Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Russell Brand: the greatest TV presenter of all time

This post is slightly old hat now – can you even remember Celebrity Big Brother? – and for that I apologise. But Russell Brand, presenter of Celebrity Big Brother’s Big Mouth, deserves some praise for being the most articulate and witty lowbrow television presenter of his generation.

His show on Thursday wasn’t even halfway through and he’d still managed to use the words “impresario”, “ecoutez”, “ballbags”, “rhubarb” and “conch” without breaking a sweat. An ex-heroin addict turned stand-up comedian, the man is a walking advert for quitting smack. Or starting, then kicking the habit. (Unless you’re under the age of 12.)

If you thought the combination of Pete Burns and Dennis Rodman wasn’t weird enough, on Thursday, the producers managed to get nightclub owner/sleazebag Peter Stringfellow live on the phone to speak directly to evicted housemate George (sorry, I mean MP George Galloway). I have no idea why.

Anyway, Stringfellow is on the line to tell Galloway that he’s failed in his aim to bring politics to the youth. “I hadn’t heard of you until the Iraq thing,” says Stringfellow. “The Iraq thing!” repeats Brand, chuckling with disbelief.

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Salman Rushdie's arsehole"

Went to see some Manchester comedy on Saturday night as part of Sarah's friend Sarah's birthday. Well, the comedy was at the Manchester Comedy Store - in fact the three stand-ups were a Geordie (Paul Tonkinson), New Zealander (Jared Christmas) and a Canadian (Tom Stade). No matter: children, what I wanted to talk to you about today was the strange series of scenes which unfolded before my lagered eyes during the show's interval.

When the compere called for a break, all the people I knew dashed out for pints, and I was left sitting with birthday girl Sarah and two of her friends from university, both called Rachael. Neither of the Rachaels had produced any kind of laughter during the performance, which, if you ask me, was a pretty extraordinary feat of humourlessness. Sarah, who, remember, had organised the evening, turned to ask if they were enjoying it (and it was pretty decent stuff actually).
"No, we're not," said Rachael 1.
"Not really our cup of tea," said Rachael 2. There was a pause.
"How much do we owe you for the tickets?" said Rachael 1. Cruel.

I decided I should leave such hideousness and climbed over a seat to get away and piss. On my way to the toilet, I went past a small stage which held a singer-guitarist who was singing some lame ballad. Standing directly in front of the stage, with his back to the singer, was this wiry-but-hard-looking skinhead, dancing and singing, inexplicably, The Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight over the top of the strummings behind him. "I said a-hip hop hip to the hippy hippy to the hip hip hop and you don't stop..." he crooned.

The singer finished the tune to a largely indifferent room. "You're supposed to clap at the end of the song," he prompted the crowd, with a slight note of anger in his voice. He then did little to help things by launching into an ill-advised rendition of David Gray's Sail Away With Me.

Outside the toilets was another shaven-headed goonda. A girl was lifting up his shirt and explaining patiently why she thought he probably didn't need a hernia operation.

Following some satisfying toilet relief, I walked back past the troubadour. The skinhead was still at it, but had been joined by an almost identical-looking friend. "Salman Rushdie's arsehole!" shouted the first skinhead to the audience. No one replied, presumably out of a combination of fear and drunken apathy. "None of them get it," he complained to his friend. I went back to my seat to watch the second half.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lessons learned from... A Cock and Bull Story

Post-post-modern metatheatricality is funny, but Brydon and Coogan doing Al Pacino impressions is funnier.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Poetry Corner

In Memoriam Chris Penn, Hollywood actor

Farewell then, Chris Penn
You were the star
Of the film
Beethoven's 2nd.

When I say "the star"
I mean, after the dog
And the kids
And Charles Grodin.

Reservoir Dogs
Was your best known film
You played
Nice Guy Eddie.

Now you are
Nice Guy Deaddie.

With apologies to E.J. Thripp (aged 17 ½)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Don't write, speak or blink

Yesterday evening I was in the middle of watching Back to the Future Part III - I'd just got to the bit where Doc asks Clara Clayton to dance - when I got a call from Tim, a friend who I met whilst attempting to find myself in India back in 2003. When you hear the phrase "let's have a pint in Stockwell" you probably wouldn't immediately picture a darkly-lit incense-filled room filled with piles of exotic looking cushions, pints of San Miguel, a hookah of mango-flavoured tobacco and a game of chess. But somehow that was what happened.

After the game - Tim won, quite easily I suspect - he told me how he'd been working in SOAS library a few days ago when the wave of existential confusion that he's been experiencing for most of January finally overcame him. He began to rapidly scribble a short story about five friends, one called Fruity, onto the page in front of him. After several minutes of intense writing, the ink in his pen ran out. But he carried on writing the story regardless, despite the terrified looks coming from the guy sitting at the adjacent desk. I wondered whether perhaps this was the kind of thing that might precipitate an existential crisis, rather than prevent one, but apparently writing something which no one will ever be able to read, which will never even exist, was "very cathartic". A silent story, he called it.

This reminded me of a tale I'd heard sometime last year. A friend of a friend used to be a very talkative as a child. Her older brother found her constant chattering incredibly annoying and tried to think of ways he could get her to shut up. So he told her that all people have a limited number of words they're allowed to say and if they use up their allowance of words, they'll die. His trick worked, the flow of words was stemmed, and she became a reticent and silent child.

Tim responded by telling me about the lie his brother told him when he was younger. It was that repeated blinking would build up your facial muscles and give you very strong and defined cheeks. But Tim didn't want to have big toned cheeks that stuck out, so from that moment on, he tried to avoid blinking.

It was only this morning that I realised: our boardgame may have finished, but we were still playing what can only be described as Anecdote Chess. I also began to wonder whether perhaps the bar staff hadn't put a special something in the hookah.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I invent The Demobiliser, save world

After two pints of Alpine lager last night, I invented a groundbreaking new product which I'm calling "The Demobiliser". It's basically a mobile phone that has a breathaliser in the handset. When you drunkenly reach for your phone to make the kind of call you'll regret in the morning - to ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, teetotal family members, people you haven't spoken to in seven years and so on - your phone will breathalise you, see if you've had too much and if you have, temporarily erase the "bad numbers" from your phone.

It would of course be marketed with the line, "The Demobiliser: simply breathtaking".

This seemed like a good idea last night, but is it really? Today I was walking along the street holding a polystyrene box containing a baked potato. The thought that suddenly appeared in my head was: "All my hopes and dreams are contained within this one box." Can you really trust a brain that comes up with meaningless rubbish like that?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Two observations

California Uber Alles

Yesterday I noticed for the first time the sinister fascist undertones of The Beach Boys song California Girls. What I once believed was a carefree ode to beautiful American females has suddenly turned into a right-wing anthem of ethnic cleansing. In the song, we hear of the protagonist's travels around the country and the world, with visits to a variety of exotic locations. But all he can think is "I wish they all could be California girls". It's a frightening thought: all nationalities, all cultures liquidised in favour of one master Californian race.

I put this to Kearns, who suggested the song could also be read as a call for a liberal immigration policy: the teller wishes they all had the opportunity to be California Girls. This is also possible. Either way, life will never be the same again.

Socksial healing

Say you have 12 pairs of socks and wear one pair a day. If you look at the life of one individual pair, you'll see that for 11 days of the 12-day cycle, that pair will be either be sitting in a dirty clothes basket, going through the washing and drying process, or spend its days lying in a drawer – ie doing nothing for at least 334 days of the year. Imagine the possibilities if we could somehow harness the power of these unused socks.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Official visit

So, on Friday, I "met" Sir Bob Geldof. The great man was paying a visit to our office, probably because he’d heard about some of the sterling work that I do. Annoyingly I didn’t get an official introduction, which I’m sure Sir Bob was extremely narked about – he certainly looked pretty grumpy. Just as he was leaving following his tour, he turned around and said to the ten of us sitting at our desks: "Well, nice to meet you all." And added, "I guess I'll see you in about ten years." Our laughter was disproportionately loud.

At that moment, he made direct eye contact with me, and something deeper than words passed between us: I could tell he was thinking something along the lines of "Parkhouse, I want you to know that Live 8, Band Aid and the work of the Boomtown Rats couldn’t have happened without your glorious input." And he could tell I was thinking something along the lines of, "Yes Bob, I know."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More artrage

Bounty hunter murders The Artist Formerly Known
as Prince in forest as frightened druids look on

Created in Artrage

Friday, January 06, 2006

It ain't heavy, it's Big Brother

Oh come on, how could I not watch the opening night of Celebrity Big Brother? First in was Michael Barrymore, who found the rapturous applause so hard to leave behind he was barely able to enter the house. Extraordinary how people can so wholeheartedly throw their support behind a stranger whose integrity is so clearly in question.

We also found out that one of Barrymore's phobias is clowns, which annoyed me. I have a phobia of people who say their phobia is clowns - I really don't believe them. When was the last time you actually saw a clown? That's what people who don't actually have real phobias say when they're scratching around for an answer. I think more likely is that Barrymore's phobia is a limelight powercut. His exile to New Zealand must have been hell. But once he was in the house, the man looked instantly at home, and each new housemate was like a courtier visiting his kingdom.

The first real surprise for me was the appearance of Preston, lead singer of The Ordinary Boys, a Morrissey-tongued band of nu-Britpop urchins from Bournemouth. If you want to catch up, download Talk Talk Talk - it's a great song. Anyway, Preston shot into the lead in my book when he managed to greet Barrymore with his own "awight?" catchphrase.

The most mouth-dropping moment came when MP for Bethnal Green George Galloway was announced; he arrived looking eerily calm. I began to wonder whether the Endemol kids hadn't heavily sedated him in the limo on the way there. He greeted actress Rula Lenska (whose preview tape included the unfortunate line, "If I could describe myself in three words? Passionate, fun, slightly eccentric") and the show finished with the most unlikely fragment of a line you could've hoped for: "... knew her from the old Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign days..."

From the Electric Goose archives
- Kearns' hatred of Galloway
- More Big Brother bile

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Praising Pollard

What do you mean you haven't heard of Robert Pollard or his band Guided by Voices? Anyway, my review of his new album From A Compound Eye is here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lessons learned: always see the support band

Woe, woe and thrice, woe!
Wow, it's 2006 and we're fast approaching the five-year anniversary of the time I didn't see the second biggest band in the world. But I didn't care, because the only band on the bill that I really wanted to see was the mighty Campag Velocet.

Fortunately I ended up seeing Coldplay a few weeks later in Bristol's Fleece and Firkin, a pub which holds about 200. The band kept having to stop playing as the soundsystem kept breaking; a curly-haired Chris Martin maintained a steady stream of "is it working yet?" type banter with the soundman Dave. It's five years later and Coldplay's third album X&Y has been number one in 28 countries. Funny how things turn out.