Back in the day when there were only three channels people used to complain about the number of repeats. Now we have whole channels that are effectively the repackaging of repeats (any channel with the word 'gold' in the title). I guess the other way of looking at video-on-demand services is that they're just repeats on demand or repeats that you missed the first time around. Happy Christmas.
The upside of being there so early is that there were no queues at the booths were you get your drink tokens. One token cost £1.75 and a pint of Carlsberg in a self-destructing paper cup that allows you 10 minutes to drink your beer before it starts leaking on your shoes costs 2 tokens. Soft-drinks are a token each. I didn't look any further than that. So with drinks we went and stood near the stage just as the lights went down for what turned out to be the first of the two support acts.
Alexandra Palace is as big and grand as the name suggests and also slightly shit as a venue to see bands. Cavernous and lacking in any charm on the inside, it could actually be worse in that it could all be seating but then you might actually be able to see what's happening on the stage without resorting to the giant video monitors on each side of the stage. If I wanted to watch a band on TV I'd go to Glastonbury or stay home. The first band were like a sixties Arctic Monkeys: singer/guitarist and some mates on drums and bass and northern floppy haircuts. Pretty entertaining I didn't know who they were until later as their name was written somewhat incomprehensibly on the bass drum. It turns out they were The Rascals and you can hear their tunes on MySpace or buy their EP which is out today.
After they left there was another long pause while we jostled down the front with the crowd. This wasn't just my niece's idea, I think her mother was also keen on spending the next 90 minutes or so by the stage waiting for the main show to begin. It gave me a chance to survey the crowd who were (to me who doesn't get out too much) an interesting bunch. The large group of lads immediately to my left reminded me most of football fans in the 'eighties: smart casual, little animal logos on their polo shirts and jumpers, sharp haircuts, plain white trainers. They popped some pills, smoked in a vaguely surreptitious fashion cupping their hands around their cigarettes and drank beers with spirit chasers and looked at me menacingly as I clocked their outfits. By way of a total contrast there was a young group of boys, maybe on the verge of starting shaving, all colourful T-shirts and Oasis hair who I figured to be a bunch of posh school boys dropped off by parents for the evening. I liked them, they weren't scary and they apologised when they pushed into you. Elsewhere there were couples, small groups of girls who'd dressed up - nothing terribly remarkable. And then the second support act came on.
Even as they took to the stage I could see that this wasn't necessarily the greatest idea a promoter could have. Black skinny jeans, goth hair, biker jackets, hairspray, Dayrl Hannah's make up from Bladerunner. The Horrors (because that's who they were) seem like a reasonable bunch of guys, the usual mix of Bowie, art school and Penguin Classics made palatable by the fact that they do it with a certain style, humour and irony. Back in 'eigthies Birmingham, probably the last time I saw Satan worshippers this close up, Goth and Irony just didn't go in the same sentence. You can see their videos here and to be fair I find the more I hear them the more I like them. Vast swathes of the crowd, led I suspect by the casual throwbacks, spent the entire set chucking coins, beer, paper beer cups and pretty much anything else they could find at the band. They really didn't like them and booed loudly between songs. The Horrors remained undeterred (for which I admire them greatly) and engaged in some lively banter with the crowd. The Horror's singer Faris Badwan* between songs: "Boo. That's B-O-O isn't it. Add a K on the end and you might learn something." More rounds of beer and coins. Enough about them.
The stage and kit was reset behind a big billowing curtain and around 9.25pm the Arctic Monkeys came on to huge applause and pogoing down the front. I didn't last long down there and disappeared with my wife to stand by some huge speakers at the side where we could vaguely see. The sound had improved dramatically and I guess top bands stipulate with their record label and management that however good the support bands are that they have to have their sound mixed by a deaf blind man.
The crowd turned into a mass of sweaty bodies, waving hands clutching mobile phones as they recorded the gig for posterity. I loved the people who were recording or videoing the gig and would singalong with Alex Turner into their phone. YouTube's full of these. All the geeks I knew back in the 'eighties who used to record and bootleg live shows (Joy Division, New Order, Bowie, even the Au Pairs) made a habit of standing as still as possible so as not the mess with the Sony Professional recording Walkman they had in the folds of their trenchcoats. How things have changed.
The Arctic Monkey's success seems to be reflected in a better diet (they've put on a little weight and some muscle) and skin care regime (less spotty) but the music is as good as ever. Live the Arctic Monkeys are a high energy act with the crowd singing along to everything except the newest tunes.
*They all have stupid names: FARIS BADWAN, TOMETHY FURSE, JOSHUA THIRD, COFFIN JOE
and SPIDER WEBB
The biggest potential change will be my attempt to extend the care I've been taking in planning what I eat and examining food labels back to my non-vegan diet. I've said that overall I'll eat less meat and when I do I'll *try* to make sure it's free-range. By and large this probably means not eating out or just not eating meat when I'm out as I have yet to find a Chinese restaurant offering organic or free-range products. Quite a few times I've looked at the food labels on processed food in the super-market to see whether I could eat it and not and although they may have passed the no eggs, no dairy, no animal product tests the sheer number of additives has put me off buying them.
Maybe the most useful thing to write about going forward is how I get on trying to be a more ethical eater following my bout of veganism. Watch this space.
3:10 to Yuma proves that Russell Crowe is in much better films than his somewhat limited acting range deserves but in his defense it must be said that they're never less than entertaining. Christian Bale is the stand-out presence here in this hugely entertaining Western.
The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini's novel (which I haven't read) is probably my least favourite film here. I found the film overly manipulative and nasty (which isn't something I would normally hold against a film). Great performance by Homayon Ershadi as the father of the feckless Amir which is probably worth the price of admission on its own.
There are lots of great things about Brick Lane, not least that fact that I found it way more engaging than the book and visually it does some interesting things, especially in the way the almost exclusively non-white cast are shot in a sympathetic way that emphasises their ethnicity that places them at the centre of the film. Having said that the film is almost too gentle and doesn't fire up the passions. Again I think the best piece is the portrayal of the father, Chanu, by the legendary Satish Kaushik.
Things that annoy me: loads of products that you'd expect to be animal-fat free aren't. Here I'm thinking of margarine. Yesterday in Sainsbury's I went through all the margarine tubs and they all had whey derived from cow's milk. Dirty fuckers.
My fellow diet-alterer, Maria, who's foresaken booze for a month is, I suspect, having a much worse time. Her plan is not going out after work for a month. I think the bit she hasn't accounted for is the solo home drinking she used to enjoy.
It's part of my on-going war of attrition with my friend Maria brought about through drinking a bottle of Turkish red wine each in Mangals and then initially taking a vow that for 30 days she wouldn't drink any booze while I wouldn't eat meAt or fish. My part of the bet was upgraded (such is the way of drunks) to "leading a vegan lifestyle" and then lately, after I'd done some research (and decided I wasn't going to buy a) vegan shoes and b) a wool-free suit), downgraded to "eating a vegan diet" for 30 days.
So far it's going well but then all I've done so far is eat porridge with soya milk for breakfast, a baked potato with margarine and baked beans for lunch and two apples and a sharon fruit ion-between. I went to the local health food shop and bought a box of "Fruit, Nut and Seed Bars" this afternoon ("gluten-free; wheat-free; dairy-free; vegetarian; vegan") which were a) pretty horrible and b) very expensive. Luckily they also seem to be quite filling as tonight is the-place-I-work's 25th anniversary staff party. The posh one for the high-ups and the industry bigwigs was last week, this one is (I imagine) a drunken booze-fest fuelled by Breezers, slammers, shots, vodka fountains and other assorted niceties. I won't be eating at the do as I can't guarantee the provenance of the canapes and my sketchy research reveals that spirits are safe for vegans but the use of animal-derived fining agents in much wine and beer rules them out without more detailed work on my part.
This is from Geoffrey Macnab's piece in the Guardian:
The film tells the story of a young drama student, Wang Jiazhi (Tang Wei), drawn into a plot to assassinate the shadowy Mr Yee (Tony Leung), a collaborator with the Japanese in the Shanghai of the early 1940s. Mr Yee is a cold and brutal man. While his wife (Joan Chen) and her friends play Mah Jong and discuss their favourite restaurants, he oversees the torture and killing of resistance fighters. Wang is ordered to get close to Mr Yee in order to prise him out into the open. In the end, they begin a very violent, sado-masochistic affair. Their feelings for one another teeter between love and utter loathing. They instinctively distrust one another but can't hide their mutual fascination. At times, it is as if they hope that through their extreme and acrobatic sex together they can finally work out each others' motives and true personality. This is as much a tale of amour-fou as it is a thriller.
I suspect my problem lies here: what is described generally (not just by Macnab) as a relationship where they "can't hide their mutual fascination" where their feelings "teeter between love and utter loathing" seems to me more like an abusive relationship instigated and conducted by the stronger partner over the weaker one. While I get Mr Yee's initial lusting after her (hey, she's young and gorgeous) I really don't get what she's meant to see in him. Is it his cruelty or simply that he's Tony Leung and as an audience we're not meant to see much further than that?
While many won't see past the athleticism of the sex scenes The New York Times has an excellent review that sees past this to the flaws in the characters and the story. My view is that Lust, Caution while beautifully shot and acted is still pure hokey.
The worst bits of Eastern Promises are pure B movie (which isn't such a bad thing to be in my book) but the good bits are jaw-droppingly good. Both movies are flawed: the resolution in Promises isn't all it could be and the last third of Diving Bell drags a bit but both are definite ones to see.
Anyway, the point of this post was that the barbershop in the opening scene of Eastern Promises is the barbershop on Broadway market where I get my hair cut (£8.50). When I went in yesterday the nice barber pointed out some of the things they'd done to his shop for the filming including painting the sign you can see here which he's left on the window. And at the time I just thought he'd redecorated.
There are a couple clips on YouTube of Schnabel talking about the film:
Reasons to make the film (including fact that Johnny depp was in line for part of Bauby originally)
Biographical aspects of the film
Schnabel did a Q&A after the Bafta screening where he gave TimeOut magazine's film editor Dave Calhoun the runaround and generally came across as a bit of a prick. I like to think that the YouTube clips above are more indicative of what he's like in real life (but he's still an inveterate name-dropper).
From the Spectrum website:
"Spectrum is a provider of specialist residential, respite and educational services based in Cornwall, UK. From the small beginnings of a residential service at St. Erme, Truro, Cornwall, for ten young adults cared for by seven members of staff in 1982, Spectrum has developed into a recognised leader in the field of specialist autistic care and support. Currently nearly 100 service users referred from all over the UK are cared for by 350 staff in 23 homes and a small special school situated in the beautiful county of Cornwall on the south west peninsula of the UK."
She looks mightily relieved at not having to shag this obvious nonce who's only with her to get near her kids. I digress somewhat but I notice on YouTube that there are many spoofs of the Vauxhall ads. They all seem to be done by teenagers and are of varying degrees of funny. I've chosen this one mainly because it doesn't have the racist overtones of the re-dubbed version of the asian family moving in next door (also to be found on YouTube) and its implications that they're drug-smuggling bombers.
AVOD: Advertising-funded Video-on-demand
TVOD: Transaction-funded Video-on-demand
There you have it. TVOD=PPV; AVOD=free with ads
JH: Are you on Facebook, Gary?
GR: No. Are you?
JH: (The briefest of pauses) What do you think?
That'd be a no then.
I don't really have an answer, but here for me, the interior monologue and motivation of Briony wasn't sufficient. The first half of the film feels like Cecilia and Robbie's film with Briony an incidental character but the second part makes a radical shift, focusing on her tortured existence living with what she's done. I think the issue for me is that it's her single mistaken action that determines the course of these people's lives and there's just not enough put into this moment.
This picture, as you would have gathered already is nothing to do with the Gibson talk. This was the equally excellent but less geeky 'O Dreamland' show in Romney where I spent most of the weekend.
For pics of the Gibson talk visit Steve's Flickr and Matt's Flickr.
David met us straight from work and he's taken to wearing some very nice suits to go to his day job. His office is at Vogue House so he looks pretty smart with some nice fashionista touches that all the boys will be copying next year. So David and Cathy are looking round the show just as the invigilators are clearing people out. This woman comes up to Cathy and says "Is this your husband?" while looking at David. Cathy says "Yes" (because he is). "Oh," the woman goes, but undeterred turns to David and says "I just wanted to say you look *amazing*." (I'm guessing David was feeling pretty smug by now, I would have been.) There's a moment's silence. Then the woman turns to Cathy, looks her up and down and goes "You look OK too," before disappearing where she came from.
If you're that rude woman contact us and we'll tell your side of the story
My wife reckons she'll never fly with Virgin again as it's worse to be a grass than a criminal. She grew up in Cardiff and that's how they think.
Yahoo and Webmania join forces to slay the opposition
Steve Bowbrick, managing director of Webmania, proposed the motion at the Oxford Union this week, that "This House believes that the Internet heralds the rise of a global community" and won his case.
Supporting bowbrick was Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, and Sam Greenland, Treasurer of the Union. Opposing the motion was Tim Kirkhope, Parlimentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Paul Ross, broadcaster and writer, and Malcolm Hutty of Internet Vision.
Arguments from the opposition centred on the alienating and isolating effect of computers and the internet, encouraging a lack of physical contact, attacking the idealism of those supporting the motion that the internet is akin to the coming down of the Berlin Wall. Bowbrick and his supporters successfully demonstrated that the internet is, in fact, a tool for connecting people and can only increase the richness and plurality of communities.
Bowbrick commented: "It is great compliment to be asked to speak at the Oxford Union. I see it as a indication of the seriousness with which the internet is beginning to be taken. The internet is moving away from the perception of being a toy and taking its rightful place as serious commercial tool for the wider business community."
Stiff Little Fingers - Nottingham Rock City December 1987
Originally uploaded by 1970IronMan
Nothin' for us in Belfast
The Pound so old it's a pity
OK, there's the Trident in Bangor
Then walk back to the city
We ain't got nothin' but they don't really care
They don't even know you know
Just want our money
And we can take it or leave it
What we need is
An Alternative Ulster
Grab it change it it's yours
Get an Alternative Ulster
Ignore the bores and their laws
Get an Alternative Ulster
Be an anti-security force
Alter your native Ulster
Alter your native land
Take a look where you're livin'
You got the Army on your street
And the RUC dog of repression
Is barking at your feet
Is this the kind of place you wanna live?
Is this were you wanna be?
Is this the only life we're gonna have?
What we need is
They say they're a part of you
But that's not true you know
They say they've got control of you
And that's a lie you know
They say you will never be
Free free free
Get an Alternative Ulster
Get an Alternative Ulster
Get an Alternative Ulster
Apparently Bettany Hughes was at Stella Vine's show at Oxford. I didn't see her but then I probably wouldn't recognise her unless it was on the telly. I'll look at my photos again.
"My week: Bettany Hughes
...Suitably steamed-up (uncharacteristic, I'm pretty much a Pollyanna), I drift to Oxford for the opening of Stella Vine's show at Modern Art. The competing merits of concept and process always interest. There are many good ideas in the world and a handful of successful executions.
The crowd buzz around with excited, brittle smiles. But these gauche canvases genuinely seem to move their audience. As Diana's lips bleed and Courtney pulls off her panties in the back of a cab and Nigella tempts the vicar they remind me of the world's first created woman - described by Hesiod as the kalon kakon. The beautiful-evil thing.
After the garish glory of Vine's paintings, squalling London looks very cold in the light of day..."
I loved the first Die Hard film when I saw it at the cinema and my feelings have pretty much stayed the same since. I've always had a soft spot for films about redemption, saving and being saved, the other redemptive film that wholly transcends unpromising material being The Terminator. Not many films can make me cry but both these do. Anyway before I crap on about my favourite bits of these films, here's a John McClane/Die Hard tribute from You Tube that despite being a little overlong has its moments and some memorable lyrics.
We ate aubergine hotpot - a kind of delicate aubergine stew with small slices of pork in a rich sauce, sliced pork with pickled vegetables, bolied rice and tea which came to 19UKP plus service. The hotpot's from the chinese language end of the menu and if you're interested in trying more than the usual Chinese menu fare it's worth asking for recommendations. It'd be best to have an idea of what sort of things you'd like (hotpot is a fairly safe bet but check it's not one of the weirder ones as not everyone likes fish lips hotpot).
Decor's pretty good for a Chinese eaterie and the staff and unfailing sweet, helpful and patient. If I want a lunch of duck and crispy pork on rice for less than a fiver I'll still go to the Canton but for anything smarter it's the New Diamond from now on. I give it five stars.
Some user reviews from london-eating here.
Time Out's review here.
Davies Street is completely different, not so much a gallery as a shop window, albeit a very swanky Bond Street affair with a black suited bouncer and no signs of the usual gallery paraphernalia: posh bird dressed in a black cocktail dress IMing her mates on last years iMac, answering phone with posh voice (that's what she's there for) and shuffling expensive catalogues around while owner patronises some weirdly dressed Eurotrash millionaire in pointy shoes. Here, the office is hidden behind a concealed door and from what I could see not much happens back there.
I liked it, I like the idea of being able to see the whole show without entering the gallery, I particularly like the idea of spotting the piece you need for your Paris/London/New York/LA home while heading up to Claridges for cocktails (of course you'll be in your chauffered Lexus/Merc/Beemer so the work had better be BIG so you can see it at speed through tinted glass - somehow I find it more honest.
But onto the work...
I really liked the work. I've always liked Jeff Koons, or at least the idea of Koons. There's always been something relentlessly anti-art in his work and the modes of production. These are pieces untouched by the artist or any kind of gestural idea of art that dominates the western tradition. It's like Duchamp without the irony or the cleverness, art stripped of its artiness but packed full of artifice. Looking at the work becomes a game of wondering what they're made of (aluminium in this case) which is much more interesting than looking at a Damien Hirst and wondering why he bothered. They're very tactile pieces - you want to touch them to see what they're made off (as I mentioned) but also to see if they're heavy or hollow, hard or soft and how they're coloured so convincingly (they do look like inflatable rubber). Strangely it's not that different to looking at a Bonnard or Monet, Manet or Velasquez in that there is a sense of seeing something that has been pulled out of nothing, an image in their case (and an idea in Koons;) that is vibrant and engaging but decidedly not real.
Lobster pic here.
The lazy option is to buy a new box and try that. See below.
The smarter one would be to switch ISPs, maybe even one that'll give me a free box, and leave Orange to stew in the cesspit of their own making.
This was pretty early in the evening before I'd brought a punishing regimen to the Proscecco with brandy chasers. After that things got a bit blurry but I sat with these guys (very little English despite 50 years each in the UK) and we chatted in Italian (me nodding mostly) about a wide range of things I didn't understand.
Amour, de-coolified with the Channel mixer to make it look like a faux
old postcard (except for the clothes, the outdoor heater, the CD
Testing out some Microsoft Live Windows blogging tool (PJM: Sticking up for the little guy since 1980!) that RDH recommended on his blog. Actually, looking around the window it's called Windows Live Writer (Beta). Is Beta it's surname or a nickname and it must have a large family because there are a lot of Betas out there. I think the thing I like about it most is that it's got a
strikethrough option on the tool bar. I've also added a picture of Jonathan Peachey to test out the insert a pic tab. More later... (Update: it won't let me publish the pic except via ftp, so no pic today).
Last night we went to the Jamaican High Commission in South Kensington for a Caribbean tourism event. As an all-inclusive it was pretty good: rum punch and wine to drink; mini chicken roti, peppered shrimp, BBQ pork, duck wraps, potato fritters and a few other dishes I forget. Some nice tourism officials and a miniature commemorative cricket ball to mark Courtney Walsh's 517 test match wickets. I think they've been handing those out for a while.
From a two week animation course three years ago. The first week we messed around, and in the second week we each made a short piece. This piece is 18 seconds long although the actual animated parts are probably less than 8 seconds.