Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Award in your ear

It's glitzier than the Oscars, more pointless than the Brits and bitchier than the, um, TV Quick Awards. Yes, it's my Orange's Alternative Celebrity Awards 2008! See who won...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

He got Game (of Life)

Christmas: it's all about the boardgames. After a whizz through the Brewster's Millions-alike Go For Broke on Christmas eve, we tackled its money-making nemesis, The Game of Life, on Boxing Day. Despite the stickers peeling off the bridges, and one of the flags being broken, unbelievably, the spinner actually span repeatedly without flying off into orbit.

The Game of Life

After I'd reached Millionaire's Mansion and my less ambitious opponents had settled down at Retirement Home, we totted up our money. Alas, Dad had so much cash, he couldn't be bothered to carry on counting once he'd reached £950,000. Then again, he was raking in the game's top salary - journalist, whose £20,000 wage tops those of teacher, physicist, doctor, lawyer and businessman. Mostly, I love this boardgame for its realism.

The Game of Life

Friday, December 26, 2008

Caught bread-handed

Big bastard bread

Translates from the French as "truly irresistible big bastard". Said my Mum: "It's a bit big really, but I had to buy it with a name like that."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Films of 2008

I came, I saw, I went home again. My 10 favourites of 2008 (and didn't philmz have quite a year?):

  • Man on Wire
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Cloverfield
  • Waltz With Bashir
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
  • The Orphanage
  • Juno
  • The Dark Knight
  • Gonzo
  • No Country For Old Men

Films of 2007

And 2006...

Peter Serafinowicz: yes I have spelt that correctly

He scares me and makes me laugh at the same time. It's weird.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top 20 albums of 2008

The music boys at work got us compiling our 20 favourite albums of the year a few weeks back – the result, which I think is actually a rather good list, can be read here. Meanwhile, here's my score of LPs, subsequently tweaked, tweaked and tweaked again to account for newbies, pangs of regret, self doubt and so on.

1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
2. Santogold – Santogold
3. Music Hole – Camille
4. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords
5. Stainless Style – Neon Neon
6. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
7. The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow
8. Who Killed Amanda Palmer? – Amanda Palmer
9. Oracular Spectacular – MGMT
10. Twenty-One – Mystery Jets
11. Viva La Vida – Coldplay
12. O – Tilly and the Wall
13. Alas I Cannot Swim – Laura Marling
14. Nights Out – Metronomy
15. This Gift – Sons and Daughters
16. Distortion – Magnetic Fields
17. My DNA – Manda Rin
18. For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
19. We Are the Physics Are OK At Music – We Are the Physics
20. Jim Noir – Jim Noir

Bubbling under: Foals, Oasis, Calexico, Conor Oberst, The Wave Pictures, Los Campesinos!, These New Puritans. Oh dear, I feel bad now.

No prizes for Portishead's Third, which was a bit like being tortured. Or Kings of Leon's horribly mature Only By The Night, which I didn't understand at all and actually prompted me to say, "I prefer their early stuff" out loud. Fleet Foxes are overrated, all atmosphere no tunes. No one was more disappointed than me when the CSS sophomore album turned out to be a bit crud. And the Klaxons, good as they are, have engendered an awful lot of tripe – lookin' at you, Crystal Castles, Friendly Fires, Late of the Pier. By the way, I may take this back later when I realise around mid-April that all the bands I've just dissed are all actually the best thing since the last best thing.

My top ten albums of 2007

My top ten albums of 2006

My top ten albums of 2005 (good grief...)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last night on Channel 4: Country House Rescue

Essentially Changing Rooms for toffs, Country House Rescue sees entrepreneur Ruth Watson spraying on lipstick and mascara with a face stencil and visiting a series of impressive but flawed country homes to transform them into viable money-making ventures. Thankfully, this doesn't involve turning Britain's historic treasures into Burger Kings filled with blackjack tables... Read more...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Playlist #7: December 2008

Hi! Here are the songs that have been preoccupying me of late. Highlights? Well, Simon Clayton's delivery of the line "without the light of dawn" in The Indelicates' 'Fun is For the Feeble-Minded' - not on their album, for some reason, possibly because it sounds like a mid-'90s Therapy? song; that isolated and amazing harmony on the Vampire Weekend track ("... to see the dawn"), a riff that nags but gets away with it - possibly album of the year, this, but it's still tussling with Santogold and Camille in my head; the Mama Cass tune, which never fails to remind me of the opening of series two of Lost; The Killers' 'You Read My Mind', with that gorgeous B flat passing note on the "you" of "you don't shine" in the chorus (dare I suggest Sam's Town is a better album than Hot Fuss? Dare I?); the wonderfulness of anything the Hidden Cameras do - ah, even if they only have one song, it's still a great song... And so on and so on: i luvs you mewsick!


SeeqPod - Playable Search


Oh, if Seeqpod's being a bitch, try listening in Internet Explorer. It's temperamental. What can I say, I didn't build the thing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tonight on Channel 4: The Fun Police

"It's a lovely autumn afternoon to spend a couple of hours in the garden," says retired health and safety consultant Ed Friend. "But don’t forget that an anagram of 'garden' is 'danger'." 

Is this health and safety gone mad? This lot don't think so. Although we see several H&S inspectors at work here – Frank, who patronises his quarry with a smile and Pauline, whose visits to the local nail salons to check they're using the right glue turn into epic battles of thick-skinned reasonableness – it's Ed who's the star of the show.

In scenes that bring to mind Gareth Keenan's health and safety tutorial in The Office, we see Ed telling a group of sniggering workers not to lift things that are too heavy to lift, demonstrating how he arranges his cutlery drawer at home to prevent accidentally cutting himself, or showing the camera a range of H&S leaflets, one called Fatal Traction. In this humourless world, it's hard to know whether that's a joke or not.

It becomes a bit less funny when we start to peer into the inspectors' motivations behind their work. Ed's wife (yes, he is married) hints at preventable workplace fatalities that have affected him deeply, and we also hear about serious burns suffered by his father as a foundry worker. And it's quite a jolt to see his distress at a disgustingly hyperbolic Richard Littlejohn column calling H&S inspectors "the very people who would have been loading the cattle trucks to the concentration camps".

In the hated professions stakes, these guys must surely be ranked alongside, if not above, traffic wardens, serial killers and journalists. But while The Fun Police does its bit to reinforce the stereotypes of geeky, obsessive killjoys, it's also a reminder that whatever Littlejohn would have you think, it's actually not much fun having your hands sawn off by a piece of shoddy machinery.

by Will Parkhouse, Wednesday 3 December 2008

Originally published on Orange.co.uk

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Last night on Sky1: 24: Redemption

Call me a nitpicker, but last night’s 24 special really should have just been called 2, shouldn’t it? Although it used 24’s trademark real-time system, had a few split screen moments and featured, of course, a grizzled Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) running around with a gun and a manbag, it covered just a couple of hours, a new departure for the long-running show. 

The breakaway from the main series was obviously so the show’s creators got the chance to do a “Jack in Africa” sort of adventure without then having to follow it with 10 episodes of Jack sitting on a plane looking out the window and watching an in-flight movie.

Yes, this way was probably the better option – and it worked. The show kicked off with our hero working in an orphanage in ficitonal African country Sangala alongside old special forces pal Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle in fine fettle), Bauer’s utilitarian approach to saving the world has left him physically and psychologically scarred - although you should’ve seen the other guy.

Meanwhile, a warlord was busy recruiting children for a coup, while over in the US, President-elect Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) was preparing for her inauguration. (Of course, 24’s black President has been and gone – keep up, America!) Plenty afoot then. Anyway, it wasn’t long before the political intrigue got going in the States, and Jack had a group of African children to save and a gang of African soldiers to shoot.

The America scenes were weird, as usual, all muted and eerie blue, like something out of a dream. In contrast, the vivid action sequences in Sangala were a return to the show’s heartpumping best, and Jack’s moving moment of redemption a finale so good we were even tempted to let him off for the mostly boring season six.

by Will Parkhouse

Originally published on Orange.co.uk

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brimful of Asa

[previously published in Arise magazine October 2008]

French-born Nigerian singer Asa combines soulful melodies with serious issues, finding her inspiration in the most unlikely places. Here, she talks about the immense love she has for Nigeria - and Africa

Where's the best place to write a song? A nice, quiet enclave, where you can achieve maximum concentration? Not if you're Asa.

"I write in rough environments where I can get inspired, like the bus in Lagos," says the honey-voiced chanteuse, who grew up in the south-west Nigerian city. "They call them molué – they look like school buses in America, you know, the yellow and black ones? Except these ones are bad, bad, bad, bad. It's like they've picked them up off the junkyard and forced the cars to come back to life. But there's so much drama: they're always overcrowded and there's so much noise – hawkers hawking their goods, the preacherman in the corner trying to catch the attention of the people…"

But Asa, she explains, isn't the first singer to be inspired by these incredible, sense-clashing modes of transport.

"Fela [Kuti] sang about it. He said, of course we have 49 people sitting and 99 people standing." She laughs. "But it gets me thinking. You have the reality right in front of you. It might not be fun, because someone might be stepping on my foot or taking my space, but you look back on the day and you laugh. And that's the story of Lagos."

And the story of Asa? Born in Paris, she moved back to Lagos with her family at the age of two. By seven, thanks in part to her father's record collection, singing was a habit that she felt incapable of breaking. She found an opening as a young artist at the French Cultural Centre in Lagos, which helped her learn and hone her craft. It was as part of a French jazz group that Asa returned to the country of her birth and where she's now based, although trips back to Lagos are leapt upon whenever there's a break from touring. Oh, and just in case you didn't know, the name's pronounced 'Asha'.

Despite those cramped writing conditions, the bespectacled 26-year-old still manages to give her music an expansive calmness that makes you want to stretch out your arms and close your eyes; perfect for lying on the grass in a park with an untouched weekend on the horizon. But that's not to say she deals in frivolity or fluffiness. The carefree refrains on her self-titled album, released earlier this year, disguise some serious subject matter, as the bleak world described in her track 'Fire on the Mountain' ("So little Lucy turns sixteen… / She has a lover in her daddy / She can't tell nobody") and anti-slavery melody 'Jailer' demonstrate.

No temptation to write love songs then? "Growing up in Lagos, you have no choice but to wonder and ask why – there are so many questions," she says. "It's just natural. These are things my peer group always talked about. There are so many issues we were meant to assess or fight for. I grew up with it every day – I see it, I hear it, I live it."

In line with the aims of THISDAY's Africa Rising concerts, Asa sees her music as a way of showing the world a more positive side to her country and Africa in general. "As a Nigerian in a foreign land, when I tell people where I'm from, there's always two things that come up: oil and violence. It really saddens me that that's the only idea others have of this amazing country. I just want to tell people that not everything that comes out of Nigeria, or indeed Africa, is bad."

Asa calls her music "soul, but with a fusion of folk, jazz, hip hop and reggae", namechecking musical greats such as Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye as just two of her many influences. But showing how important roots are to this Franco-African singer, Asa also includes Nigerian Yoruba culture in the list.

"My roots are my identity, they're very important," she says. "When I sing I want people to ask 'who is she?'" They undoubtedly will.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Len an ear

Went to a Leonard Cohen gig last night, and he was quite something. Four (or was it five?) standing ovations! Concert aside, that's quite an impressive spectacle in itself, when it's the Albert Hall.

Even better was the delightful sight of pop's most miserable skipping off stage - which he did several times - like a carefree 10-year-old girl. My highlight was 'Bird on the Wire', immensely measured and moving, even from the fourth (or was it fifth?) tier.

Here's a fantastic version of Len-Co doing the song back in the late '70s. Searing Hammond, asthmatic vocals and epic gospel backing all present and correct.



Does anyone else think that Mr Cohen perhaps deserves a co-writing credit for The Rolling Stones' 'I Got The Blues' and Ben Folds's 'The Luckiest'?

Tonight on Channel 4: The Devil's Whore

Now that's what I call a salacious title! Although this being Channel 4, it's slightly surprising this new English Civil War drama isn't called The Devil's Whore ON CRACK for that added punch. But hey ho. Read more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Put the Boots in

Little Boots! Cool, cute and talented. Well done!



Via Jamie, sort of

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rice precedent

I think I just got an electric shock from washing rice. Is that possible?

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's David O'Doherty Time

Woo, I'm seeing this guy in a couple of weeks. It's David O'Doherty (he's Irish, can you tell?) who won this year's if.comeddies award (formerly the Perrier) at Edinburgh. Veh gud.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obamalfunction

So Barack Obama's US Secret Service codename is Renegade, it's been revealed. Sounds cool, don't it? But, ladies and gentleman of the White House Communications Agency, isn't it a bit of an odd choice? The Guardian, I seem to remember, were once forced to publish a correction after describing George Galloway as a renegade - i.e. an individual who has ditched their beliefs (ah, here it is).

Chambers Dictionary has this:

renegade noun
1 a someone who deserts the religious, political, etc group which they belong to, and joins an enemy or rival group; b a turncoat.

2 a Christian turned Muslim.

Oh well, maybe they had Jay-Z's definition in mind: "Renegade! Never been afraid to say what's on my mind at any given time of day, cos I'm a renegade - never been afraid to talk about anything. Anything? Anything. ANYTHING!"

Last night on BBC1: Charles at 60: The Passionate Prince

If I were heir to the throne, I’d probably behave a bit like a cross between Tom Hanks in Big and competitive eating champion Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut – an average day for me would involve buying a truckload of state-of-the-art toys, playing with them, then cramming hot dogs and fried chicken down my throat until I was sick all over the toys. Read more...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mum, Heroin and Me, Thursday 9pm, Channel

It's Hannah's 21st birthday and her mum Kate, a 49-year-old interior designer from Brighton, is taking her to have her hair done for a birthday treat. Unfortunately, Kate tells the camera, there's a problem.

"She informed me that she needs some more gear between now and having her hair done," she says. "And the dealers don't start, um, work till 11.30am. So, it's just after 11 and we have to try and get some gear between, well, 11.30 and the appointment at 12. Otherwise she's got a fair amount of time in the hairdressers and she'll start to rattle."

As you probably guessed from the title, there's an intrusive third party in the pair's relationship: heroin, which Hannah has been using for three years. Jane Treays's heartbreaking documentary follows the two of them over the course of a year (Hannah's father Robert and younger sister Lucy chose not to take part), peeking in on Kate's struggle and Hannah's more muted world, which she inhabits like a ghost, mumbling half-heartedly in that groaning junkie voice.

Although Kate hasn't given up on her daughter by any means, what's remarkable is how understanding she is about the grip the drug has on its abusers. For example, although Hannah's devoted boyfriend Ricky – an addict for eight years – once burgled their house, Kate sympathises, saying she knows he did it as a last resort.

"If she had to be with another heroin addict, I'm very glad she's with Ricky," she says, adding that at least he's there to protect her daughter when she goes to buy drugs. But she knows there's very little chance of recovery if the couple stay together.

That's just one of any number of awful conundrums in what is an intimate, sympathetic portrait of a relationship in which the rules have been turned upside down.

by Will Parkhouse, Wednesday 22 October 2008 

Originally published on Orange.co.uk

The Prisoner: Will Mellor, Thursday 10pm, Virgin

Celebrity Big Brother? That's for wimps. Each week, new series The Prisoner: X, sees a different celebrity being sent to one the world's toughest prisons, aiming in the process to make CBB cabin fever look like a walk in a very large park.

As a lifelong enemy of both Hollyoaks and Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, I was quite looking forward to seeing actor Will Mellor being sent to jail and bullied by bigger boys. But his trip to Dodds Prison in Barbados, where you get sent to solitary just for asking the guard a cheeky question, and an in-house gallows sits just round the corner (Barbados still has the death penalty), is actually a rather moving journey with some memorable moments.

Mellor tries to do things properly, getting handcuffed, undergoing a strip search, showering naked in front of the guards, receiving his toilet paper ration (one roll to last three weeks), being hauled off for the prison haircut and so on.

Of course, the hardship isn't real – there's an instance, for example, when it all gets too much and the actor's teary request to be let outside is promptly granted, a luxury your average convict would never be given. Whether he is actually living the prison life, or just dropping by for a cup of tea is all a bit unclear.

However, it's the interviews, including one with a man with despairing eyes sentenced to death for murder and down to his last appeal, which fascinate. And the sight of Mellor having his world view challenged right there is particularly compelling. By the end, you want to give him a slap on the back for having the balls to go through with it.

by Will Parkhouse, Wednesday 22 October 2008 

Originally published on Orange.co.uk

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Playlist #6: October 2008

Didn't get round to doing you a playlist last month, so here's an extra special one for you, which features some almost offensively tuneful efforts. Ooh, I've seen five of the bands on it play live in the past month. HIPSTER.


SeeqPod - Playable Search

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cuba: part 6

Oh, that's it for Cuba really. After Maria La Gorda, we travelled back to Havana and had one last weekend, imbibing a number of mojitos and daiquiris and enjoying the hospitality of Mr Chris. He introduced us to the British Ambassador did I mention? She lives in an extraordinary house, where waiters bring you lobster canapés and it's hard to maintain an empty glass. There were no Ferrero Rochier, of course.

Necropolis de Colon sign

Cristal clear

Romeo y Julieta cigar

Havana

The man who took us to the top of the Edificio Bacardi to show us the view pointed out to me some feature of the British invasion from the 18th century. "Ah, sorry about that," I said, laughing, "Disculpe." He laughed: "We have forgiven." Oh well, we were only there a year, it wasn't that long. And two weeks - well, that's even less.

The rest of the pictures are here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cuba: part 5

Post-Trinidad, we embarked on a mini road trip, taking in a visit to the Bay of Pigs and its stuffy old museum, a lunchtime pizza in Cienfuegos, and some inventive driving from Chris - we dodged numerous potholes, swerved round crabs straying into our path, almost slowed to a halt in the middle of the road when the rain got too heavy to drive through and gaped at the Cubans at the roadside trying to sell cheese at oncoming cars. The journey started with a look out over the Lost World lusciousness of the Valle de los Ingenios.

Valle de los Ingenios

A night back in Havana, then off to relax, dive and relax again on the West coast, the beachy beauty of Maria La Gorda.

Maria La Gorda

Bird, Maria La Gorda

Maria La Gorda sunset

The water was so clear. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tonight on ITV1: Greatest Cities of The World with Griff Rhys Jones

After last week’s paean to New York City, this second installment of Greatest Cities… sees Griff Rhys Jones returning to home territory to go on all sorts of adventures in London, whether it’s flying with the capital’s helicopter cops or abseiling down a sewer’s ventilation shaft, like some kind of slow-motion Jack Osbourne. Read more...

Cuba: sentence of the holiday

"This pantagruelian pongid then paced around the block, kicking up cars like metallic divots, eating double-deckers as if they were Double Deckers, and then finally squatting in the very centre of the Circus itself to strain, push and deliver a turd the size of a newspaper kiosk, which wavered, lengthened from stub to cigar, before plummeting fifty feet from Kong's arsehole on to the shaven heads of a posse of style-victim cycle couriers, who, like cattle in a thunderstorm, had taken shelter in the open."
Great Apes, Will Self

Cuba: part 4

Did I mention the cars? I did not.

Car in Cienfuegos

The road to Santa Clara

Ker-lassic car

A ride in a Plymouth

Car

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Know your Onion

This is brilliant.

Cuba: part 3

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH.

Oh. My. God.

Aside from the enormous moth landing on Chris's beer, Trinidad (no relation to Trinidad and Tobago, as it always has to explain when it meets people at parties) was really very lovely: cobbled streets, lazy atmosphere, colourful houses. Although when you go off the beaten track, the place is a bit less fairytale, the houses more run down and the tracks more beaten.

The Classic Trinidad Photo

Trinidad's EVIL UNDERBELLY (or overbelly, as it's at the top of a hill):

Top of the hill, Trinidad

Okay, it's not really evil. Although if you carry on in this direction (actually the camera is looking back towards the town, so if you're continuing down the path in your head, make sure you're walking backwards) and it's a weekend, you can go to a club inside a real cave. It's pretty exciting, although you have to put up with some awful music. Here we tried to come up with acronyms for each others' names. I dispatched Sarah with "She Attracts Really Annoying Habaneros" and Chris with "Cuba Has Redhead Idiot Staying". Sarah came back with "Will Is Lucifer's Lover".

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cuba: I love you, Rough Guide

"Within view of Casa de las Américas on the Malecón is the aristocratic Monumento General Calixto García. Set in a walled podium, it's an elaborate tribute to the War of Independence general who led the campaign in Oriente, and shows him dynamincally reining in his horse surrounded by friezes depicting his greatest escapades, and would warrant closer inspection were it not widely used as a public toilet."

Cuba: part 2

Chris, our man in Havana, works for the Foreign Office, and his employer has thoughtfully given him a four-bedroom mansion to inhabit during his three-year stay in the country. As any fule kno, an exiled man with a big house has needs. I think you know what I'm talking about, but this may clarify things.

Who has this many remotes?

His house had a nail sticking out of the outside wall. I documented this important development with my camera.

Nail

Chris seemed fairly sure his house was bugged - one of the downsides of the job, perhaps - and, when, sitting in the living room, we continued a conversation we'd been having in the car about the theoretical assassination of Fidel, he began elaborating to the walls, so the listeners didn't misconstrue our chatter.*

Viva Fidel

After nosing round Havana for a few days, Sarah and I left our host and headed for Santa Clara on the bus. Just one night there, but enough time to check out Che's monument (described by the Rough Guide as "in classic Cuban revolutionary style: simple, bold and made of concrete") and his mausoleum, where I got told off for having my hands in my pockets. I wouldn't be surprised if Che's body had been perfectly preserved, so icy was the air conditioning.

Che memorial, Santa Clara

Chesney, as the man's friends used to call him, even gets a plug at the bus station. The Bicycle Diaries, more like.

Che and some bikes


* From the foreword of Stephen Smith's highly recommended Cuba: The Land of Miracles: "Like his wife, Ulises was working as a tour guide... He told me, 'I stopped being paranoid a long time ago.' He said that he answered the questions of holidaymakers as candidly as he could and Americans often wondered if he wasn't afraid that their tour bus was bugged. 'I say, "Yes, of course it is bugged, there are microphones all over the place. The thing is, the batteries don't work."' A typical Cuban sally (and not so far from the truth, one supposes)."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cuba: part 1

So, there's a photo everyone who goes to Cuba takes, but it's still good, so here it is.

Che, Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana

The mural's in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion, which was baking hot, particularly on the huge mass of flat concrete which lies at its heart. You can walk into the middle of it and no one will follow you, and suddenly you're free from the jockeying of the jineteros. The guy on the mural is called Ernesto, who's a national hero because he smoked cigars, despite being asthamatic.

As a fellow sufferer, I tried to follow his lead. A few days earlier we got a guided tour of one of the city's biggest tobacco factories, in concurrent - actually, almost simultaneous - Spanish and English.

Tobacco factory, Havana

They make these rather unappetizing looking items -

Cigars

- which, of course, look way better once you've stuck the label on and sparked one up.

A Cohiba

Back to the Plaza, though. Facing the Che mural is an enormous statue of poet, writer and campaigner for national independence José Martí, who was far uglier than Mr Guevara, but was at least Cuban. Sarah and I wanted to go to the top of his tower, but the lift was broken, or closed, or something. So it goes.

José Martí and his tower

Our host in Havana was Chris, and towards the end of the trip, wandering round the Necropolis Colón, the pair of us imagined a TV series involving the Cuban hero travelling through time, with Christopher Lloyd shouting, "Martíííííííí" a lot. But the project stalled when we realised not many Cubans will have seen the Back to the Future films, and not many Back to the Future fans will know who José Martí is. And then this rather unnerving sight made me think of other, darker film franchises.

Grave at the Necropolis de Colon, Havana

Friday, October 10, 2008

Monster raving

They're back! Yes, like the Wispa, Roast Beef flavour Monster Munch have returned to the shop shelves, and not even Iceland's theft of my savings is enough to stop me getting my hands on a packet.*

To my mother, who once famously denounced this particular flavour as "tasting like cardboard", I would say this: never has cardboard tasted so good!


They're back!

* Say what you like, but The Electric Goose can never be accused of ignoring the big issues.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Form an orderly Cuba

Oh, yeah, so I guess I didn't mention I was going away to Cuba. Sorry, but I didn't want you to discover my flat was going to be empty for two weeks then break in and steal my stuff. Anyway, I'm back in place, having had a most excellent time. An indecent number of photographs will follow. I'm not sure a detailed write-up is on the cards; I ended up forgoing cultural notetaking in favour of blitzing that big pile of lit and drinking mojitos.

Cuban flag

Friday, September 19, 2008

Voyage to the End of the Road

Had a lovely time at the End of the Road festival in Dorset at the weekend. Cider, cigs and silliness, plus music in the form of The Young Republic (fantastically raucous cover of Dylan's 'Isis', did THREE sets), Laura Marling (overcame the Big Top's rubbish sound and only being, what, five years old to play a storming set, if you're allowed to call folk "storming", although I guess the heavens had just opened so it sort of works), Jeffrey Lewis (I was standing in a puddle in a ditch behind a very tall man, but still bought his album as soon as I got home), Kimya Dawson (so cutesy, she's capable of making very cute bunny wabbits look, um, very uncute), The Wave Pictures (really fantastic and, wow, David Tattersall's guitar-playing is as clever and inventive as his lyrics, which is to say very clever and inventive indeed), Bon Iver (made me like the album, which I was previously a bit iffy about, so tres Bon, hyuk hyuk), Mercury Rev (epic, camp, hard to understand when you've just swallowed a gallon of cider), Devon Sproule (not quite as interesting as her name would suggest), Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (my feelings about this are to complicated to be explained in parentheses, but I both loved and hated it), Noah and the Whale (the sun was out, they're in the charts, it was fun), A Hawk and A Hacksaw (only caught a couple of songs, but suitably confusing), Richard Hawley (his usual mesmerising self, and started his set, brilliantly, with the line, "Okay, let's ballad."), Calexico (surprisingly danceable Sunday night headline action), and, finally, Zombie Zombie (seemed to play just one song lasting 45 minutes, but with much pizzazz and yelping).

But that's just me. Luke, who fed us some Jagermeister when we were flagging, has penned a nice write-up here.

Visually, this:

Muddy

Laura Marling

Rennaissance people

Uh oh

Big Top

Hey Ho, Let's Go

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tonight on Virgin1: I Want To Work For Diddy

I Want To Work For Diddy? Er, no, you really don't. Rapper turned business fatcat Sean Combs is looking for a PA for his company Bad Boy Entertainment, you see, and unfortunately the ability to type at 50 wpm won't cut it. Read more...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tonight on Channel 4: When Women Rule The World

Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic feminist novel of 1915, imagined an idyllic country ruled over by women, in which trouble and strife were non-existent, with an asexual version of womankind reproducing without the need of men and living together in peace and happiness. Right on! CPG would undoubtedly be delighted to hear that the dream has come to Channel 4 – in the form of new reality show When Women Rule The World. Read more...

"Dr King's dream is now a reality"


Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As
Step Forward For African Americans

Last night on ITV1: Lost in Austen

I've always quite liked Jemima Rooper. Anyone who decides that their next career move after playing George in The Famous Five should be to portray a smack-addicted child prostitute (in gruelling Melvin Burgess adaptation Junk) is alright in my book. And frankly my Sunday mornings still feel a bit empty without As If. Read more...

Monday, September 01, 2008

The X Figures

If the last series of The Apprentice was remarkable for repeatedly using the mathematically impossible phrase "110 percent", the current run of The X Factor is outdoing its rival reality show by a factor of about, um, 150 percent. Saturday's edition gave us:

Louis, to auditionee Laura White: "One million percent yes."
Cheryl: "Two million percent yes."
Simon: "One billion percent yes."

While we're on the subject, does anyone else find Simon Cowell's new habit of cooing, "Love you" to successful contestants as they leave the room a teensy bit disturbing?

Anyway, my favourites so far:

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Overheard (in my head)

"The Blind Boys of Alabama, yeah, they're really good at what they do. They're not so good at the things they don't do, like cover versions of Bloc Party songs, which is probably why they don't do them."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Taking the Michael

I'd forgotten what a good magazine Empire is. There's a good little interview with Michael "Mr Blonde" Madsen in this month's issue, this bit a particular highlight:

Who's the best James Bond?
Sean Connery, of course. I met Lazenby once. It was really bizarre. I was in an airport on my way to do Die Another Day and this old guy walks up and goes, "Hey Michael, how are you doing?" Shakes my hand. "Love your work!" I'm like, "Thanks very much." He just stood there staring at me. I felt very embarrassed because I thought, "This guy knows me and I don't know him." Then, five seconds later, it was like, "Holy shit! You're George Lazenby!" And he was like, "YES, I AM!" I said, "Wow! I'm on the way to do a Bond film right now!" He goes, "Put a word in for me, wouldja? I think I should be a Bond villain - don't you think I'd be a great Bond villain?" I said, "I'll mention that to Barbara [Broccoli]."

Did you?
No.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Düning up

Herman Düne will doubtless never escape the breezy brilliance of 'I Wish That I Could See You Soon' – but I did enjoy this verse their forthcoming album, 'Next Year in Zion':

And then we were in Stockholm
And it was beautiful in July,
And the day after, this famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman died.
All the national papers had some special issues,
with beautiful pictures and interesting interviews.
I figured it was unlikely that they would gather all this stuff overnight
They must have needed much more time than this to write.
And it felt rancid.
And you said, "David,
David, don't you know about obituaries?
They keep them at hand for the death of celebrities."
And I said, "I will never get used to how twisted news can be."
Someone knows better than me.
Someone knows better than me.

(from 'Someone Knows Better Than Me')

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Glass ceiling

I was a bit bored in my lunch break at work on Bank Holiday Monday this week, so I looked aloft and beheld a glass ceiling of geometrical splendour. Then I went and finished my ciabatta.

The office: look up

Glass ceiling

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Playlist #5: August 2008

Oh, SeeqPod has a much larger range of songs than Project Playlist does. Sorry, PP, but that's the dog-eat-dog world of shared online mixtapes for you. Everyone else: here's number five. (The Camille album is probably the best thing I've heard all year.)


SeeqPod - Playable Search

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympicballs

"There is just no drama here at the moment."
As the Beijing games finishes, Sky News sends a reporter to London's Olympic stadium building site.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tonight on BBC2: The Cup

"The move was essential," says gynaecologist Dr Kaskar, explaining why he had to relocate to the North-West. "There are more vaginas in Bolton." Read more...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tonight on BBC2: Maestro

Conducting – it's easy, right? Just dress up in something smart, stand in front of an orchestra listening to some live music for free, and repeatedly try to skewer one of the invisible bees swarming in front of you. Read more...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Three weddings and, er, that's it

July was wedding month for me. First, my sister was married in Clerkenwell, then my old school friend Geraint tied the knot in a field near Cardiff, and finally Sarah's mum's boyfriend's son got hitched in a country church in Wytton, Shropshire. We do love a good wedding - which is lucky, because all three were excellent.

Part of the reason this blog has become so impersonal and sparse is because over the last year, I've become a bit concerned about invading people's privacy (ha, pretty rich for someone who writes about stupid celebrities for a living) and, weirdly, my own (it freaks me out when I see referrals from someone Googling "will parkhouse journalist"). This is all to explain why this post doesn't contain a slew of pictures featuring brides, grooms and big-hatted guests. Anyway, I prefer the impressionistic Fotherington-Thomas hullo-trees-hullo-sky approach of papping these days. Presto!

Cometh the hour...

Wedding car

Giant baby attacks

Cool dude + tipi

The groom plots his dancefloor revenge

Graves, St Mary's Church, Whitton

Picture

Daisy

Corn field

More here >>