Friday, February 23, 2007

Paris for the course

Right. I'm off to Paris tomorrow. Sarah has made me promise not to update the Goose while I'm away. Fair enough, it would annoy me if I was her.

In the meantime, feel free to read the archives. September 2005 was quite good. I met a crazy Welshman, had a big house party and graduated from Goldsmiths. I was surprisingly creative in January 2006. Those were innocent times. And April 2006 has some pretty pictures and the story of how I was traumatised by a man who owned the same shirt as me. Browse away.

Back on Wednesday. Au revoir, mes amis! Au revoir, mes ennemis!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oh, you

You think you’re pretty cool don’t you? First you were named person of the year by Time magazine; now everyone keeps saying things like "Web 2.0 is all about you."


Well sorry, but such arrogance does not become you. Pick up a copy of The Mirror today and you’ll see that the honeymoon’s over, and the backlash has started.


Poor old you.

Crisp rejoinder

This is my kind of blog post. We need to keep the dialogue going.


The Electric Goose: a crisp retrospective
August 12 2005: Crisp innovation league
February 6 2006: A letter of complaint
February 14 2006: A crisp response
March 2 2006: The death of Mishima / the birth of new Hula Hoops

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Film review: Sleeping Dogs Lie

By Will Parkhouse

Originally published in Total Spec magazine, January 2007


Got a secret? Amy has – and hers is better than yours. It's revealed to the audience in the first few seconds of Sleeping Dogs Lie and there can’t be many more startling opening lines in the annals of film history than, “My name is Amy and yes, at college I blew my dog.” The Farrelly brothers must be seething.

Except this isn't quite the gross-out farce you might expect from such a revelation. Written and directed by the wonderfully-named Bobcat Goldthwait, who, oddly enough, played Zed in the Police Academy films, Sleeping Dogs Lie is a low-budget indie romcom, where the rom is sweet and sad, and the com is shot through with twisted absurdity.

Primary school teacher Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) and her aspiring journalist boyfriend John (Bryce Johnson) are getting married. Head over heels in love, they promise to be completely honest with each other, but Amy soon becomes dogged (sorry) by her secret, not helped by the constant presence of John’s canine friend Steve. She discusses the gist of the problem with friendly co-worker Ed. Should she tell her future husband the dark secret?

A stay at the home of Amy’s well-to-do parents bring things to a head (ahem). John finds himself having to share a room with his fiancee’s jobless brother, who now spends his time smoking crystal meth and playing with his beloved Casio keyboard (“there’s no limit to what this does,” he waxes). A memorable ensemble set piece which sees all four actors having a whale of a time has John asking Amy's father for his blessing to marry, while Amy has a tentative heart-to-heart with her mother about sexual secrets. As a result of the chat, a glorious scene between Amy and John follows that skilfully takes us from laughter to suspense to horror to sadness in the space of a few minutes. The truth comes out and Amy's life starts to change.

Despite the taboo-busting nature of that secret, this is some way from being There’s Something About Amy. Rarely off camera, Page Hamilton puts in a great performance, and even though she's done the (nearly) unspeakable, we’re always on her side, something that’s in no way hindered by her endearing Renee Zellweger-alike looks. The film's charm is in no small way due to her.

But we're offered more than just cutesy chucks on the chin; there are emotional punches here that put Sleeping Dogs Lie miles from the tear-jerk manipulation of more mainstream bad-taste flicks. In fact, Goldthwait almost plays it for laughs too often; when the secret is unleashed for a second time at the family dinner table accompanied by comedy French accordion, we find ourselves wanting to watch in horror rather than be pushed to snigger at the slapstick. It also feels a bit rushed in places – filmed as it was in an unbelievable two weeks, at times you can almost sense the crew packing up to move location before the camera's stopped, so abruptly do some of the scenes finish. But such signs of inexperience aren't frequent enough to mar the genuinely funny moments, the rapport we feel with the characters or the bombshells of weirdness Goldthwait's script frequently drops.

While the moral we're fed is rather simple – that some secrets should stay that way – there's enough food for thought to be going on with here beneath the Meet the Parents-like belly laughs. And the clever title works on several levels; this isn't just about keeping secrets in the past, it's about lies too, and, of course, sleeping with dogs. Definitely worth a go. The film, that is.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The five levels of chicken shop recognition

Last night, during a visit to Millennium Fried Chicken, I graduated from being a chicken shop level three intermediate to level four: professional. One day, with practice, I hope to become a grand master.

Level 1: Beginner
Chicken shop man ignores you for several minutes before grudgingly asking for your order. You get what you are given. You are treated like a stranger.

Level 2: Amateur
Chicken shop man recognises you and asks your order immediately. He puts a small amount of thought into which pieces of chicken you receive. You are treated like a customer.

Level 3: Intermediate
Chicken shop man knows what you normally order and asks if you'll be having the same again. He ensures your order includes the tastier pieces of chicken. You are treated with respect.

Level 4: Professional
Chicken shop man doesn't even need you to confirm your order – he starts preparing your normal meal on sight. He shows you the chicken pieces he has chosen for your approval. You are treated like an old friend.

Level 5: Grand Master
Chicken shop man knows exactly what days and times you're likely to drop by and so prepares your normal order in advance. He includes the choicest cuts of chicken and even throws in a few bonus spare ribs for free. You are treated like royalty.

Friday, February 16, 2007

"If you book them, they will come"

Friday 2nd March. The Windmill, Brixton. Come along. It's a Rockbeatstone night. I have written some shit for them along the way, so I am doing some massive plugging.

I say again: COME ALONG.

COME ALONG

Weirdly as I write this, Wayne's World 2 is on TV. Wayne, to camera: "So there's this rumour that none of the bands have signed and probably no one's gonna show up. It's true that none of the bands have signed. But Jim Morrison and his weird Indian friend visited me in the night and assured me that all the bands are gonna come."

Beginnings

So here's how it happened. It was early 1991, and Ray, a gutsy 19-year-old, was working as a chef at Schipol airport in Amsterdam. In his spare time, Ray liked to rap. He dreamed of becoming a star.

Anita was a pretty girl who did admin in the parking ticket section of a Dutch police station. She was 19 too. Anita liked to sing. When she was younger, she would perform in front of her family. In her spare time she performed in a female rap group, which she enjoyed very much.

Along came Marvin. Marvin was a rapper. He could tell Anita was talented and asked her to sing backing vocals for him. Anita agreed. One night, Marvin did a show, but the crowd weren't having any fun at all. Luckily, his friend Ray – the airport chef - was in attendance. Ray saw his moment and took the microphone. He urged the crowd out of their lethargic mood. Marvin was impressed: Ray was really good.

Finally, Ray and Anita met. They were the same age, they had the same interests, they had even been born in the same hospital. They would later become so close that they would describe their relationship as "like brother and sister".

Marvin introduced Ray and Anita to two musicians called Phil and Jean-Paul. Phil and Jean-Paul liked Ray's rapping and Anita's singing very much. They wanted them to form a band together. And that was exactly what happened.

So it came to pass: 2 Unlimited was born.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lessons learned from... Notes on a Scandal

When attempting to blackmail a collegue into being friends with you, ensure evidence of unhinged mental state is properly shredded.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hot potato

Reading Jorge Luis Borge's Labyrinths yesterday, I was particularly struck by one passage, in his short story The Immortal:

To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death; what is divine, terrible, incomprehensible, is to know that one is immortal. I have noted that, in spite of religions, this conviction is very rare. Israelites, Christians and Moslems profess immortality, but the veneration they render this world proves they believe only in it, since they destine all other worlds, in infinite number, to be its reward or punishment.


It was with these words in mind that I wrote this brave, brave piece of journalism.


UPDATE: just came across a group of my colleagues huddled in an obscure corner of the office. They were whispering and went suddenly quiet when they saw me approaching, so all I could make out were the mumbled words "guaranteed Pulitzer". But when they looked at me, I could see the silent awe shimmering in their eyes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Camera + London + Me = Pictures of London

As Sarah's friends Becky and Chris were visiting from Manchester this weekend, I went all touristy, which meant doing some fun things I'd never done before. I ate an overpriced Argentine Steak sandwich in Camden. I bought a Jesus and Mary Chain album. I had a cup of tea in the Tate Modern cafe. And I went on the London Eye.

The London Eye is an excellent addition to the city's tourist activity roster, because it means you get to see views of London from a great height, without having to throw yourself out of a plane or waste time and money building your own jet pack. You can even capture your own images of the city from the movable pods, using portable photographic devices known as 'cameras'. Below are some of the images I extracted from the world using the aforementioned device.

The Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge, named, of
course, after the Robbie Williams song

(it's clearly Brunel's Hungerford Bridge)


The London Eye
The London Eye: basically made out
of cleverly linked white pipecleaners


County Hall
County Hall, which used to be a Roman amphitheatre
before pranksters moved Rome to London

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Downlodd

The man Tadich has spotted this extraordinary website called the 365 Days Project, part of UBUWeb ("a resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts").

The project consists of a day-by-day collection of MP3s of the weird and wonderful rarities dug up from flea markets. Having had a flick through it, I've noticed that the tunes generally fall into three categories: eccentric but great, disturbing, and downright insane.

It's all totally Peel. Do the delving yourself, but here are a few examples which I enjoyed (and was terrified by), split into my three categories:


1. Eccentric but great

Testing 1... 2... 3... by the Bolivar Blues Band
1977 blues track created by a German speaker company for testing your hi-fi equipment.

They say: "...some funkalicious blues playing all on side A with narration by the Bolivar Speaker Works people. Grade A stuff."

Hey Jude by Assagai
Cover version of the Beatles classic, sung in "an unknown African language".

They say: "Assagai were formed in England in 1971 by South African exiles and a couple of Nigerians (one is the singer on this track)."


2. Disturbing


Distant Star by Anthony Hopkins
Yes, that's the Anthony Hopkins. A bit like William Shatner's spoken cover versions or John Betjeman's jazz stuff, but far more scary; he's clearly trying to sound wise and mysterious, but instead just sounds like Hannibal Lecter.

They say: "The thin, paper sleeve; the juice label, so low budget, it can't be true, I thought, biting my lower lip, but there was the face: unmistakable...I simply had to buy it, 50p"


3. Downright insane

Jesus Loves Me by Baby Lu-Lu
Woman with deep south accent puts on child's voice and sings religious songs. Truly hideous.

They say: "I was expecting it to be unlistenable, and when I took it home and played it, I found I was right! However, I was also entertained. Within it's mind-boggling wretchedness is a grating blend of annoying, frightening and unintentionally funny sound that captures your attention."


Introuniversal Jam/Don't Be So Holy Poly Over My Souly by Kit Ream
Tadich sent me the link to this with the warning that it was "truly the sound of a mind violently shaken from its moorings". He is so right.

They say: "According to someone who knew him, [Kit Ream] dropped tons of acid in the '60s and wound up in a mental hospital where he spent six months staring at his own reflection in a mirror. Eventually the acid wore off, he was deemed 'cured' and let loose in society, whereupon he decided to become a guru and make a record."

Friday, February 09, 2007

The next big thing, again

Here are your orders: pop over to my MySpace and have a listen to my profile song. They're called Lavender Diamond (a band, not a chanteuse, I believe) and I narrowly missed seeing them last night because I'm an idiot. Sounds like: Regina Spector and Nico sledging in Narnia. The perfect soundtrack to these snowy times.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Stockwell Flats: Pamuk

The Stockwell Flats in snow"Were the streets empty because of the snow, or were these frozen pavements always so desolate?"

Orhan Pamuk, Snow


Stockwell flats slideshow

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

Close encounter

On Thursday I interviewed a rocket scientist. To be honest, I was more interested in him as a person – his name is John Zarnecki by the way - rather than the ultraviolet radiation levels on Mars, although the space talk was far from boring.

JZ (as no one calls him) had something of the Forest Gump about him, being one of those people who makes you wish your own life was more entwined with history or at least more interesting. As well as a rather luminous career (Giotto, Hubble, Cassini-Huygens), at one stage he mentioned that he'd been at Wembley in 1966 to see England win the World Cup. I asked him what first attracted him to space. His reply:

"I was a schoolkid in north London in 1961. Yuri Gagarin, the first astronaut, had suddenly become the most famous person alive. He embarked on a world tour and the first place he went to was London.

"In those days every visiting Russian dignitary would have to go to Highgate cemetery, where Karl Marx is buried. I was at school just round the corner. We were given the day off so that we could go and see him – that's how famous he was. Most of my mates went off to play football or play on their Playstations, or whatever you did in 1961. For some reason, I decided I had to go along.

"I ended up standing about 10 feet away from Gagarin. He was wearing this big Russian uniform with a massive cap, standing in front of this big mausoleum and saluting. I just thought, 'Bloody hell, this bloke has been around the world in 93 minutes'. You can't imagine how mind-blowing that seemed – the first person to leave the confines of the Earth. I was just inspired by that. I didn't really know what it was all about, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. That was the trigger. I was 10 years old."

Zarnecki did, of course, go on to become a space scientist; his major achievement was his work on the Cassini-Huygens mission, which began in the late '80s. Fifteen years of his life was spent on providing instruments to go on the Huygens probe, which finally touched down on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, on 14 January 2005. Why this is so special: Titan is 3.5 billion kilometres away. Like, woah.

***

And here's how to make a beatbox:




Sunday, February 04, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

My war-torn youth

In February 1980, my parents moved into a house in Croydon. It turned out to be the first house I ever lived in; I was born around 14 months later. Twenty-five years and 10 months after that, my mother is driving me to the dentist, the sun is shining and she's refuting the current trend of blaming unseasonable weather on global warming, remembering sitting outside eating her breakfast just after moving into the Croydon house, in February 1980.

"It was very strange when we moved in," she says. "The lady who lived there before us couldn't be bothered to move any of her stuff out, so we got the house fully furnished. Very weird. There was a fully stocked airing cupboard, full of sheets and blankets. She left her pyjamas under the pillow!"

We laugh.

"We didn't have to buy anything, everything was there already," she goes on. "But it meant everything in the house was about 40 years old."

Now I know why I always feel like I grew up during the Second World War.