Saturday, October 27, 2007

I like Amy

I am reading Amy Sedaris' guide to entertaining "I like youL hospitality under the influence". Amy is one of my favourite "funny ladies" and the star of Strangers With Candy - a sitcom about Jerri Blank, a 42 year old dropout who returns to high school to finish her education and ends up learning all the life lessons she missed out the first time round. It seems as if Amy was channelling Jerri when she wrote I like you. Here's a quote from the first page of her book:

As my guests leave even my most simplest partes, I consistently hear the same thing "That was the best time I ever had." And it's always me saying it. But I do know in my heart they all feel the same way, probably. When you see the word party in this book, don't think of pony kegs and loud Southern rock or cigarillos and businesswomen. Don't think of pools and diving for loose change. Don't think about cockfights - even though it's hard not to. Don't think tiki lights and fruity cocktails served in coconut shells on the patio, or a large groupn of drunken seamen clustered together shouting over each other. Think simplicity. Because if there is one thing I am, it's clinically simple.

And here's Amy on Martha Stewart, demonstrating how to make her favourite recipe "Cheese balls" (oh and pretty much annihilating Martha at the same time - "I made you a tissue ghost...").

Friday, October 26, 2007

Trailer Trash

The musical extravaganza that launches the 80s - oh to be on the cusp of two of the most tasteless decades ever to be invented!

You can't stop the agony...

I'm actually ashamed that I own this. I think it has a plot but I didn't notice. I still get shivers when I see Bruce Jenner who is supposed to be playing a heterosexual man, sashaying down the street in a pair of cut off jean-shorts (at -1.03), like he's just spent 24 hours listening to Bette Midler in the City Baths.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sorry Ken...

Back in Bristol at the weekend (to return a fender that the removal men took up to Lancaster by mistake). On Saturday morning we went to the Museum of the Commonwealth by Temple Meads station. I've passed it hundreds of times but never gone in, so I thought "now I don't live here any more, I can be a tourist and go in". Anwyay, it was really interesting. There was an exhibition on slavery which was quite depressing although very informative, and there was also a posterboard where you could give your comments on whether "we" should apologise to Africa for slavery. Someone had written "When the Romans apologise to us..." Personally, I don't think that there's much point in people who had nothing to do with slaverly, apologising for things their distant ancestors did. It just seems a bit hollow and an attempt to appear pious (I'm sure Ken Livingstone was very sincere when he apologised, but it's not something I would have done had I been in his position). I think what's more important is that we acknowledge and are aware of Britain's past role in slavery (and its abolition for that matter).

After I'd left the exhibition, I passed an advert on a street wall for "Are you being served?" which is a fetish party at Club Orgasm in Bristol. With its House Mistresses and Dungeon, it keyed into the discourse of slavery in a very different way to the Musuem Exhibition. Funny old world eh.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Trailer Trash

It's Rapture Time!

Don't you love Fundamentalist Christians? Mark VI Pictures created their own crazed "quadrilogy" of Rapture films. For those of you who aren't au fait with Rapture Theory - one day (any day now) God is going to Rapture Up all the believers to Heaven, leaving the unbelievers and evil people behind on earth to battle it out in a bloody nuclear mess - it's all the UN's fault apparently. The rationale behind the films was, if you can't get people to believe in God the easy way, then why not scare them into being Christians. Because I like weird stuff, I have all four films on video.

We start with "A Thief in the Night" where the Rapture actually happens. Foolish Patty had the chance to accept the word of God, but she didn't - and now she's been left behind while all her friends are partying up in Heaven. Patty doesn't do much except run around while being chased by helicopters and screaming "Noooooooooooooaaaaawwwwww! Noooooooaaaaawww!" Nobody in any of the Mark VI films can actually act, but the girl Patty can really scream. (Don't expect a happy ending for Patty - she gets decapitated by evil satanists at the beginning of the third film. Forget the Hostel and Saw films - if you want cruel, random and barbaric - it's the Christian directors you really need to turn to. Amid all the drama, the films have rather long and more tedious parts where boring pastors with unfashionable facial hair recite from scripture. My favourite characters (not shown in the trailer) are baddies, Diane and Jerry - it's pretty much their fault that Patty doesn't accept the Lord. I seem to recall that Diane gets killed by a giant crab or something in the 3rd or 4th film. You don't want to be Left Behind when the nuclear radiation starts messing with nature.

Anyway, here's the trailer. Sing it with me: "I wish we'd all been read...." (Sorry, couldn't finish, I just got Raptured Up.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fatty Fatty Two By Four Can't Get Through the Barnyard Door

I was always quite skinny (until recently). I shot upwards as a teenager, but didn't put on weight, so I became very lanky and bony. I worried about it so much that I went to the doctor who told me to "eat more chips" (it was the mid-1980s when terms like "GI diet" weren't invented yet). I'm not sure if eating more chips would have been humanly possible. I had chips and beans with a cream meringue almost every day of my life for lunch when I was in Comprhensive school (so much for Jamie's school dinners).

After finishing school, I was vegetarian for 15 years, which didn't exactly help me to put on weight - veggies have trouble getting lots of protein typically, although eventually all the substitute carbs (pasta, bread, pizza, potatoes) left me with a little tummy. I did cut out the chips then, but my lunch was a cheese and tomato sandwich, a bag of crisps, a yoghurt and a fizzy drink on most days. Oh to be in your 20s again and have a forgiving metabolism.

However, 2 years on from going back to meat and I was weighed recently at the doctors, who informed me that I am 1kg below the cut-off point for "obese" according to the charts. She took pains to tell me that "obese" is a controversial term and that muscle weighs more than fat so you could be obese and very in shape. However, I wonder - how did this happen?

Maybe it's because we've all gotten bigger over the last 10 years. I was in Burger King last month (disclaimer - I was stuck in Morecambe and needed to get some food), and was asked if I wanted to "go large or super" with my burger. Clearly "Supersize Me" only had a limited and temporary impact. But it's not just the downmarket food places - go to Marks and Spencers these adys and it seems that all they sell is enormous tins of chocolate biscuits.

Chocolate bars seem to have gotten bigger lately, and the proportion of larger people I see round town has increased. They can be a bit of a nuisance sometimes, as they tend to walk slowly and block aisles (so I can't get to the chocolate!) I wonder if it is because people are unhappy in some way, so are turning to comfort food - a news report said that the crap summer we had resulted in higher sales of cakes and sweets. I tend to get a craving for sweet things around 9pm - but usually try and sate it with something nominally healthy like an apple.

Despite my impending obesity, I still see a thin person when I look in the mirror. But I'm a long way away from being able to eat chips all the time. Now my lunch is a soup and a glass of water. I suspect by the time I get to 40 it'll just be the glass of water.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Escapism for children - 1980s style

When I was in my early teens, I was a bit of a Dungeons and Dragons nerd (I was also a piano lessons nerd, a Spectrum 48K nerd and a Doesn't Do PE Nerd.) Because I didn't have many friends to play Dungeons and Dragons with, I was thrilled that a series of books had been invented in order to let you play these games by yourself. You took the role of a mighty hero (all bulging muscles and a big longsword), and had to navigate a route through a castle or wood or spaceship or whatever. I would wait with baited breath for a new "Adventure gamebook" to come out and then devour it.

This was one of my favourites - Citadel of Chaos. The way the books worked is that you would have a few paragraphs of text and then have to make a choice at the end such as "do you take the left door (go to 15) or the right door (go to 274)?" Sometimes you would go to 274 and just die. Other times you would have to make another choice. There was usually only one way through the book, and it often involved defeating a series of rather tiresome monsters, where you had to roll dice to defeat them. I'm sure nobody actually bothered with the rather tedious (and somewhat risky) dice rolling, but everyone instead pretended they had defeated the monster and then went on to the next paragraph. And I'm sure that when you met one of the many random deaths in the book, most people simply went back and took the alternative choice.

At least they got children reading and using their imaginations - even if they were rather bloody and rewarded you for violence. These days, the whole thing is achieved with a PS3 or a Wii or something - and you don't have to imagine the blood because it is there in all its pixellated glory.

As the 1980s progressed, I discovered that I preferred other sorts of reading, and the books gathered dust on the shelf. I eventually gave most of them to a younger next door neighbour. But I kept hold of Citadel of Chaos, because you never know, do you.

When I got older, I often met adult "role players", who seemed to have got stuck at the stage of development I was at when I was 14. But I thank Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, who are one of my fonder memories from the 1980s (I think I bought so many of those books that I probably funded their swimming pools).

Friday, October 12, 2007

I like Candy

This begins a regular feature (I hope) for Fridays - entitled (not very imgainatively) "Trailer Trash". It's exactly what it says on the can.

Anyway, I love this grindhouse shocker from the 1970s. "They did things they couldn't even believe!" Very groovy music and campy dialogue "Please don't put me in the hole!" I love the puns on "candy" (They sent her father a pice of Candy... in a box..."
Alan Partridge II

I've just watched the first season of Steve Coogan's newish series Saxondale. I was a fan of Alan Partridge, so was interested in seeing what this one was like. This is another classic British comedy of failure. It's kind of similar - if you liked Partridge, there's a good chance you'll like this. The two men have a lot in common - both are somewhat deluded, dsyfunctional, middle-aged and terminally uncool (despite thinking they are hip). Saxondale is a little bit more likeable than Partridge though - and his girlfriend Magz (played by Ruth Jones) is a stablising influence in his life, despite the fact that she runs a shop which sells posters of authority figures mooning and smoking joints. Saxondale used to be roadie for big name bands in the 1970s and views himself as a counter-cultural figure. He has a strong dislike of "suits" who listen to Dido. However, he and Magz live in the most boring, conformist Barret Home house you'd ever see - a lot of their rebellion is simply in their minds.

My favourite character is Vicki, Saxondale's evil nemesis (played by Morwenna Banks). She's the receptionist of the agency who hands out jobs for Saxondale (he's a pest exterminator). She has one of the most annoying voices ever created and delights in baiting Saxondale (who has anger management problems) by hinting that his girlfriend is fat and that he's old and past it. "I'm only winding you up!" is her constant excuse. I am in love with her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My heart just skipped a beat

According to a message I received from someone I've never met, I am the "spitting image of Nick Berry from tv's Eastenders and Heartbeat".

It's not exactly the look I was going for.

Nick Berry is a perennial of comfy Sunday evening ITV 'dramas', usually set in a 1950s/early 1960s rural Britain that never really existed in the first place.

These dramas are designed to soothe the nation into a doped up state of uncritical compliance so that we do not get too depressed thinking about having to go back to work after the weekend and start beheading the ruling class.

Nick Berry is therefore a tool of propaganda. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't really exist but was instead a holographic composite, comprising of years of scientific research.

Needless to say, I am overjoyed.