Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wise Children by Angela Carter for 26 Books - and resolutions VS wishes

I didn't make resolutions for 2010 - I made wishes instead, mostly along the lines of "Nobody dies", "Nobody loses their jobs", "Everybody has a nice time", "I find the perfect Gin Fizz" - and so of course 2010 is the year where I, for the first time ever, manage to give up alcohol for more than three weeks without panicking.

While I'm getting to grips with the joys of freelance writing and the slightly lesser joys of job applications, I've joined the lovely people at 26 Books, run by The Telegraph's Shane Richmond, as a blogger. You read 26 books in a year, and then you write about them. Easy! No, it turns out it's bloody hard. Not the reading, that's fine, but I'd forgotten how terrifying it is writing for new people on a new subject for the first time.

[Here's my first post, about the miraculous Angela Carter's final book, Wise Children.]

Couples Retreat, so does the redhead

[This was a piece I wrote for the Guardian back in October that got spiked. Given Exam's out now with its representative cast (and not a ginge in sight), up it goes here.]

Having red hair at my school in the ‘90s was a crime on a par with chronic B.O. Contemporary icons for gingers like me were seriously thin on the ground: Geri Halliwell (eurgh), Nicole Kidman (too distant) and a fairytale hooker with big teeth – thanks a lot, Gary Marshall. But things are different now. Girls have Amy Adams and Isla Fisher to look up to: pretty, funny actresses with lovely hair and good personal hygiene. It should be easier to be a redhead.

So I was genuinely shocked when celeb-stuffed marriage comedy Couples Retreat’s British poster campaign replaced the auburn hair of Vince Vaughn’s love interest, played by Malin Akerman, with the actress’s usual blonde. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, that this simple bit of Photoshopping infuriates me more than 26 years of jokes about ninjas, biscuits, collars and cuffs, but seeing that poster was like a school trick played 10 years too late.

It’s not spoiling much of the film to say that Akerman is a big old ginge the whole way through. A colleague suggested the film might have just snapped her before filming started and not bothered with post-production– fine, until you see the American ad (toned down, but still red) and the amazingly clunky job done on Akerman’s male co-stars in the Brit ad, now all sporting jet-black hair like a comedy Just For Men ad.

So what are the marketeers thinking? Maybe that the British would boycott a film with a redhead on the ad, but go “Oh well, we can’t leave now we’ve bought the popcorn” when the film parades her gingerosity for two hours. Vince Vaughn’s already starred with one redhead love interest (Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers) so maybe it’s fine, as long as the ginger’s not on the poster.

It’s not the first time red hair has been toned down to avoid scaring the horses. Spider-Man 2 cunningly merged Kirsten Dunst’s flaming hair with a flaming skyline and, while Richard Gere was charmed to see Julia Roberts’ tumbling auburn curls on his pillow, Pretty Woman’s poster carries the scraggy brown locks of a dodgy bathroom dye job.

Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [poster, in the film], Emma Stone in The Rocker [poster, in the film], Nicole Kidman in To Die For [poster, in the film], Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village [poster, in the film ], have all have been bleached, blonded or browned down for the posters.

Now, clearly not every silver screen redhead gets hit with the de-saturate function – the quirky best mate role pays the bills, after all – but given the few redheads that even end up on posters, it happens enough to make it clear that red is a no-go area. Cartoon colours are fine: see Red Sonja, Run Lola Run, G.I. Joe. But natural shades? Eww. Hepburn and Hayworth were lucky they could hide behind black and white.

Ironically, there are dozens of prominent redhead actresses filling up the small screen. True Blood’s got three major players in its second season, which is practically a bonanza. But Tinseltown? I count four leads. Julianne Moore once joked to fellow ginge Conan O’Brien that there were so few of them that they should start a group. Why then can’t Hollywood let them be? Blonde is beautiful, brunette too. They’re just not enough for me.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tom Wrigglesworth review, Soho Theatre, for The Arts Desk

[My first review for The Arts Desk, concerning the excellent 'kindly twig' himself, Tom Wrigglesworth.]

Firstly, no, Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Return Letter to Richard Branson isn’t that letter. His epistle is not to be confused with Oliver Beale’s, whose email to the Virgin boss complaining about the food on a Virgin flight went viral last year. The Sheffield-born comic, currently appearing at the Soho Theatre in London, set about an altogether more decent-hearted campaign after witnessing some gross unfairness meted out to an elderly passenger on a Virgin train journey last autumn.

Wrigglesworth was nearly arrested when he organised a train-wide whip-round after a grandmother was fined £115 by a ticket inspector for mistakenly being on the wrong train because Virgin had given her the wrong itinerary. But Wrigglesworth has since miraculously managed to persuade the train company to stop imposing draconian on-the-spot fares, helped by the titular letter, significant coverage in the media and – if you believe the beautifully embellished finale – an inspiring “I am Spartacus” platform showdown from his fellow passengers when their journey had ended at London Euston and the police had been called.

Wrigglesworth’s show is equal parts storytelling, history and social commentary, glued together with more rage and waspishness than you might expect from a man who resembles a kindly twig in tweed. Each bureaucratic nightmare is darkly characterised with League of Gentlemen-style voicing, while the painfully sad description of Lena, 75 – in tears after handing over a roll of hard-saved money that was intended to buy Christmas presents for her grandchildren – threatens to derail Tiny Tim as Britain’s most festivally tragic near-miss.

For Wrigglesworth has a verbal skill that borders on genius, skewering a folk-song use of rhyme and rhythm with a forceful wit and sending up the British curmudgeon with wicked skill. His descriptions of fellow travellers, from a group of “northern Golden Girls” engaged in a verbal rally of dour sayings to the jobsworth ticket inspector “ejaculating an orange ticket of misery” towards poor old Lena, are as much of a joy as the actual jokes themselves.

At one point he gets so carried away on a tangent about tinned fruit that he comes unstuck altogether. “You were on a train!” somebody reminds him. But so deft is the lanky comedian’s way with words – he was nominated for this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award for this show – that, when he does lose the plot, it’s more like a ballerina pausing mid-pirouette than a comedic car crash. Why Radio 4 hasn’t yet prostrated itself at his door and begged to be allowed to bottle these rants is beyond me.

It’s certainly clear that he needs to move on. Whether Wrigglesworth is bored stiff of performing the same show for much of 2009, or just knows it too well, this does at times come across as more of a motivational workshop than a living, breathing comedy show. As he addresses the back of the Soho’s studio space like Dame Judi Dench aiming for the gods, it takes a while to feel fully engaged. But once he’s relaxed into his storytelling it’s terrific.

What lifts this show above a twee bit of eye rolling and “Ticket inspectors – what are they like?” is that Wrigglesworth did that most un-British thing and got involved, with a tangible result. “Lena’s Law” now means passengers who have to buy or adjust their ticket on Virgin Trains are charged the appropriate fare rather than the top-possible price. Wrigglesworth is also now petitioning that all train companies follow suit and it’s incredibly uplifting to see comedy that not only blasts a problem but delivers a solution.

Tom Wrigglesworth is at the Soho Theatre 5-7 November. Book here. He will be touring the UK from 17 January 2010. Information

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Live radio theatre? The perfect night out and in - The Guardian

[, Television&Radio, 14 October 2009]

Radio theatre lets your imagination run wild, but seeing a live radio play recording makes the form doubly entertaining

An old American radio

Liberating … radio drama. Photograph: Corbis.

Until recently, if someone told me I had a face for radio, I would probably have burst into tears and spent a week in a balaclava. At least until I met Mariele Runacre-Temple, director of the internet audio drama Wireless Theatre Company, who creates fully rounded play performances for radio recordings; that means actors perform in costume, off book and with stage directions. There's no mugging in front of microphones here.

Barring a really terrible seat at the theatre, where all I could see was the top third of a door and was effectively just listening, I'd never 'watched' a radio play – or particularly wanted to. In fact, I'd always assumed that radio drama, as with the Answer Me This! podcast and BBC7's excellent Undone, was recorded in someone's sitting room, with a harassed producer making squelching noises using a bucket and some Play Doh.

What I – and I suspect most people – particularly love about radio plays is that the listener gets to decide what the world looks like. You don't get a numb bum from a rotten theatre seat and you can crack on doing whatever you like while listening to a play.

The closest thing theatreland has to mimicking this success is the Fortune theatre's massively successful The Woman in Black . Here is a stark production, cloaked largely in darkness and relying on sound effects, with just two actors on stage. Yet, it's terrifying. It's easy to understand why it works similarly for radio.

In fact, I'd wager that horror and spook stories work better on radio than they do in the West End. Wireless's last live show was a selection of Edgar Allan Poe stories, and listening to it on air meant that your imagination could run riot and conjure imagery far scarier than a set designer could budget for.

Of course, some productions work better than others. The revival of Kenneth Williams's radio show Stop Messing About earlier this year was a bit of a damp squib, but Fitzrovia Radio Hour's comic renditions of scripts from the 1940s and 50s have proved so successful that, after a year performing radio plays to audiences at the tiny Bourne & Hollingsworth bar, they moved in June to the 300-capacity Underglobe beneath Shakespeare's Globe.

So why, when we can listen to something in all its polished glory on the radio or in the theatre, do we still want to go and see it behind the scenes? With Fitzrovia Radio Hour, the tongue-in-cheek delivery, costumes and retro humour are part of the package, but it's more than that. Being there when something is being recorded is thrilling. For an hour or so, the audience get to be part of something being created around them. With theatre, you're coughing up £30 plus on an ephemeral delight. With a live radio recording, you get to see it, then turn it on its head and reinvent it for yourself in your imagination later – now that's value for money.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We need a Royal Court for musicals, The Guardian

[, Stage, 21 September 2009]

With the West End unwilling to gamble on untried productions, New Musicals Network is a lifeline for developing musicals

Arinze Kene (Raymond) and Naana Agyei-Ampadu (Yvonne) in Been So Long at the Young Vic

Leading the field ... Can we develop more musicals of the quality of Che Walker's Been So Long? Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Last night I saw the future of musical theatre. Some of it was genius and some of it was ho-hum, but given the domination of film adaptations and jukebox musicals in the West End, it was bloody exciting to see it at all.

Snappy Title, a cabaret of songs from new musicals to launch the New Musicals Network, was a showcase to support composers and lyricists who might otherwise disappear under the pressure of not being Lloyd Webber or an 80s pop star. NMN is a bit likes Mumsnet for musical writers – a lively forum for ideas, tips, networking, and yes, songs.

Compered by Mary Poppins composers George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, last night's new songs were performed by West End cast members giving their time for free – an indication of dire straits if ever there was one.

It seems more people than ever are going to see musicals, but with an expectation of comforting familiarity that doesn't apply to the rest of theatre; nobody wants to be challenged, it seems, when they're forking out £50 per ticket. But without new blood being pumped into the genre, we'll end up trapped in a theatrical Twilight Zone populated entirely by drag queens, film adaptations, and greatest hits CDs.

Even the Edinburgh fringe, an invaluable platform for new material, seems to treat musicals with vague embarrassment and a lack of critical seriousness. You're unlikely to see a musical transferring south with the fanfare of Black Watch.

There was one Edinburgh show last night that demands to be seen. Three superb songs came from 2008's Only The Brave, a second world war love story following a family and a platoon in the lead-up to D-Day. Another three songs made me wish I'd caught Landor Theatre's production of Austentatious, a 2007 musical about a regional production of Pride & Prejudice.

And remember the critical clawing given to Menopause: The Musical? Olly Ashmore's middle-age break-up musical Hot Flush 2 wiped the slate clean with Wake Up TV, this year's Stiles and Drewe award-winner for best song.

I'd also like to see more from Gregory & Kim's Korean musical Falling, whose gender-bending reincarnation love story sounded bizarrely like Miss Saigon meets Hedwig. Their song wasn't the best, but the idea was just bonkers enough to work.

Musical theatre needs new schemes like this because while there's nothing as unfashionably creepy as a bad musical, there's nothing as life-affirmingly wonderful as a good one. I'm still trying to wipe the screeching monstrosity of 2004's The Woman In White from my mind, but Che Walker's musical update of his play Been So Long made my 2009.

Simply, we need a Royal Court Theatre for musicals, developing new shows without West End pressure. The closest thing so far is Perfect Pitch, an annual showcase of new work at the Trafalgar Studios. But while the Royal Court's runs give new plays a month or so to breathe, here you get two shows a day from 3-7 November – stress, much?

British musical theatre can't, and shouldn't, lean on past and borrowed glories in the way it does now. Let's hope NMN gives new talent a chance to shine because, God knows, the West End needs it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in the countryside

Everyone has Edwardian preconceptions of what a nice Christmas in the country is like and, despite having lived there for nearly 16 years, I'm exactly the same.

The news, therefore, that a massive cocaine cartel had been caught up in the woods out by the front of the village was so exciting I went into a spasm of Clarrie Grundy handflapping. The white car we'd seen parked by the bridle path for the last couple of days was apparently part of said cartel, appropriate enough given that every time we passed it reminded me of seeing in Christmas Day with friends and a spliff in that same spot several years before.

Less amusingly, the ancient village church has been repeatedly broken into by junkies over the past months, repeatedly breaking the collection box out of the wall and nicking the money. Any London liberalism goes out of the window here. The village and the church work ridiculously hard to raise money for all kinds of charities, and said junkies should be chucked in the river if it were any more than two inches deep.

Beyond that, most of the ideals match up to the reality, albeit without the Edwardians. There's turkey for roughly five hundred people, cooked in an Aga that throws a sulking fit and cools down on Christmas Day. There's a lovely Christmas tree, covered in decorations of assorted glitter bought over 25 years, and accompanied by a wobbly star limboing into the ceiling by an overenthusiastic branch, and silver rain of indeterminate age.

The dog always gets a present, and despite still clutching last year's squeaky reindeer on Christmas Eve, is so delighted with this year's squeaky mallard that she temporarily remembers she was born a gun dog and starts ripping it to shreds on the carpet. She then sneaks off and plays dollies, putting it to bed on the armchair with a snoring pig that wiggles its ear which my dad and I got a few days before. This is so sweet we all go "Aaaaah", and the dog is so embarrassed that she tries to disembowel the mallard in order to prove her hardcore flat coat credentials.

Eric, my mother's unfeasibly camp gardener statue has been adorned with tinsel and flood lights, and looks permanently poised to break into medleys from Hairspray.

The Saturday before Christmas, my family piles into the car for the pathetically short trip down to the village Court House hall for carols. Over the years, the hall has probably hastened the death of innumerate Alms House pensioners due to its feudal Arctic qualities, so they've since invested in a rocket launcher heater that screams as loudly as the nearest toddler until the doors are shut and the varying degrees of warbling begin.

The 12 decades of Christmas are followed by a pile-up upstairs into the library for hot something or other afterwards, mince pies and competitive cookery ("Those ones are shop bought" hisses Mrs Someone Else, digging her elbows into my side and pointing out Mr Kipling's efforts lurking among the homemade pies). I vaguely recognise some of the teenagers, and a girl I went to sixth form with playing the dutiful future daughter-in-law. The vague recognising comes from my refusing to wear glasses for years rather than my similarly crap memory. There are lots of people I don't recognise

Coming out of the hall to head home for supper, my parents saw police cars outside the Church. Same junkies, same score, only this time round the vicar had locked them in the church and they'd bashed their way into the hall round the side. The vicar's wife and her daughter had clcoked a glimpse of them as they went belting off, and were waiting to be questioned by the police.

Happy Christmas from the countryside! Ballet Shoes was just as fucking disappointing in middle England.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Hilarity ensues, with songs"

For reasons that should be very clear to anyone who has even seen a Julia Stiles film, I should like sarcastic-and-wonderful Julia Stiles to play me in the film of my life.

I'm not entirely sure how this film would go, since I have reached the age of 25 without a) developing drug problems b) falling in love with inappropriate boxers c) earning the stalkeringtitude of millions. An Empire workie once asked me for my autograph, but he was mad so I don't think that really counts. I give it an optimistic 15 years before I have achieved sufficient notoriety for it to be worth Julia Stiles dropping everything and becoming me.

Anyway, the similarly divine Kim Newman, presumably bored out of his mind with Christmas parties/updating his Facebook status, has written a pitch for just such a film. I love the idea of having James Marsden almost as much as the toy pig my dad and I picked up in Help The Aged this morning. More on that story another time.

"Okay, so here's my pitch for Kiss Me Kat - the Shakespeare-based Julia Stiles musical version of your life ...

... because 'sarcastic and wonderful' film critic Kat (Julia) always gives mercilessly amusing one-star reviews to wet romantic comedies, Hollywood is on the point of bankruptcy - Richard Curtis has shot himself, Cameron Diaz and Renee Zellweger are having to work as office cleaners, Richard Gere has to make films in which he sleeps with women his own age and Hugh Grant is back on Sunset Blvd on the other side of soliciting charges. Pat Ruccio (James Marsden), an exec who has been counting on a box office returns from a new especially soppy romantic comedy to keep the studio out of bankruptcy, accepts a bet that he can - within one week - convince Kat to give Bubblehead Wins Handsome Zillionaire a five-star lead review with suitably gushing pull quotes for the posters ... hilarity ensues, with songs."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Totally totally actually the best email ever!

Dear Actor,

Thank you for applying to The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices.
Congratulations! – this e-mail is to invite you to the first round of auditions.

Your audition slot is:

[etc etc]

Friday, November 23, 2007


Last night I spent a great deal of time on my bedroom floor. Not having got around to hoovering it for a good three weeks, it's not the most pleasant place to be. I can think of Western towns that have fewer dustbunnies than my fake-wood floor, but regardless.

I was looking through boxes trying to find old copies of Artslinks in order to grab the reviews of me to add to my application for the Old Vic 24 Hour Plays which I have been procrastinating over for about a month now in trad Kat style. I singularly failed to find the one I was looking for and instead, i found one of my diaries from when I was 18/19 and in my second year of university.

I don't usually go back over my diaries, mostly because they're filled with mopy teenagery and bad song lyrics, but I'd run out of recorded telly to watch on BT Vision and settled down on a plump cushion of tumbleweed to have a giggle.

You know when you've moved on when you don't actually recognise the person in the writing. Even worse, when you actually worry about the person there. I've admitted to being a Vile Teenager and clinically depressed etc etc, but this is the first time I've been distanced enough from everything to realise that the person in that writing is really fucking ill.

The paranoia and side effects from my lies-induced bout of Seroxat earlier this year gave me a sharp and terrifying flash into what it would be like to fall back into that pit again. Reading my diary, the only thing I seemed to have then due to my pathological hatred of offloading onto people, it was like watching someone drowning in their own head. I felt so sad for her, for this person who didn't get any help, who made other people upset through not explaining, and who was utterly terrified of the future and wanted to be anywhere and anything but herself.

Two of my best friends from that time, Cat and Anna, once told me very gently that I was very hard to be around during that time. Reading that diary, it's a miracle anyone was with me at all. I owe them a lot for putting up with someone who was that ill and didn't know how to do any better.

I wonder what would have happened if I had got treatment earlier, maybe left university for a bit and gone away, and been able to grow up without fighting my head everyday. I might have changed course, I might have gone somewhere else, I might have got the first I should have done in a subject I should have done and been somewhere else.

Yet regardless of all this, all I want to do is to tell that person that it's alright. I achieved all the things she was so desperate for, I have wonderful friends who love me and who I love in return. I love my family as well and that matters so bloody much.

Most importantly, I want to tell her that your head is not meant to be like that: that what she is going through isn't normal and life can be so much better, clearer and more human. I'm just sorry that I didn't do anything more for her, but at the same time I feel a guilty sense of relief that I can close the book and leave her behind.

My life fucking rocks. What's nice, is that it means hers does too.

Friday, October 19, 2007

James Blunt - Triangle

While James Blunt's music is enough to make me want to stab my ears with forks, I will maintain forever that the man is one of the funniest interviewees ever. If someone could put together an album of interviews James Blunt has done, I would be very pleased, and possibly cackle.

As pointed in our direction by Popbitch this afternoon, he's topped any previous record of genius with this ode to furry triangles to the tune of "You're Beautiful". The montage of triangles and other soft focus shapes cooing softly brings joy into my heart and hysteria to my lips.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I am a Times prize-winning photographer!

I won the Community project category in The Times' Cameraphone Photographer of the Year competition! Amazing. I was having a large and unnecessarily indulgent coffee and cake with my old flatmate Ian when this nice chap rings up and says I've won something with a picture I took of Mile End's puny anti-flooding efforts during the July monsoon season. I laughed at him for about three minutes. As well as getting to be on The Times website (swoon) I get a nice new phone and a nice Bluetooth printer which will come in ridiculously handy for my current domestic photoframe fetish. I'll never hear a bad word against my little K800i again. Ever. But more than that, I am very very excited to be in The Times, however dubiously.

In other news, I had been getting slightly freaked out by the total lack of news coverage surrounding the fact that a large chunk of Soho had been cut off on Monday evening due to a chemical and gas leak (as we were told). There were police and firemen everywhere. More importantly, Anna and I missed our screening of Black Sheep so there were many angry film journalists grumbling about being denied the joys of Kiwi genetically mutated sheep, and we had to go off traipsing around cinemas that weren't showing anything remotely good.

This has all been made considerably better by discovering this. Chemical/gas leak my arse.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Call Girl Responds

Staggering in to the flat after three hours of Patrick Stewart being old and hysterical in Macbeth, I grabbed the remnants of some Diet Coke and collapsed onto the sofa for the first episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, or Billie Piper's Agent Provocateur ad as it should probably be known - infinitely less annoying than that mealy-mouthed tabland Kate Moss. Even though it was barely half an hour long it was great fun. While not as bitingly funny or intelligent as the original blog ("because it's on the telly darling," says one cultural friend dismissively), and later book, by Belle De Jour, was exactly what I needed after a week of Culture with a capital twat.

Now, I don't trust writers who only use one name. It's ridiculous and egotistical, and I know enough writers with two names who fit that bill. Actors just about get away with it (viz Portia currently wowing the West End and Fantasia in The Color Purple on Broadway) but writers aren't covered in stardust and just come across as a bit po-faced and ridiculous.

Which, handily for this sweeping stereotype, is exactly how Bidisha, an Independent columnist, came across on Monday's Front Row. She'd been roped in by Mark Lawson to give a "woman's perspective" (this went unsaid, in much the same way that the Wonderbra ads in the 90s went unsaid) of the new TV show. The poor girl has a voice that would send a speed freak to sleep, and spoke with such grating lack of knowledge that by the end I just felt slightly embarrassed.

"She says she wasn't abused," she says earnestly (paraphrase) "but in the book she describes what is very clearly an abusive relationship with her first boyfriend that she talks about in an almost dismissive manner."

That's not abuse, that's S&M you silly girl. Read the book. I can feel another 300 argument approaching.

Read the amusing and acidic email from Belle De Jour to Radio 4. I wonder if they'll be reading that out on Pick of the Week.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Amazon children

The BBC have reported on findings that having an older sibling can stunt your growth.

My 6'7 younger brother would beg to differ.

Friday, September 07, 2007

How not to quit your job

I handed in my notice today. I’ve never had to hand in my “notice” before. Notice of what, exactly? Intentions of an infidelious nature towards another place of employment? For fuck’s sake. I’ve always been freelance, on a short-term contract, or made redundant by a slowly atrophying magazine company so the responsibility of handing in one’s notice is an alien one.

Despite having a job with about as much use as scrubbing corns for a living, I adore the people I work with and given that I’d expressed sod all hint of upping and leaving beforehand, felt utterly mortified at the prospect of jumping this particular ship, however interminably boring.

Resignation went as follows:

Boss summons me to talk about new update to site. I grab sheafs of letters copied from drafts offered up by helpful Journobiz members and miserably ask him to come outside first in manner of hideous vet about to put down dog in Lady and the Tramp. Tell boss. Forget advice about keeping it simple. Actually use the phrase “it’s not you, it’s me”. Boss totally unfazed by my intention to leave. I hug boss for about three minutes apologising. Boss quite cheered at prospect of leaving party. Me nearly in tears. Office continues as normal.

Am now going to see Atonement and drink many, many cocktails of assorted flavours in Covent Garden, resting pathetically on Guy’s unimpressed shoulder until I feel either less hideous, or infinitely more so depending.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kingdom of Loathing and 'feely kits', Technobile, The Guardian

Do roleplaying games have to be enhanced by offers of jewellery made from chainmail and 'feelie kits'?

[Kat Brown, The Guardian, Technology section, 23 August, 2007]

Is there a single computer game left untouched by the fetishised psychosis of people who still live with their parents? If so, for crying out loud, give it my number.

When I hung up my roleplaying game (RPG) cap I thought I'd said sayonara to the more obsessive end of the gaming spectrum. A genre with as many wobbly papier-mâché shrines and roleplay fanatics as you can wave a Wii controller at, the continual wading through fan fiction to find an FAQ got to be too much, and I ran away screaming.

In Kingdom of Loathing I thought I'd found my perfect retirement. An awe-inspiringly sarcastic online RPG that drops pop culture, gaming and scholarly references with the flair of a pixellated Pratchett, its intolerance of the usual internet mores is such that you have to pass a spelling and grammar test before you're even allowed to chat.

But there is a downside: as with most freeware, the game's creators make their money from merchandise and donations and an - honest to God - "feelie kit". For a mere $40 (£20), some keys, a participant's certificate and other hastily assembled crap can be yours.

It's the sheer disparity between the game and the merchandise that makes me twitch. Who are these complex individuals who can spend an afternoon laughing disdainfully at Lamz0r N00bs (that's lame newbies to you, auntie), only to lovingly admire their participant's certificate afterwards? You have to hope it's a little joke from the makers, this time more on their obsessive users than the general public.

It gets worse with Zelda, a series so unrelentingly brilliant that fan design should be made an act of treason. One fan makes a tidy sum selling Triforce jewellery made out of chainmail. "Ever wonder what the items and such in Hyrule really look like?" runs the blurb. No, because I've played the game and in fact they look heavily pixellated and a bit rubbish.

You can choose from the Ocarina of Time, the Moon Pearl, and even the potions. "The bottles are 16oz/500ml size and about (sic) the exact same size as the bottles Link carries around." You can just bet someone sat by her screen with a ruler and a calculator for that one.

While I'm slightly in awe of people who can use chainmail in anything other than a sentence, I wish they'd use it for Dungeons and Dragons instead of such dead-eyed kookiness. I know they're just games for children and people with no social lives who are frightened of cheese, but they're also mine, dammit, and I refuse to be lumped in with a load of reverential basketcases just because I like playing them.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Four stars in Three Weeks!

WIT: **** Underbelly, 1.15pm
Wit: A sharp sounding word with connotations of humour and sanity, neatly reflects the qualities of this play's heroine, Vivian Bearing, a fiercely independent academic facing ovarian cancer. Not one to be anticipated by an obvsious narrative device she deadpans to her audience, "It is not my intention to give away the plot...but I think I die, at the end". Like the poetry of John Donne she so reveres, she 'distrusts simplification' and fights fiercely against both dehumanisation and sentimentality. Despite the sparkling erudition of the script, done full justice by intelligent performances all round, this play's most forceful comment is in fact a simple one about kindness. An unflinchingly honest performance of this acutely insightful and poignant play.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Warning: may contain pretentious ramblings

About an hour before the show, I hid in the Jelly Belly bar clutching a vodka and diet coke, my script and trying to assume the expression of one who knows she looks like a wannabe four-year-old in that hat but that’s actually happening to someone else. The vodka helped, if not steady my nerves – vodka? Really? – then reassure me that at least we didn’t have press coming in like our sister show, The Dresser, over at the Baby Belly.

Approximately ten minutes before we gathered beds, straws and Beatrix Potter books and rigged the set, one of the nice boys from the Underbelly press popped his head round the door.

“Three Weeks have asked for a ticket,” he said, managing to be sweet and apologetic at the same time. “They know it’s your first day so I said they asked first. The only thing is they might not come back if they had to reschedule.”

We said yes.

We then realised one of the wings was too small and shunted the set around so that everyone had to do the play mirrored. This was fine up until I ended up doing some kind of absurd tango with Vivian’s IV pole, and my young doctor had to give her a clinical exam with the wrong hand. Nice.

The show was…odd. The amazing flyering done by everyone in their scrubs had obviously done the job: we only had six spare seats apparently. People laughed, a lot, but not always where we thought they would, but then audiences and casts don’t tend to agree very often. It seemed to go brilliantly, and there was lots of clapping and what looked like smeary trails down the cheeks of at least two smiling ladies in the second row.

We treated ourselves to two shows to celebrate, wangling whatever free stuff we could with our company passes. This backfired when we couldn’t get in to see a show called Greedy, which was sold out due to it’s having a reputation for being good. It also backfired when it meant we managed to get into see The Durham Revue, which also had a reputation for being very good, but unfortunately wasn’t. There was one boy who played Popeye in the show’s only slick, smart sketch, the rest had a lack of timing, direction and talent which was frankly bizarre. I know this sounds very mean, but it really was awful.

Afterwards we nipped along to see the House of Windsor, who we’d chatted up yesterday in the store room. Absurdist sketches, blissfully better than the Revue, with lots of deadpan camp about bears hibernating and Tim Henman.

This was all very good until we parted ways, I wen home, read for a bit, then realised that the only two people I actually know in the house and gone out to a cast dinner and forgot I was there. Ordinarily I’d have jumped in a cab and gone over, but I felt utterly disgusting after the show and it’s remained.

Basically, I spend an hour dying. The script is funny, it’s poignant, and the cast are brilliant. This doesn’t prevent the fact that I feel like I’ve lost someone everytime I do it properly. I know that’s unforgivably pretentious, but hey – this is Edinburgh. Also, because my character has so many bloody lines, I feel a bit like a prop who’s been brought in to perform, and because I’ve got that wig most of the morning til after the play, it makes me feel very self-conscious about flyering and also unavoidably stamped to the damned character. That got exacerbated when I got left behind at the house. I feel shaky, and ill and cried horribly and in short, feel like Vivian at her lowest – I just want to hide. I want to curl up into a little ball.

Bricking it like a house of bricks

I am sitting in the Fringe press office in the denim hat I got in the same skewed sales logic of “but it’s 70% off!” that got me a pair of cripplingly small silk shoes, and a bald wig. Wearing the bald wig has turned the cute hat into a Children’s Ward cliché. On the machine next to me here’s an elderly monk with Ming The Merciless eyebrows and a katana case strapped to his back. Nobody bats an eyelid, I rather want to grab his ankles and pledge him my troth.

The rest of the cast trooped up yesterday and took the news of our new and minimalist stage pretty well. We had a run-through in one of the spare playrooms lying around our gargantuan house – this one could have easily housed a Church hall – at which point it materialised that, while we were all dodgy on lines, one cast member was vomiting memory loss in hysteria-causing spades.

Charlotte quietly banished him to learn his lines upstairs. Marco, the cast adult, came back to announce even more quietly that when asked how many lines he actually knew, he reckoned “Um, about 30%?”

Ideas involving lines written on clipboards were bandied about. We ran through as much as we could, then Charlotte took her other cast off to the Baby Belly to have their tech. They got back at 2.30 this morning.

We ran through Wit at 9 this morning. Charlotte and Katie, who’s in both plays, are still somehow conscious. The cast member had miraculously learned all his lines and was absolutely brilliant.

I tried on my bald cap last night. These are not fun to do on your own and require a lot of cutting down before they stop looking like a gimp sock. Last time I had one I had significantly more hair. This time, I chopped it off beforehand, expensively. There was still too much, so I grabbed the kitchen scissors I’d used for chopping up plastic and cut a few chunks out, less expensively. I can’t see what it looks like at the back which is probably wise, but the effect from the front is something that a trust-fund hipster would probably fork out £100 for at Taylor Taylor. It’s DIY, bitches.

After my Royal Tenenbaums moment I went to bed and read children’s books and tried not to die of panic in my sleep.

It’s now about 90 minutes til the first show. I know it’s only a fucking play, but I’ve never had stage fright in my life, and right now I’m rather wishing I’d had practise because I am absolutely terrified.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wit at Edinburgh - "taking the night bus didn't kill me" shocker

It’s a theatrical tradition that, for a show to go right, everything has to go wrong beforehand. I’ve always rather suspected this to be lies made up by companies blessed with more enthusiasm than skill, but given the endless stream of you’ve-gotta-laugh-or-you’ll-cry-and-never-get-up-again incidents that happened yesterday, I’m inclined to change my opinion.

From Monday we’re performing at Delhi Belly, a bijou space in the vast caverns of the Underbelly on Cowgate. Bijou is a kind word meaning microscopically small. Our director Charlotte – an unflappable genius whose anger/panic/insanity only becomes apparent if you look her straight in the eyes in the afternoon – walked in to find that four feet of the stage was missing.

“We needed a viable fire exit,” said one of the Underbelly techs cheerily. This makes our stage a measly 8ft deep (I am 6’2 and do a lot of lying down) and means we now have to put a large prop on the floor and call it ‘meta’.

Sunday was to be our tech, the first rehearsal since a week-long rush a month ago.

“Wit – um, yeah here you are. 1pm on Monday,” said our techie, Gavin, looking at his clipboard

There was a short pause while Charlotte battled the demons within.

“Gavin, the play has its first run at 1.15 on Monday. We’re supposed to be teching in the morning.”

“Um, well, someone-who-sounds-like-Dave-Michelle has got you down for then.”

Gavin is not thick, just massively overworked. Possibly-Dave-Michelle is also not thick, but definitely numerically dyslexic.After some Charlotte magic worked on the supervising tech, and bribing a reluctant Gavin with tea and donuts to get out bed for 9.30 Monday morning, we set about assembling the props. The NHS hospital bed and office chair are played by Ikea, both being cheap and famously unreliable. We hit a snag when the chair’s last wheel refused point blank to allow itself to be screwed in place. George, Charlotte’s assistant, nearly broke his head falling off it backwards, which will teach him for playing around on swivel chairs when there are beds of minute height to assemble.

The bed is Lilliputian. Alex, who plays one of the doctors, will have to limbo under my character’s pelvis in order to do an exam. Ikea outdid themselves again by making the mattress a good four inches smaller than the bed frame. A sketch group called The House of Windsor eyed our efforts dubiously as we then attempted to make it look a bit less like a horrific metal accident by covering it in sheets and hospital blankets. We lost George, who’d seen the House of Windsor show in London and subsequently turned deep pink and asked reverential questions.

“Wit? I think I’m reviewing that for The Stage,” said one of them horrifying casually. “Acts reviewing other acts.” Charlotte and I turned the full laser beam of our smiles on him. He looked slightly uncomfortable. George was still pink. We’re all probably fucked, but we’ve got a very good play and regardless of Swiftian influence, that should hopefully be enough to engross an audience. It’ll even be all be alright on the night – and it was. We went to Silent Disco. It was the most fun I’ve had in months.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bad day for baby whales

Whales: stop coming to Britain. Maybe that fake great white could come up from Cornwall and scare him out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Things that are good and things that are not

- The Bourne Ultimatum
Despite the fact I find myself physically incapable of calling it anything other than the Bourne Ultomato, it was anything but thoroughly stupid. Moving from one beautifully choregraphed and outlandishly plotted chase after another, the action was so snapped down it felt like Matt Damon had been taking dance lessons. The Guardian must be in absolute bits as well - Paddy Considine plays a hardhitting one of their number who Bourne has to mastermind through Waterloo station. My home departure lounge never looked so interesting - Bourne twats a bad guy outside the big Smiths! Amazing!

The sad thing Bourne has to contend with is that every assassin other than him seems to double as a Hot Model. Desh, the guy who trails him around Morocco (and Paul Greengrass certainly includes a lot of nice tourist shots from helicopters) is so pretty you almost forget your're not really supposed to be looking at him as much as you are. Oh yes, and Bourne kills someone with a towel. A TOWEL! And there's no chauvinism! And Joan Allen is the most fabulous nutcracker this side of the real CIA. Move aside Bond, this really is the greatest action franchise of the last 30 years. Even if there's no actual spying in it.

More than that, I haven't been to a screening like it in years: the audience was constantly breaking into applause after setpieces, laughing and wincing and collectively going "Ooh" and "Aah". Now that's amazing cinema. Helen couldn't make it because she was interviewing Josh Hartnett (a phoner! Not even a face to face, the poor lamb) and they're not screening it again for two weeks or something obscene. Yet despite this extremely generous gap between screening and release date, we didn't have to go through the usual rigorous security checks to ensure all phones, cameras and professional recording equipment had been removed. That's Sprite levels of refreshing, seriously.

- The Bratz Movie
Less about the film itself, more about the fun in the foyer. Despite the fact I'd been to an incredibly good party the night before and was thusly still dressed as the Industrial Zone from The Crystal Maze, I was still allowed to have some of the chocolate crispy cakes the PRs had got in, and watch as the little girls and (for reasons known only to the parents) boys got to mess around with the fun.

This is one of the nicest things about multi-media screenings: for the kids films, the PR company organises lots of nice activities for them before the film starts to get them in the mood. Bratz had glitter face painting (I fitted right in - my hair was still vaguely silver), cheerleading classes downstairs and those cake things. Little girls clutching pom poms and spelling out "F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!" while dancing around might be the sweetest thing you'll ever see.

- Elopements
A friend from university sent an email round yesterday announcing the fact that he and his longterm fiancée had eloped to New York and were getting married on Friday. In Elvis style. How is that not the best thing ever? Now Matt gets to put his cherished brown cord flares in the limelight where he thinks they belong. Bless! Also, elopements. Brilliant. Apparently the average wedding costs £18,000. This is rubbish, surely - all you want is a nice summer day, some flowers, a garden and all your friends around you. That and enough gin to drown a city of Dickensian orphans.

- Cultural interchange on Radio 4
Zane Lowe talking about Mark Ronson's Bob Dylan remix on the Today programme. But mostly James Naughtie talking about "fattened up" music.

...and not

I downloaded a French artist before I moved house, namely because I love Camille and Sybille Baier and thought that someone called Katerine must be pretty alright. That and she shared my name and had an album called Robots Aprè Tout which just sounded like the sort of quirky quant fey crap I go nuts over. Fuck no. It's an ageing man with longstanding pretensions to electropop and it makes me want to rampage. Back to Cat Power, Catatonia, or Skatalites if we're being particularly tenuous.

- Coelacanths
Specifically fishing for them. So someone in Asia's picked up the first one in ages - doesn't that basically mean there's one less?

"He took the catch back to the port where it remained alive for 17 hours in a netted pool outside of a restaurant. It was then frozen and is now being examined by scientists."

Wow. They're examining a fish that barely exists to find out why it barely exists and how. Oh come on, seriously.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Flight of the Conchords - 'Jenny'

I've been thinking about Edinburgh a lot recently. Partly because it's pretty, partly because I'm going there quite soon and haven't thought enough about it probably.

Last time I was there I discovered the lovely Flight of the Conchords, a duo called Bret and Jermaine. Bret was an elf in Lord of the Rings. Jermaine is in the rather wonderful-looking 'Eagle VS Shark' which is coming out soon. They're both in an HBO series about them which is alright, but they're better live. They also did a radio show with Rob Bryden. It worked about as well as Mitch Benn's solo show (ie, fell as flat as flat can be without being any flatter.)

They write very funny, deadpan folk parodies about David Bowie and racist dragons and rappers called Hiphopapotamus v Rhymenocerous and other such things, and my absolute favourite song of all was one about a horrendous bit of mistaken identity complete with falsettos and rhyming. The internet didn't have it for years, but some excellent geeks at What The Folk have put pretty much all their songs online.

You should listen to Jenny now though. I am. Over and over. Like Hot Chip with a sense of humour and a lack of miniature cymbals. AMAZING.

Monday, July 30, 2007

My idol, my fallen queen

As one of my chief idols and role models, it saddens me greatly that Paris Hilton has lost her inheritance. I mean, is she going to have to get a job now she won't have that $60 million to sit back on?

The man who cut her off is her grandpa, the only one who actually does something in the Hilton clan. He's nearly 80 and is probably jealous of how serene Paris always looks. While the sex tape was embarrassing, apparently her ending up in prison is worse to him. I don't know about that. I can't think of anything worse than something as intimate as that ending up on the web, but then I've watched five seasons of Oz and lady prison can't be that bad.

"He was, and is, extremely embarrassed by how the Hilton name has been sullied by Paris," says some opportunistic mouthpiece who wrote a book about them (and fair enough, the toiletries my housemate brought me back from same were substandard. Arf.)

Poor Paris. What's she going to do? What? How? Why? Wherefore? And whither?

Friday, July 27, 2007

...and how to go "aaaaaah" properly

Waiting for Potter. WTH A DOG.

Ruin Harry Potter for the slow ones

Read the new Harry Potter yet? Well done. Now buy one of these t-shirts and punish the silly bastards who "don't really see what all the fuss is about" and are "taking their time" reading it. No. It doesn't work like that at all. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Electrical Plug Socket

In two weeks, I disappear up to Edinburgh for another two weeks to do a show called Wit at the Edinburgh Festival. I wrote about it here once, but not really much about it, but don't let that put you off because it is a very good play and I don't have many talents so come and see me do well at something.

All this is why I'm going to write about something else instead. WOO!

Of the few non-mental people to have befriended me on MySpace and who I've befriended in return, Bad Film Club are in my top two favourites. Nicko and Joe are a pair of bad-movie obsessed comedians who screen choice cuts of their 1300 strong film library and get a spare comedian in to join them in doing a DVD style commentary. It's very silly, and often very funny (although more so when they do proper old-school bad films).

Robin Ince's choice of Doctor of Evil: The Mutations will live me forever. Tony Law and Top Gun, not so much. Tony's dog, Cartridge Davidson, was the best part of that. Old films work better, they're genuinely worse, and Dr of Evil had ANGRY DWARVES! And CAULIFLOWER HANDS!

Anyway, they're doing Edinburgh this year, with a show pretty much every night from 11pm - 1am in the Pleasance. I've wangled the list out of Nicko, so pick your likely challenger and go along and see them. Be warned - Nicko's become addicted to checking how many they've sold, so she might have gone slightly insane by the time they start.


Top Gun - AUG 3rd

VIVA KNIEVAL - Aug 4th - Tony Law

Jaws 4 - Aug 5th (not as bad as I remembered. Shame.)

Road House- Aug 6th - Brendon Burns

Highlander - Aug 9th - Robin Ince (special show at The cameo)

TBA - Aug 10th

Fire Storm- AUG 11

Die Hard 2-Aug 12th - Christian Reilly

Xanadu - Aug 13th - Josie Long (special show at The Cameo)

Highlander II Aug 17th - Andrew Maclelland

PIRANHA II-THE FLYING KILLERS- Aug 18th - Men with Bananas

Basic Instinct 2- Aug 19th - Glenn Wool & Brendon Burns

Jaws 3D - AUG 24th (motherfuckin' YEAH motherfuckers!)

Anaconda - Aug 25th

Can’t stop the music - Aug 26th

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Welcome, Princess Tiàaii Price Andre

The wait is over. Jordan's announced the name of her little girl, and by the sounds of it she's either a type of doll, or a long-lost Sailor Moon cast member.

Peter Andre said: "Katie always loved the name Princess, but everyone thought it was a bit over the top. I loved it too but I wanted to name her after both our mums."

"Then I just woke up one morning and thought, I know! We'll just put them together!. If people don't like it, that's up to them."

Bless Peter Andre. But what happens when little Princess Tiàaii - "We've put an accent over the first A to make it more exotic and two Is at the end just to make it look a bit different" - decides she'd rather be called Pam? At least she'll have Geri Halliwell and Lowri Turner's insanely named kiddies to frolic with. Start placing your bets on the kids becoming rocket scientists and Nobel prize winners.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I am very bad at being ill. Or rather, I was very good at being ill when I was at school because after I'd passed my mother's stringent lying-tests I'd get to lie in bed with the black and white portable telly and eat soup and sleep and feel safe and cossetted.

Now of course I'm in the arse end of East London, my mother's in Hampshire and I'm not at school in any case. My head feels like a foetus is fast-forwarding through pregnancy and breaking out of the sides. I've got a bona fide temperature and chills. I had to make my own soup for Christ's sakes. If Helen hadn't sent me home from our Gentlemen Prefer Blondes viewing last night armed with enough books and films to educate a school, I'd probably have started smoking again just for something to do.

I don't do ill. I don't have the time or the inclination. Hangover, certainly, sleepy or cold, absolutely, but genuinely illness doesn't enter my dictionary very often. I spent too long in hospitals and dentists as a teenager to waste my time with it now, and as a result, today is probably the most boring day of my life because I can't even go and do my evening plans because I am dripping with sweat and aching like an old tree.

BORING! Fucking boring. And yes, I know I'm boring for being bored, but I'm ill so shut up.

Anyway, before my body decided to keep me away from human company, I watched an awful lot of trailers this weekend. Watch them too, then tell me about them. Seriously. My housemate won't be home til it's dark and I might have fainted of boredom and fever by then. Do you know any good jokes? Are they over an hour long? Brilliant! Bring them on.

The Ten - 10 stories inspired by the commandments. I heart Paul Rudd.

Talk To Me - Don Cheadle and his hair get parole and end up wowing the nation on 60s radio.

Arctic Tale - the greatest thing you will ever see. I cried. Twice. And screamed. More.

The Golden Compass - CGI is rubbish (the bear is almost as bad as post-BBC Aslan) but the books are stunning.

King of Kong - housemate's choice. I didn't believe him. I am a stupid girl. Documentary about two obsessive Kong players battling for the Guinness world record.

The Jane Austen Book Club - reassuringly lovely girl flick. Not for boys. It has Hugh Dancy in it. I once cornered him at a premiere to get his autograph for my old flatmate. He was not best pleased. I think this might have had something to do with the fact I towered over him by a good foot.

December Boys - Daniel Radcliffe's breakway from Potter role. Four orphan boys, the seaside, precocious girls, men with motorcycles. I cried in this as well. It's probably that time of the month or something. Looks utterly ravishing.

August Rush - Lovely lovely Freddie Highmore plays an orphan who becomes a musical genius guided by Robin Williams in an assortment of odd hats. Jonathan Rhys Meyers turns up to be Irish, Keri Russell turns up to play cello and be divine. Obviously I shed a tear in the trailer to this too. Definitely that time.

...and not so much

Rocket Science
Margot at the Wedding

Yawn. How much more sub-Wes Anderson po-faced indies about bored American families do we have to sit through? They're not funny anymore. Squid in the Whale was a warning to us all. Bloody Baumbach. The casts are great though, so maybe ones for DVD and a bottle of gin next time round.

30 Days of Night
Reading this at the moment thanks to Helen's educational Kew bag. It's still vampires though, isn't it, and there's a bit of a dearth of imagination going on with vampires at the moment so it had better try hard otherwise it's just going to be Insomnia with teeth. On that note, I heard a fantastic vampire story on BBC7 last night: Schalken The Painter. Listen to that instead. Never have I been so transfixed while cooking lasagne.

Lions For Lambs
Just actually the worst-looking thing ever. Robert Redford should have his directing hand cut off.

Right, that's about it really. I'm going to go back to being bored and ill now. Never have I wished I were at work more.

Friday, July 20, 2007

ShoHo Sho Shit

I went to Shoreditch House last night. I can quite honestly say that I haven't looked forward to nosing around somewhere this much since I went to the Soho house library and got lost, and I haven't been so disappointed by something since I saw the clown at my brother's 5th birthday party taking his make-up off.

For a members club that's been launched in a veritable powder puff of fanfare it looked unfinished, unpolished, and un worth it. The lifts are still covered in wood and look like the beginnings of an Ikea sauna. The lift girls had the glazed expressions of sweatshop workers on 36 hour shifts. The female bar staff weren't pretty enough to be this charmless, most of the male staff looked browbeaten and half asleep.

The front desk was littered with people who didn't seem to be doing anything other than get in everyone's way. The large white room our party was in had a bowling alley behind which was probably the only humanising aspect. The white tiled loos were covered in five-year grime, unlike the ones at Soho House which are so sleek they're almost feline. We couldn't be arsed to work hard enough to sneak up onto the roof to see the pool, but given the state of what we saw it was probably still surrounded in builders.

I know there were four other floors than the ones we were on but seriously - £500 a year for this building site? I've heard wonderful, awe-struck things about the rest of it, but given that parties like these are when tipsy non-members start thinking about opening their wallets to join up, it was about as aspirational as stomach cramp. It's £350 to join Hospital, £300 for Milk & Honey and its nice cocktails and elegant house rules. Maybe ShoHo will be worth it in six months when it's actually ready, but not now ta.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the inevitable internet download

It's only Thursday and already there's a Harry Potter book torrent on the internet! Seeing as I'm entirely against spoilers where HP is concerned and am paying full whack for it at midnight on Friday, I'm not going to read it or even look at it, and therefore don't know if it's true. It's definitely illegal though, so don't look at it.

If you tell me who dies/lives/etc, I will hunt you down and kick you in the shins VERY VERY HARD. Although not as hard as the pious twat going on about JK Rowling's literary pretensions in the Guardian today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


So, the shortlist for this year's Mercury Music Prize (sod off Nationwide, you don't roll of the tongue fast enough) consists of actually good bands and albums that deserve it. Be still my beating disappointment. Oh hang on, Basquiat Strings have been nominated whoever they are. I hope they have beards.

Bat for Lashes - Fur and Gold
Fionn Regan - The End of History
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom
Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future
The Young Knives - Voices of Animals and Men
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Maps - We Can Create
The View - Hats Off to the Buskers
Dizzee Rascal - Maths + English
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Jamie T - Panic Prevention
Basquiat Strings - Basquiat Strings with Seb Rochford

Bat For Lashes - My favourite album of last year and one of the best I've heard in my entire life. Weird enough to win, those Bjork/Kate Bush comparisons should come in well here.

Fionn Regan - Didn't hear it. Is it any good?

New Young Pony Club - Despite the fact Ice Cream's been bothering the radio since early last year, nobody seemed to notice until they suddenly started being picked up by the TopShop trash as something that might sound cool on the school bus. Not new rave, NYPC are fucking fantastic and straddle enough genres to be cutting edge without boring anybody.

Klaxons - Indie. Good indie mind, but nothing more. Haven't we had enough of indie yet?

The Young Knives - Such jollity and cheeriness in ones so be-spectacled. Graham Coxon has a lot to answer for.

Arctic Monkeys - See Fionn. Sounds exactly the same as the first one, surely.

Maps - No

The View - Christ no.

Dizzee Rascal
- Had his awards allowance plus he's already changed the landscape once and it's someone else's turn.

Amy Winehouse - Much as I adore the Winehouse, Back To Black isn't actually great all the way through. If she had a less amazing voice, we'd all be a bit bored.

Jamie T - FUCK NO. He's from Wimbledon, and for some reason this annoys me more than that fucking Stella song.

Basquiat Strings - See Fionn. Sounds like it should be a lingerie ad.

I'm going to put money on Bat For Lashes, partly because I've been wittering on about the album and keep getting told to shut up for looking like a converted Christian, and partly because I think she has a Helen Mirren/Oscar chance of winning. IE: they don't let her win, they're entirely blind. Go Bat!