Archive for February, 2008

Loose Women

February 10, 2008

Loose Women

If I had my own TV show that appealed to and was watched by people like me it would be very different to the sort of fare that usually crops up. You see, I don’t read Nuts Magazine, or Loaded, or FHM, or any so-called Lads magazines. I also don’t particularly like football, nor do I covet fake titties or expensive sports cars… I am, in every way, a failure as a male – and so are, it would seem, most of the men I know. None of my friends are the sort of drooling imbeciles that men are typically presented to be in any demographically intended media.

Come to think of it, the women I know don’t fit into any of their stereotypes either. They’re real human beings, with a variety of interests and differing personalities that aren’t easily boxed or subjected to type…

Which is why I find ITV’s Loose Women so amazing. It seems to me that a show produced by, hosted by and directed at women would find a way to subvert typically presented female roles. I’m not suggesting that it would be an all-out feminist propaganda show, just that it wouldn’t pander to image obsession, snidey criticism and the usual tabloid fodder of gossip and idle speculation. Simply put, I thought it would aim to empower women, especially the sort of women who stay in during the daytime and watch television. Seems I was dead wrong.

This whole post comes from one moment on Loose Women last week when the ladies were talking about a story involving Pierce Brosnan’s wife, Keely Shaye Smith. The 44 year old mother of four had been paparazzied wearing a bikini and there had been all manner of unpleasant comments about her in the press. Pierce Brosnan had, has and continues to say he didn’t care as he loved the size of his wife and adored everything about her.

There’s more about it here and the crucial photo that was discussed on Loose Women is here.

So – question: how would a television show aimed at women handle this subject? Would they resort to the usual reaction and chide her for her size or would they take arms alongside her and defend her right as, a normal woman, to be whatever size she wanted? Lest we forget as well, this is the wife of James Bond, someone repeatedly voted as one of the world’s sexiest men, a wildly successful actor who has bedded, on screen, some of Hollywood’s most desirable women – and he has come forward to say how much he loves his wife, his non-celebrity, size 16, normal looking wife.

Surely, this would be an ideal opportunity to affirm the shapes, sizes and Gok Wan-endorsing fabulousness of every normal woman who has ever felt pressured by constant comparisons to the celebrity waif? Would this not be an ideal chance to say: “Hey – James Bond likes a woman this size – see, you don’t have to be size 0 to get a good man”?

If I were Jackie Brambles, I’d strike one for the sisterhood.

Actually, they did none of the above. They turned on Pierce Brosnan instead. You see, it was decided that while it was perfectly ok for Keely Shaye Smith to be fat and that it was terrible that she was subjected to such a mauling, Brosnan was probably lying when he said he liked the size of his wife. These gossiply little witches decided that any man who says he likes his women large was a liar. They sat in front an audience of their peers and told them that if you were a normal sized lady with a husband who loved you, he was lying to you to be nice.

The ring-leader was Colleen Nolan; a lady of impeccable esteem. After all, she was a former large girl who signed all the right contracts when the weight fell off, a lady of such moral high ground she’ll happily hawk frozen shit to mothers and who was dumped by Shane Ritchie (I mean – come on – Shane Ritchie, it’s like being best friends with Richard Digance).

It’s worrying to see how easily we turn on each other. This culture of body fascism and celebrity fanaticism has warped television to such a degree that libel statements go unchecked and personal attacks are commonplace. This may just be a little shitty ITV daytime show, but it represents an increasing assassination culture where anything less than the perfectly sellable image is punishable by public humiliation. This woman is the non-famous wife of an actor – she’s one of them, one of the audience, one of the hosts…

TV fails us again.

Original Source

February 7, 2008

Natural Source

Do you wash yourself frequently? I do. Every day. In the shower, using a gel manufactured from a load of chemicals and whatnot. It’s a boring, interminable routine I follow out of vanity. I don’t like stinking of my own sweat and poo poos, you see.

My other half chooses this brand of shower gel called Original Source that sells itself on the basis of its being made of real ingredients. You might’ve seen the adverts. Like Innocent Smoothies, they bang on about how many crushed apples or how many pulverized mandarins they’ve managed to slot inside your shower gel tube.

It’s odd; this promotion of foodstuff in what is essentially a detergent. You see adverts for shampoos and conditioners where they talk about caramel and fudge essence. They assume we want to smell of food. I don’t want to smell of food. I want to smell of sexy flowers.

I could handle all this bullshit marketing, but there comes a tipping point in any movement, and Original Source have just provided us with it.

Instead of your shower gel coming in your standard plastic cylindrical type tube, it now comes in a bag with a little spout, as though it were an energy drink. The blurb sells it as if it’s a beverage. It’s mango and macadamia nut flavour, for Christ’s sake. Little kids are going to spot it in their parent’s shopping, unscrew the lid and gulp it down their stupid naïve necks. It’s like promoting semtex by selling the fact it smells of bubblegum.

Furthermore, holding it while your trying to clean your bits is like holding a lubricated blood-bag.

I know I shouldn’t get so angry about the little things in life, but by crikey, I can’t help it. It’s the minor annoyances that start world wars remember. BOYCOTT ORIGINAL SOURCE.

America Unchained

February 6, 2008

 Dave Gorman

The premise: Dave Gorman, a Britisher famous for his globe-trotting adventures, attempts to cross the continental United States without handing over a cent of his money to Corporate America.

And so the fun begins when Dave, bless him, buys a car from a kindly old gentleman in California. Dave, a man who’s been brought up to believe there’s good in everyone, swallows this bullshit merchant’s patois that the crappy 1970s estate he’s selling has a tank capacity of twenty two gallons and has never, in thirty years, broken down. Dave, beguiled into a romantic notion that travelling across the States must be done in something idiosyncratic and old, takes this liar at his word and drives off in said estate, an ugly lump of crap that’s already developed an alarming clattering sound before he’s even got it out of the driveway. Great, nice one, Dave – that’s what trust does for you.

Money to ‘The Man’ (Dave’s term for those evil corporations we’re all supposed to hate etc.): Nothing, unless you count the money The Man was paid for the motor in the first place (mung bean collectives in eco-communes on the Isle of Sheppey don’t usually make motor cars, sadly).

So it’s off to an independent muffler shop to get the car Dave’s just bought from a fucking liar repaired. The man at the muffler shop confesses that, after he retires, the shop will probably go down the pan. This, it transpires, is a damn shame as the independent muffler shop can make custom-made mufflers on the spot, whereas the big chains would have to order the parts. Dave and the man at the muffler shop have a conversation about how you won’t get this level of service, vis-à-vis custom-made parts, from a big chain and, yes, they’re broadly correct. You’d expect a chain muffler shop to stock mufflers for motor cars made in the 21st Century, as opposed to ones made in 1978. Chain muffler shops have to service a local community who aren’t setting out to prove some sort of point by driving around in a really old car. The independent muffler store man has the time to make one-off mufflers for 1970s motor cars because he’s not rushing around servicing loads of newer cars every day – the larger chains just take one off the shelves for the majority of 2000-2007 models it gets driving up its ramps. That’s not their fault.

Money to ’The Man’: Zero, except for the metal required for the muffler and the machine that makes the muffler (Guardian-worshipping fair-trade coffee-shoppers aren’t known for their industrial metal working/precision machine tooling skills).

With the car repaired (for now – having been purchased off a liar, it breaks down quite a few more times), Dave sets off towards Oregon to visit a town called ‘Independence’. Of course, he soon needs to stock up on petrol and, as he’s not giving any money to ‘The Man’, he has to find petrol that’s been herded by a kindly Bedouin Nomad on his oil farm in the Arabian Desert. Dave pulls into the first of many ‘independent’ petrol stations and fills his car made from fairy dust and unicorn sparkles with lovely, craft shop petrol just like mum used to make …

… except he doesn’t, of course. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that crude oil, if it is to be profitable, has to be pumped out of the ground on an industrial scale by companies like Shell, Texaco, Exxon and BP. That oil has to come from fucked up dictatorships in the Middle East and is subsidised with lucrative contracts from arms manufacturers and government backhanders. The oil then has to be transported via pipelines laid by ‘The Man’, to tankers built and operated by ‘The Man’, to refineries run by ‘The Man’, into petrol tankers operated by ‘The Man’, into pumps built by ‘The Man’, and then sold by the only guy in this process that isn’t ‘The Man’ (though, to be fair to ‘The Man’, the guy that owns the service station has handed over his money to ‘The Man’ to buy the petrol to put in his pumps).

Therefore, Money to ’The Man’: All of it, ultimately (if only the soya bean alliance had pulled their fingers out and got into the international oil/arms trade, Dave’s entire project wouldn’t have been rendered null and void from the very first fill-up, ah well).

And so off Dave goes, across the USA, not giving any money to ‘The Man’. Along the way he eats independent food grown by vast American conglomerates (farming in the US just ain’t the family affair it used to be in the … whenever the hell it was), he sleeps in independent hotels furnished with stuff like beds, chairs and TVs made by ‘The Man’, he keeps on pumping that eco-fuel that puts two fingers up to ‘The Man’ (and money in his wallet – take that, corporate America!) , etc. etc. etc.

As Dave washes up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, he’s proved, quite conclusively, that you can’t get across the continental United States without giving any money to ‘The Man’ because:

1. He’s already had his money before you even show up.
2. Even when you think he’s not having any of your money, he is.
3. Dave gives plenty of money to ‘The Man’ when he feasts on McDonalds and Burger King and fills up his car at a chain petrol station (as opposed to a chain petrol station in disguise, see above).

Now, Dave Gorman is a funny man. His books outlining his adventures in the world of stupid bets are great. His live stage shows are often one of the best on the circuit. His regular TV appearances are always entertaining, and the show he currently hosts on the radio has been such a success, it’s transferring to the box. Fair play to him, can’t argue with that.

I can argue with this documentary, though. What, exactly, was the point of America Unchained? If it was another of those vacuous ‘endurance documentaries’ like Supersize Me, then it shared that movie’s ultimate worthlessness. Can you eat McDonalds for a month and be completely unscathed by the experience? No – didn’t need to make a film to answer that one. Can you drive across the most corporate-shackled country on Earth without handing over any money to ‘The Man’? No – didn’t need to make a documentary to find that one out.

If it was a comedy travelogue, then it failed too. Dave in a car, Dave stuck in a small town, Dave filling up a car, and Dave checking into a motel aren’t half as funny as Dave explaining how he ended up jet-setting around the world thanks to his penchant for getting pissed with Danny Wallace. Comedy travelogues need to contain a lot of comedy to counterbalance all those boring shots of roads – this didn’t.

So what was it, exactly? Well too long, for a start. At one hour and forty minutes, a documentary featuring a man either driving or filling up a car doesn’t make for particularly riveting TV. The endless repetition of Dave driving around looking for fuel was boring and indulgent – without that it would have been a serviceable (if still pointless) hour long.

It also wasn’t very well filmed. More4 obviously decided to keep the show’s budget as low as possible, so the whole thing was filmed by one man sat next to Dave in a car. Hence the lighting was bland, the camera frequently shaky, and for the most part focused on a side-profile of Dave … driving a car. To look at, it stank, quite frankly.

There was a gem of a documentary here. Without the silly ‘message’ shit, America Unchained could have been a quirky little show along the lines of a Louis Theroux – Dave in independent America. There was a hint of that in Dave’s decision to go to towns named ‘Independence’ to see how independent they really were. If they’d cut out the challenge rubbish (if you want challenges where funny people drive around doing crazy things, it’s called Top Gear) and focused instead on the independent spirit I, like Dave, hopes still exists in the USA, this show could have been a little corker. As it was, it was a very funny man in an unfunny situation doing a completely pointless thing we all knew wasn’t going to work in the first place. A shame.

Masterchef. Full fat review

February 5, 2008


I fucking love Masterchef. I really do.

I hated the two presenters for years – making the show completely unwatchable – until, by chance, I caught sight of the bald barrowboy eating some pudding.

It was something about the way the food went into his mouth, the pause, the slow removal of the fork upwards and then the tentative chew that grabbed my attention. It was like peering into the very reaches of his soul. Then, like magic, his eyes lit up like limelight and grew to the size of Alan’s big plate. He began to moan softly, rhythmically, speech still evading him.

‘He’s going to ejaculate!’ I ruminated, frozen to the spot. Finally he spoke.

‘I like you’, he said to the plate and the contestant, ‘Oh! I do like you!’

The other bloke took some time to warm to, with his frog-like mouth and scowl he can flay a contestant with nothing more than an acid stare and condescending mutter, reducing a person to tears with a sardonically raised eyebrow, but if he likes the food every light in the world comes on. It’s fucking well-weird. Now I think he’s ace.

Masterchef is schadenfreude for foodies. In certain respect the dishes take a backseat, acting as a catalyst for the drama that is instantly realised from the opening titles. Chefs-to-be stand there looking visibly petrified while the two hosts bark out the rules without a shred of compassion; they don’t care if the cunts actually die right there on the spot. They walk among them like The Gestapo in a ghetto, jabbing at ingredients and interrogating them like sub human scum. Recipes are stuttered into the apparent which they deride with sarcasm and barely concealed hate.

The psychological pressure continues when contestants are verbally strapped down and beaten with demands on their loyalty to the food führer… ‘do you want this? Do you? Svinehund!’

But this is the genius of Masterchef, as the wheat is separated form the chaff we’re presented with genuine talent, those who overcome the pressure and prepare remarkable food that melts the hearts of the staff. Praise and encouragement appear in the equation, lifting the spirits -smiles appear, warmth emenates from the screen and all seems good in the world.

 Ahhhh, that’s better. I fill up.

But it’s not better. Someone has been naughty. The presentation of the grilled kneecap with bat-foreskin and regurgitated puy lentils in a faecal broth has made one of them angry. Very angry. The contestant starts to cry, the barrow-boy tastes, his face darkens like a thunderstorm approaching the Serengeti.

‘No, no no, this is wrong, very wrong’.

Now it’s frog-face’s turn. Wordlessly he turns and spits the food from his face like it’s a tramp’s turd picked off a dead pig.

‘I’m not eating that’ he says, his eyes glittering with death.

Puffy-eyed and red-faced, the contestant awaits their fate. Justice isn’t swift – they’re all made to stand in line for what seems like an age before being dismissed, cast out in the street like the food-killing fuckers they are…

Then again it switches. In the chaos a victor rises from the ashes. That one! I always knew it would be you! In the triumph of adversity one shall stand tall. The Staff applaud, they have been pleased, I too am at home sobbing for joy, I’m so happy. For once the barrow and the frog are like us. They have emotions, after all – are we not all mortal? Struggling with the baked bean can of life? Wrestling with the peel-off bit on top of the Pringles tube of existence. Are we not ONE?

Yes, until tomorrow that is, until tomorrow when some cunt decides to cook salmon with raspberry jam.

Later With Jools Holland

February 4, 2008

Later with Jools Holland hit its 200th episode on Friday, which mathematically means it has been running for 59 and a half years. Despite this, Jools is still stuck in the 43 year old body he’s inhabited since The Tube first transmitted on the somethingth of a month, nineteen eighty something – before Paula Yates killed herself and probably while she was still married to that do-gooder bloke from the Boomtown Rats. The point is, Jools Holland never changes. He is forever an awkward, no-necked misfit who can’t interview people for toffee – but we like him anyway, for he has always been there and always will be.

So, Jools and company decided to celebrate this anniversary with a stellar line up of super-duperstars. He had Feist (her from the Apple advert), Radiohead (from the Skins advert), Mary J Blige (who isn’t really very famous over here), Dionne Warwick (didn’t she do the dirty with David Frost back in the day? The lucky swine…), Robyn Hitchcock and finally Cat Power, whose The Greatest album I had heard before and thought quite pleasant in places, unremarkable in others.

Then I remembered Mrs Power had recently recorded a covers album. Cue disaster.

I’m not a big fan of Sinatra but like everyone else, I know the tunes inside out. New York, New York is a bona fide classic and, in the clip above, we can see Mrs Power ripping the very life out of its pomp and joyfulness, ordering her session musicians to play the most pointless blues bore-jam as she gurns a performance of pure pointlessness from the bottom of half a lung.

What’s going on with her face? It’s like she’s singing out of half of it while the other segment tries to remember the words. I thought a ‘breathy’ voice was meant to indicate a sort of laid-back passion and melancholy – here it seems to require the singer to avoid symmetry by all means necessary. And all that bouncing about is silly as well. So stop it.

Cover albums must be the least profitable thing an artist, supposedly at the top of their game, could put out – so why bother? You can’t top the greats. Is it an attempt to establish credibility via association? Probably. Is it borne out of laziness? I assume so. Does it sound absolutely terrible? In this example, yes. Yes it does.