July 1, 2012
Unfortunately I’ve been somewhat under the weather over the past few days, and rather perversely I have been nursed back to health by something which any reasonable person would expect to have the exact opposite effect.
On paper Man vs Food has to be one of the worst ideas in the history of trash television. The concept is tasteless to the extent of being ridiculous. The programme follows hist Adam Richman as he tours America and visits its finest eating challenges. This could mean anything from taking on a 5lb baguette through to a challenge to eat 400 oysters in an hour. In short it is the exact kind of programme that Homer Simpson would watch.
So what’s so good about it? To be honest I don’t know. Every single warning sign and indicator points to it being totally awful, but somehow it all comes together very nicely, I think that the host is actually what holds it together. On one hand he is kind of obnoxious and jockish, but on the other hand he’s so enthusiastic and passionate about his gluttony that it’s impossible to stay annoyed with him.
The programme often descends into ritual, with large crowds filling every diner to cheer Adam on and he devours his way through some deep-fried concoction, but this folks sense of face stuffing solidarity manages to convey a level of warmth and support that is actually quite touching. There is actually a surprising level of emotional attachment to proceedings as Adam manages to wolf down something spectacular and crack a witty one liner while he does so.
Sadly it is only as the show has really taken off in Britain that it is being cancelled. Adam is no longer touring the restaurants of America and is instead writing books and appearing on talk shows. More the pity.
I think that a British version of Man vs Food could be brilliant viewing, but only if it were made with the same level of self-mocking charm and awareness of which the American one is underpinned with. Can you imagine Man vs Drink, which could be the alcohol induced spin-off? There would be celebrity editions and everything, the possibilities are endless.
If anyone hasn’t had the pleasure of watching Adam and his friends trying to devour a 190lb burger between them then get on Youtube now, it can’t be missed.
Peace and love
p.s As you may be aware I have recently published a novel, which you can get from here expect my next entry to be about it
March 11, 2012
Golders Green, journeys, London, misc
city, Hampstead Heath, London, nature, outdoors, park, Parlaiment Hill, views
After a few serious blogs I thought I would try to write something about London (which is after all the point of this blog.) With the sun in the sky and a lazy Sunday to fill I decided that it was time to escape. Well not to escape as such, only to get as close to escaping as you can within the confines of the city.
One of the gloomy side effects of living outside city centre is that you come to rely on buses a lot more than most. With this in mind I hopped on my favourite bus of all, the trusty and reliable 210 that runs every 10 minutes from Brent Cross to Hampstead Heath and then onwards to Finsbury Park.
As I got off at Hampstead Heath I was greeted with the fabulous view below:
Hampstead Heath entrance
At 790 acres Hampstead Heath is the largest of London’s parks. Sadly its role in public consciousness is now as much about George Michael’s antics as it is about serenity. If you ignore the scandals and take the time to explore then it’s far nicer than many give it credit for.
January 14, 2012
1980s, Britain, Conservatives, Death, film, old, Politics, Thatcher
What better way to begin 2012 than to take a trip back in time with the soon to be award winning movie ‘The Iron Lady’?
In so many ways it feels like we are already back in the 1980s (a Royal Wedding, a Tory government, am embattled ‘left wing’ Labour leader and trouble in the Falklands) yet the recent sensation of seeing Thatcher’s face stuck all over buses is not one that I like.
In order to really evaluate the film one has to try to de-politicise it, in a sense this is easier than you would expect on the grounds that the film is neither a glorification nor a hatchet job. The narrative is presented as the memories of a lonely old woman in mourning as opposed to a more formulaic biography, this means that it begins with the Brighton bombing and represents large chunks of her life as time-saving montages. As a result the flow of the film is far faster than I was expecting and relieves it of the need to make political calculations in it’s content, as it’s unlikely that the human costs of her policies are what dominates her mind today (if they ever did.)
A number of reviews have suggested that the film ‘humanises’ Thatcher, as if to suggest that it does for her what Downfall did for Hitler, on the face of it this is true , although I like to think that many people don’t buy into the cartoon image of her as a steely old monster to begin with. The end result is that the emotional points of the film are well constructed and rather sad, I’m not referring to the silly stuff like her last days in government, I’m referring to the human moments, like when she is coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, something that anyone can sympathise with whether the person in mourning is a pleasant individual or not. One measurement of the strengths of the film was the crying face of the woman behind me as the end-credits rolled, what surprised me was that throughout the trailers before it her conversation showed that she was certainly no Tory!!!
Like any biopic movie it is impossible to fully divorce your feeling from the film and your feelings towards the man or woman being portrayed, and for the record I believe that her domestic policies crippled communities and destroyed the lives of millions. The fact that the victims have been all but brushed out of history is in a sense reflected by fact that so few of the evaluations of her legacy have focused on what she did to towns like Glenrothes, boroughs like Hackney and great cities like Glasgow.
This point was well illustrated a couple of weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to see the astounding Billy Elliott at the theatre. There is a very powerful scene inthe mucical in which Billy’s brother shouts at him that if the miners strike failed ‘then no one in this village will have a job and nor will anyone in the next village or the village after that’ as he was saying this I heard a Home Counties toff a few rows behind saying to his girlfriend ‘what nonsense, that could never happen’…
And with that anecdote I would conclude that the film is powerful, it’s well produced, well acted and worthy of a lot of praise, yet it is only a small part of the legacy of a woman who reshaped Britain in some of the most controversial ways possible. The Iron Lady herself is almost certainly nearing the end of her life, and although important voices may have been muted the debate on who she was and the things she is far from finished.
Peace, love and a happy 2012
December 23, 2011
celebrities, education, football, news, politics
Throughout his illustrious career John (seen above being kicked in the face by an opponent) has courted controversy, whether it was for mocking Americans on 9/11, cheating on his team mates wife or selling illegal tours of the Chelsea training ground for £10k. The tours couldn’t have been for the money though, Terry has quite enough of that, this was evident 4 years ago when he opted to pay a £60 fee so that he could park in a disabled space, rather than paying 50p an hour to park across the road.
John has always lacked positive role-models, this was evident from the time his father got caught trying to deal cocaine to a NOTW journalist and when his mother and mother-in-law got caught shoplifting £8000 worth of goods from Tescos. While i’m highlighting family scandals it’s worth noting that Paul Terry, John Terry’s less talented brother, got caught doing the same thing with a team mates wife, only that was closely followed by said team-mate killing himself.
So why is this time any different? Well this time Terry has run out of get out of jail free cards. This time he is accused of racist behaviour against an opponent, the video of the incident can be found here. Quite what will happen if he is found guilty is hard to predict, last week the FA set a precedent by fining Luis Saurez £40,000 and banning him for 8 games for using racist language against another player, but this time the police are involved so it could be more, and presumably after his trial the FA will throw the book at him. Furthermore, although the Chelsea manager has come out in Terry’s defence, it looks inevitable that if he’s found guilty then he’ll be stripped of the England captaincy.
Football has changed a lot since John Barnes had bananas thrown at him in the 1980s, although it’s always bubbling under, whether it is Ron Atkinson being caught saying the N word on TV or the head of FIFA saying racism could just be shrugged off. In Scotland the racism takes a particularly anti Irish/ sectarian tone and it’s not unusual to see supporters of one club singing “the famine’s over why don’t you go home” towards Irish players.
No doubt the usual suspects will keep banging on about how football is getting ‘too PC’, but if it means that black players are no longer having bananas thrown at them then I think any inconvenience caused to racists is a price worth paying. There are also generational differences on display when people discuss it, and I think it was that factor which was on show when Alan Hansen used the word ‘coloured’ twice while he was discussing the problem, in contrast Jimmy Hill seems to see racism in football as banter and compared players using the N word to people saying he has a big chin…
I could go on, but the key point is that football is changing for the better, even if it means John Terry is going to be having a crappy Christmas
October 5, 2011
celebrities, news, politics
“She is a double victim: My victim, and a victim of the press.”
Truer words have rarely been uttered, it’s a pity that the crime being reffered to is one that has gone unpunished now for over 30 years. The quote is from Roman Polankski and he is describing a 13 year old girl that he raped.
The case itself isn’t very complicated, in 1977 Polanski coerced a 13 year old girl into posing topless for photos, then he got her drunk, drugged her and then raped her. He was arrested for it shortly afterwards. There were six original charges and five of them were due to be dismissed as part of a plea bargin. The remaining charge that stood was for ‘unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor’, Polanski accepted the charge. When it looked like the judge was going to opt to punish the defendent with jail time he escaped America and hasn’t been back since.
One thing that has always baffled me has been why so many of the supposedly educated artistic community have lined up to defend his despicable conduct for so long. Otherwise respectable people like Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Woody Allen have routinely defended Polanski on no greater basis than the fact that he has made some good films. These supposedly intellectual people appear to be saying that different laws should apply to artists than those that apply to your or I, how far does this defence go? Would they apply the same logic to every artist, or just to their friend? The other defence appears to be that it was a long time ago, which in theory is a valid point, until you consider that the logical conclusion of this is that all unsolved cases should just be thrown out because they were in the past, it also has to be pointed out that this is not a new issue, he was initially charged in 1978. So blinkered are the defendants that Whoopi Goldberg did her feminist credentials a great disservice by suggesting that there was a difference between Polanski’s form of rape (which is apparantly ok) and the more serious concept of “rape rape”, you can see the video here.
Should the same logic be applied to other celebrity criminals? If that’s the case then it’s a good thing that the judge in Gary Glitter’s trial didn’t have a soft spot for Rock n Roll Christmas…
The fact is that he isn’t just accused of a serious crime, he has admitted to committing a serious crime. I’m not saying that he should be seen hanging from a lamppost, but he also shouldn’t be seen cavorting around award ceremonies and being able to avoid paying for his crimes on the basis of his wealth and his connections, would the same generosity be shown towards him if he wasn’t an award-winning film maker? Somehow I doubt it?
The conviction rates for sexual crimes are incredibly low to begin with, the justice system and the media ensure that they become a trial of the victim rather than the criminal, with that in mind it seems to me that if Polanski really wants to show the humanity that he hints at in the above quote then he should get on the first flight to the USA and let himself stand trial for the violent crime that he inflicted on a 13 year old girl. It wouldn’t go any way towards erasing what happened but it would show that he means what he says and it would hopefully give the thousands of teenage girls who are abused every year and have the strength to report their abusers a little bit of hope that the depraved men who do it to them won’t go unpunished either.
September 21, 2011
celebrities, music/ art, news
Today is a sad day for pop culture. After 31 years together REM have announced that they are splitting up. During that time they have produced 15 albums, hundreds of songs and a lot of great memories for people the world over. REM were always more than just a thinking man’s U2; they were also sincere, honest and cerebral, at the same time they were always bouncy, vibrant and innovative.
They were also the first band I ever really loved. I would have been 14 when I first listened to Automatic for the People and since then they have been a permanent feature of my life. I remember buying 3 of the last 4 albums on their day of release, and in the case of the one I didn’t buy I downloaded it. Since that first listen I must have played Automatic for the People about 100 times, it was their creative highpoint and undoubtedly one of the greatest albums ever made.
When I think of REM now I’ll think of the various memories I have of what I was doing when I was listening to them; whether it was the time I spent before university, my times as a student or my times in London. Music and culture underpin who we are and help turn us into the people we become. The important part about REM wasn’t just the songs, it was also the values they espoused and the fact that they produced something that was so much greater than just another mainstream pop act. For w ehile they were the biggest band in the world, and they are one of few bands who have done that in recent times without selling out in order to do so.
Their first album, Murmur was a fantastic album, but it is barely recognisable as the work of the same band that sang Losing my Religion, Everybody Hurts and Shiny Happy People. As a band they kept on expanding and developing their sound, even though at points towards the end they had arguably stretched it too far. One of the more frustrating elements of their split is that their last album, Collapse Into Now, was the best music they had produced for a decade. If nothing else it means that they have parted on a good note, it would seem somewhat wrong if their last ever song was the horrendous ‘I want to be a DJ’ from the all too often bland and mediocre Accelerate album.
Without wishing to sound melodramatic I can’t help but feel that a line has been drawn under the pop culture of my youth. There are other bands that I have loved just as much, but they had all split before I was born; such as The Beatles or The Smiths. There have also been other bands that I have fallen for since; like Tegan and Sara and Belle and Sebastian, but REM were the ones who really lead me to love rock music. There was a point when I knew all of the lyrics to almost every REM song (including some B-sides) and could recite the track listings from all of their albums without a second of thought, that may have changed since but the afternoons spent in Avalanche Records and other Indi music shops will stay with me for a long time.
I’m now listening to Talk About the Passion from their debut album and nostalgically thinking back to the numberous days that have been spent enjoying their back catalouge.
With that in mind I have uploaded a few of their songs, there are three in total, all from different stages of their long and distinguished career, enjoy
Peace and love