied-up hostage just before the hostage escaped. Against that background, I can’t begin to fathom why my classmate was so dazzled by the Third Reich, but it’s undeniable that he was.

One of the most reportable instances of Third Reich fandom getting a touch out of hand with my classmate, was an occasion when he took the Hitler Youth movement to heart and adopted it at school. When I was much younger, I’d worn a diagonal sash that looked like part of the Thunderbirds International Rescue uniform (or so I thought). I even wore it at school once. I think it’s excusable because I was about seven at the time, and besides International Rescue didn’t start world war two. What I never did, was try to make myself look like der Fuhrer. My classmate did.

For deeply unconscious reasons my classmate himself probably isn’t aware of even today (if he’s still with us), he “came out” as Hitler Youth briefly in a way that was impossible for anyone to ignore. It started when he snipped off a short length of black insulating tape in a physics lesson. It was about an inch wide. Then, looking perversely excited, as if he were a normal boy about to have his first grope behind the bicycle sheds, he coyly pressed the tape to the space directly below his nose to make it appear like a crude Hitleresque moustache. He then combed his hair over in a Hitleresque way. After a brief furtive glance from side to side to make sure he was being watched, he gave a classic Nazi salute. If he’d done it today the school would likely have been closed and the children compelled to undergo counselling. As it was, we were a hardier breed then. We just hooted and threw things at him.

Like most boys with a disposition in favour of fascism while living in a more liberal culture (if teenage boys can ever be said properly to have a liberal culture), things didn’t always go well for my classmate. An excessive interest in the Third Reich was something that inevitably bled through into other annoying behaviours. Thankfully it never included occupying France or organising mass rallies where he shouted a lot. I can’t say if that was an omnipresent feature of his dreams. If it was, we didn’t know about it. He was, however, inclined to heave about a large brief case filled with academic works about the Nazis. Partly because of this he walked a very fine line between being tolerated and punched. Predictably on occasion he would stray too far to the wrong side of the line, and then bear the immediate consequences.

On one memorable occasion after being especially pompous about something, he was stuffed into a stationery cupboard and locked inside – his muffled resentment giving joy to all as he complained bitterly about the cramped conditions and total darkness. On another, his bag was taken from his desperate clasping arms and emptied out of a second floor window. As his treasured academic Nazi works fluttered down onto the grass below, he actually turned crimson and went berserk, unfortunately to an appreciative cheering audience of baiting callous teenagers.

Later, thinking to get his revenge on the boys who had humiliated him, he presented himself at attention to one of the teaching staff and explained, with some sidelong gestures, that all his books had been emptied out of the window. He was asked if they’d been school books. In a “loyal party member who’s been wronged” sort of way he said “No – they’re my personal property sir”. He looked pointedly in our direction as he did this, incorrectly sensing victory. To his evident shock he received a tremendous whack on the back of the head and was told “Well then you shouldn’t have brought them into school, you bloody stupid boy!” At that moment the face he had on him was probably similar to Hitler’s after the Battle of Britain; dazed, confused, and resentful. It’s an image in my malign imperfection that I still cherish to this day.

The Bubble Bath of Death


Up from The Cape: 22 February 2019

The writer and film director S G Collins said once that “The apparent omnipotence of special visual effects increases linearly with the date of your birth.” This was intended to counter all of the conspiracy theorists who, lacking any knowledge of photography, lighting, video, perspective, or logic, are content to depend on a magic “lost” quantum leap in video technology to have supposedly faked the Apollo lunar landings. The younger someone is, the more likely they are to believe that the standard of CGI available today is something we had, in one form or another, in 1969. It isn’t.

I’m old enough to remember how in the late 1960s for example, “Lost in Space” (and in fact all Irwin Allen TV shows) solved about half of its special effects problems by letting off real controlled explosions on the set. It wasn’t because CGI was so expensive or complicated; it was because it didn’t exist. Bill Mumy, an actor in Lost in Space, commented that the man at 20th Century Fox actually responsible for the real explosions, Stu Moody, liked to assure the actors who were about to experience his work in uncomfortably close proximity “Don’t worry…’ll be fine”. He always emphasised this by holding up two calming hands that were missing various bits of fingers.

Where actual explosions weren’t adequate or appropriate (i.e. if the effect needed to be present for more than a couple of seconds), a lot of special effects directors reached for the next best thing; bubble bath. If it wasn’t bubble bath, it was industrial foam, which for practical purposes looked pretty much the same as bubble bath on-camera, even if it wasn’t something you’d want to settle back into after a long hard day.

From a director’s standpoint the attractive thing about foam (or the bubble bath of death as I came to know it), is that it was like a magician’s cloth thrown over a table. It covered actors while they crawled away off the set. Then the foam could be blown away and reveal……nothing! To anyone with an I.Q. of 12, or the mental age of about four, it appeared that someone had just been dissolved, or had vanished. I’ve always been a realist, so while I understood this was a ridiculous piece of subterfuge even when I was a child, I let it go because I didn’t really care. Most of the stories in the TV I watched were even more unbelievable than the special effects, so there didn’t seem to be much point in worrying about the plausibility of it all excessively.

I had a direct and unexpected encounter with the bubble bath of death in my kitchen one day. For reasons now lost to me (normally a signpost to them having been idiotic), I’d substituted washing-up liquid for washing tabs in my washing machine. I know when I made the substitution I wasn’t at all worried about it. It’s an interesting reprise of Stu Moody’s “Don’t Worry……it’ll be fine.” In this case instead of missing bits of my fingers, I must have been missing bits of my brain. Washing-up liquid is extremely concentrated. A little of it goes a very long way. I’ve a vague recollection of squirting it about liberally all over the washing, adding even more squirts because in my state of ignorance and delusion, I genuinely believed that “it’ll be fine.” I don’t know how many epitaphs have included those words. It’s probably quite a high number.

About fifteen minutes after the fateful start of the washing cycle, I thought it had “gone a bit quiet” in relation to the noises I was accustomed to hearing when the machine was running. I could hear something, but it sounded as if it were coming from very much father away than usual. Unless the machine had developed a Triffid-like ability to uproot itself and go for a walk, something was wrong. Curious, and perhaps with a seed of apprehension beginning to grow within me, I thought it might be prudent to check.

Upon entering the kitchen I saw a solid mass of whiteness that looked as if it had the density of concrete filling the machine’s circular window. Worse, an evil looking wall of foam was advancing silently across the kitchen floor like a new ice-age. It edged towards me in short staccato jolts, fed by the belching heartbeat of more foam discharging from the detergent drawer as the drum chugged around in an eerie silence. Situations like this call for quick thinking, and this one was a no-brainer. I switched off power to the machine and stood in the foam up to my knees wondering where to start to resolve this.

Normally I can get an impressive head of foam from a bowl of water with a short squirt of washing up liquid in it. Looking at it objectively, there must have been about a fifth of a bottle soaked into the clothes in the machine. Water and twenty minutes worth of relentless mechanised agitation had created this entirely predictable disaster. As I stood like someone trapped in an ice-pack, the machine was off and completely silent. Now I could hear the fizzing sound of millions of tiny bubbles bursting very quietly. It sounded like something was dissolving the floor, and I almost wished it had been.

The foam had penetrated into the machine’s vitals to such an extent that when I switched it on again to see if I could do anything to start an emergency drain/spin cycle, it began shorting out the electronics. My only recourse was to unload the machine and leave it to fizz like a distant fuse overnight, with the door open in an effort to dry it out. The clothes didn’t fare any better. I left them fizzing away in the bath.

Whenever a government IT department undertakes a project that fails so massively it’s too embarrassing for them to put any positive spin on it, various “knowing” officials present themselves for a press conference. They attempt to talk confidently about “lessons learned” without anything even approaching conviction. They smile a lot in that abrupt way chimps do when they’re frightened or agitated (though they draw the line at falling off their chairs or cupping themselves repeatedly on the head). These fools are justifiably roasted and ridiculed when that happens. That night there was something like it happening in my head. I won’t go into detail about the comments from my mental press corps, but most of them were words of one syllable, and I was inclined to agree. Not my finest hour.

Mission Event

Up from the Cape: 24 September 2018 (yes, this one’s out-of-place)

We Are Go

The winner of the “What’s the stupidest f***ing TV show we can think of ?” competition has been announced. The winner is…….

“BETTER LATE THAN NEVER – Episode 3: Lithuania: I’m King of the Castle!” (ITV4).

Quote: “US travel reality series. Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman, and Jeff Dye judge a traditional goat beauty pageant and stay in a haunted castle in Lithuania.”

There’s absolute majesty at work in taking “The Fonz” from “Happy Days”, Captain James T Kirk, an ex-Quarterback of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, an ex-heavyweight boxer, and what I’ve discovered after a quick internet search is a stand-up comedian, and then having them converge on a “traditional goat beauty pageant” (which begs the question, what can a non-traditional goat beauty pageant be like?). From there they move on to a haunted caste. Laurel and Hardy could have made that work, but it’s going to be a bit of a reach for Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman. In this context the word “haunted” is likely to have resonance in relation to what all the personalities in this show are feeling as they watch promising TV careers swirl down a plug-hole. 

This is what happens when you have a generation of TV execs who are over-paid crack-heads. 

Something for the weekend sir?

Up from The Cape: 15 January 2018

As they mellow with age, some people admit to strange transgressions made earlier in their lives. They’ve kept quiet them about until now, but with the confidence born of maturity (or perhaps bravado) it leads them to spill the beans. I’ve put a different slant on this. Rather than admitting to iffy things I’ve done in the distant past, I’ve decided to invert it by admitting something iffy I did over the weekend; I watched a 1965 film called “The City Under the Sea”. I did this in full expectation of what it was going to be like. There are no excuses or mitigating circumstances.

I succumbed to this temptation because the film title bore a vague nostalgic resemblance to the entertaining 1960s series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” It also reminded me of the old Hollywood film adaptations of Jules Verne stories. These films generally present formal, upright men in tweed jackets who say “good heavens!”, or muscly crewmen in striped shirts who say “aye cap’n” shortly before panicking and abandoning their posts in a crisis. Normally there’s a giant octopus or squid in the mix somewhere that divers have to stab repeatedly as it coils prop-department tentacles around them. Ultimately, that was the destination my expectations believed we’d disembark at.

What I’d forgotten in the flood of nostalgia for VTTBOTS & the Jules Verne adaptations, is it was made at Pinewood, with all that implies in relation to the budget available in 1965. Pinewood has moved on a lot since 1965, but the film was then, not now. It follows that a lot of the film appeared to be spent on one sound-stage, with the cast clambering about over prop-department boulders and fake stone slabs aimlessly. They were watched by some grim “stone” idols of the sort that the cost conscious director Roger Corman was always delighted to find in the scene dock when he worked on British productions.

Over time, we all evolve our own measures of things in life. One of my absolute benchmarks for defining madness is an image of someone dressed in 18th century clothing, playing an organ at midnight, while reading aloud from the works of Edger Allen Poe in the voice of Vincent Price. The City Under the Sea ticked almost all those boxes. It lacked only the organ (and perhaps midnight). Vincent Price’s metaphoric steadying hand was there, along with the works of Edger Allen Poe in echoing voice-over.

Price was dressed throughout like Samuel Johnson but with an American Civil War beard. He was nervously obsessed with the technology that kept his undersea city alive. “The pumps……….one day they will stop” he said on one occasion, as he gave newly arrived captives Tab Hunter, David Tomlinson, and a chicken the obligatory supreme dictator’s rush-tour of his realm. No story of this type would be complete without a sword of Damocles of some kind hanging over the narrative. So it was Price fretted endlessly about “the pumps”. It didn’t seem like much to worry about from my perspective, but then I don’t live underwater.

A staple of films like this featuring a hidden city, is that in addition to a long-term worry over something like “the pumps” there’s a more immediate danger. In this case the city was threatened with destruction by an active undersea volcano. This was bad luck in it’s purest form. Active volcanoes off the British south-west coast – where the film appeared to be set – aren’t commonplace, at least in the last few million years. Perhaps as a consequence of that, the props department were pressed into service to supply a stand-in volcano for the screen. Their solution was a plaster crater with a red light-bulb pulsing at its centre. Well, this was the 1960s – long before George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic special effects company.

Vincent Price, as always, justified top billing by doing what he does best; he looked and sounded absolutely ridiculous with consummate professionalism. As an actor he often had the haunted and resentful aspect of a man mad enough to think he was married to a cucumber sandwich that had just been eaten. It’s hard to judge what the wedding reception must have been like for him. It’s possible his cucumber sandwich bride was eaten at it by a guest. On that basis, I can forgive him some moodiness.

In the film Price was absolute dictator of the undersea city. He’d just happened to stumble upon it as a younger man. With diligence, he climbed the hierarchy to become a custodian/supreme and deadly dictator. This evolved still further through a penchant for randomly condemning people to death, much like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. What an “old soul-mates reunited” dinner that would have made. The variance Price introduced was that death came at the hands of “the gill-men” rather than the secret police. The gill-men were in reality just some commonplace Pinewood Studios swimmers. They’d been issued with carnival-style masks to give them what the art director hoped (vainly) would be a marine-like appearance.

Whenever Vincent Price deemed it was time for another unfortunate inhabitant of the city to die, he commanded a Big-Ben type bell to clang repeatedly. This tipped-off the gill-men that more quarry was on the way, so they should stop whatever wretched underwater activity they were involved in, and gather round for the next victim. “They need another sacrifice to the volcano God” Price said, staring out of a window to the ocean with a wistful Jack Lord-type smile. He could easily have been Hitler remembering the faces of the conspirators against him, and dwelling upon their fate. “It keeps them happy for a while” he said. Meanwhile the gill-men were swimming about in view of the window like goldfish waiting to be fed. Evidently this is what people did before daytime TV. Was it worse then or now? Only you can decide.

Films like this often reveal their pedigree during the main titles. If I tell you that David Tomlinson paired with a chicken as a “comic” double-act, rocketed to the No 2 billing behind Vincent Price and his Civil War beard (with Tab Hunter in touching distance of both of them), it gives a fair insight into what to expect. I read somewhere this was director Jacques Tourneur’s last film. I’m beginning to understand why. After watching the rushes he must have gone out to his car, attached a hosepipe to the exhaust, and popped it in through the driver’s side window, then closed the door behind him quietly and taken a long, deep breath. I know I would have.

The actor John Le Mesurer put in an appearance as a distracted elderly vicar with a tame beard of his own. He was exactly the same as he’d go on to be (minus the beard) in Dad’s Army; a mild, kindly man, often lost in happy dreams. He seemed forever poised on the edge of saying something like “I really am most terribly sorry…..I was just thinking what awfully kind faces those gill-men had.” It wouldn’t have worked in this context; there was no Captain Mainwaring to look furious. Bringing up the rear of the cast was an obligatory woman-victim in a needlessly voluminous and plunging neckline dress. The only function these contrived women ever had in the 1960s was to be a sort of sub-Dr Who assistant – fit only to be relentlessly cheerful, stupid, and ultimately, captured.

In due course, and like a recurring nightmare, everything that happened in all previous films of this type, happened again in this one. There’s always about ten minutes of reel time that needs to be wasted, so obligingly it was wasted in some drawn out undersea chases and choreographed “struggles” as the gill-men caught up with the “fugitives.” Once that cliché box had been ticked, Vincent Price was allowed to race up a passageway madly into the daylight where, predictably, he collapsed and aged about two hundred years upon being exposed to UV rays. That brought him broadly into line with the vintage of the clichés in the story.

The fugitives, meanwhile, found their way onto a beach. Throughout their escape, David Tomlinson had been giving his chicken some very worrying sly glances as it perched on his shoulder inside his Victorian deep-sea diver’s helmet. I couldn’t judge if this was because he was getting hungry, or if they just had a psychic connection and were sharing sea-stories. They seemed well-matched. With film running out, the plaster volcano blew its top and took the gill-men with it, along with any hopes of doing justice to the original Edgar Allen Poe story the film is alleged to have been based upon.

Seafarin’ men of ages past have offered the opinion that if a ship has its name changed, bad luck follows. It’s possible there’s more than an element of truth in this. It’s equally possible that it applies to films. The end titles revealed that The City Under the Sea was also called “War Gods of the Deep.” Whether or not that tagged it as cursed I can’t say. What I can say is that any actors willing to appear in a supporting role to a chicken have lent fate a big hand in their own march to oblivion.Cape-central-emblem

Dawn of the Dead

Up from The Cape: 31 August 2017 
I did a writing exercise recently in which I breathed life into someone from my past who had what might be described as a “complex” set of psychiatric problems. For the purposes of the exercise I turned him into a fictional character. This was specifically to give me an excuse for him to be writing his memoirs. He was going to write them in exactly the same self-pitying style he used whenever he hijacked the attention of his colleagues at work. It was something he did habitually to tell them about unbelievable events in his life that he’d made up (or at least I hope he’d made them up).

What this exercise revealed to me is just how fine the line between sanity and madness really is. Once I’d pushed off from the shoreline of the story and eased out into the main current, it felt like white-water rapids grabbed the boat I was in and carried it bobbing and pitching downstream in a way that was completely out of control and terrifying. As soon as that creative process had begun, all manner of hideous figures comprising fragments of people I’d known, sprang to life spontaneously to populate the exercise. It felt like rafting through a zombie flesh-eater landscape.  Hideous, un-dead figures rose from the earth on each river bank, and began a stiff-legged march towards the story with their arms outstretched.

It’s easy to imagine that if our cognitive functions have become impaired, this facility we all appear to have for creating
madness can take one’s life trajectory a little off-piste. Rocket launches used to have, and as far as I know still do have, someone
called the Range Safety Officer. Range Safety’s job is to monitor the trajectory of a launch vehicle. If it appears to be going off-course in a way that could prove dangerous, the vehicle can be blown-up in order to prevent a wider catastrophe downrange. Would that we all had someone like that in our heads. There’s many a story I’ve watched clear the tower of someone’s launch pad, only to have it malfunction badly and come thundering down towards everyone in the viewing stands. When that happens to your story there’s not much to be done; you can run, but you can’t hide.

I suppose it’s a fundamental truth to say that in order to be creative it’s necessary to be at least a little unstable. Everyone I’ve met with a creative bent to their life calling has had at least an element of pinwheels spinning behind their eyes. I’m not immune to it. In my case it manifests harmlessly for the most part through photographic work. Occasionally, however, I’ll have an inner dialogue with myself. If printed out it could form the basis of a conference for mental health professionals. It’s probably best I don’t share the detail of that with anyone here.

Some of the time the dialogue I have with myself is just amusing. One morning I was looking at myself in the mirror. This was an innocent preliminary to shaving, not as you might fear the manifestation of delusions of grandeur (that much has been done, as they say). My face has been on active service for quite a long time, and all that wear and tear is showing. I looked at the sagging under my chin and said aloud “Do you know what, you’ve left it too late to become a gigolo.” It’s lucky that was never my career option of choice. Even so, it’s never a happy event to be reminded that a window of opportunity, if ever it existed, has passed. None of us like to close off our options.

Thankfully, at least one aspect of the creative mind I’m reasonably sure I’ve been spared is being scatter-brained. I noticed this characteristic in creatives a lot in the days when I had the delusional notion (encouraged I will say by people who probably should have known better) that my photographic work was artistic. With typical (for me at least) left-brain attention to detail, I trailed around art gallery preview nights in an attempt to gather enough raw data to understand what exactly the art world wanted. How could I have guessed that whatever it is the art world really wants, it doesn’t want anyone like me?

It won’t come as a revelation to anyone to find that artists often attend preview nights as well as non-artists. I had an opportunity to speak to some of them, in the main just in idle chatter. Over the course of about nine months, I came to a broad understanding of what best characterised the creatives who attended the events I went to. There are two essential categories.

1) Creatives who, like me, may not actually be artists, but have succumbed to well intentioned praise from others into believing they are – at least for a while. This group has a tendency to be coherent in what it says in conversation, but as the evening wears on it drinks too much. After that the coherence vanishes and they (or we) become hard to understand or tell apart from the other group.

2) Artists who are mainstream. This group has been accepted by the art world as its own. Unlike the first group (whom the art establishment regards as pretenders because they need to hire gallery wall space rather than receive it via invitation), group two has “made it”. In this context “made it” translates as “allowed to put four or five figure price-tags on their work” –  though not necessarily with any expectation of selling anything. Galleries, I discovered during my nine-month research exercise, operate on much the same principle as the old Hollywood studio system. It can be expressed simply as “don’t call us – we’ll call you.” Galleries don’t state it in quite such bald terms of course, but there is a stock piece of text most of them fall back on when discouraging the “pretenders” from group one:

“We plan our exhibitions many months in advance, and are not currently accepting proposals from artists.”

In other words, don’t call us; we’ll call you…….or not.

Mainstream artists, or at least most of the ones I spoke to at previews, are inherently unstable, and generally about two degrees below a melt-down most of the time. This also equates with being barking mad. The consumption of alcohol at events doesn’t alter that condition, but the availability of alcohol to the non-artists can go a long way towards flattening out the differences. After that, pretty much everyone who has put away six or more glasses seems equally mad. From then onwards  the game is anyone’s. You might not actually be an artist, but if you’ve put enough away you can certainly talk like one.

Postcard from a Barren Land


Up from The Cape: 30 Apr 2017

One of the paradoxes of films and television is the more of it we’re offered, the less of it is watchable. There’s never going to be enough art to fill all 360 degrees of a landscape, especially when that landscape is parched and barren. While the choice of films and television has soared, what’s worth looking at hasn’t, at least not proportionately. It’s unreasonable to expect otherwise. People who are good at anything are never numerous. There’s no better illustration of that than the example that follows.

It’s an unwritten law that if a film hasn’t had much airtime over the past forty seven years, there will be a reason. I should have remembered that when I watched a 1970 “thriller” titled “Puppet on a Chain.” It was a vehicle for, among others, Patrick Allen and Vladek Sheybal – two old experienced hands from British film and TV. I couldn’t work out why I’d never seen this film before. Now I can.

Patrick Allen

Patrick Allen was a versatile actor of genuine presence in his day. There was a sense of effortless confidence about his performances. He was the seasoned professional. His distinctive, arresting voice, worked very well for narration in commercials. To my mind only Valantine Dyall’s voice was more distinctive, but he sounded like a demon running a Travel Agency.

Allen’s performances were never a shortcoming. Sometimes the productions that demanded them were. He could appear in something well made one week, and then turn up in the most appalling trash (in the worst Tony Tenser sense) later.  Patrick Allen was the ultimate safe pair of hands – though in appearance, hardly the stuff of conventional matinee idols. It didn’t matter.

Vladek Sheybal

Vladek Sheybal was a niche actor. Casting directors phoned him whenever they needed someone quietly threatening in an Iron Curtain sort of way. Physically, he looked like a patient but hungry bird of prey watching from a rooftop for its next meal. His clinical hooded eyes and sharp intellect missed nothing. He’s the sort of man I have nightmares about. In them, I’m always strapped to a table as he leans over from above wearing a surgeon’s mask and gown. He says something so softly terrifying I’d scream if it weren’t for the gag in my mouth.

Vladek Sheybal must have been capable of chillingly sinister performances even as a child in his native Poland. I imagine him explaining quietly to his crying classmates what appalling fate awaited if they didn’t give him their sweets.

Puppet on a Chain’s production values were utilitarian and basic. It must have had a pocket-money budget, because so little appeared to have been available to spend on more than a handful of proper actors. Perhaps because of this, the producers chose the “Dr Who” casting model (old school Dr Who that is); pay for a few pros, then use what remains on anyone desperate enough to work for peanuts. Allen and Sheybal were likely just affordable as proper actors. That left something in the tank for a couple more. I’d guess the cash ran out when – with an eye on the American market – the producers managed to tempt in the experienced Hollywood actress Barbara Parkins.

The lead – Sven-Bertil Taube – was an actor who, if I’m right, was big in Sweden, but less well known anywhere else. The final “pro” was an argument looking for an opportunity to have one by the name of Alexander Knox. Beyond this “elite” group, the producers had to make do and mend with whatever car-boot sale actors remained. Generally they were actors who had no business appearing in anything but a Nativity play. That said, I was thrilled by the inclusion of a woman called Henny Orri. She had the presence of someone still living the dream of the “Strength Through Joy” movement of the Third Reich. She probably kept a locket picture of “der Fuhrer”.

Barbara Parkins – Sven-Bertil Taube – Alexander Knox – Henny Orri
Puppet on a Chain was a trip to Cliché World. It’s a world where women scream uncontrollably whenever they see a dead body. Indestructible men punch each-other for minutes on end to the dubbed accompaniment of sound effects from a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Rigidly choreographed fights take place simply for the purpose of smashing things up in a room. Make-up people smear improbably bright red paint on actors’ faces. Frenzied bursts of activity are separated by featureless plains of desolate boredom. At those times, all a viewer can do is sit quietly, play cards, and wait. It’s the basic principle of life during a war; hurry up and wait.

Cliché World’s attractions peaked with a contrived speedboat chase through Amsterdam’s waterways. Just prior to it, Vladek Sheybal’s character did what most villains from that era did once they had their adversaries tied up. Instead of just finishing them off efficiently, they devise the most convoluted means of execution imaginable. The scheme Sheybal hit upon involved making the hero listen to clock chimes through headphones that were turned up very loud….obviously. I say “obviously” because if the chimes hadn’t been deafeningly loud, the only effect they would have had on Sven-Bertil Taube would have been to keep him awake – not a problem I had, by the way.

Rather than linger to see if this unlikely execution form achieved any tragic success, Sheybal’s character just ran off, leaving the victim alone “to his fate”. Villains only develop such groundless optimism if the script demands it. When the hero needs ample opportunity to free himself in time for the end titles, he’s left to get on with it. The only viable means of achieving that goal is to spin out the execution.

Sheybal was punished during the speed-boat chase for not eliminating his adversary decisively. The script made him steer his boat into some lock gates where, unaccountably, it went up like a landmine. Predictably, there was a story concluding “twist” I won’t burden anyone with. Some Bontempi organ music swelled to cover the end titles, and, thankfully, it was over.

Ultimately, Puppet on a Chain was a spaghetti western, fused with a porn video, and an episode of “The Saint”. With so many (and so varied) pedigrees to draw upon, it’s disappointing to find all it achieved was to strip away the engaging elements of all three. The dull grit that remained at the bottom of the cup was cheap, artless, and predictable. I’ll remember that the next time I feel any nostalgia for 1970s “budget” thrillers.

School Daze


Up from The Cape: 5 Mar 2017

I read somewhere that people who have been kept hostage can bury the emotional trauma of that event for ten, sometimes twenty years, but often they’ll need to find emotional release eventually. This may account for some of the reminiscences I’ve been having with a friend about my school days. In some respects my school days were like a hostage situation.


It was an email exchange that triggered the memories. Once they’d started, it all came out in a sort of boiling torrent, carrying me along on the surface like a tsunami victim. Some of the memories are amusing. Some of them contained wisdom I’ve carried with me for years. The most noteworthy memory was when a teacher told us “Nobody here can force you to do anything. All we can say is ‘If you don’t do what we tell you to do, these will be the consequences’….. but you may be willing to accept those consequences.” That sort of insight can help us determine how we face the world, and I’m grateful for it.


Overall, I have to concede that most of my school memories beyond a certain date are either just unfathomable or terrifying. We understood in those days that our position in the hierarchy at school was at the bottom. As such, our opinions and wishes counted for nothing. The teaching staff were permitted an almost totalitarian degree of latitude in the exercise of their power. How they used it was random and unpredictable. It was a bit like being educated in a mine field.


I remember a teacher of elevated rank who loomed in our minds like Godzilla without the cuddly side to him. He wasn’t quite deputy head, but must have been orbiting close to it. In those days teachers used to conduct themselves with all of the abrupt un-accountability of the actor Geoffrey Chater in Lindsay Anderson’s film “IF”. In the film there’s a scene where he marches up and down slowly in a class, lashing out arbitrarily at boys’ heads, while reciting some text to them.


Godzilla was known to his face as “Mister Brough” (pronounced “Bruff”). To us he was known alternatively as just “Rough” – behind his back of course. I can’t be sure if the way his name was amended by us was the result of the then typical London urchins’ attitude, or whether it was simply a play on “Brough by name and rough by nature”. He had a tendency to strike boys at the least provocation, so that may have accounted for it.


Sometimes Mr Brough used to manifest among us like a coalescing spirit at a Victorian séance. If a teacher wasn’t present in our class, it would always be a cauldron of deafening noise. Inexplicably, there would come a moment when it would be as if someone had turned the noise down, subtly to begin with, and then more briskly until what remained was the most appalling chasm of silence. Mister Brough would be standing in the doorway looking at us with a horrifying blank stare from his goat-like eyes. After about half a minute of absolute quiet, with him remaining as still as Death Valley, he’d say with casual implied menace “There’s a slipper in the bottom drawer of that desk for any boy who feels like making any more noise.” Then he’d turn away silently like a Dalek, close the door, and depart back to what we imagined was his crypt.


What weighed in Mr Brough’s favour in the league table of terror was that he was completely predictable, like an atom bomb. We understood this after an occasion on which he’d warned us about noise. For reasons lost to me now, a couple of minutes after his warning the noise levels in our class had returned to the oil-rig din he’d threatened us over. The next thing we knew was that he came into the room like a wrecking ball, crashing the door aside and heading straight for the teacher’s desk without saying a word. He pulled the desk drawer open with a bang, took out the dread “slipper”, and then grabbed the first boy he could reach. He bent him over without any preliminaries, and walloped him soundly three times in a Gatling-gun sort of rhythm. After that he released his dazed victim, threw the slipper back into the drawer, banged it shut with a theatrical flourish, and left. That’s how legends are born. Today it’s how lawsuits against the local education authority begin. Overall, I’m not sure he wasn’t right. I’m influenced in this opinion by the story that follows.


There was a teacher who used to take us for Chemistry. He was a poor, mild, amiable man called Dr Garner. I say “poor” because his basic amiability towards us was his undoing. He’d left the chemical industry from a senior position, and the rumour was he’d done so because of a question of “ethics”. He was foremost, a man of principle and conscience. Unfortunately neither of those qualities prepared him for life as a teacher in a modern comprehensive school for boys. Once it had been understood by us he was a mild man, he was treated with contempt. It must have been like taking a class filled with the sort of monkeys that swarm over cars in wildlife parks, snapping off the aerials. They do whatever they like, sometimes aggressively.


The noise levels in Dr Garner’s classes were so high it was impossible to get any work done. I can’t remember learning a single thing relating to Chemistry while he was there (which fortunately was not long). What I did learn more generally was that whenever he lost control of us, he would stalk about the room desperately, waving a three foot long ruler and calling out “Boys! Boys! Please!” It never did him any good. Eventually he always had to capitulate and leave the room – presumably to start the ritual that would invoke Mr Brough’s latest materialisation. Whenever this occurred it triggered a similar phenomenon to the one I’ve described previously. The noise levels would begin to drop as soon as Mr Brough appeared.


In Dr Garner’s class, Mr Brough didn’t have a slipper he could press into service. Being a fundamentally decent man, Dr Garner didn’t hold with such things. Instead Mr Brough would allow the noise levels to reduce gradually as his presence became known, and use that time to select some random targets. Then he’d speak in chilling one or two-word sentences:

That boy” point of the finger.

That boy” point of the finger.

That boy” point of the finger.

Then a pause.

“My office. Now.”

As the victims filed out Dr Garner would be looking at the floor as if he expected them to be shot in the playground. The actual punishment was for them to be “slippered”, savagely and repeatedly, away from prying eyes.


There was something of Mr Brough’s terrifying magic that could even rub off on other teachers. I remember an occasion when he’d told us to wait in a corridor for someone else to take us to a change of class. We were larking about, as boys of that age will. Another teacher arrived and asked what we thought we were doing there. Someone volunteered we’d been told to wait. The teacher asked who had told us to wait, and one of my classmates called out, slightly irreverently, “Brough”. The teacher bellowed like a sky-rending crack of overhead thunder “MISTER Brough!” It was so loud I think the windows reverberated. I certainly felt something jump in my chest. Can it have been like that in Hitler’s bunker once things took a turn for the worse? It felt to me like a very similar sort of regime. It’s worrying that these are supposed to have been the happiest days of my life. Whoever thinks so evidently didn’t go to the same school I did.


Fashion Victim


Up from The Cape: 1 Mar 2017

If there should come a time when science can identify the biological influences that incline us towards any given profession, my suggestion is we put as much effort as we can into isolating and modifying the fashion designer gene. A casual browse through the pages of history will show it’s something that’s done a lot more harm than good.

Other than when I was a child, I can’t decide what the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever worn has been. Indiscretions in childhood divide broadly into things over which we had no control (i.e. looking idiotic due to the abuse of power by the species known as adults), and the things we have to accept responsibility for, grudgingly, when we see them in photos decades later. In my case there isn’t any photographic evidence I’m aware of regarding my own errors, so I can afford to be light-hearted about it. I’ll touch on that again later.

Anyone who was alive during the 1970s understands it was the decade that style largely forgot. It was, literally, impossible to have been male at that time and not looked like a fool at some point. In the absence of style, something had to fill the void. What stepped into it were ludicrous flares, Daliesque collars, platform shoes, ties reared on steroids, shirts that looked like they’d been cut from vinyl wallpaper, and hairstyles that made a lot of men look like a strange new breed of dog. If ever an era should have been filed under the heading “there’s no excuse for this”, it’s the ‘70s.  As a species we’re witty and inventive, but there’s always some maverick who wants to go against the flow. That was the mindset from which the ‘70s sprang. If you’re too young to have experienced it, consider yourself lucky.

My own worst indiscretion occurred pre-1970s when I was seven years old. I always mention age first because it’s a way of indemnifying myself against responsibility for it. I was below the age of reason. When I was seven I coerced or nagged one of my parents into buying me a Beatle wig. This was one of the madder products born of the hysteria that accompanied Beatlemania at its height. It was not a wig in the orthodox sense. It was a rigid plastic helmet that had been molded into the approximation of a hairpiece, vaguely reminiscent of the hairstyles The Beatles chose early in their careers. On a child it fitted over the head like a diver’s helmet. It covered the eyes so effectively the only way it was possible for a child to see was to tip its head back and try to look downwards. The “wig” had a semi-gloss finish that lent it the appearance of having been burnt or melted.

Exhibit A:

Now there are no witnesses remaining I can reveal to the world that I wore mine all the way home (in the street) from Woolworths. I think at the time I was dressed in a white shirt and light trousers. With a melted black plastic shell over my head I must have looked like a spent match walking along with an adult for guidance.

One of the great lessons of life is that our perception is built on quicksand. What we think looks great today doesn’t look great tomorrow. My perception of myself as I walked home was that I looked really good. It’s self-evident now how badly that perception was awry. I had the idea everyone was looking at me. I was right, but for the wrong reasons. Real life – it was ever thus.

I’ve no recollection of how often I wore my Beatle wig. I remember it being hard to see where I was going when it was on. I also remember that it pinched below my ears like a clam (something it was also reminiscent of because of the way it had to be prised open before it could be worn). Those two factors may have persuaded me to just keep it as a trophy, along with a Thunderbirds hat I treated with reverence and kept on a shelf. I’ve no memory of having worn it in the street again, though it’s equally possible my mind has simply erased all memory of me doing so out of pity. When I put my head inside it, there was a hollow, distant rushing sound akin to what you can hear if you listen at the open end of a length of  pipe. It made conversation difficult, but realistically there weren’t many other children who would have wanted to speak to me……..or be seen in my company. My only comfort in thinking about it now is that there were people who, of their own volition, chose to look more ridiculous than I did. Under the heading of “Lest we forget”, it’s worth touching on a textbook example:

Pajamas in “Bri Nylon”:

If you’ve ever enjoyed using a Van der Graaff generator (a device that makes hair stand on end in an amusing way), then this is the sleepwear for you. The 1931 Universal Pictures version of “Frankenstein” set the standard for electrical discharges in a confined space that everything else has been judged against. Bri Nylon surpasses that standard effortlessly. The electrical discharges that lance out indiscriminately from anyone making the slightest movement while wearing Bri Nylon, is the stuff of legends. It’s also distinctive due to its alien appearance. It is completely artificial, and unmistakably so – again much like a Frankenstein creation. One additional worrying feature was if it caught fire it would melt and stick to anyone still wearing it, thereby doing even more harm. I’d sooner sleep dressed in a hand-grenade.

In case you’ve never seen Bri Nylon in the wild, here’s what you missed:

This, by the way, is what hospital workers will be wearing in the year 2225 if healthcare still exists then. Dr Mentor is on the left. He always knows something about you that you don’t want anyone else to know. Look at his face…..he knows about my Beatle wig – hence the unnerving expression that seems to look right into my soul. Along with an amiable colleague who evidently thinks he’s Robert Redford, he’s presenting their first slightly annoyed-looking inflatable patient to the world. I think the expression on the patient means “I’ve buzzed the nurse three times, and nobody’s come yet.”

Can’t think of a use for inflatable patients? Don’t worry, they said that about lasers, and now we can’t get enough of them – especially for blinding pilots on final approach.

What does it say about an era when it that thinks this is a good look for a man with self-respect and a mirror nearby? Off to bed now sir? First you need to dress up like a court jester. It’s the rules in 2225. Dr Mentor says so, and Dr Mentor is always right.