Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No butts

This Greek girl I met in the pub last week told me that she was staying in England to make a short film. I asked her how long for. "Until they ban smoking," she said. I laughed, but she was dead serious.

Although the ban of smoking in public places in England is now on its way, it's not just the politicians who are down on cigs; they're becoming pretty demonised all round. Last night, one of my friends was telling me how he'd recently been freebasing cocaine (it's a short step from crack apparently). Shortly afterwards, he politely asked me if I'd hold my cigarette in my other hand to keep the smoke away from him.

If we're scared of cigarettes now, imagine what we'll be like in 15 years. The days of smoking on planes are long long gone. Series 12 of 24 will probably feature Jack Bauer desperately trying to stop terrorists who are holding 20 Mayfair Lights and a box of matches. "Yes Mr President: and they plan to smoke them today."

The ban will be good for me - I usually only smoke in pubs and clubs, so I'll probably be forced into quitting, although I'll still whinge on about the infringement of civil liberties, they start with the little things, and before you know it you're Winston Smith/Bernard Marx etc. Really I'll be benefitting, but I do feel I've been slightly brainwashed into coming to this conclusion; the problem with the whole debate is that the pro-smoking arguments have been lost in the melee. So, here are two which I like, both articulated by people who are cleverer than I am.

The first is about as pretentious as this blog will get, as it's a quote from philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: "Smoking is the symbolic equivalent of destructively appropriating the entire world." What does this mean? I may be wrong, but I think it's akin to saying, "You smoke because you don't give a fuck."

The second comes from Alexander Chancellor's Guardian column from Saturday: "There is something attractive about people who don't regard their own health and longevity as the most important things in the world."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Stockwell flats: blue sky/grey sky

On Sunday morning I was lying in bed looking up at the clouds through the window at the head of my bed. The sky kept alternating between patches of blue, swathes of white clouds and a murky grey mass. But, as always, the point is best illustrated through the medium of the Stockwell flats: in this picture it’s like the building is cutting the sky in half, like a big ruler.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

How to organise a William Atherton film festival without really trying part 3

And so, the final flashback to summer 2005. After I’d sent out two long emails about the William Atherton film festival, I realised that the whole thing was too much hassle and I couldn’t be bothered. And that was the end of that.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How to organise a William Atherton film festival without really trying part 2

So after I'd sent out the first email about the William Atherton film festival last spring, I was amazed by the enthusiastic response and subsequent developments. Here is the second email.

Date: 26 May 2005

Dear William Atherton fan,

Firstly, may I thank you all for the overwhelmingly positive response to the forthcoming festival.

I'd like to commend Edward Hagan, Northern Ireland, for recognising that Atherton did not in fact play "the fucking idiot who did lots of coke then tried to befriend terrorist Hans Gruber" in Die Hard, but in fact was the fucking idiot journalist who tried to undermine John McClane's credibility and got his comeuppance in the form of a swift punch in the face from Holly McClane. Additional kudos goes to Nicole Kobie, Canada, who pointed out that the man on the inside is actually Harry Ellis, played by Hart Bochner.

Thank you to Will Macfarlane, Dorset, who, "as something of a Die Hard expert", has pledged to bring his Die Hard trilogy box set to the festival.

Also well done to Jamie Wilkes of Japan, who sent a heartwarming and poetic reply: "So sad i can't make it; the festival sounds like the very life-blood of intellect that I, as a vampire of thought, would love to sink my teeth into. Still, I wish you all the best with it. I like the idea of subverting the academies by turning your living room into one."

I like the idea too, Jamie, and I'm sure William Atherton would approve!

Which brings me to the final point. Michael Kline, America, has managed to find out that Atherton is represented by Deborah Miller of Miller & Company in LA. By strange twist of fate, Mike, who used to work in Hollywood, already has her mobile number. As you read this, the young Chicagan is calling in all favours in an attempt to get Deborah's email address, so we can formally invite Atherton himself to speak at the festival.

I'll leave you with one of Atherton's finest and most waspishly irritating quotes, from Die Hard 2: "But why in hell can't I get the first class meal my network paid for? Do you know who I am?"

Yes we do. You're William Atherton.

Best wishes,
The Dalyell Road film committee

Friday, February 24, 2006

How to organise a William Atherton film festival without really trying: part 1

Last spring I was bored, so I decided to half-heartedly organise a film festival to honour William Atherton, the actor who had bit parts in such films as Ghostbusters and Die Hard. It never happened in the end, but as I can’t think about much new to write about this week, I thought I’d recount the saga to you in two epistolary instalments. It started like this:

Date: 25 May 2005

Dear film fan,

You are formally invited to the William Atherton film festival, a day of devotion to the actor who has made a career out of playing scowling bureaucrats. For those unfamiliar with the Atherton template, he is best know as Walter Peck, the fucking idiot who shut down the containment unit in Ghostbusters, thereby unleashing mayhem upon New York City. He also shone in Die Hard as Richard Thornburg, the fucking idiot who did lots of coke then tried to befriend terrorist Hans Gruber. Atherton followed up this role wonderfully in Die Hard 2 by using his phone on the plane and generally annoying Holly McClane.

The festival will take place on Atherton's birthday, the 30th of July. The programme will run as follows:

2pm: Die Hard (Atherton as Richard Thornburg)

4pm: Real Genius (Atherton as Prof Jerry Hathaway)

6pm: Speeches

8pm: Lecture by Dr William Parkhouse:
"Captain, these men are in criminal violation of the Environmental Protection Act!" Atherton and the role of the subconscious in Ghostbusters

9pm: Lecture by Professor Paul Tadich:
"It's true your honour, this man has no dick." A discussion of ambiguity in Atherton's work

10pm: Ghostbusters (Atherton as Walter Peck)

12midnight: Close

I look forward to joining you in celebrating the genius of William Atherton.

Dalyell Road film committee

P.S. This is not a hoax.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Who Maimed Roger Rabbit?

It was reported today (Reuters) that China has banned any programmes that combine animation with live actors. Why? Because they'll "jeopardise the broadcasting order of home-made animation and mislead their development".

The best part of the story for me was the fact the film Babe (the one with the talking pig) is banned in China, "on the grounds that animals don't talk".

Read about more film genres banned in China

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Stockwell flats: gloom

Here's one from a couple of weeks back. If you're reading this from somewhere that isn't England, you're a lucky bastard.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pipettes plaudit

Click here to read my review of The Pipettes new single, Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me.

And listen to it here.

Old jokes retold

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. Because it was infected with a deadly avian flu virus and WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE THE CRAZY BIRDS MUST BE STOPPED AT ALL COSTS SEIZE THEM YOU FOOLS.

In the words of The West Wing’s great Donna Moss, "Now I know how Tippi Hedren felt."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mike's Big Fat Gay Wedding

Saturday was Mike's big day, so at 1.30 I was standing in the lobby of Brixton registry office (next door to The Fridge), feeling quite nervous on his behalf. We’d just seen two young newlyweds coming out, looking very cute, but both as if they were about to be sick with remorse. Their family followed behind them like a crowd of silent mourners.

We were eventually called from the lobby area. We filed passed the bereavement room and all 30 of us crowded into a small and overheated room dominated by a very big table. The Wedding Table. Mike, Nick and their respective best men all sat down at The Table. There were about four chairs for guests, so the rest of us had to stand, crushed together like we were seeing the latest hotly-tipped beat combo in The Shithole and Firkin.

What followed was short, but sweet, the bare bones of the marriage ceremony. It started with the usual "is there any reason why these two may not..." thing. Later I found the official HM Government Civil Partnership handbook; I wished I’d had it earlier so I could have waved it in the air and shouted, "According to section 12A, subsection D7, this wedding is wholly illegal AND MUST BE STOPPED."

Anyway, there were no objections, and everything proceeded smoothly. Something that hadn’t occurred to me about weddings is how much of a public display of affection they are. Aside from the whole dedicating your life to a person stuff (like, yeah, whatever), it’s kinda brave to tell someone you love them in front of a crowd of people all staring at you. Good for them.

Another thing that hadn’t occurred to me about weddings is how much confetti is like tiny shards of broken glass. I hope it actually isn’t, because I chucked that stuff pretty hard in Mike’s face.

The reception was at Mike and Nick's house, and involved lots of champagne and good food. Then there was another reception, in a pub in Kennington, with even more drinking, dancing and general merriment. The speeches were great: best man Loch made amusing reference to Nick’s childhood in Cuba, where a healthy hatred of Americans was instilled in him – now he’s married to one. Maid of honour Ed touchingly quoted Jane Austen, and caused mirth when he accidentally toasted "the bride and groom".

The next morning I woke up feeling fairly rubbish. I got out of bed and watched The Passion of the Christ. At first I felt quite profane watching the film eating sardines on toast with a post-wedding hangover. Then I remembered that not only did Jesus feed the five thousand with fish and bread, he also turned water into wine at a wedding – so I probably had the blessing of the Son of God, and probably even Mel Gibson himself.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Meanwhile, on the rest of the internet...

Mr E Hardy has some interesting things to say about kittens and small cats as well as what Darwin got up to with kittens and small cats.

Darren has broken his spell of non-blogging with a post on a bizarre single-issue party called Mum's Army.

Jeremy, who seems to hail from both Shanghai and Bangkok, has some very funny screenshots of Star Wars Episode III translated from English to Chinese back to English again.

Gemma is apparently "very much feeling the terry toweling vibe".

Hannah J Simpson just had a terrible nightmare about Freddie Krueger.

And Jukka has started writing poetry, God help us all.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Stockwell flats

Since we moved into the flat, I've become enamoured with the flats that we see from the terrace outside our kitchen. These three whiteish-beige towers dominate the Stockwell skyline and catch the light in a way that's occasionally quite breathtaking. Their appearance seems to change on an unusually frequent basis, despite their collosal immovability. Anyway, my project for 2006 is to continue to photograph the flats from roughly the same position but trying to get in as much variety as possible. You can see a slideshow of my pictures so far by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Love is in the air

As my wonderful and beautiful girlfriend currently lives in the wrong city, I spent Valentine's Day alone. What a loser. Here are some of the romantic things I did:

  • Restrung my guitar and listened to Green Day
  • Talked about Jack Bauer with Kearns on MSN Messenger
  • Sat in a beanbag and watched Shameless on TV

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Crisp response

Good news! I got a reply from United Biscuits, following my letter of complaint. In response to the suggestion that I’d found "a mutant life form" in my packet of Rostyers T-Bone Steak crisps, the consumer services co-ordinator said:

"The material found in the packet appears to be of the same ingredients as the finished product, but showing signs that it had become malformed at a point in the production process where heat is present, causing it to become hard. We would normally expect such conglomerated ingredients to be removed by the system."

As an "indication of goodwill", I was sent £2 worth of KP vouchers, which I can use to buy five packets of Rosters T-Bone Steak crisps. Although I’m seriously considering going for barbeque beef flavoured Hula Hoops next time...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Boyz II Hen

The times they’re a-changing – and here’s why: on Saturday night, I went to a hen night. The thing is, I wasn’t the only bloke there. And the interesting part: the hen was male, as was his maid of honour (see picture).

Anyway, the recent introduction of civil ceremonies means everyone can marry everyone and so next weekend my old housemate Mike is tying the knot with his boyfriend Nick. This is why on Saturday I found myself drinking red wine through a penis-shaped straw, and making raucous jokes about the groom’s, er, equipment. Although how I ended up at a house party in Marylebone dancing to Smooth Criminal at 5am is less clear.

This being very much an "occasion", as opposed to your average night out, there was emotion all round, and much clinking of glasses. I for one was particularly moved by the speed at which Mike saw off his enormous triple gin and tonic. Good times.

More pics here

Friday, February 10, 2006

Boom Shaka Lak

Yesterday I interviewed West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. We mainly talked about his work for Show Racism the Red Card, an organisation which sends footballers into schools to educate kids about racism and asylum seekers. Hislop says he hasn't experienced much racism, which somehow seems to make his involvement in the campaigns more admirable for its altruism.

Later he mentions that he has been on the receiving end of racial abuse: one was being called "distasteful names" by visiting fans outside the ground at Reading, one was "just some kids out in the street" yelling abuse. Hislop shrugs them both off ("nothing too dramatic"), but won't look me in the eye while he's talking about them.

Also asked about his ex-teammate Paolo Di Canio, who used to be "a very good friend". When Di Canio used the Nazi salute during a match, Hislop condemned him publicly. Di Canio's ridiculous excuse was, "I'm a fascist, not a racist," while Italian prime minister Silvio de Berlusconi defended him, saying, "Di Canio is an exhibitionist. His salute didn't have any significance. He's a good lad." Having previously gotten on well with Di Canio, Hislop says he was both surprised and disappointed by his actions, describing the act as "diabolical." They haven't spoken since.

This year's World Cup tournament will feature Hislop's goalkeeping, as he puts on the gloves for Trinidad and Tobago's first World Cup appearance. They're in the same first round group as England, so there'll be no avoiding them. Hislop's description of what will surely be one of the biggest football events of his life was wonderfully understated: he said it would be "good fun".

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pandora: there is hope

Loathe as I am to put external links on this blog that don't feature myself, this time I just can't avoid it. Pandora is the best site I've seen in ages. A lethal combination of predictability and unpredictability and a great way to find songs you'll like but haven't heard before, wrapped up in an interface that can only be described as "sweet as a nut".

The Notorious VEG

The five fruit a day theorem causes me no end of pain. It’s a daily challenge of Herculean proportions. Or: it totally does my head in.

Sarah manages to reach the target constantly; she has the advantage of being vegetarian, but I still don’t understand how she does it. I mean, be serious, when are you supposed to eat these five fruit and veg? Here are some things which I think should count as one portion:

  • A glass of vodka and orange
  • Five minutes of apple juggling
  • A packet of Fruit Pastilles
  • Meat

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scribbling on Scarlett

You probably didn't know that I camped out at the Golden Globes with my easel and paintbrushes. But I did.

Scarlett Johansson at the Golden Globes

Messed with in Artrage

Monday, February 06, 2006

A letter of complaint

Some readers have suggested that this blog is getting too highbrow, and that perhaps it's time to return to the days when I wrote about crisps and other more mundane matters. Well kids, this is your lucky day, because I just started eating a packet of crisps so hideous that it made me put pen to paper in disgust. By the way, it feels really strange to sellotape up a half-eaten packet of Roysters and then put it in a big envelope.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I'm writing to complain about a packet of your Royster's T-Bone Steak crisps I purchased from Oxford News, 78 Oxford Street, London today. Most of the crisps tasted stale, with none of the crunch I'd expect from the usually reliable Roysters brand. I was disappointed, but not devastated. That was until I reached the middle of the pack, where I came across a lump of uncooked crisp material welded together, looking like a mutant life form originating from a galaxy far from our own.

The fact that Roysters now seem to be available in only one flavour should surely improve quality, but the enclosed evidence disproves this theory dramatically, and tragically.

Anyways, the half-eaten packet is enclosed. Hope you have more fun with it than I did.

Yours sincerely,
Will Parkhouse


Friday, February 03, 2006

All the places I haven't been to

Pretty cool, this. Saw it on Mimi in NY's blog (she's a Brit journo-writer in Noo Yoik, who does some stripping on the side. Good blog). You tick the places you've been and it turns it into a world map, so you can weep at how ill-travelled you are. I sneakily included Morocco, because I'm going there in March, and Africa was looking a bit grey.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Apocalypse Bau(er)

Watched the first couple of episodes of 24 series 2 last night. One of Tony Almeida's first lines was "Jack Bauer? He's inactive." I'm watching this and thinking, Almeida, you're so full of shit, Bauer's blatantly not inactive, he couldn't be inactive even if he was six feet under. But then cut to Bauer and he's wearing a lumberjack jacket and sporting a thick ginger beard. I'm like, Tony, you were right, this guy's, like, totally washed up. Then Jack goes home and curls up on the sofa clutching a photo of his dead wife.

It's a testament to both the plot development speed of 24 and Jack Bauer's tendencies to go totally mental that 15 minutes later (this is real-time, remember), Jack has not only returned to CTU and shot a suspect in the chest with no provocation, but has also sawn the head off the corpse with a hacksaw. (Brilliantly, when boss George Mason protests, Jack accuses Mason of "never getting his hands dirty".) About half an hour later, he's managed to break some guy's ankle with his bare hands, and can barely disguise the "I haven't done that in ages"-style glee on his face. "Jack's back," says one of the terrorist goons. Indeed.

Artist impression

Hey look, I’ve become a watercolour painter without any formal training! Hurrah!

The Stockwell Flats, watercolour

Remixed in Artrage