Monday 12th December


Well after months of sniping, tears, tantrums and ego crises-mainly the judges- the X-Crutiating Factor came to an anti climatic finale last night. Talk about dragging it out two hours of prime television-and more importantly advertising space- were devoted to watching a turgid, hastily assembled, mediocre to middlingly average girl band be crowned as winners and proclaimed future pop stars. God help us. During this over extended farce- which I could only bear to watch intermittently- the audience were ‘treated’ to Coldplay, Marcus bouncing around in variety mode obviously not connecting with the lyrical themes of Wham’s mournful Last Christmas and not one but two tortuous versions of Damian Rice’s Cannonball which has had the misfortune of being chosen as the winners debut single. Actually Little Fix-sorry Mix- delivered the better of the two versions and were clearly going to be the winners anyway as the audience have been told for weeks that a girl band has never won the X- Factor and this is probably as good a reason as any- in all likelihood the only one- that they were going to take the final prize. There is no way Marcus could have won -too bland and forgettable- and the last two winners have been from the male category and subsequently failed to set the charts on fire. A girl band however provide something new for Cowell’s marketing team to get their teeth into as long as none of them come out as gay as Joe McElderry did two years ago only to watch his career vaporise immediately. One of Little Mix is slightly weightier than the others and no doubt Cowell will involve this in the media blitz that follows showing how on trend and caring he is as a move away from size zero role models is very much a talking point and in vogue at the moment.

Interestingly enough in the same week four girls put together in a band for not being good enough as solo artists win the nations most watched TV show techno meisters Underworld  a band with real talent won the accolade of being commissioned to write the opening theme tune for the 2012 Olympics. Having influenced musical trends for nearly twenty years with limited chart success- Born Slippy ‘ the’ summer song of 1996 with its ‘Lager, lager, lager’ refrain remains their most familiar song to many- it is good to see their hard work and immeasurable talent recognised and I would much rather have their sounds-all dark throbbing rhythms against pulsating, polyrythmic beats and the right amount of emotional punch- beamed out to a global audience as typical of our nations musical abilities than any of the bland , manufactured, neutered pop-hello again Coldplay!- usually churned  out for such events. Someone somewhere has got it right and this makes more than a pleasant change.

With the run up to Xmas-only 13 days to go- the TV schedules may have ridded themselves of the behemoth dominatrix the X-Factor but this does not mean there is anything worthwhile watching on any other nights of the week. Last week I could not find one solitary programme- the Killing II excepted which goes from strength to strength- I actually wanted to watch and this weeks schedules promise little more in the form of solace. One thing which should not be missed is a documentary about an artist Jean Marc Calvet showing on More 4 on Tuesday at 11.15. Having seen this during June’s Film Festival I was intrigued and fascinated by this compelling character and his life story which involves a past including a spell in the foreign legion, stealing 600,000 dollars from Miami gangsters, a time as a rent boy to fund his drug addiction and a brutal rape in a public toilet. Dragging himself up from these excursions into the demi-monde he used his experiences to construct artworks which emerge as some violent emotional purging and the visual equivalent of vomiting over a canvas which now sell for five figure sums in New York galleries. It is a fascinating and emotionally touching insight and you would have to be stone hearted not to want him to succeed. Having met Calvet after the screening I can also report he is as charismatic in the flesh as he is on the screen and the tales he tells during this scarily honest and revealing portrait are only the tip of the iceberg. In many ways Calvet could be to the art world what Jean Genet was to the literary one. A full review of the film can be found here.

The Xmas and New Year season usually sees the release of several big name films and this year is no exception. The big ones so far look like being Guy Ritchie’s second foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes- the first instalment I enjoyed against all of my natural instincts- and Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady due out on January 6th. The latter is particularly interesting as it features one lady whom I love and greatly admire as an artist portraying one to whom my feelings towards are not quite so warm. This juxtaposition is particularly compelling as Streep has a way of making you empathise with her characters and if she can make me empathise with Thatcher then she might as well be awarded the Oscar now and save anyone else the problem of agonising over what frock to wear or their acceptance speech.

So with less than two weeks to go until Xmas it is seriously time to consider doing some Xmas shopping. The inevitable round of parties has begun and the wonders of Facebook allow you to see in advance who will be attending what. Already this week poses a dilemma as two different parties on consecutive nights seem to boast an extremely similar guest list and I am not sure I really have any desire to see some of the same people on two occasions especially as in some cases when once is more than enough whilst with a few others it is even one too many. It is that time of the year though when such occasions do arise and no matter how hard I try to keep different aspects of my life separate at some point they often do collide. It is Xmas however and I suppose feelings of goodwill and alcohol may numb my misgivings as long as the latter doesn’t overwhelm me and reduce me to a drunken wreck as it did on one such occasion recently much to my embarrassment.

Here as a reminder of how good Underworld can be-as if one were needed- is a rare remix of One Dove’s beautiful Why Don’t You Take Me?

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