Stuff that pops into my head. Innit.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

....And for that reason, I'm out.

Just a few days until Christmas then, this will probably be my last post of the year.
Firstly, I'd like to wish all of you out there a happy Christmas and good new year, and I hope you get whatever it is you really desire the most as your christmas gift. I'd also like to say "Thank you" to the followers and readers of my blogs, I've no idea why you read my ramblings - but I'm very grateful that you do.
Finally, -and I realize that this isn't really the thing to do- but when you're full of food and a bit drunk on Christmas Day, try and have a bit of a think about those who aren't as lucky as you.

Have a good time and stay safe everyone, Fizz. xx

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The EDL

That's the English Defence League, if you're wondering. In the past few years, various far right groups have sprung up -mostly in the old Soviet Bloc countries and Russia itself- a few have even gained various minor forms of political office but mostly they were dismissed as racists with unnecessarily short haircuts and a bad attitude, you know, "if we ignore them, they'll go away" And by and large, they did go away, or at least, lost interest in their "cause" and faded into the background.
Great. All is well in the world.
Well...........no.
The far right has been experiencing an upturn in popularity in the past 18 months or so, with groups in Italy and France -whilst not being exactly what you would call prominent, they have definitely been making themselves heard, and making themselves known. And most worryingly, they've been gaining support. Which leads me to the EDL. When I first heard of these guys, maybe 18 months ago, they presented themselves as a non-violent organisation opposed to extremism in all it's forms. Sounds good, doesn't it? Ok, I had misgivings about the name and use of overly patriotic/nationalistic imagery -but I thought, you know, that was just me (I'm never one you could accuse of being overly nationalistic, I think it's a silly concept, frankly).

The reality of the EDL is somewhat different. Here's a member opposing extremism in all forms, and without the slightest hint of irony in his actions.






These idiots are nothing more than a rebranding of the old National Front, Nick Griffins foot soldiers.
The sad thing is, people are supporting these "people" and their actions, whether that's due to economic pressure, peer influences or good old fashioned stupidity, I don't know.  But if you're out there on the interweb and happen to run across this, look at that picture and ask yourself if he's who you want to associate yourself with.
Oh, by the way, there's also a Scottish Defence League. I won't be joining. They probably wouldn't want me anyway.

Not even a hint of comedy



Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Liz Hurley and Shane Warne

It's a bit of a strange one, isn't it? It's like Angelina Jolie dumping Brad Pitt and then hooking up with Willie Nelson. Or Keira Knightly professing her love for Michael Gambon. Something's not quite right here.
International supermodel and Austin Powers' squeeze going out with slightly chubby hair implant enthusiast. It doesn't make sense well, not on her behalf anyway-it makes perfect sense for Shane-o, if you forget for a minute that he's married.
What state is Liz Hurley in that she's with Warney? Surely she could do better than him?
I'm guessing that this'll end horribly -and very publicly- quite soon.

I have to go now, I'm waiting for Gwen Stefani to call.

"Bowled Shaaaane!"


Monday, 13 December 2010

Everton

As much as it pains me to say it, as things stand right now my beloved Everton are, to be frank, shit. On saturday we drew 0-0 at home to Wigan. Wigan for gods'sake! We dominated most of the play but couldn't score, Louis Saha seems uninterested, Jermaine Beckford isn't really good enough, and Yakubu, well he's Yakubu. Slightly......erm....rotund, lazy and half arsed -except for a couple of days a season where he looks like a cross between Didier Drogba and Zinedine Zidane- it looks like he wants out. So then, the simple answer is to buy a striker, a really good one. Well yes, it is. But there's one small problem. Everton don't have any money. Nothing. Nada, not a bean or a pot to piss in. Nothing.
So then, we are going to have to sell some players -plenty of candidates, Johnny Heitinga, the Russian with the unpronounceable name and the Yak- to buy one or two, or get in a loanee of some sort. Great.
Maybe we can convince Man City to let us have Carlos Tevez if we give them all 3 and any spare change Chairman Bill can find down the back of his Technicolor Dreamcoat. Yeah well, it's as realistic as Liverpool wanting to swap Torres for him.

Stop grinning, fool.


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Short thoughts

Just in case anyone out there is unaware that the UK is currently in the midst of some quite cold weather, here's proof that even way down south in the -comparably-tropical-to-here- parts of the country that not all is as it should be.
Yesterday the RSPCA was called on to free a swan that had somehow managed to get its feet frozen to a driveway in London, a cow which had fallen over in Leighton Buzzard, and a horse trapped in 4 feet of frozen water in Lincolnshire. Oh, and 200 people have died in a landslide in Colombia, but that's nowhere near as newsworthy as a few cold animals, obviously.

"Where's Colombia?"

The world's 2nd most stupid football club has sacked their manager. The manager that got them back into top flight football on a shoestring budget. The manager that currently has them sitting reasonably comfortably around the middle of the premiership, the manager  that the players came out and pledged their support to. It's fine sacking a manager if the owner wants to, that's his choice. The unsavoury thing here is that the clearly held off giving Hughton a new contract to save themselves a few quid in severance payments. Classy as ever.

A pair of typical geordies



Now, not normally much occurring on Radio 4 -or any radio channel for that matter- but when a man with the startlingly appropriate name of James Naughtie makes an on-air gaffe concerning the Culture Secretary -a man called Jeremy Hunt, well, that get's my attention.

"Jeremy what?"




Press "play" http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/audio/2010/dec/06/james-naughtie-jeremy-hunt-radio-4

Friday, 3 December 2010

The World Cup

As you may or may not know, yesterday England dispatched the Prime Minister, David Beckham and an unemployed man from London called Billy to beg Fifa -an organization that isn't even slightly corrupt- to let them have the World Cup. It didn't go well.
Russia will be holding the 2018 World Cup, much to the chagrin of said trio.
Even by their own low standards, this was a poor show for an England team, who have pulled off the impressive feat of crashing out of a World Cup eight years before it even starts.
The British press haven't taken it particularly well, most of the headlines being along the lines of "WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAAAAH"

In somewhat associated news, Australia weren't awarded the following World Cup either, as Fifa decided to give it to a collection of sand dunes in the Middle East. Which was nice.

"yeah, it's this size"


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Top 10 albums of the year

When I did this last year (not on here, sorry) I really thought that because the quality of the top 5 albums in the list ( Black Gives Way To Blue, Battle For The Sun, Crooked Timber, Grey Britain and Mariachi El Bronx) That it was going to be a one - off. You know, the much talked about death of the music industry beyond the current Reality TV led acts, other assorted pop trash and the Bieber demon. 
This years list is much better than last years. Waaaaaaaaay better. So, providing you like broadly the same styles of music as I do, you're probably better served in 2010 than you ever have been - you just have to look a bit harder to find the acts you really love.

Before we get to the actual top 10, a little bit about some albums which didn't make the cut.

Marina and the Diamonds - The Family Jewels. An excellent pop debut from the Welsh diva, this proves that not all chart music has to be vacuous rubbish.
Sleigh Bells - Treats. This probably would have made the top10 if I'd gotten it a bit earlier, it's a really good pop punk album, well worth checking out.
Cancer Bats - Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones. Another rock hard effort from Canada's finest. It is, however, completely overshadowed by their previous album Hail Destroyer, and for that reason it doesn't make it onto the main list. Sorry guys, I still love you though.

Right then, onto the countdown.

10. Yeasayer - Odd Blood.

This sounds like a cross between The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and David Bowie. Utterly brilliant synth pop with massively expressive vocal harmonies.
Standout Tracks - Ambling Alp, Madder Red.

9.  Alkaline Trio - This Addiction

The Chicago punks return with an album which far exceeds expectations.
The title track sets the tone with its exploration of heroin addiction as a metaphor for relationships, but it's "The American Scream"--a gritty, neo-gothic parable--that best illustrates Alkaline Trio's unique take on the world using only 3 chords.  
Standout Tracks - Fine, The American Scream

8. Hot Chip - One Life Stand

This band gets more sophisticated with each release. it's not as instantaneous as their earlier work, but it's more rewarding, and sees them stepping out of James Murphy's rather large and very talented shadow.
Standout Tracks - Alley Cats, Thieves in the Night

7. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

In most years I'm fairly confident that this would sail to the No.1 spot pretty easily, so much so, it feels slightly ridiculous ranking it so low. Sorry Damon.
The whole thing works beautifully, moreso with each listen.
Standout Tracks - Stylo, Some Kind of Nature

6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat the Devil's Tattoo.

Acoustic ballads, space-rock forays, and splashes of glam bubble up before it's all over, while a pervasive darkness holds the album together. Devil's Tattoo is unremittingly grim, and undeniably fun. I love this.
Standout tracks - Aya, Bad Blood

5. Alain Johannes - Spark

It wasn't that long ago that I reviewed this, go here to read it. Only the shortness of Spark kept it from the top spot. Easily my favourite 30 minutes of music this year.
Standout Tracks - Endless Eyes, Gentle Ghosts

4. Deftones - Diamond Eyes

When I reviewed this back in march (here) I really couldn't see anything beating it to the top spot, such was my love for it. Nearly 9 months on, I still feel the same way about the album - which should give you a clue to how good the next 3 are.
Standout tracks - Sextape, You've seen the Butcher

3. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

There aren't many albums where you love every single track the first time you hear it. This is one of them. Easily LCD's strongest outing, brilliance from start to finish My review here .
Standout tracks - Dance Yrslef Clean, You Wanted A Hit

2. Tricky - Mixed Race

Dense yet accessible, fleeting but full of memorable moments, Tricky's done here what he always does at his best, let the listener share the soundtrack of his involving, nomadic, outsider spirit. Absolutely awesome, his best since Nearly God.
Standout tracks - Every Day, Come To Me.

1. Chemical Brothers - Further

Free from building tunes to fit collaborators – with the exception of snatches of Tom Rowlands or Stephanie Dosen (on Snow), used more as accents and motifs than to guide proceedings – the duo are let loose to stretch their disco legs and make the technology the star. Synths are brutally manhandled and pushed to their limits across the eight tracks, with the pair’s well-known winning recipe of techno textures and mind-tilting psychedelia unleashed. Turn all the lights off, close your eyes and listen to this through the darkness. Incredible.
Standout tracks - All of them.

"Yay, we won!"

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Ashes

No, not what will be left shortly after my wooden box heads into the flames accompanied by the strains of Pearl Jam's "Alive", but rather a series of cricket matches between the league of nations currently passing as England, and Australia.
For most of my life Australia have been pretty much dominant in this contest, as they've tended to be -for a variety of reasons- in most sporting rivalries between GB/England and themselves.
This time however, things promised to be different.
England are the current holders of the tiny trophy, having won reasonably convincingly last time on their home patch. Their build up to the first test was pretty much flawless, having won all their warm up games and having a fully fit squad to choose from.
Australia on the other hand, have been in a seemingly downward turn since the break up of what may have been the best team ever and the current team was probably rightly considered the underdogs to win.
Last night, in sunny Brisbane various South Africans, Scots, Welshmen and a couple of Englishmen stood and watched as their captain won the toss and decided to bat on a flat looking GABBA pitch.
3 balls later, the English captain was heading back to the pavillion. Peter Siddle, a man not really fit to polish Glen McGrath's anything, turned up and took 6 wickets. The top scorer for England was Ian Bell. An Australian.

It was all bluff and bluster before they got out there, I even had a couple of people joyously inform me that it was going to be 5-0 to England. It still might be of course, but I doubt it.
England and their fans -the incredibly irritating "Barmy Army"- seem to have forgotten the single greatest reason Australia always does well in any sporting endeavour. They will fight forever to win anything.

Lets hope it continues to be enough.



A cricket, yesterday

Monday, 22 November 2010

Top 10 overrated things

10. The Foo Fighters.
They started out well enough and were ok up until the point Pat Smear decided to do something else, now though they seem intent on proving how "nice" Dave Grohl is and being seen to be wacky, to the detriment of their music.

9. Ugg Boots. Wildly unattractive footwear worn exclusively by people who watch Jeremy Kyle.

8. Reality TV. Has spawned such Luminaries as Jedward, Cheryl Cole and Jade Goody. That's more than enough reason to hate it.

7. Blue Cheese. I love cheese, all types of it. Stilton and Gorgonzola though make me heave. They have an awful rancid metallic taste that I just can't stomach.

6. Jared Leto's dancing. No matter what you might think of 30 Seconds to Mars musically, Mr Leto dances like an octogenarian ballerina. Give it up.

5. Christmas. I don't know what it's like where you are, but Christmas here starts about mid September. Too much. I'm refusing to say Happy Christmas to anyone until the week before the actual event. And no, I don't want a fecking mince pie.

4. Twilight. I mean really?  He lives in a forest and sparkles in the sunlight? That's a fairy, not a vampire. And he drives a Volvo.

3. McDonalds. I heard someone refer to McDonalds as a restaurant. I might start calling my back garden The Serengeti, or Kakadu, maybe Monument Valley. It's as close to any of them as McDonalds is to a restaurant.

2. The Daily Mail. Possibly the worst newspaper in the world. Why? A newspapers job is to inform us of the news, not tell us what our opinions on it should be. The DM's ideal headline would be along the lines of "Gay Islamic terrorist devil dog in plot to burn Union Jack".

1. The Beatles. The Beatles music can be split into 2 categories. Nursery rhyme crap and pretentious crap. It is, however, all crap.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Short thoughts

First up, Jedward.
Now I realise this may not be the best news you've had all week, but bear with me. I was blissfully unaware of these two cretins until a short while ago when I saw them murdering "Ice-Ice Baby" (Yes, that is possible) and as I don't watch reality TV, I thought that would be my thankfully brief journey to planet Jedward at an end.
Alas friends, I was mistaken. Nintendo have employed the pair of strangely coiffed belters in their christmas advertising campaign.
Get ready to cry. To be honest, I'm still not entirely convinced there's 2 of them - I think it might all be done with mirrors.





Cat vs alligators. Guess what happens here. Yes, that's right.
The feline fighter fends off the gator with a jab Manny Pacquiao would be proud of, so the gator goes and gets it's mate. The cat then proceeds tyo see both gators off the premises. Ace.





Finally today, a music video. I think you'd better get used to this, because in my opinion it's going to be huge very soon.
The world needs more women in school uniform swinging baseball bats.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

MCR - Danger Days : The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys


Things kick off all Songs For The Deaf as our host of sorts, pirate radio DJ Dr Death Defying (the fat guy from Gerard Way’s wife’s band) welcomes the Killjoys with a great big clarion call, this is essentially the start of the video for Na Na Na, which is next up. You’ve probably all heard this by now, and I’d guess a fair few of you are singing the annoyingly catchy chorus right now, I know I am. Anyway in this song, the boys appear to be slightly camp dayglo outlaws at a moto-X rally. Which is nice. So far, pretty much what we knew then, but hang on, things get stranger later.

Sing and Planetary (Go!) are both reasonably straight ahead rock songs, the latter being slightly better thanks to a kind of Gary Numan/ Human League thing going on behind it.This gives way to some jerky, sharp guitar work as the boys get a tad more macho toward the end of the song, which improves it greatly.
Next up is the strangest track so far. The Only Hope For Me Is You is a strange synthy ballad, very theatrical, very MCR. At one point they seem to morph into a cross between the Scissor Sisters and the Chemical Brothers -which is nice- but sadly this doesn’t last too long. this is my favourite so far.
Party Poison sounds a bit like The Hives, and has the faint whiff of album filler about it, not brilliant.
Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back is a giant MOR love plea to MCR’s adoring hordes, complete with lyrically familiar territory “We can live forever if you’ve got the time.” croons Way. I’m a bit busy right now G, I’ll call you later.
My goodness, what have we here? A full on, ludicrously gay Extreme/Starship/Reo Speedwagon lighters-in-the-air anthem. Well, yeah. But it’s buried beneath a rumbling bass and a lot of feedback, so much so that you can barely makeout the vocal. I like this one too, Scarecrow
Summertime sounds exactly like The Cure. No, really, it does.
Destroya sounds like a heavy metal Primal Scream or Placebo doing a song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Nearly brilliant with a great guitar groove, this is my new favourite.
A slow and cold number is up next, The Kids From Yesterday- it suffers badly from being straight after Destroya.
Goodnight Doctor Death and Vampire Money round out Danger Days, the latter sounding like vintage Iggy and the Stooges, which of course is no bad thing.

I'm not sure red is his colour.....

MCR have made a fun but well rounded and meaningful album here which is no mean feat in itself. After one listen, I think it’s not bad/ ok. I have the feeling it’ll be a grower. Let's see the Daily Mail hijack this one then.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Kid Rock - Born Free

Many years ago -1998 to be exact- Kid Rock (Bob to his mates) released an album called Devil Without A Cause which wasn't completely terrible. Sadly for him -and us- this isn't 1998.

Only in North America -and only certain parts of North America at that- is it possible for Kid Rock to make any kind of sense whatsoever. Where he was once and mixer of styles and genres, nowadays he seems happy enough to redneckily (have I just invented a new word there?) croon his way through monster ballad after monster ballad.
If there's anything positive to say about this album, it's that there are a few decent (radio friendly) tunes that'll no doubt have the dimmer people you know humming incessantly. Great. hey, at least it's better than them singing along.
Kid Rock's lyrics are, at best, the inane ramblings of a terminal sentimentalist. At worst, they're junior school poetry class.
This album is about freedom - the kind of stuff Americans who are heavily armed, heavily intoxicated, or both, love - here in europe though, it really doesn't sway.

Complete and utter shite - Avoid at all costs.

Kid Rock, shortly after reading my review


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Even more shorter-than-normal thoughts

Hi all. I've been nearly dead for a while (Ebola again) and consequently haven't had the time to do anything of substance. Normal service will be resumed on my next post.

There are now just 3,200 tigers left in the wild. Three of the nine subspecies (the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers) are extinct; a fourth, the South China, is also lost to the wild, with a few dozen specimens surviving in captivity. Tigers' survival is not guaranteed even in the most protected places: four died in a north Indian reserve named after Corbett earlier this year. The national animal of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia and North and South Korea; the majestic creature at the heart of eastern and western culture from traditional Chinese myths to evil Shere Khan in the Jungle Book and cuddly Tigger in Winnie the Pooh; the big cat that sells us beer, petrol and other human essentials such as sugar-frosted breakfast cereal, is teetering on the very brink of extinction.
On November 21, various heads of state and assorted other diplomats are going to convene in St Petersburg at the snappily titled Tiger Summit, which has been widely billed as the last chance to save the big cat from extinction. Some conservationists feel the participants are remote bureaucrats with no experience of the on-the-ground realities. Others are refusing to go at all. Tiger experts are agreed on the prime, simple cause of its disappearance: it is being massacred for a lucrative illegal trade in traditional Chinese medicine. So, as we know why it's disappearing, surely the answer to this problem is a simple one? I'm going to answer my own question here. The answer is money, as it is to everything like this. In this case, money for more game wardens to patrol areas where the poachers operate.
Simple, I've saved the tiger. All we have to do now is wait and see if anyone else wants to do it.

"They're grrrrrrreat"


BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker (nice name) has caused a major furore in the home counties by having the downright brass neck to present the weather whilst -and you might want to sit down before reading this- wearing a jumper and jeans. I know, it's unbelievable, the end of days.

Public Enemy No1





And in a move which headline writers everywhere would love, cash strapped Manchester City are after Porto's man mountain striker Hulk. Hulk's not so keen though, maybe he's been to Manchester before, eh?
He's probably pressing a car full of attractive but badly acting teenagers effortlessly above his head right now.

"Raaaaaaargh! Hulk no go City"


Friday, 5 November 2010

More short thoughts

First off, apologies for another mishmash-not-really-about-anything- type post, but my plans were changed by my daughter. I was going to do a lengthy and incredibly interesting (stop laughing) run down of my top 10 albums of the year, but she has insisted I wait until later on in the month which is when MCR release their new cut. Which is going to be brilliant, apparently. Hmmm.

A woman has been reunited with her diamond ring - two years after flushing it down the loo and hiring a waste firm to sift through sewage to find it.
After accidentally losing the ring, Joan Speirs paid the company to put a camera into the cesspit tank.
When that didn't work, the company filtered the 12,000 gallons of waste and even sent a worker into the tank with a metal detector, but to no avail.
But by an amazing co-incidence, an employee from the same small family firm stumbled across the ring more than two years later at a sewage works.
"Two of the smaller diamonds had fallen out but apart from that, it was just in need of a good clean".

I bet it was.
"Found it!"


Keeping up with the highbrow nature of todays post, we now move onto rugby league, more specifically, Joel Monaghan.
For those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, Mr. Monaghan is a centre/winger forthe Canberra Raiders and sometimes New South Wales and, in times of need, Australia. So, not a bad player then? Well no, and despite his physical handicaps -he's ginger- he's done pretty well for himself.
Up until yesterday, that is.
Yesterday, young Joel was all over Twitter. Well, not him exactly, a picture of him. A picture of Joel being ....erm......"pleasured". By a dog.
Yes, by a dog.
Joel has since come out and said exactly what you'd expect him to say - "I was drunk......I wasn't thinking.......I'm sorry...." Blah blah blah. He's also said the act was simulated. It wasn't -I've seen the pic (and thanks for sending me that-no christmas card for you this year)I wish I hadn't seen it though, anyone got any mind bleach?
There's no truth in the rumour that he's been charged with terrierism. Or that he's interested in joining the Bulldogs.
"Woof"


In other sport related news, Liverpool FC Brad Pitt a-like Dirk Kuyt's night ended in ...carnage when a police horse accidentally sat on his car while herding Napoli fans away from Anfield. Haha, that's a shame. And David Beckham has denied reports that he is interested in taking American citizenship. In the Daily Mail's report of the story, however, they spend the first eight paragraphs talking about the possibility of him becoming American and how terrible it would be without mentioning, at least until paragraph nine, that he said yesterday: "I have no intention of becoming a US citizen. I'm English and proud to be – that will never change."
 Not American.



Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Thought for the day

Every follower I lose makes Justin Bieber stronger.

You don't want to be responsible for that, do you?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Short thoughts

A week after an 18 foot high Tsunami struck the north of the country -wiping out many villages- a volcano has erupted in Indonesia, adding to their malaise. What do these guys have to do to get a break?
No doubt someone will point out that God moves in mysterious ways. Too mysterious for me, that's for sure.

Indonesia, yesterday



A transsexual called Mikki Nicholson has won the British Scrabble Championship.
Here's Mikki with her trophy.

Nice hair

Worst Tranny ever. Sort out your stubble mate, you wouldn't convince a paralytic sailor.


Alcohol is more dangerous than heroin, ecstasy and crack.

Researchers have rated alcohol the most dangerous substance based on the overall dangers to the individual and society as a whole. 
The work was led by Professor David Nutt, (appropriately enough) the former government drugs adviser who was sacked for criticising the then Labour government's decision to upgrade cannabis from class C to class B.
His team analysed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body as well as other factors like environmental and socio-economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.
They found heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, to be the most lethal to individuals.
When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most dangerous.
But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.
Marking substances from zero to 100 based on their criteria, alcohol scored 72 overall, compared to 55 for heroin and 54 for crack.
Other drugs examined included: crystal meth (33), cocaine (27), tobacco (26), amphetamine/speed (23), cannabis (20), GHB (18), ketamine (15), methadone (13), ecstasy (9), anabolic steroids (9), LSD (7), buprenorphine (6) and magic mushrooms (5). 

So don't have a glass of chablis or rioja with your dinner tonight, have some crack instead. Or maybe drop a tab of acid. It's ok, Professor Nutt said so.

Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol
C-c-c-c-c-cocaine
 
And finally a former Marxist rebel who was jailed and tortured during Brazil's military dictatorship last night became the first female president in her country's history. Well done Dilma Rousseff, I bet Obama is overjoyed at that result.
 
Dilma yesterday, shortly before winning the Brazilian pull a funny face championship


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rock 'n' Rolla

It's been a little while since I've done one of these, so here's another film for you all to watch if you haven't already seen it.


The screen bustles with gangsters, vixens, double-crossers, drugs, cons, cute nicknames, tattooed villainy, "ladies of the pole" and a snitch who loves "Remains of the Day." Somehow, there's even room for Ludacris.

The Wild Bunch


There's also a pointed comment about Americans - American crayfish, actually, who are said to eat up everything around them and then devour each other. I don't know if Ritchie knows any Americans particularly well, but possibly there's some sort of message in there.
A snarly Tom Wilkinson hits the bulls-eye as Lenny, a vicious London crime boss ("There's no school like the old school, and I'm the fuckin' headmaster"). Before the credits are even finished, Lenny has swindled a less advanced criminal named One Two (an excellent Gerard Butler) on a deal to buy a building. He's also agreed to take a 7 million euro payoff from a Russian real estate lord in exchange for greasing a politician to get a development approved. As the bribe is being delivered to Lenny, though, it is stolen - by the same guy Lenny just cheated.

Johnny Quid


Also in the mix are a feline accountant (Thandie Newton) and Lenny's crack-smoking rock-star stepson (Toby Kebbell), who has died three times this year but still manages to be a nuisance. Every one of these characters, and then some (such as the rocker's managers, played by Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), wants to find a lucky painting - unseen by the audience - that serves the same purpose as the mysterious briefcase in "Pulp Fiction."
No need to mess about with plausibility, given the anarchic comic-book feel. Why would the Russian voluntarily give his prized painting to Lenny? And while it may be possible that two unarmed accountants would be given 7 million euros in cash to transport, but I refuse to believe they would be listening to "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" while doing so.
Things get even more febrile in a blistering good chase in which One Two marvels at the Rasputin-like indestructibility of two thugs trying to recover their boss' loot. There's also a very Tarantino scene in which
The Indestructibles threaten to get medieval on One Two's ass

*Warning; this scene contains Russians dancing in theeir underpants*

Yes, I've seen these men in their underwear. Many times.


Tarantino's tendency to get speechy, though, is largely avoided in favour of cockney playfulness that Ritchie finds irresistible: There's "He just needs a few hours with a right rotten tart and then he'll be in there like swimwear" and "All she got there was a hot bath and a cold razor" and "Think before you drink before you drive me mad."
Ritchie has a dry wit, too. I particularly loved this one: "Keep your receipts 'cause this ain't the Mafia."

This isn't by any means an arthouse movie, but it's a whole heap of fun

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Paul The Octopus 2008-2010

At some point in the early hours of yesterday morning, Paul the 'psychic' octopus floated wearily over to two boxes containing mussels. He briefly scanned the first box, which depicted a grinning octopus celebrating its seventh birthday. He turned away slowly and opened the lid on the second box – coffin-shaped and depicting a gravestone – and ate the arsenic-laced mussel inside. He died shortly afterwards, a shadow of the octopus who had blazed on to the world stage earlier this summer.

Born Paul the 'normal' octopus in a garden in the shade near a cave, he was the son of a lady octopus and a man octopus. He shot to fame at the 2010 World Cup by predicting some team or other would beat another team. Paul quickly proved popular, particularly with websites desperate for cheap hits on slow news days and Sky Sports News, which didn't have the rights to show any actual matches.

Paul's apotheosis came when he predicted Spain would beat Holland in the World Cup final although, in fairness, even Alan Shearer the rubbish 'pundit' was on to that one. But fame was a heavy burden. Despite commercial enterprises ranging from special clothing lines to a mobile phone application, he only got some new rocks and a miniature castle for his tank. Although he had an outstanding knowledge of football – Jonathan Wilson was a close friend – he wasn't taken seriously as a pundit.

"The care provided for him by our dedicated displays team could not have been bettered," said Stefan Porwoll, the manager of the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre in Germany that Paul called home. Paul is survived by 983 children. An additional 211 predeceased him when they were eaten by a hungry turtle.

• Paul the 'psychic' octopus, clairvoyant cephalopod, born 2008; died 26 October 2010

RIP Paul, Tru Soulja

Not Paul, yesterday.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Short thoughts

California is going to vote on whether or not to legalise pot -as well as other, duller things- a measure letting anyone 21 or older grow and possess marijuana, and allowing local governments to license and tax retail outlets selling it.
The measure, if it passes, would offer legitimacy to growers who for years have operated in a grey area of the law, and raise a potentially huge new revenue source for recession-hit states.
Sounds good to me.

"Who you callin' a pothead?"

In the week when the UK government has announced public spending cuts on.......well, everything, young Mr. "Tabloid" Wayne Rooney has kept the government of the front pages of said tabloids-and indeed the real newspapers by having a bit of a hissy fit.
Tabloid Wayne wanted out of the self-styled "biggest club in the world" (Real Madrid anyone?) because things weren't going quite to his liking. Diddums.
So what did they do?  Did Fergie and his band of Glaswegian hit men tell TW to get on with it and stop his incessant moaning?
No.
They gave him a new 5 year contract worth £200,000 a week. Double his previous salary.
He's in Dubai right now, recovering from a mild case of ankle-ouch. I'm glad to see it wasn't too traumatic a time for the poor bloke.

United fans understated reaction to TW being moody



And finally, my youngest daughter is down in the big smoke (well alright, Edinburgh) to see her favourite band tonight. 

Tell me, would you pay money -and quite a lot of it- to listen to these guys?




Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Staffies and babies

It's been a while since you guys have had a puppy/grandaughter update and,  as I have a couple of new pictures of them both I thought you might like to see how they're doing.

Hope is 8 months old and just about starting to crawl and eat solid food. Chi is 7 months old, huge (the same height as her mum!) and just starting to eat the entire house.







Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Metallica

Several hundred years ago when Metallica were first formed, they were merely a footnote in a heavy rock scene dominated by the likes of Motley Crue, Poison and Guns 'n' Roses. The memories of that trio alone almost make me cry -and not in a nostalgic "good old days" way, either- but at least the aforementioned either had the good grace to split up, die or just fade out of my musical consciousness.



Metallica, however, they kept going. And they kept getting worse. Much worse.
Although Kill 'em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets weren't my thing, they are regarded as the peak of Metallica's career and amongst the best (by those who like this sort of thing) of the Thrash metal era.

Great.

Somewhere along the line, things went wrong.

Mild mannered, baby faced drummer Lars Ulrich turned into a snarling, metal face pulling gobshite. The whole napster thing didn't help -I understand musicians wanting money for the stuff they've produced, but multi millionaires threatening to sue a bunch of teenagers is ridiculous- and he was responsible for the worst drum sound ever, thoughout the whole of St Anger.



Ah yes, St Anger. It's a great name for an album isn't it?
It might be the worst rock album released in the 2000's. Yes, worse than anything by Dragonforce, Linkin Park or Bring me the Horizon. Don't believe me?
Here's a lyric from one of the lead tracks on St Anger, Frantic.
Please bear in mind that is is a biting social commentary on the brevity of life.

"...Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock 
 Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock
Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock
Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock..."

Magnificent, Muse would be proud.

Metallica - crap.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Short thoughts

The Chilean miners' rescue has confused me somewhat. Not the actual freeing of the pit workers, obviously, but the fact that many of them gave a lot of the credit for their rescue to God.
As a non-believer, I am astonished by the humility of those who would give God the credit for their own man-made deliverance, but also confused by it. The miners were in some respects lucky – they had space to move around in, a natural shower to wash in, and they weren't trapped in a coalmine where methane gas might have killed them. Such good fortune they may well have attributed to God. But what do they think God was doing when nearly 500 people died in a Chilean earthquake early this year? Was he on holiday? Doing the washing up? The seemingly random nature of God's mercy is something I have always had trouble with.
And you can forget about that "mysterious ways" bullshit too if that was going to be your response.

"Now...reach for the stars"





The Commonwealth Games have just finished, and it seemed like no-one cared that they were on. Certainly not the majority of elite athletes who could have competed if they had chosen to. And certainly not the majority of the Delhi public, who were kept away by the high (relative to earnings) price of tickets, the lack of the aforementioned superstars, and almost certainly the fact that India were playing test matches against Australia at the same time the games were on. Knowing the love the Sub-Continent has for cricket, that's a stupid piece of scheduling by someone.

"Good this innit?"




Pizza Express, a national restaurant chain here in the ever sunny UK, is going to teach it's staff to flirt with customers. No, really, I'm not making it up or anything.
The family-friendly restaurant, famous for serving up "bambinoccinos" – a cappuccino without the coffee for kids – has recruited classically trained actor Karl James to teach flirting and the art of chit-chat to staff to help them to butter up the restaurant's customers.
Great. Who wants to be flirted with by a teenager covered in acne? 
I feel a rebranding is in order here. Pizza Distress? Pizza Depress?

"Hey baby, fancy a calzone?"


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Kung Fu Hustle

Ok, as no-one seemed particularly interested in my post about Spark (below), I'll tell you about another film I love that you might not necessarily be familiar with.



Kung Fu Hustle is such a jumble that it doesn’t seem possible the film should even work. Is it a love story? A tale of gang warfare? A comedy? An action film? A story of one man’s ascent to his highest potential? Well, it’s all of those things and, to its credit, the film never really slows down long enough to show you the seams that keep all those disparate elements together.

Set in Shanghai in 1940, Hustle tells the story of Sing, a small-time hustler with dreams of grandeur who accidentally starts a war between the vicious Axe Gang and the residents of a slum called Pig Sty Alley. What should be over very quickly turns out to be pretty complicated: when the Axe Gang come to the Alley to wreak havoc, they run into three reticent Kung Fu Masters. The tailor (Chiu Chi Ling), the Coolie (Xing Yu), and a baker named Donut (Dong Zhi Hua) all come from different schools, and the gradual introduction of each style ramps up the film’s first major fight scene.

All landladies wear rollers.



It’s not long before the Axe Gang, with their tails between their legs, hire talented assassins—first a pair of deadly musicians, and then a killer known only as the Beast—to do their dirty work for them. While all this is going on, Sing is coming to terms with his true nature, becoming a kung fu master known as the One. There’s plenty of humor and the fight scenes are, above all else, graceful and imaginative.

It’s a film rich in allusions and references, so much so that it’s tempting to call Chow Hong Kong cinema’s answer to Quentin Tarantino. The look of Pig Sty Alley is based on a Chinese TV Show (and later Shaw Brothers filme) called House of the 72 Tenants, a chase between the Landlady and Sing turns into a tribute to Coyote & Roadrunner cartoons, and Sing even has a blood-drenched vision straight out of The Shining. On a more subtle level, many characters are named after characters in famous kung fu books and movies of the past.

Gnarly 'tache, dude.


In the film’s neatest nod to the past, though, many of the characters are played by actors from earlier eras of Hong Kong film, some of whom hadn’t been in front of a camera in decades. The Landlord is played by Yuen Wah, most famous for his roles in Eastern Condors and Dragons Forever, and for his work as Bruce Lee’s double. Yuen Qiu’s scowling, chain-smoking Landlady marks her first appearance since she played a teenager in 1974’s James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. Leung Siu Lung, who plays the Beast, hadn’t been seen on screen since the ‘80s. Choreographer Yuen Woo Ping and two other Hong Kong directors also show up in minor roles.


Knowing that isn’t necessary to enjoy Kung Fu Hustle‘s action, though. We’re used to seeing people doing impossible things courtesy of wires and computers, but several sequences in Kung Fu Hustle are notable even by those standards. The initial battle in Pig Sty Alley (choreographed by Sammo Hung, before he dropped out for health reasons) is a visual lesson in each master’s style and also shows these middle-aged men moving with surprising grace and power. A later battle in the Axe Gang’s headquarters involving the Landlord, the Landlady, and the Beast—drawn up by Yuen Woo Ping, who replaced Hung—is a mixture of cartoonish humor and raw power. By the time we get to the final showdown between the Beast, the One, and countless Axe Gang members, we’re practically drunk on kung fu fun—and it’s a good feeling.

Our hero battling the axe gang



It’s hard to watch Kung Fu Hustle without letting a smile creep onto your face. Whether it’s from the extravagant characters or the action sequences, there’s a love of movies and of kung fu evident in this film, and it’s pretty infectious.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Alain Johannes - Spark

At just under 30 minutes long, Alain Johannes' Spark is one of the rare cases where guitar-geek fussiness yields magnificent results. Johannes, who founded the '90s hard-rock group Eleven and has worked for Queens of the Stone Age, plays all manners of unusual stringed instruments, ranging from a homemade cigfiddle to a harmonium and a contrabass guitar. But this instrumental diversity is more than just technically impressive.
Conceived and recorded after the 2008 death of Natasha Shneider, Johannes's wife and former bandmate, Spark is a musical illustration of the grieving process, what Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme calls "the examination of figuring out what you do when someone's gone." The album's turbulent tracks ache with audible sadness. "It's killing me that I must go on living," Johannes wails on opener "Endless Eyes," and the album progresses gradually from this dark point, hopping evenly from racing, emotional statements to shattered ballads and back.

"Aaaaaaaargh, my head is on fire!"



But Spark is far from funereal or drab. That first song accepts living as a perfunctory, mechanical activity in the face of immediate tragedy, but later ones find Johannes regaining his footing through a kind of bitter acceptance, his grief solidifying into something manageable. "Laughing with God at this unfinished plan," he remarks wryly on "Unfinished Plan," a strange, airy track that closes the album far from where it began. Earlier on, the whirling-dervish tone of the Middle Eastern-influenced "Make God Jealous" suggests a lively, mystical acceptance which eventually leaks into other tracks, both in terms of its inspired exoticism and noticeable sense of joy.

As an album-length evaluation of grief, Spark works on both an intellectual and visceral level, its broad guitar sounds both soothing and technically ambitious. "Speechless" is a ringing, roving song that incorporates Indian elements and undulating chants into a mesmerizing final product. Musically and lyrically intelligent, with an instrumental depth that would be impressive even it weren't so cohesively incorporated, Spark feels like a success on all fronts.

This is one of the top 5 albums I've heard this year, I just wish it was longer.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Kings of Leon

First, Muse felt my wrath - now it's the turn of another band I can't stand, The Kings of Leon.

Do you remember when this lot first assaulted your ears? For me it was "Molly's Chambers", an unexceptional and frankly dreary piece of Lynyrd Skynyrd inspired southern rock which looked and sounded as if it was performed by some partly shaved simian like beings from the wilds of Tennessee (does Tennessee even have wilds?). So far, so forgettable.
A couple more singles followed, and I -along with almost everyone else, apart from a junior Rascal- was equally unimpressed with them too. The one thing I did notice however, was the gradual humanisation of the lead singer -a man resplendent in the name of Caleb Felafelwaffle or something similar- his hair had been styled, his facial furniture removed completely.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh"



We spin forwards a couple of years, and as she regularly does, the other junior Rascal is watching the music channels on the TV.
"Waaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, Essex is on fi-ugh" screams the lyric. Guessing this isn't a newsflash, I look at the TV.

"Who's this?" I ask.
"Kings of Leon"  is the astonishing reply. I look at the TV and see a guy who looks like Ashton Kutcher singing.
"New Singer?" I ask, incredulous that the chimp from before has become the man I see in front of me.
"No, same one. He's had a shave" No shit.

I've heard "Sex on Fire" described as the best song ever, Mr Felafelwaffle as a sex god and a genius -although not at the same time- and I know it's a matter of personal taste and all that, but KOL are well, crap.
They're Take That with guitars, the male equivalent of Girls Aloud.

"This Sex is on Fire" Really? Sounds painful.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Beautiful Game. And Evo Morales

Or not. Watch Bolivian president Evo Morales (that's Evo with the hair) knee an opponent in the nadgers during a game of footy. All presidents should be like this, he'd get my vote.


Monday, 4 October 2010

From Dusk Till Dawn

When the film opens, Richie (Quentin Tarantino) has just sprung Seth (George Clooney) out of jail and they have engineered a bloody escape. With the proceeds from a series of increasingly bloody robberies they are planning to make it across the border to Mexico where they can retire on the proceeds.
It is on this journey that the brothers bump into the Fuller family - Dad Jacob (Harvey Keitel), daughter Kate (Juliet Lewis), and Scott (Ernest Liu). The family are on a holiday to get away from their life. The lady of the house has been killed in a car crash, and Jacob (a preacher) has left the church after losing his faith. Unfortunately, the Gecko brothers decided to take the family hostage in order to help them get across the border.

Benny's World of Blood?



From Dusk Till Dawn is a most schizophrenic little movie. It begins as a criminal on the run drama, with tight pacing, close editing, and a focus on character and dynamics. Then they cross the border and arrive at their venue for the night, the “Titty Twister” bar. At this point, the film takes a rather dramatic turn, moving into over the top violence as it turns out the locals are not quite what they seem.
It is this refusal to conform to any kind of cinematic convention that makes the film so satisfying to me. It is almost as if Tarantino and Rodriguez sat down and decided to make the most anarchic, most strangely structured film ever - and they really do succeed. From Dusk Till Dawn has always been one of my favourite films, and a cult success, quite simply because it has a gleeful sense of fun when rendering the destruction on screen.
There is no sense of fun in the opening scene however. A store clerk is talking to a local cop in an out of the way convenience store. The tension is racked up here in a very clever way. We are on the edge of our seats, but we do not know why. I have seen this scene many times over the years, and I still think it's beautifully constructed and shot. I cannot put my finger on what the filmmakers do during this scene to achieve this, but it immediately raises the film above the pulpy, exploitation flick that you might expect. Of course, your instincts are right, and all hell breaks loose within the first five minutes. And then it just doesn't stop until the credits roll.


And it is this dichotomy that to me makes the film such a success. Rodriguez is a brilliant filmmaker, and Tarantino a great writer and this means even when making a schlocky venture like this, the result cannot help but to raise itself to a higher plane. The talent behind the camera is matched with that in front of it. Clooney, as we know now, is a fine actor but at the time he had an awful lot to lose by choosing such material. However, he approaches the material in a serious way, never treating the role in a condescending manner He is matched in this by the other talent. Tarantino is a little over the top in his portrayal of Richie, but even he shows a surprising amount of talent here. Just look at the scene when Seth returns to find Richie has allowed his perversions to get the better of him. This could have been an exploitative scene, but due to the way the actors and director approach it, it is surprisingly moving.

Nice forehead Quentin

It goes without saying that Keitel provides excellent support too. A preacher who has lost his faith may be a little clich├ęd, but in the hands of this fine actor the character jumps out of the screen and really makes you feel for him - a man who has to be strong in order to save his children at a time when he has never felt weaker. Now, it should be clear here that none of these performances are oscar-worthy or anything like that - but for the genre they are certainly very believable.

The beginning scene may well be full of tension, but as the film goes on the sense of fun ratchets up. Once they reach The Titty Twister, the level of humour increases. It may not be high class, clever humour - but again within the scope of the film it works really well. You can be simultaneously laughing at the dialogue, and grossing out at the events on screen, so again the sheer schizophrenia of the film shines through. Admittedly, the effects are extremely low budget, but this just doesn't seem to matter. That is part of the film's charm. And here, nothing is sacred. Gross, naked vampires, sexual parts grossly emphasised, poking fun at a characters 'Nam experiences, everything is fair game here - and the anarchy just drips off the screen.

Drooltastic

Of course, the film is not to everyone's taste, and for the most part it does lack the sparkling dialogue of vintage Tarantino scripts, and the abrupt change of pace about half way through does not sit well with a lot of viewers. But if you like your movies to defy tradition, to just simply gleefully tell a story without caring who they offend, and to back this anarchic style up with strong performances from respected actors (and Quentin Tarantino) then this is the film for you. It has become a big cult hit, and it really is not hard to see why. Take the above ingredients, add in one of the sexiest onscreen dances of all time courtesy of Salma Hayek, and simmer with a really strong bluesy soundtrack - and this is an absurdly enjoyable two hours of fun.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

St George Win!

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!
And for everyone who's ever used the word "choke" in relation to the Dragons, choke on this.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Short thoughts

Myleene Klass, a not unattractive British z list "celebrity" has a revelation that "could bring down Hollywood".
Wow. Must be something big then, eh? I wonder what it could be, revealing shots of George Lucas dressed as a nazi whipping a Filippino boy? A secretly taped conversation with Angelina Jolie who reveals that she used to be a man?

No.

Apparently a Hollywood star wanted to have sex with her. So, a presumably older, wealthy man wanted to bone an attractive younger woman. Wow, what a revelation, I bet that's never happened before.

"Desperate for publicity to revive my flagging career? How dare you"



Didier Drogba has had the new stadium of Paris club Levallois SC named after him. "This is a great honour for me," he said from the Falls On His Arse With No-one Near Him Arena

"I can fly, I can really fly"




Photographer Johan Rosenmunthe has produced a series of stills which combine the world of animals with a sense of urban decay.  Empty cities are host not to humans, but exotic wildlife from giraffes to apes and otherwise.  The Isle of Human is a stunning set of imagery, a collection that inspires a sense of wonder about what would become of the world after man is no more








More here

And finally, in the early hours of tomorrow morning UK time, my beloved St George are in the Nrl grand final against the Sydney Roosters, and with a bit of luck and a fair wind, we might just aabout sneak a victory.

"I don't always look this miserable, honest"