Thursday, 19 November 2009

Get me out of here. Please.

I had the grave misfortune of watching the last half hour of I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here last night. Hopefully you didn't see it. I don't know what it is but I was slightly shocked at what was happening to Katie Price during her so-called 'Bush Tucker Trial'. Regular readers will know that I don't hold her in particularly high regard but some people must surely have gained some pleasure in seeing her get a ton of cockroaches shoved down her coat, boots and hat, wretch over a beetle smoothie and tip her head into a school desk full of frogspawn and live meal worms. Surely this is just some kind of masochism for the masses watching on TV? Yes, I know it's her choice to do it and she's getting paid well blah blah blah, but quite frankly I went to bed a little disturbed about what we've become as a nation of telly watchers.

Here's something much more palatable, because it really is nice to be nice.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Another town another place/Another girl another face

I've seen all sorts when it comes to concerts. I've seen giant inflatable pigs, giant inflatable astronauts, giant inflatable lingerie-clad-winking women, a twenty-one gun salute, aeroplanes crashing into the stage, flying guitars, disappearing guitars, rotating drum kits, arty films and animations on giant screens, explosions, fireworks and enough lasers to service the CD player industry well into the next millennium.
I went to see Motorhead on Monday night and, thankfully, they didn't need any of that. Lemmy was interviewed in The Times on Saturday where he said that they can't afford a fancy stage show so they just go out and play rock 'n' roll. What more do you want? The only concession to any type of big ass show was a bit of dry ice and a ton of those old-fashioned coloured lights they had before Vari-Lites became all the rage. There's no fancy intro tape or any of that ego-inflating nonsense. Lemmy just strolls on, carved Rickenbacker bass already strapped on - to huge cheers, obviously - and addresses the crowd thus: "Are you alright?...We'll soon put a stop to that. We are Motorhead, and we play rock 'n' roll." Bang, straight into Iron Fist.

The support act for the night was The Damned. What a great live band they are. Captain Sensible is actually quite a good guitarist and a born showman; he walked into the crowd during the elongated intro to Smash it Up, sat down in the front row and had a drink from someone's pint, all while still playing. Not only that, but you can't go wrong in my book if you come out and your first number is the first, and best, British punk song, New Rose. And Dave Vanian is, I'm convinced, an actual vampire.
Hurry along if this tour comes to a town near you, you can't go wrong for £25 a pop, and you get Girlschool thrown in too.

Compare that to this email I received the other day from Nottingham Arena:
Get ready to witness something amazing! Cesar Millan, dog trainer to the stars is coming to Trent FM Arena Nottingham on Wednesday 10th March 2010.
Oprah Winfrey, Scarlett Johansson and Will Smith have all had their dogs trained by US TV sensation Cesar Millan - and now you'll be able to witness his talents as he brings his amazing and hugely entertaining live show to Nottingham.
From Sheepdogs to Poodles, Cesar Millan will have audiences spellbound as he shares his amazing insights on dog psychology and behavioural issues.
Millan said: "If you had told me when I was growing up in Mexico that one day I would be going to the UK I don't think I would have ever believed it. I rehabilitate dogs and train people, so to be given the chance to fly across the pond and share my talents that help dog owners become calm and assertive pack leaders with their dogs really helps me fulfill my vision of making the world a better dog at a time."
Using his natural gifts as an educator and as an entertainer, Cesar uses state-of-the-art multimedia accompanied by some friendly pooches to illustrate his unique concepts and ideas. Cesar will have audiences seeing the world through their dog's eyes and his 'fulfillment formula' will change their relationships with their dogs forever.
Prices start at £39 rising to £99. The £99 tickets entitle the holder to a Q&A with Cesar after the show. For £99 I'd expect a five course a al carte dinner to be thrown in along with the services of a Filipino masseuse. Now that would be 'something amazing!' Old Cesar could do with a lesson on ticket prices and what to expect of a show from Mr Ian Fraser Kilmister, I think.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Gordon Sumner. Again.

Now this really will just not do. If Sting doesn't start talking about how much he loves avant garde jazz played via the medium of banjo ukulele soon, then I'm in severe danger of becoming to like the tantric Tyneside tosspot. Get a grip, Sting, and start talking out of your arse again. Pronto!
Edit: Just watched last night's Culture Show while eating my dinner/lunch. Sting was on there singing a song called Snow That Melts the Soonest. It was lovely. Bloody hell! Time to call up Russians or Fields of Gold on You Tube I think just to get the Sting-hating levels back to normal.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Andrew Marr can probably play the guitar

There's been a lot of talk on the radio and TV this week over this new thing on Saturday night called The Impressions Show. It stars Jon Culshaw and some woman off of Coronation Street doing, you guessed it, impressions.
I hate to pour water on their flames but someone else is doing a rather good impression show over on BBC2 on a Wednesday night. Yes, it's everyone's favourite political correspondent, Andrew Marr. His show The Making of Modern Britain is jam-packed with impressions of all the major players from the turn of the 20th Century. Edward VII? Check. David Lloyd George? Check. Lord Kitchener? Check. Winston Churchill? Check. Charlie Chaplin? Check. Even PMs who nobody remembers get the Marr impersonation treatment, because, lets face it, nobody knows what the hell they sound like so he can get away with any voice he likes. An East End dockers' union leader? That's not a problem to our Andrew "Gor blimey, guvnor! These MPs are 'avin' a right 'larf! Lav a dack! Everybody aht!"

But his entertaining skills don't just stop at impressions, oh no, sir. He also likes to indulge his acting talents. Take the first episode, Lloyd George had tried to give a speech to a packed and rowdy Birmingham Town Hall but was overcome and had to disguise himself as a policeman and made good his escape from a side exit. Andrew took on this role with gusto and stormed out of one of the Town Halls exits, unfortunately he stopped short of dressing as an Edwardian policeman.
Ditto episode two when our history-loving presenter acted out a scene in a Manchester park when a load of Northern thugs decided to give those Suffragettes a bloody nose. He laps it up.
Of course, the one impression he can do with no make up is Macauley Culkin.

All this of course is a bit of dumbing down, get those who aren't really interested to watch. But they won't. On the subject of dumbing down, what about that Britain's Really Disgusting Food? If you haven't seen it it's a show on BBC Three that's actually worth watching. Presenter Alex Riley picks a foodstuff each week and shows you what horrid ingredients and shameful manufacturing processes go into it. Now, I like Mr Riley, he's got a stupid face and can be quite funny. But can't we do without the silly stunts like getting dressed in lederhosen, while standing outside the British HQ of German supermarket Lidl, to protest at them putting hydrogenated fats into their food? Something that always has to be done with a bullhorn to get their point across? I know they have to make these things entertaining but credit us with a bit of intelligence. Anyway, his programme may be having the opposite effect, as I now quite fancy the Celebrity Meat Loaf featured on last week's show. I've worked in food manufacturing for the past eight yeras and I'm pretty unshockable. It won't kill you.
And on that point, don't even get me started on Jimmy's Food Factory...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Searching for freedom from TV 'chefs'

I'm losing my patience with TV cookery shows. Come on, who actually makes any of that stuff they do on those shows? No me neither. The thing is these shows are everywhere, even supposedly primetime viewing. Let's look at what's on this week: Saturday Kitchen, Something for the Weekend, Come Dine With Me, The F Word, River Cottage, The Restaurant. They're just the ones off the top of my head. In recent weeks we've also had Jamie's American Adventure (pity he didn't get stay there), Britain's Best Dish, Cook's Challenge yada yada yada.
The thing is, who actually makes their own pasta? When Mr Heinz is quite prepared to make it for me and put it in a tin then I don't see why I should, I've got better things to do than dick around with one of those turny-handled pasta machines all afternoon.
The crunch came for me on Saturday morning when, I was getting ready to go out, there was this long lost relation of Jeremy Clarkson's (Valentine Warner?) on Saturday Kitchen doing something with a duck and an ingredient called puy lentils. The lentils ended up looking like puke. Green puke. Has anyone reading this ever eaten puy lentils?
I was in Waitrose a few weeks ago and overheard some fortysomething women banging on about how they'd like to be on the Chef's Table on Saturday Kitchen, like it was some kind of dream destination. And James Martin's 'a bit of alright, isn't he?'. That's the real reason they want to get on Saturday Kitchen, I fancy. They also like to make out they're some kind of experts 'there's so many flavours going off in there, it's great. The pan-fried* haddock really compliments those seared brussel sprouts.' Shut up.
Anyway, the only TV 'chef' I have any time for is Nigel Slater. He champions food that's not very good for you but tasty, and it's all 'oh, chuck however much you like in there'. And he writes great non-cookery books.

What I have enjoyed on the telly this week was something on Saturday night about the Berlin Wall. Post war Germany fascinates me from the 1970s in West Germany to the shitness of the old GDR. There were non-party people on this documentary who actually still mourned the passing of the GDR and still believed in its ideals. I suppose Communism is a good idea in principle, but anyone whose ever read Animal Farm knows it can never work.
What I also find interesting about the GDR is the Stasi, the secret police. This documentary told us that they were far worse, and in much greater in numbers, than the Gestapo ever was. They scared their own people so much they'd even managed to recruit an early 80s anti-Communist activist to spy on his mates. A brilliant documentary.
*A term I hate, by the way. How else does one fry something other than in a pan?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Sorry I've not been posting for a while but I've not had much to post about, and a strange melancholia has engulfed me somewhat. I don't think Mum's death has hit me properly yet, and something big's about to go off at work, from which, fingers-crossed, I'll emerge from the other side unscathed. Hopefully.

Anyway, I don't do self pity on this blog (I do that on my other blog so I thought I'd let you know what I've been using to cheer myself:
  • James May making giant Airfix kits.

  • Danny Baker on the Word podcast talking about working in record shops owned by Elton John in the early 70s, King Crimson, the myth surrounding punk and its origins, working at the NME in the late 70s, Earth Wind and Fire.

  • This record. I gather it's not everyone's cup o' meat but I like it.

  • Mark Ellen guesting on Mark Radcliffe's show; two mates talking about nothing much but being funny and listener-inclusive.

  • Seeing Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds. A good night out if you like to hear Kraftwerk's The Model played on mandolin, violin, double bass and uilleann pipes.

  • Series six of Peep Show. Just keeps getting better.

  • Listening to my eighteen year-old nephew order alcoholic drinks at a bar, ice creams and fish 'n' chips while on a weekend away with the bloody family. What a dork. But a funny dork.

  • Armstrong and Miller.

  • Reading about Sting and Trudie Styler's tantric sex-powered helicopter in the latest Viz.
  • Reminding myself about when I went to a roller disco in 1982 after being served by a girl in Marks and Spencer's who was there. She fell and dropped Polo mints all over the floor for other roller discoites to grind into the wooden gymnasium floor with their wheels. That set me off, but what got me even more was the thought of me at a roller disco. Regular readers will know that I'm the world's most un-roller disco person. What was I thinking?