The Best of NTS
31st December 2009. Forget all the international machinations in the news - today shall be remembered forevermore as the day when Noise To Signal closes its doors for good. (And Captain Picard getting a knighthood, obviously.) Unlike some ridiculous sites we could mention, however, we're going to leave our archives up indefinitely - for anthropologists in the future to scratch their heads and wonder what exactly the fuck we thought we were playing at.
So, with that in mind, and to see us out, here's a list of our favourite articles we've published over the past four-and-a-bit years, along with a brief mention of what each of us is doing elsewhere, in case you want to keep up with us. I hope you remember us as we were... opinionated, arrogant, but fundamentally good-hearted. (Unless we're talking about Indy 4.)
Late as I was to the NTS party, it still feels a little sad to be watching the paper cups and streamers bundled into a bin bag.
There's no denying that I took particular pleasure in the way the site allowed you to get lengthy rants out of your system. Top of this list would have to be Docu-Mental. When two flagship factual shows fudge their facts within a week of each other, you have to call bullshit. Plus the lap-dancing doc gave plenty of leeway for wank gags.
Then there was The Dark Knight Dozen. At this point it seems crazy to worry about the tiny voice of that film's detractors - it made its money, won the critics over, and Ledger in fact did get the Oscar - but at the time, ooh, it seemed important to say something. It wasn't, of course.
But the most deserved rant - and a one-star review - was probably one of my first, where Michael and I tore chunks out of the inexorable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Time hasn't been kind to an already bloody awful film, and its most important cultural contribution is probably that episode of South Park where the kids recall the trauma of seeing their friend Indy raped by Lucas and Spielberg.
Finally, though, there was a lot more joy with the IT Crowd episode reviews by John, Phil and I. The steam ran out before we completed the task, but I thought they made rounded, interesting pieces. Plus they have led to my working as script editor on the new series of the show, which is certainly what you'd call 'a result'.
And that's that. My website is still sitting there, and I'm anticipating involvement in a number of projects in 2010. Follow me on Twitter - @ellardent - and you might hear a few titbits about those. (If you don't care to, I won't blame you.) But please let's put to rest, once and for all, the rumour that a thrice-angered Joss Whedon put paid to NTS with an army of vicious attack dolls. We're feeble nerds - it only took one.
It’s sad to see Noise To Signal going, and I’m particularly dreading the reading of the will- someone’s going to inherit all of the inexplicable coding quirks which John has buried in the place, and I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do with them. The site’s been at its best when it manages to respond in a timely fashion, and The Dark Knight Dozen is the best example of this rare breed of article. Looking back through the archives, I was also struck by the review of The Age of Steel, an interesting example of the sort of thing which used to happen before Messers Capps and Symes retreated back to writing for Gin & Tonic.
As a latecomer to the site, I haven’t contributed too much content here, although I have annoyed most of the team in a personal capacity for several years. My favourite thing I’ve done around these parts is easily the Sonic Adventures series of analysis articles, although I’ve got a soft spot for my piece on semi-indie psychological thriller Hard Candy. Save The Redfield pretty much wrote itself, while I sat in a corner, sniggering.
When not trying to patch up bits of railway infrastructure for the day job, I’m presently the smallest third of the review site Comics Daily, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. If you’re all unfortunate, Console Yourself may come shambling back to life in blog form at some point, although not until after my part-time MSc is safely dead.
I feel I should be writing this with an SDP mug. Nonetheless, here are a few articles that I can look back on and not cry myself to sleep.
Firstly, a series of articles written with my esteemed colleague Andrew - our reviews of Lab Rats. A series that certainly had its faults, but had an incredibly unfair reaction in the main. I hope we at least tried to examine the series properly, rather than just having a knee-jerk reaction to six episodes of extremely silly comedy. (It's worth noting that we got mentioned in the commentaries for the show... just for the sake of my ego, really.)
Next up, It's Nice Being Victor - an analysis of the jingles used in Victor Lewis-Smith's TV Offal. Combining the three facets of my writing - comedy, jingles, and a obsessive-compulsive disorder - I hope it brought a new perspective on the series that even the most hardened comedy fan might not have known about.
Representing an article series that we'd hoped would be long-running, but petered out after
three articles - a common NTS trait - I'd pick My Fantasy DVD: Knightmare Series 1. If you loved the series, it's almost a painful read to see what could have been.
Finally, there's For Contractual Reasons Certain Edits Have Been Made - an introduction to the world of DVD edits. Better and more thorough articles have been written endlessly elsewhere... and yet DVD companies still don't include lists of edits they've made to programmes on their website. And they should. Because it would make me sleep better at night.
For anyone who wasn't put off by that little lot and is still vaguely interested in what I have to say, I've got a new blog: Transistorized. All the same old shit I used to write about, but without the added benefit of peer review.
Oh, and as for things that weren't written by me: Marleen's article on her Custom Pac-Man Board Game never fails to utterly amaze me.
The internet is a wonderful thing. Where else would I have been able to pursue my incomprehensible-to-most interest in TV presentation and Public Information Films? More than anything else, NTS represented to me an arena for people's intense interests, and it was great fun to bring so many separate genres together in one site. It's been a great deal of fun to review stuff from the films of Alf Garnett to Big Brother, with live gigs, documentaries on motherhood and the almost-really-good Reggie Perrin thrown in for good measure.
However, the series of articles which I'm most proud of is The Good Old Days?, my attempt at a companion piece for the excellent Charley Says DVDs. Being a social history nut, it was a real pleasure to research the articles, and I was delighted that so many readers seemed to enjoy them. If you were one of those readers, then hopefully you'll also be pleased to find that this interest has been extended on my new site Gypsy Creams, where I'm putting my collection of '60s womens magazines to good use. All comments and requests are welcome!
If you read any of my articles or Short Waves, and even better, if you commented: thank you. It was nice to know if I really WAS the only one with those thoughts or not...
And so, Noise To Signal lies atop of a makeshift raft, swaddled in petrol-soaked bandages, awaiting it's ceremonial burning. A muffled voice squeals "I'm not dead yet...". Ian Symes poised to silence it with a rock in his hand, golden hair floating in a gentle breeze, homicidal mania distorting his girlish good looks into a violent scowl. John has gone for a poo, behind a bigger rock. He has taken the last third of "The Crying Of Lot 49" with him as toilet paper, which has upset Phil. Nobody cares, because Phil is American or possibly Canadian, and bi-curious at the very least. I let out a sonorous, mournful fart and walk towards the twitching carcass of our once-great enterprise, in order to write this farewell message. I fart once more, and begin.
I wasn't here for the conception of Noise To Signal (though I've seen photographs, and they were disgusting) and my involvement petered out a while before this announcement. I had initially followed a link to NTS from the NOTBBC forum and was immediately attracted by the notion of a website where people with diverse interests penned in-depth articles to stimulate and inform each other, or engaged in intelligent debate about things that weren't usually treated with such respect. "Good old The Internet", I thought, and demanded that I be allowed to write for the site. Even when I couldn't find the time to contribute, I remained an avid reader. The NTS archive contains tons of stuff which should appeal to you whether you're a well versed expert on the subject in hand, or a curious virgin (curious virgins incidentally ought to steer clear of Phil). Where many sites lean too far towards obsessive detail, personal opinion or bland accessibility, I think we managed to strike a perfect balance (though a fourth combination-factor of "excessive swearing, bad jokes and writing drunk" threatened to derail much of my own input). Anyway, the only good thing I ever wrote for the site was a paragraph parodying "The Buddha Of Suburbia" by Hanif Kureshi, an unspeakably poor book. Of my Doctor Who reviews, I think Voyage Of The Damned and Partners In Crime were the best, despite the first five words of Capps' Second Opinion containing basically as much insight as my entire article.
Since joining NTS I have resumed my degree, graduated, acquired and moved in with my lovely girlfriend, taken an inauspicious and time-consuming job, and most recently have been attempting to forge a career as an artist, with a little success. Hopefully once I've entirely adjusted to this marginally more adult lifestyle I'll find the time to string some words together again, but until then I can only direct you towards some of my pictures. Seven of them are currently up on the wall of the newly opened bar Max's Kansas City on Queen Street in Glasgow, next April I'll be showing some as-yet-undetermined things in the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh as part of an exhibition called New Contemporaries, and some older ones can be seen on my website, here.
One of the best things about starting NTS was the ability to write lengthy, rambling articles of the sort that no other website would probably have accepted (not to mention the fact that, in those early days, no-one had heard of me and I wasn't able to get stuff published elsewhere). As those who know me or have read my writing will know, brevity ain't my strong point. So it's always been nice to indulge in the ability to go into a bit more in the way of detail and analysis (and waffling) without a wordcount looming over my head. Probably the strongest example of that - and the contribution of which I'm probably still the most proud - is the two-part behemoth The Beautiful Games. While it's not entirely exhaustive (and is of course already out of date), I think it does a good job of covering the history of football games in a style, and to a level, that nobody else has really done before. Elsewhere, two similarly lengthy articles from opposing ends of the site's life - The Best Album Never Made and Watchmen : The Movies That Never Were actually required a fair amount of research in addition to bloody-minded opinionating, and that's always a rewarding challenge (it's darned near essential work, of course, when writing for print - but with the ease of publishing offered by the web, it's much more common simply to spout opinion rather than bothering to dig for new factual material).
NTS will also, of course, always be where I first got the opportunity to write about comics - and I think James and I did some good work in the early days with our Alternate Cover and Panel Beating columns, including a quite fun Top Ten Deaths In Comics list (of which a further two have since been reversed, sigh). Probably most enjoyable and rewarding of the comics work we did, though, were the interviews - one with the utterly lovely Paul Cornell (some nice Who stuff in there, too) and a terrific, lengthy drunken chat with Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie transcribed almost word-for-word. As well as being a fun and revealing interview, it was the first time I'd met two guys I'm now proud to call friends.
I'd also just like to get in a quick shout about a time when I think the site was at its best - when we were doing a Doctor Who review every week. It's a shame we only managed to complete one series in full (the second, which coincided nicely with a time when all of us had lots of time to write), but that was something of a purple patch for the site, where we had a variety of different viewpoints and writing styles, people firing on all cylinders, and lots of debate in the comments as well. It may have made the site look a bit like a Who fansite and nothing else at times, but I think it's a subject that, even when we weren't keeping up with a proper weekly schedule, we've always done a good job of covering intelligently. Although whoever gave "Rise of the Cybermen" four stars wants shooting.
As for me, well, I blog the occasional bit of pop culture commentary and rubbish photoshop jokes over at my own site, where I also update on any happenings in my print journalism "career". I also still blog (occasionally) about F1 liveries at Formula One Colours, but the site that takes up most of my writing time is of course Comics Daily, the excellent comics review site that occasionally gets quoted on the covers of comics and everything. It's been a pleasure sharing my stupid opinions with you all over the last four-and-a-bit years, and thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed (and especially commented on) anything that any of us wrote.
Though I haven't been involved with NTS for the past year or so, and wasn't involved in its first year either, my time spent writing for the site is something that I will always remember fondly. The support of its readership and other writers inspired me to write some very fine exploratory pieces that I never would have bothered with under other circumstances. My personal favorites of these were a piece on the abysmal 1/2 Hour News Hour, and an attempt to find real meaning in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
I also had the fulfilling opportunity to conduct interviews with people I respect and from whom I've drawn personal inspiration. My interview with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim brought the yuks, and my interview with Al Lowe brought the insight.
Overall though, I'd say my favorite thing to write for the site was a series of articles called The Thomas Pynchon Countdown. It was a review of a different Thomas Pynchon novel each week in the run-up to the publication of Against the Day. My main aim was to help Pynchon newbies find the book of his that might appeal to them most. Somewhat ironically, Pynchon published Inherent Vice after I stopped writing for the site, and, just to spite me, he went out of his way to make it the most accessible, easily recommendable novel of his by far.
Looking at some of the names above me I can't see a single person that hasn't put a great deal more effort into the site than I. This is not to say I don't love the site--I did and do--it's just I ended up being an early casualty of those twin bastards "other commitments" and "bone idleness". Sorry about that. Or not, depending on what you thought of my contributions.
My most consistent avenue was writing Doctor Who reviews and I think the one I'm most pleased with is for Gridlock, as it demonstrates my normal reviewing style of basically getting a bit too over excited and saying some silly things. I also had a fairly good line in starting columns but not carrying them through. POV and POV USA was a nice idea but, ultimately, too much work and PC Gone Mad just might've carried on if my gaming PC didn't die horribly soon after I started it.
As for favourites from the other writers, most of the best candidates have been mentioned above, so I'll mention an article by Ian Symes from very early in the site's life, a preview of the forthcoming but ultimately disappointing second Darkness album. Back then it was all optimism.
And so that's it. We hope you found something that interests you in that little lot, and we encourage you to take a trip through our archives - they're staying put, and there's some good stuff there. (And the occasional piece of absolute dreck, but then that's life.) Comments will stay open for the next few months, although we'll probably shut them off at some point this year.
We've really enjoyed writing for the site over the years, and we hope you enjoyed reading it (if you did, why not let us know below?) Have a great 2010, and we'll see you elsewhere on the net. We'll run away and hide behind a tree now, before we burst into tears in a most undignified display.
This is Noise to Signal... over and out.