JUST AN OBSERVATION

Thursday 29th December.

 

Well here we are in the last days of 2011 with 2012 hovering into view so it seems about right to place some form of objective focus on the last twelve months and what sort of impact they are likely to have on the forthcoming year. Initial thoughts condemn 2011 to being a pretty uneventful year in the cultural spectrum-the arts in particular seem stuck in some form of stasis- until you consider some of the major events which have occurred and will have long-lasting effects. First off the tsunami in Japan in March was a cataclysmic disaster which killed thousands, wrecked villages and towns and impacted on millions of lives whilst gravely affecting their economy but ultimately showed the world what a strong nation of non-complaining hardworking people the Japanese are when confronted with adversity. We in Britain could learn a lot from their ethos as complaining seems to be second only to potty training when it comes to educating children in this country today. Not that there is nothing to complain about however and the riots which took place in London-spreading to other cities nightly- in August highlighted this.

A non-elected cobbled together government which no-one actually voted for, rising unemployment, benefit cuts and a black man being shot whilst being arrested were merely some of the grievances of the rioters and serious issues they were indeed. However I am unsure how a flat screen television or a £200 pair of trainers from Footlocker then the wilful destruction of retail properties already struggling with the recession could assuage the problem as looting and arson helped to create what certain media pundits refer to as ‘retail rioting’. The problems which sparked these riots show no sign of resolve-in fact many have got worse- so I can only assume the same tensions are still bubbling away slightly beneath the surface so unfortunately a reprisal of sorts is likely in 2012.

Over in America they were feeling slightly smug over the discovery and then shooting of Osama Bin Laden at a compound close to a military base in Pakistan. This again will herald some form of revenge attack at some point in the future so the fear he instilled still exists although it did probably win Barack Obama a few extra votes and allowed the right wing Republicans a chance to gloat over the maiming of an enemy.

Musically not much happened this year with the 41 year old PJ Harvey capturing the zeitgeist in her epoch defining Let England Shake album. Adele was hot on her heels however and in commercial terms trampled all over her both here and across the Atlantic even if her album 21 was suffering from overkill and over exposure as early as March despite only being  released in February. A young girl going by the name EMA was the lefrfield choice of the year sounding like a young Patti Smith meets the Velvet Underground on the stupendously stunning Past Life Martyred Saints. Laura Marling and Bon Iver served up two more muscular albums with Marling in particular looking like she is here for the long haul. Little Dragon provided the non existent summer with the slinky electro of Ritual Union whilst The Black Keys slipped in at years end with the classic  El Camino. The track of the year was, for me, Lana Del Rey’s Video Games which haunts and flaunts in equal measure. This Lynchian sounding track was everywhere for a while and big things are expected for Del Rey in 2012 starting with the release of her debut album in February. Oh, and Kate Bush released not one but two albums this year the second of which 50 Words For Snow is up there with her very best work.

In cinema the surprise film of the year was Drive and Ryan Gosling emerged as man of the year starring in four films released in 2011. Along with Tom Hardy he should be awarded with an Oscar for being ubiquitous. Michael Fassbender looks likely to join them in the Hollywood elite in 2012 and his role in Shame released in the New Year is likely to secure his position. Elsewhere Almodovar struck home with The Skin I live In and We Need To Talk About Kevin ticked all the right boxes whilst the independents Tabloid and Weekend stood out as highlights for me. The latest Hollywood adaptation of a foreign film in this case David Finchers re-fashioning of the Stieg Larson novel the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proved a pleasant surprise and a review can be found here.

As for television a few dramas-notably on Channel 4 and BBC2-made the grade but in general television in 2011 was in a sorry state. It can only continue to remain in this quagmire also if the schedulers do not do something about the same two shows unfairly dominating the weekend schedules for a third of the year. Strychnine Come Dancing and the X-Crutiating Factor I do mean you! The latter in particular even seems to be boring and disillusioning its core audience and if it had any grace or savvy would bow out now. Then again we are talking about Simon Cowell here, a man who would continue squeezing the public dry and manipulating them into a frustrated fury until they take to the streets and riot but this time returning their stolen flat screen TV’s in protest of the crap they are being served up. Now there is something to hope for in 2012. Happy New Year!

Here is the wondrous Lana Del Ray with the song of the year Video Games

 

Friday 23rd December

 

Well the festive spirit that has so far eluded me is starting to stir after a cinema excursion to see the wonderful James Stewart in the perennial classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Despite gushing in lachrymose Hollywood sentimentality this film and its themes about how friendship-borne out of goodwill to others- is the most valuable currency never fails to bring a tear to the oasis free desert that are my eyes. Trying to attain the right Xmas feelings got off to an ominous start at  the beginning of the week when I thought watching Roman Polanski’s classic about the devil being summoned up to impregnate an unsuspecting newly wed in Rosemary’s Baby would be suitable. Not exactly traditional Xmas fare I am aware but it unfortunately captured my mood at the time. This feeling of cynicism passed however and armed with a hot chocolate-topped up with a shot of Amaretto-and a clutch of hankies I sat down to Frank Capra’s tale about an angel in search of his wings and a man looking for a reason to keep on living more than willing to be seduced by its –admittedly contrived- sentiments. It did the trick however and I left the cinema with a warm glow and the need to walk along Princes Street through the French and German markets- strange how there is no Scottish Market at a time of year when the tourists arrive in numbers second only to the Festival-soaking up the Xmas spirit and I don’t mean the mulled wine.

Elsewhere this week the news has been full of reports about racist comments made on the field by England and Chelsea captain John Terry. I am not sure whether making racist comments makes a person a racist but this is something I will leave to the politically correct obsessed twittering classes. Racism-and any other form of derogatory bullying and bigotry whether it concerns someone’s sexual orientation or colour- itself is something which should not be tolerated in any form but sometimes the PC brigade jump onto their moral high horse with indignation and unhealthy self righteousness. Before I am accused of being sympathetic towards Terry or any others accused of being abusive I need to say I have been called enough names in my time-often by friends who think they are merely being ironic or funny though I feel they find it funnier than I actually do- to understand how this can have an adverse effect but am fortunate to have an inner strength to laugh it off as I get the joke. However not everyone has  inner strength and enough confidence to withstand the abuse hurled at them and there is no reason they should feel equipped to do so. Bullying is bullying full stop and has no place anywhere in today’s society.

A few years ago I reviewed a show which used the words ‘nigger’ and ‘queer’ repeatedly and for little reason as they were not hinged on any particular jokes and instead the words alone were supposed to engender a laugh. In my review I complained about this and the performers replied by claiming they were being ‘ironic’. A lame excuse and one frequently trundled out. My response was that the umbrella of irony would not shelter those who had to suffer a torrent of abuse on the streets for simply being what they are. After this they did change their show to remove the offending segments but what struck me was how the audience on the night was divided in their reactions. More than half were disgusted by what we saw-several walked out- but a younger element mostly pissed up on alcopops laughed –sometimes admittedly uncomfortably- and it was almost visible to see them recognise using such terms could be acceptable as they had seen it on stage in what was billed as an ‘edgy’ show. For this the performers were not only inappropriate but also totally irresponsible.

The point I am trying to make is not whether Terry is guilty of racism but that is what is under the spotlight here is how as a role model-well paid and successful in his sphere- he should have been more responsible. Mind you football pitches are charged with excessive amounts of competitive testosterone and players are hardly renowned for their high IQ’s-this not me being hypocritically judgmental as most are removed from school to train before their education is complete and there is the interesting tale of how David Beckham was unable to spell professional footballer on his first contract– so this combines to create a lethal cocktail. Under the scrutiny of thousands of fans and the ever present cameras which he should be used to by now he should have exerted some restrain. As he didn’t he should be punished accordingly and not only to satisfy the righteous twittering classes but because he was wrong.

 A drama on channel 4 last night about the summer riots in London could have focussed on the racist angle-many in the press and elsewhere were pointing the finger at troublesome black youths as ringleaders- but instead sensibly chose to tell the story through the inhabitants and shopkeepers in the area alongside that of the police. Actually it was interesting to note in the credits how the police refused to co-operate in the making of the drama and if their portrayal in the sequence of events was accurate then it is understandable why they would not want to be seen in such an unfavourable light. It was an interesting hour long programme which could have been longer although its brevity captured some of the urgency of the situation. As it did not target any part of society as the troublemakers what became clear during its duration is the problems which sparked the riots are malignant in our society and the lack of resolution means they are bubbling away under the surface and could erupt again at anytime. Channel 4 were brave to show this so soon after the events and as such it was not afforded the pontificating and clarity of hindsight which usually accompanies such programmes. Instead the freshness and lack of clarity conspired to make it feel almost like a docudrama with gravitas and it was borne of the testimony of those who found themselves unwillingly at the centre of the maelstrom.

Nothing like that would ever happen in Chelsea however, whose civilised inbred inhabitants returned for a seasonal special of Laid In Chelsea, as they are all too busy shagging each other then obsessing and regretting it before moving onto their second/fourth removed cousin. Actually the Spencer and Caggie fauxmance shifted up a gear as they consummated their relationship during a jaunt to Finland. Thank God as the will they/won’t they yawnathon could not have withstood a third series. Meanwhile Millie cried a lot –again- about Hugo whilst Rosie’s overactive thyroid stary, scary eyes were nearly as overactive as her overactive gossipy mouth.

Whilst the posh folk of Chelsea were in Lapland their Essex counterparts were in Lapland where Joey and Chloe ruminated about Reindeer antlers. The look on their faces when they were informed they were not made of wood but in fact bone was comedy genius as they could not comprehend such a notion. Mind you from two people who previously had a conversation concerning one of them discovering that the sun and moon were not one planet- with Britain getting the front half whilst Australia was in receipt of the back which explained how it was day here whilst night there!- this is hardly surprising.

Elsewhere this week the BBC showed some great footage of David Bowie from 1973-during the 1970’s his greatest era he only appeared on Top of the Pops three times- in all his glam rock pomp performing The Jean Genie. This was an amazing find as the original tapes had been wiped and nobody believed a copy existed or in some cases whether the performance had actually taken place. However one of the cameramen had kept a copy and had not realised it was such a valuable piece until he mentioned it and someone informed him he was in possession of a great piece of British rock history. Here it is in all its glam rock splendour and after it is a classic version of Little Drummer Boy by Low sounding like the Velvet Underground meets The Jesus and Mary Chain from what is probably my favourite Xmas album. Merry Xmas!

Monday 19th December

 

With less than a week to go until Xmas day I expected to be feeling the festive spirit a little more than I do. So far I have tried all the usual tricks in getting into the mood-shopping, partying, drinking and even assisting in the decoration of a friends pub- but all to little avail. I am sensing there is a general consensus that this year’s proceedings are wrapped in a certain amount of ennui rather than tinsel and glitter. The main reason would seem to be a distinct lack of cash in all quarters and as the whole affair seems to revolve around how much money you can spend to prove how much you love your loved ones this is a severe setback. Of course we are constantly told this doesn’t matter when buying presents as it is the thought that counts but these sentiments seem to ring hollow as everywhere you look in the media and on the high street nothing perpetuates this as everything is geared around enticing you to spend as much money as possible. This year I have little choice in the matter as I have little spare cash to spend on presents so will just have to hope those in receipt of my gifts- or not in some cases- will understand that it is the thought which counts and I definitely did think about it I just never bought them anything after giving it the necessary consideration.

Out on the social circuit everything seems to adhere to the festive theme whether willingly or by accident. The theatres are full of big family orientated shows such as traditional pantos or We Will Rock You-which I saw two years ago and actually loved although I have never wanted to hear a Queen record since- and bands seem to reform in the hope of earning some filthy lucre under the guise of nostalgia.  Last week saw Adam Ant trundle out his ‘80’s hits and this week sees art school punks the Rezillos reform for their traditional Xmas gig at the Liquid Rooms. Always a good time band this Edinburgh group always put on a great show which is well worth catching. The cinemas are full of big money blockbusters such as Mission Impossible and Guy Ritchie’s second attempt at injecting some super hero action and muscle into Arthur Conan Doyle’s intellectually superior and previously cerebral Sherlock Holmes. The latter is definitely worth catching as it roars into view and never pauses for reflection during its duration. Extremely loud and visually impressive he may well have been more apt in naming it Lock Stock and Two Shattered Eardrums being such an assault on the senses. A full review can be found here.

A quick look through the television schedule also threw up little in the way of surprise and in fact was probably even more disappointing than I expected. There are little in the way of decent movies and even less in the way of originality. Much has been made of the return of Absolutely Fabulous and although I loved it first time around it is about time the BBC stopped resting on their laurels and started nurturing some new talent and ideas. No doubt the soaps will be the usual doom and gloom –it is not Xmas in Eastenders unless some tragedy occurs and this year they must be due another murder- and Poirot will be considered a highlight even though it is usually relegated to a Sunday afternoon where it belongs.

There are however several films out during January which will help to assuage the post festive comedown. Shame starring Michael Fassbender is an intriguing proposition and the Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher are just two which will require my attention. This week the Filmhouse is showing several Xmas films including the Wizard Of Oz, Gremlins, Meet Me in St. Louis and my personal favourite It’s a Wonderful Life which I am going to see midweek armed with  hot Chocolate, Maltesers, a clutch of hankies and a willingness to succumb to it’s heartfelt message and undeniable sentiment. If that fails and does not get me in the festive mood then I will willingly adopt the soubriquet Scrooge permanently and without complaint though the latter is perhaps too ironic even for me.

Here for everyome who is sick of the constant repetition of the Slade , Wizzard et al-even John and Yoko’s War is Over palls after several plays- Xmas standards is a track from probably the only truly classic and credible Xmas album by Low.

Friday December 16th

 

Ah ! That final weekend before Xmas, you know the one when anyone with any sense prepares themselves for a lock down avoiding shops and bars in the city centre at any cost. The unfortunate thing is it never quite works out that way-last year was the exception but that was more to do with excuses about heavy snow than any desire not to join the not so merry throng on the streets- and inevitably the likelihood of finding yourself amongst the amateur drinkers of ‘Black Friday’, as it is referred to amongst those who work in the hospitality trade, becomes alarmingly more likely. Actually ‘tourists’ is a more apt word for the participants of this night decide to hit the pubs they avoid for 51 other Friday nights of the year and use this as an excuse to get totally obliterated, make passes at their co-workers and eventually start brawling in the streets with the remnants of a doner kebab dribbling down their chin alongside a few loosened teeth. Meanwhile their wardrobes are in a state of total dishabille with crumpled bri-nylon suits accompanied by loosened ties which have somehow taken on the appearance of nooses due to their reversal and positioning and not forgetting the prerequisite Santa hat at a not quite jaunty angle. Meanwhile the female of the species have unbuttoned blouses, sensible court shoes and skirts with invisible strings they keep hitching through the evening until they rise well above the knee. The exception to this is the office minx-the one who gets on better with the men in the office- who has dressed for the occasion and tonight is not the night she will be indulging in bonding with the sisterhood instead her sights are set on a different prize and after a few Pinot Grigiots she does not see herself as drunk and desperate but totally irresistible. The volume control on this melee seems to be dysfunctional and through the evening the same conversation can be heard again-and again-each time a few decibels higher than the previous time. It is usually all over by midnight by which point they are all suitably pissed up and they retire for another year to regret this yearly blip in their lifestyle. A sense of normality can then be restored to both the participants and those who have to work through the whole scenario. Having been involved in both sides of the evening I am relieved that on the evening in question I am attending a house party away from this debauchery and my relief is palpable at avoiding the whole sorry state of affairs.

Actually the previous observations may seem a little unfair and clichéd but one thing is true being out on ‘Black Friday’ is really not much fun at all. There really does seem to be an inability in our culture when it comes to moderating our alcohol consumption and this usually results in making an arse of ourselves, becoming belligerent and heading for totally oblivion. Guilty of all of the aforementioned I have over the last few years adopted a different, healthier, approach to drinking and apart from a few slip ups-one very recently- seem to have reached a healthy relationship with the demon alcohol. In some ways I sympathise with the ‘Black Friday’ revellers as the hangovers they must be in possession of the next day are probably horrendous and require taking a whole day out-at least- to recover and after a while this becomes more than just an inconvenience but an excuse for doing things that are ultimately more important. In fact a heavy bout of full-blown hedonism actually seems to necessitate a three day recovery period and after a while this palls when compared to the couple of hours ‘enjoyment’ which engenders it. Perhaps a liver swap programme would be a solution with teenagers and twenty somethings lending their young livers to those in their thirties and forties to enjoy a night of partying without the fallout and at the same time they, in turn, can see how bad it is going to get in their later years.

This week has also seen the  Shane Meadows drama This Is England 88 on for three consecutive nights updating the lives of the characters of the film and the ’86 TV series, The good thing about this drama is that it shows that the ‘80’s were not all good times, ra-ra skirts and a Duran Duran soundtrack. They were indeed hard times and the ‘Greed is good’ manifesto of Hollywood’s defining film, Wall Street, did not apply to everybody simply as not everyone was in a position to be greedy. Poverty, race and sexual issues were making some inroads but for every step forward there seemed to be two steps back. Thatcher’s government-alongside the Regan administration on the other side of the Atlantic- who had never been comfortable with gay issues found an unlikely ally in the arrival of AIDS which allowed them to scaremonger and force through the inhuman and societally divisive Clause 28. Meanwhile mixed race children were nowhere near as readily accepted today where they are considered totally respectable, something to aspire to and very much a necessary wave of the future. Made In England tackles these subjects with brutality but somehow furnishes them with a sensitivity which is thought provoking. At the time of writing I have not seen the final episode but the drama is unfolding at its own pace and whilst it is not always comfortable viewing its gritty realism is superbly acted and constructed and unfortunately not indicative of the majority of British television today.

The 1980’s may have been hard but catching the end of TOTP 2 1976 last night made me realise the seventies may have been worse. I have no idea- nor and need to find out- who the band playing was but it involved smiley faces, bad flares, gormless expressions, bad hair accompanied by some form of bells or chimes. It made me realise why the creation of punk was so necessary and inevitable if this bland, puerile drivel was what was being served up. It was on this very month 35 years ago in ’76-the same date this programme dated from- when the Sex Pistols released the cataclysmic Anarchy in the UK with its crunching opening chords followed by Johnny Rotten’s snarling, sneering, sardonic salvo ‘Right Now’ followed by his salacious cackle laughing off- and at- all competition and things were never the same again. Actually the bands manager Malcolm McLaren realised the corporate truck heading down our cultural highway was unavoidable but punk offered a diversion even if it was simply placing a tack under its wheels and causing it to swerve slightly. It certainly served its objectives however as punk was the first time a generation took their destiny into their own hands and the movement extended way past the music which was  more of a  wiping the slate clean and back to basics  exercise than anything. Despite this Anarchy and all of the Pistols work still stands the test of time as the energy and potency still resonate thirty odd years on. So happy birthday Anarchy In the UK you have no need of botox or remixing surgery as you sound as young , fresh and essential as you ever did.

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?

Monday 5th December

The snow made its first appearance of the year this weekend and despite the inconveniences of the last two years it was like welcoming an old friend back. It also provided the perfect contextual environment for listening to the new Kate Bush opus 50 Words For Snow as well as serving as a reminder that Xmas is around the corner. There is something about the first snow flurries which arouses the inner child hibernating inside most of us and it is only after it hangs around for weeks-like a dinner guest who hangs around after the liqueurs and brandies have been served ignoring their hosts yawns- that the old curmudgeonly cynic rises to the fore and becomes little more than an excuse for not doing anything other than complaining. So far the snow on the ground is making little difference to anything but it is only the beginning so there is probably a lot more to follow.

Perhaps the cold environment will make the two new arrivals at Edinburgh zoo feel a little more at home than the earache they had to endure in the form of a bagpipe reception yesterday. The two giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian (translating as Sunshine and Sweetie-how very Ab Fab) on loan from China are the subject of much controversy. Apparently here in order to breed –the cold Scottish climate is ideal according to reports- animal welfare campaigners are insisting it is merely a commercial enterprise and it would seem they are right. Although it is costing upwards of £1m per year to house them- a ten year deal has been brokered- it is estimated their presence will boost visitors to the zoo by 70% and already 1,500 people applied for tickets to see them in 24 hours. Zoos will always be the subject of controversy and admittedly I generally full on the side of disapproval and agree with many of the animal rights activists. Then again they do afford many people to see animals they would normally be unable to encounter in a more natural habitat-for many reasons including financial considerations- and admittedly I will probably go against my principles and go to gawp at them. This is probably down to being introduced to the image of Dusty Springfield at a very early age and developing an unhealthy fascination for her heavily kholed, panda-eyed look that has never really abated. Alice Cooper has something to answer for also so there go my principles yet again.

Someone who insists he does stick to his principles- in his case by encouraging people to connect with each other in increasingly different ways- is Mark Zuckerberg who was the subject of a BBC2 documentary last night. Whilst the programme focussed on the idea that users of Facebook are unwittingly setting themselves up, by simply clicking the ‘like’ button, as advertising brands they like without their permission.  It was an interesting argument and when it was put to an executive he was seriously flummoxed and after much deliberation, wherein you could actually seeing the cogs of his mind visually moving, gave an unsatisfactory answer that, like a politician, didn’t really answer the question. Zuckerberg has created a worldwide phenomenon which has radically changed the way people communicate and for this he deserves the recognition he accumulates but despite the claims that Facebook is abusing their position by utilising the information they provide it must also be considered that people are volunteering this information more than willingly. In some cases a little too willingly as some of my news-feed attests with some ‘friends’ revealing every fart , belch  and bowel movement in real time whilst informing everyone what flavour of crisps they prefer as they carry out these functions. I really have no need- or interest really- in knowing whether certain people like to shop at Ocean Terminal or like ‘Shite Shirts’- just two examples which regularly appear in my ongoing constant news- but at some point they have felt compelled to let me know they like those things so their privacy has not been invaded it has just been shared which was the point initially. As I have said before if you don’t want anyone to know anything about you no-one is forcing you to share information in the first place and you are not obligated to use the service and can de-activate your account at anytime.

Now if only someone would de-activate the X Factor before next weeks long awaited final then I would be happy. I only say long awaited as it has taken an age to get here. Having been on our screens since September this means it takes up two nights every weekend for a third of the year and really acts as one long advert for Simon Cowell. Even the guest acts usually have some connection to this obnoxious mogul and make the advertising claims levelled at Facebook look like a cheap corner ad at the back of a magazine. Despite this I do feel the show has suffered without him at the helm as the bickering between the judges has overshadowed the whole debacle. Gaaary Baaaarlow is still obviously in recovery from his charisma by pass whilst the thing that calls itself a Tulisa has a wardrobe malfunction weekly- sack the stylist dear-and little knowledge of music even if she does know the industry inside out. Louis Walsh should have been put out to pasture years ago and is simply the biggest irritant on TV. The three finalists – Misha B probably the best of the acts went last night though not through her performances as her days were numbered weeks ago in a bitchy aside about bullying from Tulisa and Walsh that scuppered her chances-going through to next week possess little of X- Factor the programme claims it is trying to unearth. The Girl group are average at best, Amelia Lily screeches her way hysterically through everything with no vocal nuance apart from overkill whilst Marcus smiled his way through that paean to heterosexuality-despite being overtly gay-‘My Girl’ in a lachrymose way that even your grandmother would balk at. This surely is not a ‘perfect pop star’ (Walsh’s phrase constantly on repeat) or perfect anything apart from fodder for Saturday night variety shows and despite its delusions of grandeur this is what the X-Factor is really.

Perhaps the contestants should get a wake up call in the fact a posthumous Amy Winehouse album is released today. Here was a girl who did have talent, style and charisma and unfortunately it wasn’t enough to help her survive in the music industry. Maybe those contestants who claim they want fame so badly in those clips that are supposed to make us vote for them should spare a thought for this poor girl who expressed more talent in applying her false nails than they have mustered in three months of rehearsal, grooming and exposure. As for the record she left behind unfortunately it has a few good moments but ultimately it is not much cop really. Then again it never could be as Winehouse was a fleeting star who had to be captured briefly as she was always going to be impossible to harness. Much better to listen to the new Black Keys album which gives 21st century rock and roll a much needed shot of adrenaline in its arm what with its glam rock stomp, crunching guitars and mighty melodies.

Here though is Winehouse  unplugged with no dancers ,pyrotechnic displays and little else aprt from her raw talent encapsulated in ‘that’ voice.

Friday 2nd December

 

So in a week which saw the biggest strike in a generation it must have been galling for the protesters to have their cause upstaged in the press by a buffoon by the name of Clarkson who made a bad attempt at humour on a trashy early evening show. Whatever your opinions on the strikes-I will come to that later-surely no-one who actually saw his outburst could take it seriously or even seriously consider it offensive. Clarkson is an overpaid, oafish, loudmouthed irritant and his rant about lining the protesters up against a wall before shooting them was deeply unfunny but surely the thousands who phoned into complain need to get over themselves and realise that whingeing about his remarks did their cause no good and exposed them as overly sensitive and humourless whilst shifting the focus of the press attention away from the issues at hand onto him. Well done! I bet David Cameron-who every time I see him resembles, a little more, an ageing rent boy you’d demand a refund from – is grateful for the deflection and the majority of interviews conducted with him on Thursday dwelt on the  subject of his close personal friend and his wayward comments. Apparently Clarkson did not limit his wrath to the strikers-I only saw the opening two minutes- and went onto make other offensive remarks which were apologised for at the end of the programme. At this point it would be appropriate to state where I stand on the subject and I can categorically state there is no way I would normally watch The One Show as I find the fact presenter Matt Baker looks as if he has been dressed by his Granny-Hylda Baker perhaps?-far more offensive than anything which came out of Clarkson’s mouth.

As for the subject of the strikes they seem to have had a divisive effect between those who work in the Public Sector and those who don’t. Whilst I sympathise totally with the pensions issue and am not totally equipped with the full facts I have noticed that the friends I have who work in Public Sector jobs do tend to complain about their lot a hell of a lot more often than many I know in the private sector or badly paid jobs with far less benefits and holidays. They also have a tendency to talk about their work incessantly-in some cases their jobs take up about 90% of their conversation- as if anyone else is really interested. It is good they are taking a stance against the government however as it is about time people did as the pensions issue is only the beginning and if that goes ahead I dread to think what will be next. Anyway allegedly some statistics reveal that 1 in 3 teachers retiring at 60 are dead by 63 due to the stress of the job. From the circle of teachers I know personally this stress mostly manifests itself in heavy drinking and chain smoking so they need to retire early so  they are able to fit in a couple of years of  alcoholism and extreme hedonism before it is too late. Before I place both feet firmly in Clarkson territory let me first of all state teachers, nurses et al do worthwhile jobs which offer little return in the way of gratitude from those they help. The public sector workers that I have more gripe with are the bureaucrats housed mainly in the council offices and in their case I reckon they should raise their IQ’s before worrying about retirement ages.

For anyone with a social conscience a film titled the Black Power Mixtape currently showing at the Filmhouse is essential viewing. Concentrating on the period between 1967 and 1975 when Black Power in America was in the ascendant it is a riveting document comprising of footage compiled by Swedish journalists and shows the unfairness dealt a whole race of people simply for the colour of their skin. The injustices at the crux of the film are heart breaking but some of the interviews including the falsely incarcerated Angela Davis and campaigner Stokeley Carmichael are both heroic and soul stirring. When the plight of black people is considered contextually it certainly puts other problems and complaints into serious perspective. A full review is here.

Also this week the Scottish National Portrait Gallery re-opened after three years and a complete makeover. Much has been made of the new space opened up and the light this permits and previously it did always feel like a dark, enclosed space. Much of the new layout is impressive and the Library Gallery was definitely a high point. The space and the light are definitely there as promised but the collection somehow failed to wholly impress and in some spaces felt incongruous in such modern surroundings. I was particularly confused by a section left of the main entrance dedicated to ‘Hot Scots’ and I could see quite easily how the likes of David Tennant, Karen Gillen and Nicola Benedetti could be termed ‘hot’ but then I saw a picture of Susan Boyle and after the nausea had passed dismay and confusion set in. Hot? Not even if you placed her at the top a bonfire and set it alight. Now there’s an idea!

Talking of placing people on top of a blazing fire this sounds like a reasonable option of dealing with the inhabitants of the island in Shipwrecked. If they ever get a fire lit after unruly tides unfortunately messed up their island paradise causing mayhem but appealed to my warped sense of humour. It was schaudenfreude in extremis. Surely this collection of self obsessed narcissists is among the worst on TV probably even rivalling the mwah! mwah! air kissing followed by backstabbing of I’m a Nonentity Get Me Out Of  Here – I wouldn’t know for sure as I have not seen it- as they fight for ‘survival’ on a desert island. As the antics amount to little more than bitching incessantly about each other-self appointed ‘uber’ couple Bear and Anna are by far the worst at this- and stealing tins of rice pudding it is hardly rewarding television but unfortunately I am hooked. Halfway through the series and it looks like a good idea would be simply to leave them there to fend for themselves indefinitely.

This week we bid adieu to the residents of Laid in Chelsea- this name actually appeared in the closing party games and I am considering suing for plagiarism- which swiftly descended into Jeremy Kyle with plummy vowels. It is hard to imagine how this lot can claim they have it tough as tales of their infidelities sparked talk of holidays in Monaco, Ibiza and France all within a couple of months. My nose bleeds in sympathy for the poor little loves. Much more emotional for me was the end of True Blood as I had come to consider Tuesday night date night and even started dressing up in anticipation of the opening credits. A little sad I know but times are hard.

This weekend sees me attending the Axolotl Xmas party tonight before heading up to Hot Mess at the Wee Red Bar which promises an evening of non-stop dancing to some excellent tunes. On Sunday Gavin Evans is hosting an afternoon into early evening event Electric Café at the Institute featuring Laptop Lounge and a collection of VJ’s and musicians and the promise of an alternative way of whiling away a Sunday. Sounds perfect to me. Of course there are also the dying days of the X-Factor for anyone who still cares and by now I think the judges, contestants and even the press are disinterested. You never know though maybe this week someone will emerge as a true star though I doubt that is likely.

To get in the mood for the weekend this Death In Vegas Track is just the ticket.

Monday 28th November

 

With less than a month until Xmas –four weeks yesterday to be exact- it may be time for me pretending it isn’t happening and submit to the inevitable and make my first forays into channelling my inner festive self. That may take some time though as usually it isn’t until about the week before that I get into the swing of the season. It seems everyone I speak to mentions how they are stripping things back this year due to the recession and this is a relief as it was always the need for unnecessary extravagance-alongside forced false jollity- that sat most uncomfortably with me. The need to spend vast amounts of cash on people you make little or no effort on the rest of the year as a means of assuaging guilt always felt insincere and cold. Times of crisis do have a habit of making people realise what is really important and after a turbulent year –riots in several British cities, the tsunami in Japan- it may be a good time to take stock of what we do possess, even if it feels inadequate rather, than obsessing over that which we don’t. The news this weekend that Welsh football manager Gary Speed committed suicide drives home the point that someone who seems on the surface to have everything going for them is still unable to find consolation and happiness in his achievements and is still plagued by deep unhappiness that resulted in him taking his own life. As yet details have yet to emerge as to what forced him to believe this was the only course of action for him to take so speculating on the reasons behind it are fruitless.

Someone else who, during her lifetime, appeared to have everything going for her and was still unable to find happiness was Marilyn Monroe the subject of the newly released Simon Curtis film My Week with Marilyn. Set in England in 1956 during what was ostensibly her honeymoon with third husband Arthur Miller it documents that already her marriage was in crisis. Consumed by alcohol and propped up with pills-long before Michael Jackson Hollywood doctors had a lot to answer for- her insecurities only intensified until they totally took over. It is a familiar story and Curtis coaxes an astounding performance out of Michelle Williams as Monroe that is surely deserving of an Oscar nomination. The film as a whole somehow seems to have set its sight on some of the prizes scored by The Kings Speech but unlike that film which told a tale that many were unaware of Monroe’s story has been told many times through films, documentaries and numerous biographies. The best of the latter category is still probably Anthony Summers’ Goddess which affords its subject matter great insight and never teeters on obsequiousness or paints her as a victim. The latter is a common error in many biographies about Marilyn as it is impossible to get to her position in Hollywood without having a steely core. I always feel when people moan how hard it is to be famous that it is so much easier not to be and at some point it was a choice they made. Olivier points this out in My Week with Marilyn when frustrated by the sympathy she seems to engender that he spits out how she knew exactly what she was doing. A full review is here.

As a counterpoint to this the film they were working on The Prince and the Showgirl was on the television this weekend and it is one of the few Monroe films I have never seen from beginning to end. After about forty minutes I realised why this was as it really is quite an insipid effort from these two great stars and therefore proves that great tension does not always beget great art. Another film that I endeavoured to watch at the weekend and found myself lasting a mere twenty minutes before I switched it off was Prince’s Purple Rain. I remember attending the premiere when it first came out and thinking then it was awful but time has been very unkind as it was truly diabolical, Best stick to playing the music as this still has a potency.

Caught catches of the X-Crement Factor over the weekend and it really is well and truly played out. The judges and contestants seem to know it is flagging and it really is limping along to what promises to be a not so grand finale. I did discover this week that apparently The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are considered an alternative act in X- Factor world. This was news to me as I did not realise that playing world tours in stadiums and selling millions of records globally could be considered alternative so it just goes to show how mistaken I was. Misha B thinks she is a star already-the thing that calls itself a Tulisa told her she could shift millions of albums and sell out arenas. Optimistic or what? – and has started referring to herself in the third person although she may have been housing a third person in those (over) stretched leggings of hers. Surely Marcus the neutered Little Richard is not a serious contender to win this shambles. If so then pop music is in an even worse state than I imagined. Every week he turns out a bland and forgettable version of the same uninspiring slop that is only fit for light entertainment at best but if the cultural behemoth that is Olly Murs can make it as a pop star then anything is possible. He even dragged the Muppets on stage with him to afford him a little credibility, which must surely go down as a desperate act by someone who is aware he has little or no talent. I do love how the judges go on about being versatile whilst saying the same thing week in, week out with no sense of irony. Also the constant claims that it is not simply karaoke when the same songs seem to be on rotation series after series also seems to contradict that statement.

A much better bet for weekend viewing is the Danish crime drama the Killing 2 which is showing all the strengths and intrigue that the first series had. This time around there has even been a slight –very subtle-intrusion of humour as well as a mild flirtation between Sarah Lund and her sidekick the aptly named Strange. This is an exquisitely handles drama that although entertaining is also thought provoking constantly demanding the audience review and re-assess the information they have at their disposal. It certainly kicks the shit out of any of the other slop clogging up the weekend TV schedules. Mind you December is the party season so perhaps TV schedules are not so important. Mind you if it snows like it has the last two years it may be our only companion so best follow The Killing even more studiously.

This weekend saw photographer Gavin Evans’ opening Silenced at The Institute in Roseneath Street in Marchmont showing his stunning portraits of,among others, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde and Bjork as his subjects. Definitely worth checking out whilst enjoying one of the many coffees or fine teas he has on offer. More events at this venue next weekend with details to follow.This week the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is re-opening after a multi million,three years in the making refurbishment so that is definitely on my agenda alongside a film about the emergence of Black Power in the late sixties and early seventies The Black Power Mixtape as well as the Axolotl Xmas show on Friday night.

The new Black Keys album out next week is surely a contender for rock album of the year-EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints and PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake are the others- so as a taster before the albums release here is their latest single Lonely Boy and its great  accompanying video.

Friday 25th November

 

After an unseasonably warm November today it feels like the winter has finally arrived. Last year at this exact time was when the snow started falling and more than outstayed its welcome hanging around until early January causing mayhem, distress and general discontent. There really is nothing like a little bad or inconvenient weather to get the gander of Scots folk up providing endless sources of conversation that invariably all lead to the same conclusion i.e. the weather here is generally pretty shit. Apparently not as shit as life in the public eye however as the Leveson inquiry  has been revealing this week whether you are a celebrity or just a poor unfortunate who has been unwillingly thrown into the coliseum-like arena of public attention. The phone hacking scandal at the centre of this inquiry looks set to run and run and usually the whinging of multi-millionaires and self obsessed celebrities who seek out what ever attention they can when it suits them often comes across as self pitying bleating. This case however has awoken that several do have legitimate complaints as the methods deployed by the media in the search for a story are despicable. None of these tales however compare with the tragic tale of Milly Dowler’s family who due to her voicemails being hacked mistakenly believed their daughter was still alive due to this interference. It also hindered the police investigation at a crucial stage and this alone is wholly unforgivable and those responsible need to be held to task.

Coincidentally an early victim of press intrusion and instantly created media celebrity Joyce McKinney is the subject of an excellent film, Tabloid, showing at the Filmhouse at the moment. I would wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone not simply because it contains lurid tales of kidnapping, bondage, accusations of male rape, impersonation-of on different occasions two deaf mutes and Indians- incarceration in prison, Mormons and so much more. It is taken to a higher level due to the appearance of the central protagonist herself who makes such a willing and incredible witness and re-teller of the events that still remain at the films denouement somewhat clouded. Giving a testimony that seems at odds with those around her McKinney reportedly armed with a gun and chloroform apparently kidnapped and repeatedly raped an unwilling Mormon who had caught her eye and established himself as the object of her unquenchable lust. The story is surreal, fascinating and totally compelling and proceeds to the present day where Mc Kinney reveals she has had five pit-bulls cloned from the dog who saved her life after her guard dog attempted to kill her and they now seem to fulfil the role of slaves-answering the phone, fetching her drinks etc.- within her bizarre life. If you can catch this film I would suggest you do. A full review can be found here.

This weekend also sees the release of My Week With Marilyn that details the uneasy working relationship between Monroe and Laurence Olivier on the 1959 film The Prince and the Showgirl- which BBC2 are very kindly showing on Saturday afternoon to tie in with the films release- which led to her befriending a young stage hand as a means of escaping her turbulent life at this time. It looks like a fascinating document of an interesting time in Hollywood history and Monroe is someone else who has suffered at the hands of the press though in her case it has been as much, if not more, since her untimely death therefore she has been unable to defend herself. During her lifetime it is clear that happiness constantly eluded her and this film focuses on a time when still in the throes of a new marriage to her third husband  playwright Arthur Miller–the film trip doubled up as a honeymoon of sorts- she should have been blissfully happy but clearly wasn’t.

Also this weekend is the Neu! Reekie End of Year Screemer at the Scottish Book Trust in the Royal Mile this evening that promises to be a worthwhile event. Featuring spoken word, musical interludes and animation among tonights contributors are Davy Henderson-of Fire Engines and Win fame or infamy if you prefer- Richard Jobson, Billy Liar and several others. Presenting a collective array of local talent this night is essential in that it draws together various outlets for different artistic threads and draws them all together. Certainly worth risking adventuring out on what feels like will be the first truly wintry night of the year.

Over in Laid In Chelsea this week things limped to a rather dull conclusion despite the fireworks display and the fireworks generated by the fact that uber-sneak Rosie- she of the stary eyes and the need to take the moral high ground in everyone else’s affairs- had been sleeping with Hugo behind supposed close friend Millie’s back. Cue lots of actual tears from Millie accompanied by a face that crumpled and resembled that of a three year old having her favourite toy taken away from her. The Spencer and Caggie faux-mance dragged on –and on- and surely cannot continue into the next series. Please. Francis bored, Amber unconvincingly vamped, Jamie irritated-a lot-, Proudlock stayed in the closet and Mark Francis dazzled. Glad it’s over but Monday nights will seem empty without it.

On recommendation I was told to turn my gaze to the new series of Shipwrecked which I dutifully did and was fascinated what I encountered which was little more than a collection of self  obsessed, buffed up and bronzed idiots all vying for a prize that can only be attained by shafting each other. In a metaphorical sense that is although some seem to take it literally without realising that every time a couple does this on one of these ‘reality ‘ programmes their days are inevitably numbered as aligning and ostracising yourself in this fashion generally alienates the others. The token ‘weirdo’ among this group is a young guy going by the name of Kitten who prances around in a fur coat-on a tropical island- and seems to have studied at the Pete Burns school for being obnoxious. Unfortunately unlike Burns he has no charisma to speak of and merely comes across as an irritant although in comparison to some of the others – the ladies man and all around Jack the lad Bear and his concubine the abrasive Anna seem particularly vile and struggling to maintain a civil façade to the others- he is a bit of a, well, kitten actually. What is it with TV and the need for people to suddenly adopt ridiculous names such as Kitten, Bear, Caggie, Cheska Binky etc, etc ad nauseum. Personally if I was the producer of this programme I would open a phone vote to see whether  the contestants of this ‘competition’ should be allowed to leave this remote island or whether they should be forced to remain there and indulge in even more Lord Of The Flies staged scenarios. I personally would opt for leaving them there indefinitely.

Have been watching the last three episodes of My Transsexual Summer and must admit that Channel 4 have approached a highly sensitive subject with great sensitivity and warm intelligence. It initially seemed like a random idea to house male to female and female to male transgendered people together over a series of weekends over the summer but it has been an interesting journey both for the viewers and the participants. No silly stunts or contrived situations to create tension and aggro-read boost ratings- but just a group of outsiders who initially had little in common aside from their various sexual dystopias but have bonded to forge strong alliances and in probability some long-term friendships as well as providing some information for those who were previously unaware, ignorant or simply uninformed concerning this state of being. Well done Channel 4 for taking a subject still considered relatively taboo and granting it some normality.

So what is going on in X-Factor world this week? Is it still on? Has Gaaaary Baaaarlooow finished his sentence from last week yet? Is anyone still watching?…. No, me neither.

For those staying in tonight and in anticipation of Prince night on BBC4 here is something for your delectation.

Monday 21st November

 

This weekend was fraught with disappointment as the film I had been hotly anticipating as part of the French Film Festival Beloved starring the legendary Catherine Deneuve turned out to be a badly conceived musical as opposed to the serious drama it promoted itself as. Perhaps if I had done a little more research prior to attending I may have been aware of this but nothing in either the programme or trailers made this clear and I could tell from the looks of bewilderment of those around me the first time one of the cast burst inappropriately into song I was not alone in my chagrin. It wasn’t just a musical however as being French it tried to do it seriously-imagine opera delivered over a Serge Gainsbourg backing track- but music and lyrical translation did not meld together at all and the overall effect was highly risible. At one juncture whilst trying to stifle my own laughter-one ‘number’ tried incongruously to match lyrical points of the Clash’s London Calling with the Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now- and observed a whole row of heaving shoulders obviously trying to conceal their own mirth, Unfortunately the whole ambience and message of the film suffered due to the unwelcome intrusion of these musical interludes. Prior to its screening the director of the festival informed the audience that the film was yet to find a British distributor and if it was unsuccessful in this department then we could consider ourselves fortunate enough to number ourselves among the few lucky enough people to see it in this country. I am not quite sure how lucky I felt at the films conclusion but if luck can be measured by how relieved I was the whole experience was over then I am among the luckiest people in the country indeed. A full review can be found here. Today I am off to see Tabloid about Joyce McKinney who abducted a youmg Mormon, held him captive and used him as a sex slave- mink handcuffs and all. I wonder if a young Boy George was an early fan?

One thing that certainly didn’t disappoint this weekend was the second series of the Killing on BBC4. Everything was there intact from the first series the spine tingling music, the darkness, innumerable suspects, the closing pulse of the collage sequence demanding you watch again next week and, of course, Sofie Grabol as Sarah Lund and her supporting cast of thick knit sweaters. The first series of the Killing had me hooked when it was shown earlier in the year proving itself intelligent and well executed superior drama and this sequel looks like being just as strong and powerful. Once again a murder opens up a sequence of events which apparently unconnected eventually draw together showing that crime-like art- does not operate in a vacuum. This time terrorism is brought into the mix though the equally fraught worlds of politics and family intrigue still have their parts to play in the unfolding drama. At this moment there are no front runners in the suspects department and if the first series was anything to go by then it would be unwise to fall into the trap of believing the obvious though paradoxically in the first series the killer eventually turned out to be totally obvious in hindsight.

One thing that was predictable –though many will proclaim shock- was Craig’s exit from the Lame Factor this weekend. Like several of the acts he has been giving the same performance for weeks that of Alison Moyet soundalike with a phony and unconvincing Elvis sneer. This week however saw an ill-judged attempt at one of the most ineffective and ridiculous Bond themes-anything after Live and Let Die qualifies for this award- Licence to Kill looking for all the world like James Bond after a month in a biscuit factory-incidentally where he may be returning now his tenure in this farce is over- and a performance that was more Brooke Bond with a case of Digestives on the side. I am not sure whether he was the worst performance of the week however as the standard, which has been declining along with weekly viewing figures, was mediocre at best and piss poor in general. This week saw Marcus visually become a eunuch version of Little Richard whilst staking out his next career move as a Butlins Redcoat –an obvious direction to take- but considering his overtly camp nature and choice of wardrobe perhaps that should be Pinkcoat. Hi de Hi! Meanwhile sulky faced Baaaarloooow was deeply not chuffed –aaaahh my nose bleeds for him- to be losing another of his acts whilst Kelly is delightedly basking in the fact she still has three in the competition. Dermot O’Weary probably caused several hundred thousand more to switch off with his embarrassing dancing at the start of the programme. Stop. This. Now. Please. The thing called Tulisa claimed that few would recognise Aretha Franklin’s Think as it was not a well known song. What????? Cue Tumbleweed moment and look of disbelief from the other judges. This is beyond generational and verged on absurd. As for Louis Walsh is he still there? And if so why?

Tonight is the series finale of Laid In Chelsea and I must admit that I am quite looking forward to seeing the tearful Millie attack the stary, bitchy ,stirring Rosie as I have been hankering after seeing someone do this since episode one. I am not sure how none of them have recognised that she is a shit stirring, manipulative bitch as it is obvious to the viewers. Don’t they watch their own programme? Mind you I can’t really blame them for this as every time I switch on I say goodbye to another hour of my life with very little payback. Mind you compared to some of the drivel masquerading as ‘reality’ TV –something featuring a billionaires daughter Tamara Ecclestone was recommended to me and I lasted less than five minutes before switching over in disgust- it could be considered high drama. Apparently that programme about bullying celebrities in the jungle is back but I feel that anything that gave us Peter Andre and Katie Price as a power couple should be launched into orbit and forgotten about. Also it doesn’t say very much about us as a society if we class watching people suffer and commit degrading acts as entertainment. It really is bullying being carried out by mass votes and I find the whole debacle pretty mind numbing and insulting to the intelligence.

Especially for the thing that calls itself a Tulisa here is the amazing Aretha Franklin performing the song she claims to have never heard before but is still considered to be someone knowledgable enough  to mentor acts on the Farce Factor.


Friday 18th November

 

This week has been spent mostly acquainting myself with the new Kate Bush album 50 Words For Snow and admittedly there are less pleasant ways to spend your time. As with most of Bush’s work each new listen yields something different and stirs different emotions and this definitely ranks amongst her finest works. A full review and chance to hear the album in its entirety is available here. It is reassuring to have an artist of Bush’s talent and integrity still making valid contributions as her career has now spanned thirty four years and in that time she has neither pandered to current tastes or trends nor the dictates of record company pressure and has simply followed her own artistic vision even if not always with complete success. Even when she falters-The Red Shoes springs to mind-there is still always something commendable and interesting to be gleaned from her endeavours. On top of this she has always carried herself with dignity and restraint comfortable with both her talent and success. The current crop of celebrities with their seemingly never ending quest for attention through blatant and desperate self promotion could do well to take lessons from her. Then again very few-if any- possess one modicum of her talent so perhaps this is a wish too far.

It is unfortunate that many still associate Bush with her debut Wuthering Heights even though this is not representative of the experimental nature of much of her canon. The novel it was named after also comes under much misguided criticism with many feeling it is a girlie, romantic novel to set teenage hearts all a flutter. It does possess a love story at its core but it is a dark, twisted unfathomable love and the novel is driven by its deep dark mystery and not Barbara Cartland ideals of romantic fiction. Director Andrea Arnold recognises this and her new  adaptation of Emily Bronte’s book delves into the darkness and offers up a new twist on the period costume drama that will horrify and intrigue followers and new converts to this idiom in equal measure. Never afraid to explore gritty realism-witness 2009’s triumphant Fish Tank- Arnold re-imagines Wuthering Heights by presenting the childhood Heathcliff and Cathy as wild animals writhing around in the dirt and communicating through little more than the occasional grunt. The drama unfolds at its own pace-at times it is ponderous-but there is no denying it is a work of extreme power that will dispel any myths of Wuthering Heights being a novel for lovelorn teenage girls. A full dissection and analysis is available here.

Something else worth checking out is the Beholder exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery –part of the University- which houses a collection of works from artists as acclaimed and diverse as Yoko Ono and Carla Black. Based on David Hume’s ideology that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and each mind perceives a different beauty. Although one of my companions observed it was a bit ‘pick and mix’ I felt this worked to the exhibitions advantage as opposed to detracting from its many qualities. Although it is difficult to take in much of the work on display during the hustle and bustle of an opening-and the wine on offer to lure you away at any given moment- I will certainly be returning to take a closer look as several pieces definitely piqued my interest.

So what of this weekend then? Well there is the opening of the upstairs of De La Sole on Rose Street this evening featuring clothes from one of my new favourite designers Christine Watson. Beloved with Catherine Deneuve and her real life daughter Chiarri Mastroianni is showing as part of the French Film Festival tomorrow evening so that will be worth checking out. For those staying in the return of The Killing on BBC4 is not to be missed television. The first series had me totally captivated when it was shown at the beginning of the year and I have been tempted to knit myself a Sarah Lund-unflattering fisherman’s sweater for the uninitiated- in anticipation of its return. Although I will be out at the cinema when it is on I will definitely watch on my return or ,more likely, on Sunday. It certainly is a welcome relief from the brain rotting banality that usually clogs up the Saturday night schedules. And yes X-Crutiating Factor this does mean you.

As this years programme limps like a wounded soldier onto what looks like will be a very anti-climactic finale it is time to wonder what horrors this weekends programme may have in store. Will; Kelly Rowland force Misha B into wearing  ill advised tight fitting leather trousers again-the only thing of her size that should be seen in leather is a sofa- with a top that resembles a badly wrapped Quality Street as a means of portraying her ‘attitood’. Seriously she looked more like an ad for DFS last weekend as opposed to the next big pop star. Will Louis the odious child-catcher figure explode due to all the bile that is so obviously eating him up. Will the whole of Liverpool get behind Craig for the first time since he held up the queue in the kebab shop as he ordered more and more extra portions? Bitchy Louis keeps comparing him to a young Gaaaary Baaaarlow and the reception this receives from the self appointed head judge is worth tuning in for alone. The thing called Tulisa becomes more and more invisible week by week and her role has diminished almost as quickly as her acts were eliminated. At least we don’t have to deal with the irritating Frankie or Kitty anymore and last week may have been the best of the series as his dismissal or her elimination should have happened weeks ago. I mean do we really need another Lady Gaga? The real one is irritating enough.

The shenanigans of those from the stable born of Laid In Chelsea also appear to be coming to their conclusion. This week Caggie took up with a well fit French lover Thomas much to Spencer’s chagrin who then took to driving his Range Rover looking like action man after a month in a biscuit factory. After obviously catching a glimpse of himself in the wing mirror he then indulged in a frantic work out to no avail. Millie spent most of the time close to tears yet again. How boring is this woman and when will she accept that Hugo is just not interested? Rosie continues to be scary and stary and why anyone trusts her with anything is beyond me. The self appointed minx Amber was back with her eye and knicker flashing and along with Mark Francis-surely the campest thing on TV ever-organised a charity bake off for Chelsea Pensioners. Ollie wanted to write a book about 21st century males as if he knows anything about them whatsoever whilst Binky looked on vacantly-as she does- and Cheska continued to get up everyone’s nose. Sad as I may sound I am going to miss these poor excuses for human beings simply because they allow me to feel better about myself as I realise that no matter how bad things are at least I’m not one of them.

Time then to return to Kate Bush and 50 Words For Snow and I must confess to a kind of longing for the first snowfall of the winter although perhaps I should be careful what I wish for as the last two years have been long, harsh and brutal winters and the snow has mainly been to blame for this. It is however really beautiful to gaze at when it first arrives and this year has the perfect musical accompaniment to complement it.

 Monday 14th November

Another weekend done and dusted and a little closer to the commercial hell masquerading as Xmas-sightings of the first Chanel No.5 advert, traditionally December 1,signifies the point I realise I can’t ignore it any longer- and the countdown to the conclusion –and demise?- of the X Factor. Finding myself unable to sit through a whole programme any longer I channel surfed through its duration on Saturday and only managed to catch a few ‘highlights’. These included the thing that calls itself a Tulisa telling Janet that listening to her singing-frankly the most boring version ever of Queen’s drama filled Somebody To Love ever sung- required her getting into a certain mood as if listening to N-Dubz were anyone’s choice for accompanying moments of calm and introspection. Surely every musical type or genre requires the listener to either be in a certain mood or ready to accept one. Even N-Dubz have their time and place even if it is never and nowhere. Meanwhile Marcus evolved even closer into Shane Ritchie on Seaside Special territory giving the same performance as the previous week and took one of the greatest bass lines ever-Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust- and combined it with a performance so tacky and naff it was excruciating to watch. Mind you this was nothing compared to Sunday when the brief part I caught saw Lady Gaga impersonating Kitty-it may have been the other way round but it was hard to tell- proving that often life imitates art or vice versa as again it was hard to tell.

Switching over from this pantomime with adverts I caught Martin Scorcese’s documentary on George Harrison and whilst it is yet another telling of the over familiar Beatles tale it offered a new and interesting perspective. Harrison struggled in the Beatles as he generally played third fiddle to the ongoing power struggle that was Lennon-McCartney but took advantage of this and studied hard under their superior songcraft eventually stockpiling a vast collection of songs which were constantly overlooked in favour of the bands two more dominant forces offerings. His patience and talent paid off post Beatles however when he was the first member to reach number one in both the singles and album chart with his solo releases-My Sweet Lord and All Things Must Pass respectively.

Harrison came across, it must be said, as quite a dour character who finding himself in the biggest and most successful band in the world somehow managed to balance the material world his wealth and fame afforded him with the spiritual world the same things allowed him to indulge. It is generally forgotten how the Beatles were simply four young men who accidentally changed the world-so much a part of our cultural landscape are they- and in comparison to the wannabes and desperadoes the music industry-not to mention a certain talent show-throws up these days they managed to remain relatively grounded. It really can’t have been easy to have been catapulted into global recognition and immense vast wealth unexpectedly and this documentary reveals how the band turned inwardly to each other as a means of support after all there was no blueprint or precedent for what they alone were experiencing. The documentary was indeed a a fascinating one if a trifle long-unlike Scorcese’s Dylan feature No Direction Home which showed the young bard blazing a trail at his creative peak- though it did reveal the total lack of style Harrison was in possession of. Lanky hair, fuzzy beard, denim dungarees and radiation yellow ‘blouse’ it showed that the suits that manager Brian Epstein foisted on them in their early days were perhaps the only time the band had any sense of sartorial style-unlike contemporaries such as the Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and the lizard king creator Jim Morrison who were all selling sex as part of the package-and left to their own devices often looked a mess struggling with kaftans and the like. Still it was all about the music with the Beatles and this has, admittedly, stood the test of time.

The Beatles were probably the first time youth took matters into their own hands concerning their own identities and it was interesting to read this week about the return of rave culture in inner London. With many not having the income to support a £10 entrance fee to a club and then fork out a fiver the return of this DIY ethic of the late eighties is perhaps the only alternative open to them. As a regular club-goer over several decades I must admit that the thought of entering one at the moment fills me with little or no excitement. It is an outdated concept that has changed little over the last twenty years-inflated prices and aggressive attitudes apart-and seems to have run its course. Andrew Logan in The British Guide To Showing Off proclaimed himself the last face of alternative and while there may be some truth in this I sincerely hope not. Instead I prefer to think that an alternative scene exists which I am simply too old to comprehend or know the existence of. It is unlikely though as soon as anything shows the slightest glimmer of promise the internet is all over it and the bandwagon jumpers and desperately hip are in there diluting  and instantly mainstreaming it. The last movement I never understood was death metal and it gave me pleasure that at last the younger generation had concocted a musical language all their own and indecipherable to anyone over thirty. It was just a shame that the music was so God-awful sounding as if Satan and his helpers had moved in next door with a warehouse consignment of Ikea flat packs and power tools and were hastily assembling them all at the same time whilst simultaneously dismembering babies. At least they could call it their own even if only because no-one else wanted it.

This week the French film festival is on so I will be taking in several screenings as well as attending the launch of a new fashion store De La Sole in Rose Street which will be stocking the latest collection of one of my new favourite designers I saw at the Oohfashion Edinburgh show, Christine Watson.

Here is this weeks musical obsession arty, avant garde freestyle rock but with a fresh twist

Friday 11th November

 

Much meaning is being attached to the fact that today’s date reads 11/11/11 and tying it into Mayan prophecies of doom and apocalypse. Whilst I am sure this is an interesting subject which could have long term ramifications that affect us all in the future- I am already preparing for the inevitable hysteria surrounding 12/12/12 next year as it will be the last numerical date with any supposed significance for some time- unfortunately all it signifies to me is the start of yet another not particularly eventful weekend. It is however Remembrance Sunday this weekend and whatever your personal feelings  regarding wars- instigated by Governments and driven by market forces for financial gain in many cases- it is a time to put those misgivings aside and remember those who have lost their lives and express sympathy to the families who have been devastated by their losses. Nowadays the public are more likely to protest at the likelihood of the prospect of war-witness the millions who took to the street in 2003- but it seems little has changed into how much notice a determined government will pay heed to these protestations.

One person who won’t be remembered by many this weekend is the totally forgettable Frankie Cocozza the sacked X-Factor contestant dismissed for ‘bad’ behaviour. Sorry but when did being a little too rock and roll consist of looking like Pete Doherty’s younger uglier brother with a face even more like a sweaty round cheese singing badly out of tune versions of crappy Black Eyed Peas songs on a TV talent show with the pained expression of someone forcing out a shit? The whole scenario reeks of desperation in trying to boost the ratings of an ailing programme that has truly run its course. This weekend they are bringing back already dismissed contestants-the ones the judges initially thought not good enough- in a desperate attempt to raise interest and squeeze more money out of unnecessary phone votes. Surely the public is waking up to what a con this whole programme is and, despite his absence from our screens, a means of lining the pockets of arch manipulator and obvious music hater Simon Cowell. It has very little to do with finding a genuine talent or making good music and everything to do with feeding the ego of a slimy, power-crazed and condescending multi-millionaire.  Enough is enough!

For those staying in this Saturday there are two alternatives to watching this drivel as BBC2 are showing the Scorcese film about George Harrison and straight after Channel 4 have the superior Swedish vampire film ‘Let The Right One In’. Both are outstanding films and worth considering staying in on a Saturday night for. If you are like me however Saturday nights are always worth staying in for as they are the  unquestionably the worst nights of the week out on the streets as every idiot seems to have a pass that requires then to get as drunk, annoying and aggressive as possible. It is the one night of the week I will always try to avoid going out on if at all possible though this is perhaps due to getting older. Not that I am going to admit to that of course.

Starting on Sunday 4th December renowned photographer Gavin Evans- subjects include David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Michael Clark and the last sitting by Dusty Springfield- is hosting ambient afternoons into evenings in his new galley come coffee shop the Institute in Marchmont. More details nearer the time though suffice to say it sounds an intriguing project aiming to draw together different aspects of Edinburgh’s arts community and will provide a perfect setting for socialising and collaborating. Also Neu!Reekie! is also a project that draws together poetry, animation music and the avant-garde in one interesting package and their night is on at the Scottish Book Trust on the 25th of November.

This week saw the series ‘finale’ of TOWIE set at a Bonfire party. I can’t imagine it was the wisest idea to assemble a cast made up of plastic so close to a naked flame. The likelihood of them going up in one combustible flame would have been a very strong possibility-and great finale- but perhaps that was the intention. Instead however we had to make do with the same bickering, sniping, meaningless meaningful looks and sexless sexual shenanigans as usual. A highlight did emerge with Joey’s interpretation of Bonfire night-Joey is a star and comedy gold-wherein he revealed he thought it was when they placed some ‘geezer’ on a cross and burnt him to death in the middle of a fire. When it was explained that  it was a plot involving blowing up the Houses of Parliament he responded with a confused look and an almost unintelligible-I think English may be his second language after incoherent mumble- ‘What is the Houses of Parliament?’. Ah, bless and glad to see the education system is in such a fine state in Essex. Mind you their Chelsea counterparts are not much better and so much more has probably been spent on their education. This week the Spencer and Caggie yawnathon continued and limped on towards its boring and inevitable conclusion. Spencer’s erstwhile competitor, going by the predictably stupidly moniker Proudlock, for Caggie’s affections withdrew from battle and took up with her cousin-in fact simply an uglier and more irritating version- thus not doing a whole lot to debunk the myth about upper-class in breeding and incestuous behaviour. Caggie meanwhile looked confused and bewildered by these developments as if she is sensing she is losing power by aligning herself with Spencer. Mind you this week she has apparently taken up with singer Plan B so who knows? Also as a suggestion for their series finale I think it is high time Spencer gave Simon Cowell his hair back. It will probably necessitate a phone vote but I think, in this case, it is worth it.

For anyone who thinks Frankie Cocozza is the slightest bit rock and roll here is the legendary Iggy Pop beating all comers in the guise of rock and roll messiah. It is worth watching simply to see him disappear completely into the crowd for about a minute only to re-emerge smothered in peanut butter then crowd surf to produce an unforgettable classic rock pose and moment at 4.14.


Monday 7th November

 

There has been a definite dip in the temperature this weekend as was revealed to me on Saturday morning when I looked out and saw a panoramic view covered in frost that merely served to hasten a prompt return to the comfort of my duvet. There was a sudden realisation that there will be no more days when a t-shirt with cardigan and insouciant scarf will suffice in keeping out the winter chill and that for the foreseeable future-five months at the very least- coats, hats, scarves, gloves, vests and fine-knit cashmere (preferably all of the aforementioned items in this favoured fabric but with a recession on that is not likely) are all every day staples in beating the cold. At least the snow is being held at bay for the moment and the crispness in the air is quite refreshing once the initial tingling on the skin has been acclimatised to. The dark nights too are quite comforting and it is only by the time we get to February that they become tiresome and eventually intolerable.

A little bit of warmth was on show at the Cameo this weekend with a showing about the legendary Alternative Miss World competition and its creator the true British maverick Andrew Logan in The British Guide To Showing Off. A totally engaging, fascinating and enjoyable film it showed how a vision and personality can overcome a business mind and create something with a personality all its own. Divine, Warhol, Brian Eno and Ruby Wax were just some of the diverse personalities included in making this such a fascinating document into the insights and beliefs of what could be termed a true British Eccentric. However eccentric does not quite do Logan justice as he is also a serious artist and his Alternative Miss World events had a serious message of their own: the breaking down of gender barriers and the right for the individual not to merely retain their individuality but to seek it out and express it in the most flamboyant manner. At a time when looking around I often feel I am drowning in a sea of mundanity this film served as a reminder that there are others out there who feel similarly and are doing a little every day to make the world a less dull place. See Films 2011 for full review and appraisal

Someone who could do with seeing this film is Miranda July whose effort The Future is also in cinemas this weekend. Overly indulgent and extremely narcissistic-July directed, scripted and also stars in the film- there is very little here in the way of entertaining an audience. Ideas are introduced admirably but fall by the wayside in a sloppy pit of overindulgence, whimsy and cloying naffness resulting in a feeling of being totally and completely underwhelmed at the films conclusion.

Talking of being underwhelmed this Saturdays X-crutiating factor had dance music as its theme. Excuse me but apart from two old grannies barely able to shuffle their way around their dialysis machines whilst swinging their colostomy bags who else felt like taking to the floor to this uninspiring bland dross?  ‘Reet Petite’ how relevant is this to anyone not heading out to a version of Grease? The Flesh Toned X-ray massacred Madonna before segueing into Dead or Alive which is a question many have asked whilst considering the camp piece of outrage that is Johnny. A shocking version of I Want You Back and A Night To Remember which certainly was a misnomer as well as the final nail in the coffin for The Risk who are anything but. It was also bye-bye Johnny but I suppose there is still a last minute chance for panto which is where he is obviously going to end up. It is between the judges that the real competition really exists however and week by week the contestants become mere bystanders to the ego clashes of the boardroom –sorry-  the judges desk. The bickering and sniping is enough to put anyone off entering the world of show business and the odious little leprechaun Louis Walsh reveals new depths to his despicable nature every time he appears on screen.

Here is the track Video Games by Lana Del Rey which is a current obsession of mine and is probably one of the standout tracks of 2011. Beautiful in its simplicity and outstandingly, hauntingly beautiful in its delivery it promise much from this youngster. Florence Welch could well do with switching off her machine and turning down the screechometer and learning something about restraint from this.  Listen and melt!

 Friday November 4th

 

Tomorrow sees Bonfire or Guy Fawkes-depending on personal preferences- night though for many it is simply an excuse to let off a few fireworks and for others a chance to complain about how the noise scares their children or pets though for some it is hard to tell the difference between the latter two. At a time when the Houses of Parliament could well do with a gunpowder plot to rid the country of the most useless, hastily assembled government in living memory it would seem that the message of Guy Fawkes has been lost on today’s generation and is now simply a reason for ostentatious pyrotechnic displays. Like Halloween last week and Xmas fully in sight on the horizon another big business coup that bears very little resemblance to its original intentions is in full swing. Personally of all the celebrations we have to endure at this time of year Bonfire night has always been the one I find the most disappointing. Even as a child I found it all a bit of a bore and family fireworks were always a bit of a damp squib to be honest and that was even on the nights it wasn’t raining. Now with fireworks being incorporated into every event imaginable they have become even more common place and thus their appeal has diminished even further. This is not helped by the nightly farting in the sky emitting from the Castle us Edinburgh residents have to endure during the Festival month of August. This usually culminates in a climactic display at the close of the proceedings which usually propels me into to closing all my windows and hiding under a duvet in my living room to drown out the unbearable hour and a half of thunderous banging masquerading as entertainment. It is a good excuse for a celebratory drink however as it usually signifies that after the month long invasion of the city by innumerable tourists it is safe to reclaim the streets as our own. Therefore it does serve some purpose and provide a joy of sorts

This week I have been to see The Help-review in Films 2011 section-and although it does airbrush the civil rights movement and the bigotry that necessitated it this film still packs an emotional punch that even had a hard hearted hardened cynic such as myself choking back-not always successfully-the tears. Telling the tale of racial and class injustice from the point of view of the maids who raised the families of affluent white people in the Deep South it is a familiar tale but an effective one that can’t be re-iterated often enough. Before the film a gospel version of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are-A Changin’ played in the cinema and its potency resonated so deeply that while writing my review I played the album of the same name twice in succession finding that nearly fifty years later his songs of civil unrest and unfairness had lost none of their charge. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll in particular is a chilling tale of injustice concerning a 51 year old coloured maid and such is Dylan’s belief and sense of righteousness he actually tells the listener which point of the tale is most deserving of their tears. It is hard to believe that at the time of the records release Dylan was only 22 years old such is his eloquence and insight and he stands alone with only a guitar, harmonica, his immense talent and a bucket load of attitude. Even at that age it was clear no-one had ever or ever would tell Bob Dylan what to do. As a civil rights champion he was the articulate voice of the coming generation and a convincing representative of white support.

Channel 4 this week had a four part drama Top Boy shown on four consecutive nights that showed the decline of moral and social behaviour in a North East London Hackney estate that will have done little to assuage the fears of the Daily Mail contingent who fear the scourge of black youth marauding the streets in hoodies. It was nonetheless a compelling drama although the stereotypical ideas of black youth as the criminal underclass were a little predictable. Mind you the white characters didn’t emerge too favourably so at least there was some attempt to redress the balance. This did not stop it from being a well acted and scripted drama of superior quality however and detailed the ongoing battle for supremacy that presumably exists in the demi-monde of the criminal world with no-one emerging as a clear winner at the conclusion. All in all it felt like an interlinked chain of human misfortune where the fight for survival requires a steely core and a constant need for e-appraisal.

Enough of the light hearted stuff however and onto the serious business of TOWIE where all you need to survive is the name of a good plastic surgeon and lobotomist and Laid In Chelsea where the fight for survival requires an AMEX card, a country pile and a weekend chateau in Cannes. Seriously both these programmes have more or less run their course and now seem even more self conscious and staged than before, if that is possible. Both seem to concentrate on different permutations of cast members shagging each other. Pretty soon they’ll have worked their way through every possible pairing in which instance I recommend both casts meet up and start all over again with each other –interracial breeding I think they call it- and following this maybe move onto each one indulging in moments of self pleasuring. As a series finale for Laid In Chelsea they could do worse than having Jamie and Millie eloping and disappearing up their own arses though not before Jamie has donated his chin to Chloe Green who is still attempting to locate hers. Meanwhile Spencer can eat the left over stock from Candy Kittens and eventually allow that fat inner self of his to emerge –he really is Toad in Toad Hall in a Saville Row suit- whilst Francis eventually manages to construct a sentence without sounding a total buffoon –unlikely- and Cheska, Binky and Caggie all find real names.

Apparently the X-crement factor is in crisis though I don’t really see how this is news as it is another format which has long run its course and outstayed its welcome. This week I am watching mainly to see whether Johnny is still alive –if television adds a stone to a person then I can only assume in person he is a flesh toned X-ray- and how Louis Walsh can humiliate him a little more. If Walsh had any sense or taste-he obviously doesn’t- he would allow him to sing a Sparks song but we know this will never happen. Also when did it become a competition between the judges? If it is supposed to be a talent show surely it shouldn’t be about simply supporting the acts they mentor as opposed to finding a genuine talent as they all claim they are trying to do. Perhaps it is time their egos were called into check as to see them bickering and point scoring is beyond pathetic. The damage is already done as the thing that calls itself a Tulisa already scuppered Misha B’s- one of this years main contenders- chances in a bitchy aside about bullying a couple of weeks ago, so from now on the whole shenanigans will deteriorate into an even bigger farce. The aural sloth Gaaaary Baaaarlooow will continue to bore us rigid with his monosyllabic flat vowelled monotone and a newly bitchy Kelly will play the sassy American. The whole debacle is already like a pantomime come early and hopefully the haemorrhaging of viewers will inspire ITV to reconsider clogging up the weekend schedules with this drivel next year. Perhaps this week we will see fireworks between the judges though as stated before as Bonfire night usually emerges as a damp squib I wouldn’t expect a pyrotechnic display to remember.

Here is a gospel version by Merry Clayton of The Times They Are A- Changin’ which knocks any Crap Factor performance-complete with a weeks preparation, choreography and stylists- you are likely to see this weekend into a cocked hat!

Monday 31 October

 

So today is actually Halloween but in keeping of celebrating things early most ghostly parties and monster balls will have taken place and today we should all be tucking into Easter eggs. Perhaps that is exaggerating slightly but with Xmas in full view and Guy Fawkes night being subsumed by Halloween-most parties incorporated fireworks into their proceedings-it is full steam ahead to  the Festive season. So what of the Halloween parties? As predicted on Friday the town was awash with what looked like the remnants of a vicars and tarts party staggering home after a night spent with Nosferatu watching the Twilight saga.  My weekend kicked off with a viewing of The Ides Of March, the political thriller with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, and whilst predictable in parts – the evolution of idealist into disillusioned realist is hardly an earth shattering concept in itself- proved to be a worthy addition to both of its central participants individual canons. A full analysis appears in Films 2011 section.

For the coming weekend the Scottish Weekender in Dumfries –of all places- looks like the most interesting event with a pretty eclectic and stunning line up. Praise must go to the organisers for realising that incorporating artists and DJ’S whose work is soulful or contains elements of soul rather than limiting their choices to soul as defined by purists. Many of these types of events tend to specialise too rigidly and as such become limited in their ambitions and execution. These accusations cannot be levelled at this event however featuring such luminaries Todd Terry, Lil Louis, Joey Negro, Kerri Chandler and Edinburgh stalwart Yogi Haughton. Putting it on in an out of the way location as Dumfries is also a clever idea as it will hopefully attract a crowd with a genuine interest in the music and the acts appearing as opposed to an inner city event wherein the idiot faction that roll out every weekend would be likely to turn up and mar the proceedings.

For those staying in Edinburgh it may be an idea to kick the weekend off with a visit to Axolotl on Friday evening for its Katnes Folio opening. Featuring a promising showcase of Caithness based artworks, craft pieces, sculptures and photographs providing inspiration for those who are organised enough to be considering suitable Xmas presents. That will not be me then! Elsewhere the French Film Festival kicks off next week and although I haven’t had time to conduct a full perusal of its programme Beloved starring the eternally luminescent and beauteous Catherine Deneuve on the 19th is a definite must see.

Onto the weekends X-crutiating Factor then or perhaps we should call it the Camp Factor. Seriously this year the camp quotient has been ramped up to maximum with Craig, Johnny and Marcus flying the pink flag with gay abandon. Kitty –looking like a traditional stereotypical fag hag- weighs in looking like the resurrected ghost of Warhol superstar the legendary Candy Darling on a bad day. Week in week out we are told that this programme is not mere karaoke but surely this argument would be more convincing if karaoke versions of Grace Jones (Misha), Lady Gaga (Kitty) and Pete Doherty (Frankie) were not paraded across the stage. At least the singing Carol Vorderman (Sophie) has left the proceedings although I disagreed with the judges comments that her song choices were as dull as dishwater. If dishwater is how you measure dullness then I am assuming Gaaary Baaaarlow has it on his backstage rider along with the surgeon who has performed his charisma bypass. Personally I thought Sophie’s songs were among the best and most original of the series- ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Superstition’  made predictable appearances this weekend- being Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ and The XX’s ‘Shelter’  proving if you step out of the mainstream slightly your days are numbered. Meanwhile Louis bores us with generic catchphrases such as ‘You owned that stage’, ‘You are a pop star’ and regional observations such as ‘The whole of Liverpool is behind you’ to Craig who needs the whole of Liverpool behind him simply to get him out of the chip shop. Mind you these phrases pale into insignificance when compared to his demeaning derogatory impersonations of Kelly Rowland’s catchphrases. He is like a wind up doll you want to wind down.

Talking of winding down the clocks went back yesterday and it was vaguely depressing when it started to get dark about 4pm. Admittedly the first part of winter is always the most enjoyable when nights in cosying up with a film or a good book provide a pleasant alternative. However a few months in –usually late January and February- and these things become simply tedious and predictable. At least the promised snow in October never arrived which after last years nightmare scenario is more than a relief. Then again it is still October so anything is possible especially as it felt as if we already had our winter in August in keeping with my theory that we celebrate everything a little prematurely these days.

In keeping with today however here is Bauhaus with ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ from The Hunger. Gothtastic!

Friday 28th October

 

First of all it wasn’t clear if it was Arthur or Martha, then New York or New Year and now if you walk along George Street you can’t tell whether it’s Xmas or Halloween. It used to be so obvious in the old days-even ten years ago- when festivals, events or celebrations were marked and recognised by dates on the calendar but this seems to have been abandoned by marketing executives-or The Dome-who feel the time is right to have their Xmas decorations up before Halloween or Guy Fawkes night. Much as I believe it is important to be organised in this instance somehow attempting to be ahead of the pack instead of encouraging people to be looking forward to Xmas has the opposite effect and fills them with absolute dread. The overkill and full-on advertising campaigns have likewise reached saturation point and after the initial spark of recognition enforce a certain amount of ennui and ‘couldn’t care less ‘ attitude.

And what happens after 5pm on Xmas Eve? Well this is when after months of encouraging you to spend, eat and drink the shops are now closed for business so the advertisers then start selling diets, holidays and furniture. So following their encouragement you are now either fat or need to lose weight, needing a break due to the stress of the Festive season or need to do your house up as it is a New Year. This build up/countdown has already begun and already I am bored with it. Can’t we just enjoy one thing, get it out the way and then consider the next instead of this frantic trying to keep ten steps ahead. I have one friend I used to laugh at for not doing her shopping until Xmas Eve but now feel she has had the right idea all along. I ventured into town on Xmas Eve last year and it was peaceful, relaxing and the sales had begun so I got first pick at the bargains.

But enough of Xmas –it is still only October after all- and what has happened to Halloween. In recent years it is something that has gone from being almost a cult celebration and transformed itself into an occasion that is going much the same way as Xmas what with the build up and hype. In many ways like Xmas it has been commercialised or, more accurately, Americanised. Trick or Treating has replaced the more traditional Scottish pursuit of Guising and pumpkin lanterns are now the norm rather than the turnips of my childhood. Likewise dooking for apples and treacle scones seem to have fallen by the wayside. Instead handfuls of sweets are handed out as rewards for very little. Also it has become something more for the adults than children with many using it as an excuse for lame attempts at fancy dress. Unfortunately many of the women seem to favour outfits that I would struggle to call anything other than cheap and slutty whilst the guys think a little white panstick and fake blood will suffice. I did see a very convincing Edward Scissorhands a couple of years ago but it wasn’t actually Johnny Depp so I didn’t see the point really.

Fancy dress doesn’t quite do it for me anyway but that might be as I have never favoured strict convention in my sartorial choices unlike those who grasp every opportunity to raid the dressing up box usually as a slight wave in the sea of sludge that masquerades as style in their books has started to bore even them. Like everything else once it becomes diluted by the mainstream-both the big weekend TV mainstays Strychnine Come Dancing and X-factor have fright night ‘specials’, cue lots of bad interpretations of Thriller, as if the former programmes attempt at ‘rock’ last week were not horrific enough- its impact starts to diminish and a feeling of predictability hangs over most of this weekends offerings. I suppose I could always stay in and watch episodes of True Blood- now if someone convincingly dressed up as Eric as portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard that would be an incentive- and dance around to the Monster Mash or alternatively lower my expectations and go with the flow as I do love Halloween and refuse to surrender it completely to the dullards.

Mind you it is little wonder most folk are dressing in all the colours of the sludge rainbow as this is what seems to be on offer under the guise of this seasons latest styles. Everywhere I have looked either on the High Street or even designer emporiums such as Harvey Nichols I am confronted by bland on bland, beige on beige or for the more risqué beige with a caramel stripe. Of course there is always head to toe black which whilst always undeniably chic does nowadays possess a whiff of the corporate resulting in it slightly losing its edge. It seems the recession is forcing retailers and their buyers from making any decisions or choices that deviate from the safety of basic staples and this is unfortunate as fashion is the one area that whilst a serious business should always possess a sense of fun and the moment. An alternative to safe clothes is still no excuse for fancy dress though.

From Halloween, via Xmas and fast forward to March well the Ides Of March anyway the new movie starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. After the slight disappointment of We Need To Talk About Kevin and the predictable if well made Contagion-see Films 2011 section- I have high hopes for this movie as early reports indicate it may well live up to most of the hype that surrounds it. Gosling has already appeared in one of my favourite movies this year –the other is Almodovar’s The Skin I live In- and in many ways seems like a worthy successor to the position currently held by George Clooney.

With winter fast approaching –the clocks go back this weekend thus plunging us into a seemingly perpetual darkness- I watched Frozen Planet, David Attenborough’s explorations of the polar regions, with a sense of wonderment. Excellent camera work, insightful information and the reassuring tones of Attenborough combine to make this a weekly TV highlight for the next eight weeks. Wolves chasing bison, polar bears seeking privacy in order to breed and a fumbling on-land chase between a sea lion and a penguin were just some memorable moments in this opening episode. It puts the wildlife programme narrated by Denise Van Outen over in Essex into perspective. Mind you both feel like they concentrate on different species so there is some loose form of connection. The real action in Essex this week took place off screen with one of the main cast being attacked in a nightclub. The inevitable accompanying footage showed a situation worthy of a wildlife documentary as it showed a lower form of human conduct conducted by a species I neither know nor quite understand.

You certainly wouldn’t catch the inhabitants and cast of Laid In Chelsea to be involved in something so squalid. Not unless they removed the plums from their mouths and then hurled them at each other thus messing up their impeccable cricket whites that is. Millie returned from Paris this week-whenever one of the cast has an emotional blip a bolthole in Paris or New York seems to provide a solution for the well heeled it seems-and on the wildlife theme someone really should inform her that removing the fish hook after you’ve been reeled in results in a better look than the one she sports. It is all quivering, pouty lips, watery, twitched out eyes and a voice permanently on the verge of tears. Constantly moaning about Hugo cheating on her I doubt she ever questions why; it is obviously because she is uptight, possessive and dull beyond belief.

Mind you the contestants on Young Apprentice certainly give the reality show folk a run for their money in who is the most slappable group of people on television. I could barely sit through this without ranting at the television at the arrogance, egos and sheer bloody mindedness on display. If this is the future of British business then God help us all. The adult version of this show was bad enough but these younger versions of loathsome attitudes and despicable natures somehow manage to outdo them on the obnoxious scale and why anyone aspires to be like ‘Lord Sugar’ is beyond me. The way everyone laughs at his pathetic attempts at humour- so lame they could qualify for the Paralympics- is beyond obsequious and simply cringeable to watch. I am sure the pack of wolves that isolated a young bison on Frozen Planet had more sensitivity-and a need to survive- than this group of arrogant self-important buffoons in the boardroom and this is our future apparently!

Here is one song I can guarantee will not feature on the X-Factor Halloween special…’I’m the night head hunter looking for some head’

Monday 24th October

 

This weekend saw the Oohfashion Edinburgh fashion fair in the Green Room and I can’t help feeling  Edinburgh could do with more events like this. Negotiating the High Street on either a Saturday or Sunday is a proposition I generally feel I can turn down and so tend to avoid the city centre if at all possible. Making my way did nothing to change my opinion but once inside the sanctity of the Green Room after the anxiety of the streets I felt more relaxed and pleasantly meandered around taking in the different stalls at a more leisurely pace more suited to making an informed decision about any purchases. Of course having the designers on hand to talk you through their creations is a definite bonus. On Friday I saw what is being hailed in many quarters as film of the year Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin. Admittedly a confident, assured film that ticks all the right boxes- excellent cast, stunning cinematography, evocatively scored.-it somehow fell slightly short of creating any real emotional impact though this may be intentional considering the issues it deals with. Full review is in the Film 2011 section.

Unfortunately I managed to catch the X-Factor’s so called, pathetic attempts at rock night over the weekend also. Seriously there is more rock and roll in my left pinkie than the eleven contestants and four judges taking part in this abomination combined. It seriously was the excruciating farcical factor. The contestants never really stood a chance of coming to grips with the theme as their mentors don’t possess one iota of rock and roll kudos between them. There was more rock attitude in one of Maggie Smith’s arcebic putdowns in Downton Abbey. The thing that calls itself a Tulisa completely ballsed up by thinking that all was required was to stick a guitar riff behind a pop song and voila an instant bit of rock credibility was attained. The boyband were given Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ when perhaps ‘Crazy Horses’ by the Osmonds-themselves an early boyband- would have been more suitable and rocked the house simultaneously. Gaaaary Baaarlooow – I swear he is a aural human sloth- somehow managed to hold onto all of his acts this week  despite the thoroughly despicable Frankie hamming it up as an even uglier Pete Doherty tribute act complete with a face like a round, sweaty cheese. Two of Louis’ acts ended up in the bottom two- Kitty and Sammi- and I must admit it came as no surprise. Johnny however did a version of a Darkness song and, much as I hate using text speak, I LOL’ed throughout. I do wonder if he and Janet share the same helium mask before performing. Kelly Rowland showed her steely core fighting vehemently against any derogatory comments levelled at her charges. No matter Janet and the forgettable Sophie turned rock anthems into soft ballads. Misha B on the other hand totally massacred Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’- please could we get through one series without at least one person murdering this song  as it is beyond tiresome now- before Tulisa accused her of bullying and this is where the action really got interesting.

I don’t know whether accusing someone of bullying in front of a studio audience and however many million viewers could be termed bullying itself but I feel there is a very strong case in favour of this argument. However irritating these acts are- and I do ridicule them myself- they are still amateurs who are still adjusting to being in the spotlight and all the pressures that go with this change that is bound to impact on their character. To judge Misha B on her backstage behaviour I feel is totally wrong as this is not what is important. Several of my favourite rock artists – Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Morrisey spring immediately to mind- have faced many accusations of being difficult, arrogant and impossible to work with. This has not prevented them from turning out significant works that grant them legendary status. Not that I can see anyone on the Farce Factor scaling those lofty heights but the point I am trying to make is being nice does not quite cut it in the entertainment industry. I am sure the Tulisa thing has a few feisty moments of her own and it was so pleasing to see the bitch that lies within Kelly Rowland rising to the surface. I kind of like her a hell of a lot more now. However I feel the X-Factor format feels outdated and irrelevant-not that relevance was a key issue despite the overblown proclamations of the judges- and obviously the public are starting to pall over the machinations and manipulations that seem to drive the whole juggernaut. If sales of last years winner Milk Curdle’s ‘eagerly anticipated’ debut album are anything to go by stardom is no guarantee anyway as Joe McElderry –the winner a mere two years ago- would similarly attest.

Over in Essex this week Joey took his shorts out bowling-or vice versa- and made a frantic attempt at kissing a girl who had slightly less make up on than him as well as a less obvious camel toe. Maybe it’s my mood this week but I am getting a little sick of the contrived nature of all these so called ‘reality’ programmes. The vacuous nature and self obsession of the participants does feel a little like watching a wild life documentary at times especially during Joey Essex’s attempts at constructing sentences which really should be accompanied by subtitles. I had an amusing encounter with a Mexican friend the other night wherein she revealed she thought Laid In Chelsea was a drama with really bad actors. Although I laughed at the time, in hindsight I feel she may have been more on the money than I originally thought. Hopefully an adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap on BBC4 this Thursday will inject a bit of more upmarket, quality TV into the barren schedules and the second series of The Killing is back soon so things are looking up. I still have my Tuesday night fix of True Blood to keep me happy so things are not all bad.

This week I am checking out this weekend other big film Contagion which seems to feature every major Hollywood star as well as Gwyneth Paltrow. Also the Ides Of March with Ryan Gosling- who along with Tom Hardy seems to be the next big player- and George Clooney is out later in the week and from the trailers and early reports looks set to be a worthwhile investment. It is Halloween at the weekend so if anyone knows of any decent parties where I can park my broomstick I am open to invitations.

As a closer on the weekend X-Factor decided to misguidedly attempt to rock out, the internet was awash with Nirvana for Xmas no.1 campaigns in order to prevent the winner from reaching the top spot of the charts. Much as I love Nirvana and consider them one of the best live acts I have ever seen fame never sat comfortably with Kurt Cobain and being top of the charts was anathema to his sensibilities. It is a good lesson for the contestants of the show to learn about where the fame they all so desperately crave can ultimately lead however and should provide them with food for thought although food for thought is the last type of food on Craig Colston’s mind I feel. Mind you a night out with Courtney Love would also probably make them think twice. Here is the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit as a reminder of why they were one of the last great and pre-internet rock bands.

Friday 21 October.

 

This week has seen the attempts of Oohfashion Edinburgh to try and install some fashion kudos on Edinburgh and its usually maligned couture and style efforts meet with success. Anyone who attended Tuesday night’s impressive and successful show at the Green Room will willingly attest that contrary to popular opinion Edinburgh does indeed have a lot to offer in this area. A few designers were revealed to me that even I –who likes to think they are a little in the know- had not heard of. C. Watson showed a fabulous pair of trousers with leather inlays that I have added to my must have list-they will coordinate perfectly with my, just arrived, glitter cuban heel double zipped Chelsea boots- alongside what I have termed the avant-fetish wear of Sweet Danger and the statement eye catching traditional meets flamboyance pieces offered up by Psychomoda. Full details of the night can be found on the Fashion page. For those who missed it or were there and want to capture some of the styles on offer a Fashion Fair takes place this weekend –Saturday and Sunday 11-5- at the Green room where many of the designers will be selling their wares and able to help with any queries or assistance required.

Elsewhere this week another set of Chelsea boots that don’t have quite as much sparkle as my latest purchase are the lame brained dullards that make up the female quotient of Laid In Chelsea. Slaggie-sorry – Caggie, Binky, Cheska (my spell-check has just gone into overdrive!) and Crazy Gabriella bored us through another hour of their mundane but very privileged lifestyles. I really should despise myself for watching this but like a bad drug it has me hooked.

This week Spencer dispensed with any subtlety, class or dignity he had left-very little really- by suggesting Caggie sleep with him just to stop him wondering just what it would be like. Wow! Seduction techniques are go! This fauxmance really is a yawnathon and beyond tedious now. The buffoon that is Jamie tried to persuade his stern faced bank manager to release funds of several million for his ridiculous idea of opening a Hanley’s style sweet shop populated by scantily clad models to be known as the Candy Kittens. He did take the refusal on the chin very well but then again there is a lot of chin there. Unlike poor Chloe who far from locating hers managed to also lose her rag with the inane, constantly pained Olly. Note to the sexually frustrated chimps that have a hand in semi-scripting this drivel-Olly and Mark Francis are made for each other. The knicker and eye flashing, would be temptress Amber continued to be about as sexy as a wet weekend in Bridlington whilst Rosie was advised by Jamie that what she really needed was ‘some cock’. Ah! Those posh seduction techniques raise their head yet again. Next week the pucker-lipped, uptight, vacant Millie returns from a vacation up her own arse or perhaps I have it the wrong way round as that is probably where she permanently resides.

The only way is not Essex for the inhabitants of Dale Farm this week. The news has been aflame with the different sides of this saga until no-one knows what the real story is. Tales of six million pound payoff demands appear in some sections of the press and persecution and sidelining permeate others. It is always difficult to form a cohesive opinion on such matters but I do find that when the riot police and Bailiffs appear on the scene the tales of persecution hold more sway with me whilst others reek more of propaganda designed to incite the wrath and support of the Daily Mail contingent. Mind you they will have enough to satisfy their righteous bloodlust with the revolting ‘Shoot Him’ headline that accompanies the photo of Gaddafi-or is it Jackie Stallone?- on the Daily Hell and similar stories on the front page of the tabloids today. Fair enough a shocking and brutal dictator has been rightfully removed but a need to rejoice in carnage is never appropriate no matter how deserved.

The travellers problems are nothing compared to their erstwhile neighbours the ‘stars’ of TOWIE however especially Joey and Chloe- put together for the way their names rhyme perhaps?- who debated whether goats were named after goatee beards (!) and if frogs were animals or amphibians in an episode that saw Joey’s shorts shrink to pornographic extremes. We were then entreated to the sight of Arg receiving colonic irrigation though I firmly believe you could give every individual cast member a colonic every week for a year and each and every one of them would still be full of shit.  Meanwhile Mark Wright continues to function as Essex’s Spencer counterpart i.e. a total self obsessed, sexual predatory, arrogant knob.

Elsewhere this week I have reviewed a new book in the Book section by Peter Doggett that details the background to every song written by that most enigmatic of rock stars David Bowie up until 1980 when he ceased to be a relevant artist and settled into commercially viable but artistically bankrupt terrain. It is a fascinating read and will inspire anyone to go back and listen to the songs again whilst marvelling at what a glorious era in music he was a main contributor to. This brings us neatly into a look ahead at what may lie ahead this weekend in the not so golden years of any decent music fans nemesis namely the ailing X-crement Factor.

So, will Louis Walsh abandon any hope of Johnny’s musical abilities and have him voted out in time to audition for this years round of panto? Will Kelly Rowland drop the totally fake nice attitude and reveal her steely core? Will Gaaaary Baaaarlooow reveal the secrets of the diet that allowSs his weight to plateau whilst his hair continues to get thinner?  Will the meaning of a Tulisa be discovered after weeks of frantic googling? Will the human irritant Frankie continue to sing and perform in the pained way which ultimately pains us more than it ever will him? Will the low standards of last weeks appalling show plummet even further?  Who knows? But after a hard days  shopping at the fashion fair I will be more than ready to find out and report back on Monday.

Today though I am off to see Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s Orange Prize winner We Need To Talk About Kevin starring the wonderful Tilda Swinton. This is a much anticipated return to the screen for Ramsay who as one of our more talented directors has been absent for far too long. Apparently ripping the guts out of the novel the film is allegedly more sparing but just as haunting and chilly. I will have a review up either later today or early tomorrow but until then check out the trailer to whet your appetite.

Monday 17th October

 Autumn is now in full swing and traditionally I feel this is the most British of seasons in our calendar. Perhaps this is because it resembles most of the others yet somehow we are more tolerant of the darker nights, cooler days, wind and even the rain because it is expected at this time of year-unlike summer when we expect a little more-not so convinced by the predicted snow however. It is a time encapsulated by Kate Bush whose new album due out next month will be a welcome companion for the following winter months along with the latest offerings from Laura Marling, Bon Iver and Death In Vegas. Hearty soups and stews become the order of the day and to anyone who struggles in the kitchen I can wholeheartedly recommend Cooking Without Recipes by Philip Dundas, reviewed in the Book section, which will assist anyone who has a  fear  or little understanding of culinary adventures. Detailing the basics and explained in an easygoing friendly tone it is a charming book that neither insults nor baffles its readership. Autumn is also the time when nights in become more attractive and-Halloween aside- offer a little respite before the big pre-Xmas party season.

Nights in are certainly something that television schedulers need to seriously consider if this weekends X Factor-the nations most watched show- is anything to go by. Only the second of the live shows and already it has mutated into the Freak factor with tired, predictable and novelty performances that were an insult to the viewers who are switching off in droves and apparently down 700,000 on the week before. As Catherine Tate, in the guise of Nan, once put it ‘What a load of old shit!’

Starting with the judges headed by the flat vowelled, monotone Gaaary Baaarloow-how I wanted last weeks twist to be that he was indeed the bastard son of Ken Barlow from Coronation Street- who although generally on the ball in his observations made some terrible song choices for his charges. The human irritant going by the name of Frankie seemed to be singing a different song to the backing track and only just survived the sing off last night. Not through a great performance though as his second performance was even worse than the first. The others –including the totally forgettable Marcus-didn’t fare much better and were average at best. The one from Destiny’s Child who isn’t Beyonce fared a little better with the girls and seems to have some understanding on how to present an act to the public as Janet and Misha B-a mini Grace Jones in the making- both turned in the best performances although Sophie seems to possess the forgettable factor that plagues Marcus. The thing that calls itself a Tulisa-looking like a badly wrapped Quality Street -struggled with the groups and deservedly lost one last night. The Risk do look like contenders though. And then there is Louis Walsh!

Like some apoplectic marionette in the paroxysms of having a fit he bounces around in his seat grateful for still having a job and presents his acts as if they are on a different show altogether. It is as though he is indulging his most outrageously camp imaginings, best left to the confines of his obviously disturbed psyche, and inflicting them on the public. The joke that is  rapidly becoming Johnny was done up as Aladdin singing Kylie though the performance was more Wishy-Washy or even Widow Twankey. Appalling! As this programme dominates the weekend schedules it really needs to up its ante otherwise a further 700,000 may be switching off-or even not bothering to switch on-next week.

A further disappointment this weekend was the eagerly anticipated Comic Strip presentation The Hunt For Tony Blair which unfortunately did not capture any of the kudos of their 1980’s heyday. Pastiching elements of the 39 Steps and Sunset Boulevard whilst featuring a vast array of strong cameos it was simply not enough as the whole production didn’t connect into a cohesive or convincing whole and was seriously unfunny with the weak material letting the whole thing down. It is a shame as it promised so much more than it delivered and the whole concept felt dated and irrelevant. Unfortunately relevance is important in comedy and discussing topics neither current nor topical made it feel like a badly timed repeat.

Thank God then for TOWIE which is always relevant. Just not in the real world. Someone should give Joey a show of his own perhaps one in which he teaches children to speak. Maybe he would pick up something along the way. Unlikely though. Mind you he seemed like a MENSA candidate next to the vile creatures which populated Models, Misfits and Mayhem. Please someone tell me this is a tragicomedy and these are not real people. Seriously if these people are serious players in the fashion industry no wonder it is in crisis. A more obnoxious, self important and rude collection of pond life I have yet to encounter. Having attended the Oohfashion Edinburgh launch the other week I can happily report that it was nothing like this and everyone was courteous, fun, articulate and not delighting in anyone else’s discomfort. Their Autumn/ Winter show is tomorrow-18th October- and looks like being an event to catch. I believe there are a limited amount of tickets still available. So get to it!

That is the weekend done, dusted and dissected then. Now off to embrace the week and whatever it throws at me. There is fashion tomorrow and We Need To Talk About Kevin later in the week as well as a new venture by photographer Gavin Evans which I will be looking into. Hopefully something for the weekend makes itself available even if only in order to save me from the abomination that is the X-crement Factor and Louis Walsh auditioning for a remake of Terrahawks.

For those disillusioned with the state of the so called young ‘talent’ on the X Factor check out this stand out track from Laura Marling just into her twenties and already on her third self penned and produced album. It may restore your faith.

Friday October 14th

A busy week this week as I have critiqued/ reviewed three new films for your pleaure and perusal-under Films 2011 section- including a great documentary- complete with 9 minute trailer- on long forgotten band Mott The Hoople, the new Woody Allen film Midnight In Paris and Drive-not new just forgot to post it up a couple of weeks ago but still definitely worth seeing- as well as full details about the upcoming Ooh Fashion Edinburgh show next week in the Fashion section. Check it out as it looks like being a good evening and is supporting a worthy cause The Sick Kids Foundation Charity. I suppose it is that time of year when everyone makes some attempt at having a social life before the winter takes hold and forces us into an unwilling hibernation . If it is anything like the last two winters going out becomes more of a trial than an enjoyment although this year I, like many others, am ready for it.

Of the three films reviewed Drive is certainly the most compelling and Ryan Gosling is totally outstanding as well as looking the part of the next big Hollywood pin up. His performance is understated, contained, menacing and totally captivating and I must say came as something of a revelation. Perhaps I should not have been too surprised as he was brilliant in Blue Motel earlier this year and the signs look good for the Ides Of March which he stars in alongside George Clooney due out in a couple of weeks. Got a pre-release screening of Tilda Swinton’s new movie We Need To Talk About Kevin next week which also looks intriguing and you’ve got to love the Swinton as she is consistently interesting. Someone else who surprised me with his performance this week was Owen Wilson in Midnight In Paris. Billed as a return to form for Woody Allen I can’t really comment on that as I haven’t followed his career too closely over recent years as I felt he was always looking down and sneering at his audience unnecessarily. It is the sort of behaviour you would expect from a pseudo-intellectual and not the real thing. Mind you the fact that a pseudo -intellectual is the character most cruelly portrayed in the film perhaps he has seen the error of his ways.

I wonder how many intellectuals pseudo or otherwise there are in TOWIE. Well after a nano-seconds reflection the answer to that would have to be none. This week the same inane chats about surgeries continued with someone called Chloe-to rhyme with Joey I suppose- revealed she needed her bum done as she was nearly 30 and still single and perhaps her flat bum was the reason for this. Sorry love but I have to inform you it is more likely your flat chat and the fact that your face looks like it has been constructed with the left over bits of Pete Burns-incidentally on Come Dine With Me this week but the only thing he eats is the other contestants alive- and topped off with live tarantulas in place of eyelashes. Joey’s shorts get shorter and shorter-whilst he debated whether asparagus was broccoli!?- and it is only a matter of time before they ride  up the crack of his arse which will place him in the same category as the rest of the cast who are already up their own arses. The Mark/ Lucy/ Mario triangle and did they or didn’t they scenario continues and is really about as exciting as watching planks warp. Mark Wright really is a nasty piece of  rampant egomania in human form. Someone described him last week as a fat man waiting to escape his slim body and there is some truth in this.

Mind you the Essex lot are not so much up themselves as that Laid In Chelsea set. This week Olly tried his hand at modelling jewellery under the watchful-pervy?-eye of Mark Francis and Amber. I love Olly’s modelling ‘faces’ as each one looks like the before part of Kalms constipation ads. Now there is a career path to consider. The hunt for Chloe Green’s chin continues though there may be some salvation in the form of the Jamie whose chin takes up 90%  of his face so I am sure a compromise of sorts can be reached. The Caggie/ Spencer/Louise triangle continues to bore us all rigid and this week took place at Jamie’s country pile. There was lots of staged, stilted midnight wanderings which came to nothing except a lot of awkward stary moments over breakfast the next morning. Millie is apparently away ‘somewhere’ though perhaps she has also disappeared up her own arse. Who Knows? Binky and Cheska are still in search of a real name as well as a life of their own . I swear those two don’t even have the leading roles in their own lives.Francis is still the most cringeable, inarticulate, bumbling creature appearing on our screens at the moment and has done more to set the reputation of ginger haired people back than anyone in history so far. The man is a waste of sperm and egg as well as  screen time so give us more Mark Francis puhlease!

So what’s happening at the X-crement factor this weekend? Will Craig crack and resume eating-sorry working- at the biscuit factory? Will Misha B remove her taffeta purple water wings? Will someone pass Janet an oxygen mask so she can finish a song without gulping for air? Will Johnny wrap himself in foil again-obviously not chicken but old buzzard perhaps- and look oven ready? Now that is a tempting thought. Will Gaaaary Baaaarlooow finish a sentence before an ad break? Will anyone else work out who and what a Tulisa actually is? Probably none of these questions will be answered but it is worth watching just to find out. Oh, and to laugh of course.

Monday October 10th

So a weekend opening  clubbing with the filthy dark beats of Hot Mess- where I and my companion danced more than we have for years without narcotic acompaniment-smoothed itself out with a screening of the perennial classic and personal favourite West Side Story at the Filmhouse complete with Hot Chocolate and Maltesers as well as a stockpile of tissues to mop up the tears which flowed in abundance and almost put last nights X-Factor to shame. Almost, but not quite especially as the addition of the oh so genuine judge Kelly Rowland means we have to endure her sob filled outpourings every time a decision has to be made alongside the contestants who were kicked off the show by the very people who had only recently chosen them. Back to West Side Story however and one thing that struck home is that most of the issues raised in the film about immigration and racial division are still relevant today as well as the modern day interpretation of the Romeo and Juliet saga which is perhaps the dullest thing in the film. In fact the two central characters Tony and Maria are the least convincing characters in the film. The rest though is still outstanding especially seeing it on the big screen in all its technicolour splendour. The songs have stood the test of time and the dance sequences are still awesome and I finger clicked my way home whilst almost bursting into an impromptu version of ‘I want to be in America’ but fortunately managed to stop myself…in public at least.

Home in time for the X-Factor and it’s big ‘twist’- read public humiliation- after Saturdays first live performances which I grudgingly admit threw up some genuinely good performances. According to Kelly Rowland many of them were ‘putting it down’ but unfortunately the one person I would like to see put down is the overgrown, overexcitable squeaky leprechaun Louis Walsh. Seriously what does this man know about music? He  keeps reminding us that he managed Boyzone and Westlife which more or less answers my previous question and meanwhile turns everyone of his acts into low camp karaoke. Perhaps the producers know he will never win with one of his acts so they always give him the category least likely to. Generally I think each judge chose the right act to keep in apart from Gaaary Baaarloow-who incidentally is the one who seems to know what he is talking about the most- who in choosing to keep in the cheeky chappie Robbie Williams wannabe Frankie over the much better singer James may have made his first mistake. Maybe it is guilt over engineering Williams’ exit from Take That and then having to sit back and watch him achieve huge solo success whilst his band disintegrated as did his subsequent solo career. Therefore he doesn’t want to make such a miscalculation a second time although I can’t help but feel he has as Frankie is an irritant and only likely to appeal to the pre-teens and immature teenagers. Craig probably has the best voice in the competition and once ate -sorry-worked in a biscuit factory whilst looking and sounding like a strange amalgamation of Alison Moyet and Brian Wilson. At this juncture I feel compelled to comlement the Baaarlooow on co-ordinating his collection of fine knit cashmere tops with his fine knit hair weave in all the rehearsal clips that they show during the shows-overlong-duration. He also seems to have adopted Simon Cowell’s role as a Nero at the Colliseum figure holding court over the braying masses in the audience. Not only is he supposedly composing this years winning song but he also wrote the new single performed by last years winner Milk Curdle-or something- performed on last nights show. Like Cowell’s role as programme producer there is no conflict of interest there, is there?

Things are starting to hot up in TOWIE this week as Mark and Mario had another confrontation this week with Mark eventually telling Mario he slept with his girlfriend whilst he was on holiday. Mark also caused a rift between Lydia and Arg and is fast becoming a despicable character with few redeeming qualities. The way he manipulates those around him is reminiscent of a particularly spoilt five year old girl ordering everyone around her Wendy House. He is rapidly becoming Essex’s answer to JR Ewing. More please of Gemma-who is so not ‘bovvered’ about the slimmer, prettier Maria going out with Mick that she can’t stop making snidey remarks about it- and the deliciously stupid Joey who cannot construct a sentence properly. A favourite moment occurred last week when someone tried to explain to him how Dick was short for Richard and he just could not grasp it. At this juncture Dick stopped being short for Richard and somehow became shorthand for Joey Essex. Also could his ‘shorts’ get any shorter? I am rapidly starting to enjoy the shenanigans of this programme-and it’s posher equivalent Laid In Chelsea- as it gives an insight into how mind numbingly trivial some peoples lives are and let’s admit it we all like to feel a little superior to others don’t we?

This week I am out to see the new Woody Allen film Midnight In Paris and on Thursday a one off showing at the Filmhouse of a documentary about early seventies rock and roll legends Mott The Hoople. The former promises to be a return to form for the film auteur whilst the latter is an insight into a band who were staring into the abyss of oblivion until a certain David Bowie phoned them up with the offer of a little song called ‘All the Young Dudes’ which instantly changed their fortunes and brought on a whole rash of  other problems. It comes complete with a host of unseen footage,interviews and recollections of a former age of the music business. Not that much has probably changed  in the fame game as manipulators, manipulation and the manipulated still abound. Perhaps they should show it to the X-Factor ‘hopefuls’ all in search of  fame and fortune and retitle it ‘Be Careful what You Wish for’.

As a footnote I have just heard a world exclusive of the latest single by Kate Bush ‘Wild Man’ from forthcoming album 50 Words For Snow who has more than the X- factor-X-Y and Z factor perhaps- and must say it sounded pretty damned good. A touch of Grace Jones in her deadpan delivery but aside from that it is Kate all the way. As with most of her material one listen is never enough as her music grows with an organic appeal as she gives her music space to breathe. She is a one off and true original-incidentally the dancefloor filler that elicited the most rapturous, euphoric response on Friday night was the original 12″ mix of Running Up That Hill- who has never let the issue of fame stand in the way of her work and if anything has shunned it quite admirably. Someone else those pesky X-Factor contestants could learn from.

Friday October 7th below

So last weeks brief Indian summer is little more than a fleeting pleasant memory and we are now firmly in the grip of winter. Yesterday was freezing and I swear I saw sleet during one of the many torrential downpours-billed as showers by the forecasters-so sought out the winter cashmere and ordered my first hot chocolate with kahlua (a hug in a mug) as weapons against the never-ending dark,dismal months ahead. Actually the beginnings of winter are always okay and the encroaching dark nights cosying up indoors are enjoyable and comforting in their own right. In fact if we could have winter up until Xmas that would be sufficient with January thrown in for good measure just as a recovery period it would be perfect. It is just that it drags on until March, sometimes April and this year May, June and on and on ad infinitum. In fact winter would be more bearable altogether if we had a summer but it seems to have gone awol the last couple of years. Perhaps those extremely welcome late sweltering days we had last week were some kind of reluctant last minute bonus for having suffered the worst summer for nearly twenty years.

Elsewhere in the news this week the unfortunate death of Steve Jobs from Pancreatic cancer was sad news about a man who has impacted on many of our lives in different ways. A visionary genius and no matter how you feel about technology , whether it is merely the human race  shooting itself in the foot or taking us into unexplored terrain, it is now an essential tool in all our lives. To those who want to return to nature it should be pointed out that the moment something is introduced into something physical that the human race can physically interact with it unquestionably becomes part of nature. Nature evolves as does the human race therefore they have to co-exist and inevitably become inextricably linked with each other. Therefore the  latest horrendous architectural monstrosity becomes as much of our natural landscape as the leafy green countryside. It is unfortunate but it is indeed true.

Talking of change it is something of a relief that the furore surrounding the changes Facebook made to their newsfeed the other week has calmed down. Honestly you would think they had suggested we dismember babies, chargrill them then consume for lunch the amount of hostility,resistance and outrage that accompanied these ‘changes’ engendered. Seriously people build yourself a bridge and get over it. Facebook provides a free service and nobody is obligated to use it. Conspiracy theories abounded all over the internet with several people concerned as to how the info they had provided was being used and controlled. Personally I feel if you don’t want information processed, stored or acted on then don’t provide it in the first place. It was interesting to note those making the most fuss about these ‘changes’-minor inconveniences really- were those who like to report every fart, belch and bowel movement of their day. Give us this day our daily drivel indeed. I was initially wholly resitant to Facebook but since becoming a convert will gladly sing its praises as it has improved my social life, allowed me to catch up with people I haven’t seen for years and provided me assistance in starting up a new career. So what if they make a few changes to allow advertising as it is still essentially a free service. If I lost my phone tomorrow and had to replace all my numbers Facebook would be a much easier option for doing this than going through the long hard slog of trying to find them all again. So what if they make a few changes this is their perogative and if people don’t like them then they are not  under any obligation to use it.

So onto this weeks trash TV update and Laid In Chelsea versus TOWIE. Things are really hotting up in Chelsea-not really- where it always seems to be sunny and if it isn’t they simply take themselves off to Cannes for the weekend. This week the Caggie-does she remind anyone else of a younger Patsy Kensit? -and Spencer yawnathon,sorry, fauxmance staggered its way across our screens again. Seriously this couple seem to have been circling around each other since pre-school and still haven’t got it on. Come on guys this scenario is going from being mildly irritating to totally intolerable. Meanwhile Gabby is becoming more deranged by the second and why she is so hung up on Olly is anyones guess. Francis is a socially inept retard  who needs taken in hand by the editing suite as he is using up valuable time that could be filled by Mark Francis who deserves a show all his own. The way he tries to manipulate ‘vixen’ Amber and her secet weapon-her legs- into doing his bidding is hilarious. Amber is a total pain in the arse who hitches  up her skirt on cue and flashes her eyes and knickers in equal measure and still manages to be about as sexy as spam fritters. Cheska, Binky and anyone else with a made up name continue in their roles as bit players. Oh, and still no sightings of Chloe Green’s chin as yet.

Meanwhile in Essex a similar set of unconvincing sexless shenanigans are firmly in motion. This lot are genuinely thick but they at least seem to have some fun as opposed to their Chelsea counterparts who always seem to be staring dejectedly downheartedly into their empty Cosmopolitan glasses. Joey Essex is the unintentional comedy gold in this show especially when he turns up for a serious chat-read unconstructed sentences that mean nothing- with his ex wearing a pair of denim hotpants. There is something slightly more likeable about these people than their Chelsea rivals- it really is like choosing between polio and cancer though-which only proves that money can’t buy you happiness, style, brains or charisma.

The weekend is upon us again so nother round of events is about to begin. There is also the promise of a surprise twist on the X-crement Factor. Perhaps Gaaary Baaaarlow will call in a midwife to deal with one of his pregnant pauses that he thinks add high drama-they don’t- or Kelly Rowland will say something genuine-unlikely- Tulisa might explain exactly what that means or maybe Louis Walsh won’t fiddle with himself under the desk every time something young with  blonde hair and a blazer takes to the stage. Probably none of the aforementioned  is likely but one thing is sure we are guaranteed lots of tears and pleading faces which resemble someone who has just been informed their fate involves being led to Death Row. I can’t wait!

Monday October 3rd

Another weekend done and dusted and what started off as a hot,balmy  Friday night to set the weekend in motion had become a drizzling,damp chilly Sunday evening  preceded by torrential rain all within 48 hours. Friday’s weather was perfect for an evening of Spanish art,wine hams and olives at Axolotl and the evening was as pleasant and welcoming as every other opening that this impressive gallery puts on. Unfortunately the artworks on display were nowhere near as sizzling hot as the late heatwave we were in the process of enjoying but it was a good evening nonetheless. Saturday saw the launch of Oohfashion Edinburgh’s latest show and the midday Bucks Fizz being served was a great-possibly the best- antidote to Friday’s hangover. Gary the brains behind the whole event was an exquisite host chatting everyone through the proceedings and keeping their drinks topped up. Models swanned around,taller and more elegant than us mere mortals obviously, showing off outfits by Psychomoda-run by the lovely Alison who was a bundle of energy and refreshing chat- and Kakao by K. The show is on the 18th in the Green room and tickets are selling fast so hurry up as it looks like it is going to be a hot event. The weekend was rounded off by the 7th birthday party of The Street and champagne-yet again- and mojitos were the order of the day at this busy night that had drawn a few old and younger faces out on what is essentially a school night.

Now to my weekly dissection of the X crement-Factor and this week it was to the judges houses to decide who goes to the live shows. I must admit I hate when the contestants attempt a song I love by rendering it mere karaoke and previously they have done this to Bob Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love -although they all thought it was an Adele song- and this year Bon Iver’s Skinny Love has been the unfortunate recipent of at least two tortuous renditions. No surprises as to who went through apart from the early favourite Jade-fae Fife- who didn’t make it although I never thought she was that great in her audition first time round. She may have reduced Kelly Rowland- who is sooo sincere and always means it maaan- to tears but the only way she would have brought a tear to my eye is if she had accidentally stood on my foot. The irish girl Janet, James with the hat and Craig seem to be the front runners at the moment and the former two seem to be playing the slightly kooky card whilst the latter looks like a young Brian Wilson and has a weight problem which is something different to market. Shouldn’t be too much trouble for the aural sloth Gaaary Baaarloow as his belly was airbrushed out of  an early Take That album cover.Now as to the rest of him…

A rather slow episode of The Only Way is Essex last night-simply not enough Joey or Gemma- though tensions are simmering so hopefully more explosive scenes are to follow.This weeks ‘highlight’ was Arg who has decided he wants to be a DJ and somehow managed to wangle a slot on hospital radio. His chat was excrutiating banter  about Marbella and girls in bikinis which were barely bits of string. Just what a recuperating patient wants to hear, some dimwitted moron let loose on the airwaves. That man should come with an anaesthetic at the very least.

Tonight is the weekly dose of the over indulged set of Laid In Chelsea which is worth watching just for the sheer misplaced arrogance of the men versus the twitching,vacant stary and scary eyed women. Tomorrow sees the one off showing of Scorcese’s film about George Harrison at the Cameo so that at least promises some sort of cultural relief of a higher standard.

Friday 30th September

Another weekend beckons from over a promising sun drenched horizon but living in Scotland it would be sensible to bask in this unexpected heatwave now rather than preparing to catch it later. Actually forecasters predict  this unseasonable weather will probably not last through or,even, into the weekend so grab it while you can. Hopefully it will last until tonight for an evening of Spanish art,wine and hams at the gallery opening at Axolotl in Dundas Street. If it could hold out until Ooh fashion Edinburgh’s Fall/Winter launch party tomorrow lunchtime that would be much appreciated also.   Aside from these two events the big one that everyone seem Permalink: https://thequotidiantimes.wordpress.com/reviews/fashion/ ‎s to be gearing up for and talking about this weekend is The Streets 7th Birthday celebrations on Sunday night. I and many others will be showing up to with all our best wishes for Wendy and Lou’s ongoing success in one of the cities friendliest and most consistent bars.

If the weather doesn’t continue and indoor activities are on the agenda I can recommend going to see the movie Drive with an outstanding Ryan Gosling. A deeply intiguing and disturbing film Gosling handles his role with exquisite ability creating a character-simply known as Driver- that has all the qualitues that the screen version of Patrick Bateman of Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho lacked. It is a restrained, disconnected, engaging and quite honestly frightening portrayal of simmering hostility, fear and repressed emotions and Gosling works every nuance of the characters inner psyche beautifully. There are a few disturbing scenes but they are not gratuitous as they serve to show visually what the charcter cannot articulate verbally.

If you are staying in the X Factor juggernaut is still in motion dominating the viewing schedules though The Only Way is Essex and Downton Abbey are both good Sunday viewing. TOWIE has me hooked with the brain numbing intensity of stupidity it contains. This week Joey thought a Car Boot Sale was somewhere you bought second hand Uggs and camp hairdresser Harry selling flowers asked what a pansy was and then questioned what it meant. Got to love it when he said he was going to hold them and shout out ‘ A pound for a pansy’, totally clueless to the irony.

Something worth catching next week is the the new Scocese film Living in the Material World a documentary about George Harrison. As the world is still in awe and fascinated by anything Beatles this promises to be insightful as Harrison was probably the most insightful and underrated member of this band. Constantly over shadowed by the competitive and -admittedly- more talented Lennon and McCartney, in any other band would have been a shining star unfortunately in the Beatles he was regularly relegated to the role of supporting cast.  It is only showing in cinemas for one day-October 4th- before being withdrawn and then available on DVD at some time in the future.

Someone whose star power was never in doubt is Shirley Bassey who was the subject of the biopic Shirley on BBC2 last night. Hers is certainly an interesting tale to tell being a classic rags to riches story but unfortunately this account of her life was lame and disappointing. There was only the merest hint of what drove this classiest and brassiest of Dames as the drama portrayed her as being exploited by managers, gay husbands and family whilst  showing her as a caring and compassionate mother who hated leaving her young child in her quest for fame. There was no sign whatsoever of the stroppy diva that you would expect. Only on one occasion did this side appear after a twelve hour flight in economy to Australia which is an experience I am sure would even have had Mother Teresa contributing to the swear box. Bassey has had a fruitful and interesting life and has an amazing story to tell but unfortunately this was not it.

Tht is it for today as I am taking my own advice-that’s a first- and going out to capture the sun before it disappears as quickly and unexpectedly it arrived. No doubt the weather will be back to abnormal next week and giving us all something to complain about. I suppose that keeps us happy though.

Tuesday 27th September

Monday nights-for me at least- belong to Laid ,sorry, Made in Chelsea. It is fast becoming one of the best comedy dramas on television even if the comedy element is unintentional. Highlights last night were Spencer’s man boobs masquerading as pecs -it is not hard to envisage him in twenty years time as a short ,stout barrel-chested perv-Francis’s bumbling attempts to get a date and miraculously managing to achieve three although none for his personality as it his diamonds that sparkle not his chat. This was after we had to witness him topless modelling for Attitude magazine in an attempt to capture the gay community. Like they want or need him. I have seen some sorry excuses for gay icons in my time but this is not even scraping the bottom of the barrel it is rummaging around under the barrel. The man is a buffoon full stop with no admirable qualities or social skills and it is just as well he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth as otherwise he would have difficulty lifting it there on his own.

Elsewhere Caggie is back from New York-yawn- Hugo and Millie split up-double yawn-and psycho Gabby is on the rampage and we can only hope that Olly doesn’t have a pet bunny as it would end up in her pressure cooker. Chloe Green ,by the way, is still in search of her chin though unfortunately her teeth keep getting in the way. Then there is Mark Francis who is a comic genius creation and so obviously cannot be real  I am assuming someone made him up. He is sheer brilliance . The way he talks to his various maids in either French or Italian then to his guests in the campest squeal imaginable is comedy gold. He is also supposed to be ‘straight’ which is perhaps the greatest comedic element of all.  Perhaps he should have a show of his own. I am still not sure what any of these people actually do- apart from  the gormless Jamie who is apparently heir to the Mc Vities fortune which means I have scoffed my last Hobnob- aside from complicating their own lives and nor do I really care but there is a great sense of schadenfreude every time some sort of tragedy-minor inconvenience really -befalls one of them. It is no mystery now to see how inbreeding in the upper classes has lasted so long as this group seem intent on sleeping with every available permutation imaginable within a small collection of people. Must make for fun at weddings and then the inevitable wife swapping parties.

On another level I went to see Warrior also yesterday and can report it is definitely worth seeing and not only for Tom Hardy’s lips which have had several outings this weekend. Even in his bulked out state they still dominate his face. Must have had a protein shake all their own. Joel Edgerton turns in a commendable performance as his brother as does Nick Nolte as the grizzly former alcoholic father whose violent outbursts caused the two brothers at the core of the drama to be separated in their teens. The fighting scenes are gruesome and a little hard to take for the squeamish but they are far outweighed by the dramatic input of the gritty dialogue. The convoluted emotions rife in families are reasonably dealt with and Hardy turns in a withdrawn performance in line with his characters reluctance to articulate in any other way than through his fighting skills. It transpires he has a secret that is driving him and causing all this pent up aggression.

The plot may be unlikely and the concluding outcome predictable in true Hollywood style but that is in no way decrying the film which is well made and tugs on the right emotional strings. Hardy and Michael Fassbender seem to be dominating cinemas at the moment and the third addition to this pack of intense new generation of leading men is Ryan Gosling whose latest feature Drive I will be taking in later this week. Until then it is back to Tuesday’s business which is alleviated by the thought of True Blood with Nazi vampires, werewolves and shape shifting brothers to brighten the evening up.

Monday 26th September

A weekend of ‘guilty pleasures’ this weekend although I don’t feel in the slightest bit guilty about enjoying myself only in how. Good news arrived in that Primal Scream are bringing in 2012 at Princes Street Gardens, a mere 20 years after the release of Screamadelica, so that is something maybe worth braving the sub-zero Arctic temperatures of a Scottish winter for. Sub zero is term applicable to many contestants in TV’s biggest ‘talent’ show and I wouldn’t rely on any of them to melt my froideur on a cold winter evening. I stll find the X Factor frustrating and the majority of the contestants delusional whilst the judges patronising,full of their own overblown egos, self importance and devoid of any real taste but somehow find the proceedings compelling. Perhaps the best way to describe it would be as a bad smell on your fingers that repulses you but you cannot help but return for yet another sniff just to make sure. The Abba tribute act Super Trouper were my Saturday night guilty pleasure and I have moved on from declaring that I didn’t hate it to admitting that actually I really quite enjoyed it – I knew that ‘Waterloo’ routine would come in handy one day- and was impressed by the sheer professionalism and gusto of the act. An attempt at injecting some gravitas into my weekend came in the form of the big screen adaptation of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ which was perhaps the thing that I expected the most from-an outstanding cast and intricate plot alone had me interested- but somehow felt somewhat underwhelmed by. I also succumbed and watched my first ever episode of The Only Way is Essex but more about that later.

First up the X Factor juggernaut is very much in motion and seems unstoppable clogging up weekend schedules and conversations all over the country. I am still not sure why the audiences whip themselves into such a frenzy over such mediocrities and the fact that a few people hit the right notes. Perhaps they perform mandatory lobotomies at the studio doors. Actually this is not such a bad idea and if the procedure could be reversed at the conclusion of the end of the season after a ‘star’ has been born-anyone remember Joe McElderry? No , not even Simon Cowell’s record company do. This weekend saw the Boot Camp round where they sort out the wheat from the chaff and whilst I understand that rejection is not pleasant there is no need to act as if you have just been sentenced to death row. Actually another not bad idea. Overbearing histrionics,demanding explanations and a tsunami of tears were the order of the day. Honestly people build yourself a bridge and get over it.

I try and imagine how the judges would have reacted to real talent like Lennon, Bowie and Dylan. Lennon would probably be told to drop the attitude, Bowie to lose the red hair and Dylan well his rasping vocals would not get past the initial audition process despite the fact there is more genuine emotion in one note of  ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ than in every series of X Factor combined. Instead we are served up bland slabs of cheeky chappie Frankie-an irritating Robbie Williams type whose days are already numbered I fear-an ageing Tina Turner wannabe who chased Gaaary Baaarloow around the studio proving that he can at least move faster than he can talk. The most bearable two so far seem to be a young Irish girl with a beautiful voice and pleasant demeanour and James who has an interesting voice and a hat so at least the image is sorted. There seems to be a need ,especially amongst the guys, to appear as if they are in the throes of having a fit in order to show that they are ‘feeling’ the song but really it just looks uncomfortable and they are in need of direction to the nearest toilet.

Now Abba there is a band! I spent much of my youth hating them as it was what my parents listened to therefore essential to hate them but somehow my feelings towards them have mellowed with age even conceding that they did write some excellent songs-Knowing Me Knowing You is my favourite although there are several runners up-and therefore the Super Trouper show at the Playhouse was a way of treating my mother whilst overcoming my own prejudices. It was a fantastic show however and the audience, and yes even I, lapped it up.Everyone seemed to have a good time and isn’t that the main thing about going out. Who needs to have a sense of being uber cool all the time.

Uber cool is a phrase that obviously reached the ears of the producers of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier , Spy’ as they seem to have summoned the acting prowess of every actor form the top echelons of the profession to perform in this bleak seventies based drama. The plot was involved, slow burning and convoluted in parts. It was admirably executed-literally on occasion- but somehow failed to ignite. The performances especially John Hurt ,Gary Oldman and Colin Firth were what you would expect from actors of their calibre although  a special mention should go to Tom Hardy’s lips which seemed to have a role of their own. He could join Angelina Jolie in a life raft fleet. so full and pronounced were they.

On the other end of the scale is The Only Way is Essex where there is no need to ask if the participants have had lobotomies as it is never in doubt from the very outset. Joey Essex thought vintage was new clothes made to look old and that Derren Brown was the prime minister. Meanwhile Kirk and Lauren have split up as they reckon they spent too much time cooped up in each others company after their last nose jobs. This is mind numbing stuff of the highest order and why these people are allowed to clutter up our screens is beyond me. Already I am hooked.

This week involves the Oops Edinburgh Fashion launch, a Spanish themed evening at Axolotl, the films Driver and Warriors whilst acquainting myself fully with the new Death In Vegas album. Next weekend I have made a mental note to attempt something a little more highbrow although this would not be hard as anything above the knee could be considered highbrow compared to most of this weekends experiences. That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed it though. Oh dear!

Wednesday September 21st

Tuesdays as a general rule have always been something of a non-event. Very seldom have I ever heard anyone utter the phrase ‘Can’t wait for Tuesday’ or even ‘God, I’m dreading Tuesday’. Well the latter may have been uttered several times during the hedonistic, halcyon 1990’s when midweek comedowns were customary although any diehard party animal would party right through until  Monday therefore postponing the inevitable until Wednesday so even then Tuesdays were only for the faint hearted. Personally I use them as the day when I wear things from my wardrobe that I haven’t worn for ages and can’t quite bear to part with followed by an evening TV marathon fuelled by large quantities of comfort food. The fact that True Blood is a new late night addition to this otherwise inconsequential day gives me something to look forward to and indicates better days ahead. Beats River City at least. Last night it was preceded by a programme about corruption in the Property Conversation department in the Edinburgh Council -vampires without the sexy bits- which set me up perfectly and had me wanting to draw blood as more and more revelations were revealed.

Allegations of corruption,fraud and wrongdoings in general have plagued any city council doggedly throughout their very existance and Edinburgh’s is no different from any other. What is particularly shocking about this latest problem is that it is costing members of the public already forking out vast amounts for inflated council tax bills and a trams debacle that I have yet to encounter anyone in favour of. Now it seems they also have the power to serve statutory notices whenever they decide a homeowner should -in their unquestionable estimation- make necessary and ,in many cases, unnecessary improvements to their properties in the name of maintaining the city’s internationally renowned heritage. Oh and they will also decide who will carry out these tasks- Action Builders in the main- with no responsibility in informing those footing the bill just how much they will be paying until the work is completed to their own specifications. The fact that someone expecting to pay £7,500 ended up with a bill approaching £300,000 was probably the most extreme of the cases looked at in this programme but most of the others were just as shocking.Councils are allegedly there to protect the interests of a city not rip of its inhabitants in return for the installation of a shiny new kitchen or family holiday in order to win contstruction contracts. Good news arrived in the fact fifteen people have already been suspended in the Property Conversation Department pending investigation. The bad news is that many others may be forced to sell their homes to pay for unnecessary work they have been forced to have done as the amount of lengthy legal battles begins and will probably prove as costly and entangled as the councils other recent great success story-the trams.

Enough of griping about the council and onto the important matter of the fictional-and  much more appealing- vampires of True Blood. Promising strong language, scenes of a sexual nature and bloody horror it delivers -and then some- on every level. The blood count is nearly as high as the perfect buttock quotient usually on display. Actually last night was rather disappointing in this respect and only four human versions of werewolves at the start of this episode exposed their best sides to the cameras. This is in contrast to last weeks opening episode wherein both Alexander Skarsgard and Ryan Kwanten-Eric and Jason- spent extended screen time with their perfectly sculpted bodies firmly on display upping the viewing figures for weeks in advance. Last night however the main characters kept their clothes firmly on and concentrated on the drama in hand, Into the fray enter werewolves , Nazi vampires,shape changing brothers and a new vampire king who is more of a queen than the vampire queen. Keeping up?Still not enough of Tara -Rutina Wesley- and Lafayette-Nelsan Ellis- but give it time it is only the second episode. The only character I can’t be bothered with is Sookie played by Anna Paquin around whom the bulk of the action revolves. This is perhaps deliberate as to have a central character who ,on initial inspection, is quite dull allows other characters to evolve thus gathering strengths that afford the series longevity. Long may it continue.

So that is Tuesday out of the way then and the weekend is just around the corner. Who would have guessed that it was not necessary to go all the way to BonTemps or the deepest recesses of your imagination to find a vampire when they have been hiding out at the council offices all this time? Actually I think we knew this all along so perhaps it is time we called in a vampire sheriff to sort things out. I gather Eric from True Blood is good at what he does!

Tuesday September 20th

Two opposite ends of the cultural spectrum looked at and dissected today. At the high end the stunning new film by Pedro Almodovar The Skin I Live In whilst at the lower end of the scale the laughable but strangely addictive ‘reality’ show Made In Chelsea. Seriously the only way that the latter reflects anyones real life is you have money piled into your bank account whilst simultaneously having the same amount of brain cells removed. It is a new low for the genre but somehow I find myself compelled to watch the inane babblings and sexless sexual shenanigans of those who are from the same stable born.

In contrast to this Almodovar’s latest effort is an extremely strong addition to an already formidable canon and features the directors first collaboration with Antonio Banderas for over twenty years before the actor’s defection to the big bucks and momentum of a Hollywood career and the waiting, open arms of that town’s version of royalty -ahem, cough, cough- Melanie Griffiths. Banderas is a revelation in this film-at different times he resembles Sean Connery as James Bond and Cary Grant-  especially to anyone only familiar with the sanitised, stereotypical Latino roles foisted on him by the Hollywood bigwigs. Like Penelope Cruz and -to a lesser extent- Javier Bardem Banderas performs to a far superior level when speaking in his native tongue and his brooding Latin temperament is much better suited to the vivid colours, especially vibrant bloodlike reds, lush lighting and simmering sensuality of European- in this case Spanish- cinema.

The film details a plastic surgeon who tries to replace his lost lover and daughter in different ways and tries to replace the former by kidnapping the perpetrator he feels is responsible for the latters death. It is a convoluted plot that involves holding a mirror up to sexual identity,personal appearance and a medical profession that is willing to cross the boundaries of acceptability for personal and professional gain. The film contains many devices that a director devoid of Almodovar’s genius would struggle to render coherent. It is a highly complex narrative that has shades of Hitchcock  and manages to sustain tension and keep the viewer gripped throughout. The sets, lighting and people are all beautiful-albeit not always in the conventional sense-as would be expected of this immensely talented director and as already stated Banderas delivers his best role in -oh let’s see- about twenty years. Go see it as it really is an extraordinary movie that will have you transfixed. There is something about an Almodovar film that always makes me want to go home and slice a beef tomato-fruit always plays a large part in the visual eroticism and danger in his films- with the biggest chopper I can lay my hands on and this film is no exception.

Onto Made In Chelsea then. The return of Binkie, Cheska, Caggie-ridiculous names alert-et al and an episode titled ‘Capitalism is Beautiful’. Despite thousands- probably hundreds of thousands actually- spent on their education and they can’t come up with anything better than that hackneyed translation of Gordon Gekko’s of Wall Street’s mantra which defined the materialstic 1980’s, ‘Greed is Good’. The women all swim around like goldfish in a bowl forgetting which ‘eligible’ bachelor they are supposed to be pursuing. God every one of them has twitching,scary,stary eyes that don’t seem to comprehend what is being said to them.They may all have holiday homes both in the country and out of the country but unfortunately they seem to have only managed a timeshare on the same brain cell. Meanwhile the guys hang around a Ferrari talking about ‘birds’ and the advantages of playing the field- a good choice of word considering the women all resemble horses indistinguishable from each other. How many cliches could the director of this shambles fit into one scene. One at a time please. The increasingly buffoon like Francis-runner up is the bumbling, indecisive Spencer- gives a talk to budding entrepreneurs-read spotty, gormless chinless wonders- wherein he reveals that a recent would be mugger who approached him would have been more successful if he had only been more loquacious and had better grammar. Jeez, what world does this socially inept idiot live in. Not mine that much is obvious.

The latest addition to this unhappy band of up their own arse and pretentious bunch of self obsessed nobodies is Chloe Green who really does unfortunately resemble her father-Philip Green- and has an overbite so large she couldn’t just chew an apple through a letter box but one in an altogether different time zone. Her role seems to be that of Ollie’s girlfriend which is interesting as he finished with his last one so that he could explore his bisexual leanings with the male of the species. Says a lot for poor Chloe really doesn’t it?

Despite the turgid manipulations, stilted performances and the sexual goings on-Laid in Chelsea would be a more suitable name- I find myself compelled to watch this drivel if only to console myself that no matter how bad I ever feel about myself I will never be as bad as this sad bunch of -admittedly very rich- losers.It is definitely on my Monday night essential viewing until I either lose patience or smash up my TV in frustration. In many ways it is like the televisual equivalent of the coalition government in that the longer it goes on the more you hope it’s going to get better. Unfortunately in both cases we know this is never going to happen.

Monday September 19th

Edinburgh post Festival is a city that finds itself in flux. With the tourists no longer in attendance as a source of irritation and conversation, talk has again turned to that staple; the weather. Already over the last few weeks I have heard people talking on a regular basis about battening down the hatches in preparation for extreme weather conditions. After the last two shockingly harsh winters and a non existent summer followed by a blustery wet autumn perhaps preparing for the worst is advisable but fate will,no doubt, conspire to prove our greatest fears unfounded thus providing us with something else to complain about.

Over the last few weeks my personal highlights have included the amazing Arcade Fire gig at Edinburgh Castle which found a band able to summon and  command the presence that such an awesome space and surroundings requires. The whole set was outstanding especially the anthemic ,rousing ‘Wake Up’ but for me the last encore of ‘Rebellion’ was the one that epitomised this band in all their glory, gathering momentum by the second and exploding into a frenzy that the audience were as much caught up in as the band.

During the tail end of Hurricane Katia that battered the west coast of Scotland working its way eastward last week I ventured out to see the latest adaption of Jane Eyre by director Cary Fukunaga starring man of the moment, Michael Fassbender. Having never been able to read the book-a recent attempt found me giving up after a strenuous four pages-due to the excitability of the yah female students on my English Literature degree course who reverted to pubescent squealing and uncontrollable giggling every time it was mentioned in classes. This new adaptation however manages to convey all the bleakness and atmospherics of the windswept moors of the 19th century Peak District as well as capturing perfectly the weather outside and admittedly had me gripped tighter than the hot chocolate with a dash of Amaretto that I had in a vice like grip for warmth and comfort. Fassbender was spectacularly complex and it is easy to see why he would make a great James Bond-so many layers and unfathomable depths- as is being rumoured but I still feel that his stand out performance is in Andrea Arnold’s superb Fish Tank where he turns in an outstanding performance that resonates long after the films denouement..

If the weather does proceed into the next ice age then I can think of worse things than being cocooned at home with the new Laura Marling album, A Creature I don’t Know, and the second Bon Iver album both guaranteed to warm any cold heart of stone-mine- with their spatial warmth and beauty. For going out purposes a pre-release copy of Trans- Love Energies the first release in seven years by Death In Vegas has been filling up my airspace and looks like becoming one of the great albums in an underwhelming year for music in general.

A sure sign of winter approaching is the inescapable X Factor juggernaut which dominates the weekend television schedules along with Strychnine Come Dancing. Both are a tired format and the incessant whooping,hollering and cheering quite inappropriate and even the former’s likeable presenter has become so dull that he should change his name to Dermot O’Weary. Never mind at least a second series of Made in Chelsea provides us with new people to hate along with the ‘new generation’ of X Factor judges. Can’t imagine why a second series was commissioned as these hateful characters none of whom seem to have anything resembling a real name -Binkie and Caggie anyone?- really are the sort of people it is easy to despise. The introduction of Chloe Green- Philip Green of Top Shop and Tax avoidance fame- who resembles her father after botox and in a wig will ,no doubt, add a ‘fresh’perspective. Not!  A new Jack Whitehall sitcom, Fresh Meat, on channel 4 Wednesday at 10pm looks promising though the second series of The Killing, the excellent Danish suspense crime drama, returns to BBC4 soon . This will hopefully erase any memory of the lame American remake that channel 4 showed recently. I managed to sit through half of the first two episodes before abandoning it completely.

Today I am checking out the first Pedro Almodovar and Antonio Banderas collaboration since 1990’s excellent Tie Me Up Tie Me Down entitled The Skin I live In which sounds more than promising. Also this week I am viewing a couple of art exhibitions and the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier ,Spy as well as the refurbished National Museum of Scotland. Had a brief look in at the end of the Festival and was amazed at the changes but want to go and spend a leisurely day there without the crowds.A Bacardi cocktail tasting event at the Montague bar sounds like a more than viable option-any excuse for a Mojito-for a midweek outing and pick me up  Weather dry so far today but how long can that keep up. I have a theory about the rain in that it seems to follow a close friend of mine around  as every where she goes seems to simultaneously and automatically become the wettest part of the country. Unfortunately every time I mention this the black cloud that hangs over her head gets visibly larger so perhaps I should say nothing in future. Unfortunately this is not a trait that falls naturally to me so prepare for a downpour!

Monday August 28th

So the final day of the Fringe has arrived and the general concensus is that it has not actually been an epic year. No great surprises or even a new act that everyone agrees is a total must see . Neither have there been any great career resuscitations like Jack Whitehall’s last year. Of the acts I revisited only Frisky and Mannish and Barry and Stuart seem to have progressed in the intervening year whilst others are merely treading water or -worse- taken a step back.

Best Fringe experience this year had to be the one on one adventure ‘You Once Said Yes’ whilst best theatre I saw was a toss up between’Time for the Good Looking Boy’ and ‘My Filthy Hunt’ both of which were,relatively, young productions but the solo performance from Lloyd Thomas in the former probably has the edge. It was one of the first shows viewed and resonated with me  providing a benchmark that few others reached.Comedy probably peaked-for me- with David Reed’s ‘Shamblehouse’ which was witty, surreal and sublime. Perhaps I am not the best judge for stand up as the tragicomedy of my real life provides humour enough to put the endless stream of men in denim and check shirts droning on about masturbation and drinking in the shade. Of the stand up I did enjoy I think Dana Alexander was about the best. Ruby Wax was brilliant in the comedy moments of her show unfortunately they were outnumbered by her self indulgent self analysis on-mainly her own-  depression. Camille O’Sullivan provided the musical highlight this year with a show in which she covered songs that number among my very favourites.The worst shows seen were by a long way ‘Liberace: Live from Heaven’ and Craig Hill’s low rent gutter humour. Both were offensive for different reasons.

A memorial tribute to Paul Reekie last night brought out a lot of people who have made the Edinburgh scene what it has been over the last thirty years and provided a fitting epitaph.It was an eventful night for what has been a non-eventful Fringe.

The weather has played a huge factor in the dampened enthusiasm for this years proceedings as it has generally been -no other word for it-shit. It has rained heavily on all but a few days and tramping around in the rain being prodded and poked by an endless barrage of badly controlled umbrellas goes from being mildly irritating to totally intolerable.Most people chose to stay in the pub which is what unfortunately makes up most peoples social lives in Edinburgh during the other eleven months of the year. At a time when so much is set up for outdoor socialising and mingling it was tragic to see both the Udderbelly and the Pleasance barren and raindrenched. During the first weekend I passed through the Udderbelly at 11pm on a Saturday night-a time when it should be pulsing with Festival atmosphere- and it was sodden and empty. A look,unfortunately,  resembling the end of the party rather than the beginning.

Edinburgh can now return to its former sleepy self and having checked out the seven day forecast even the weather is set to improve. About time too and once again the streets are ours.

Sunday August 26th

Second last day of the Fringe and almost the last chance to take in the shows. If anyone is still undecided about what they might want to see my list of my top shows are in the Recommendations section. Having not ventured into town since Friday it almost feels as if the Fringe is already over although the Festival proper doesn’t finish until next week with the firewworks extravaganza. I used to love this night but over the last few years I can see and-more annoyingly-hear the nightly ‘farting in the sky’ from my living room so by the time the big one comes around I am more than slightly over fireworks in general.

Even though the Festival is not over it is the end of the Fringe that signals the exit of the hordes of tourists clogging the streets. Hopefully the rain will depart at the same time but today it seems to have been replaced with cold biting winds which are not really the improvement I was hoping for.

Tonight is ‘Love’s Rebellious Joy’ at the west end Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square as part of the Book Festival and that is a definite must for my diary. A tribute to and celebration of Paul Reekie I feel it will bring out a good crowd who had the pleasure of encountering him.

As for the rest of the week it may be a good time to visit the refurbished Museum in Chambers Street without battering your way through the crowds and my big one for the week is Arcade Fire at the Castle. This is particularly interesting as I was lucky enough to catch them five years ago at a Glasgow University debating hall and it felt as if there were more people onstage than in the audience. To see them in vastly altered circumstances will be fascinating especially as I hadn’t realised they were as big as they so obviously are but they are one of the few credible bands around at the moment who could fill such a vast space both aurally and visually.

After the Fringe the QT will concentrate on more local events, happenings, gigs, local shops,clubnights etc.as well as keeping you constantly updated with film and music reviews probably on a twice weekly basis.

Friday August 26th

Almost the end of the Fringe now and my mail box and phone are frantic with calls and messages for acts desperate for a last minute review. Sounds terrible but if an act has managed to get through the last three weeks without a reviewer checking them out then maybe there is a reason. Every time I visit the press offices I always ask if there is anything I should be checking out that I haven’t yet heard of yet and after they have calmed down-over excited doesn’t begin to describe how a press office will act when trying to sell their shows-it usually transpires that they haven’t. Last year was a good year for spotting talent that has ,in the interim,achieved huge levels of success. Barry and Stuart, Frisky and Mannish and Jack Whitehall are just three acts I gave five star reviews to last year and all now have established very successful careers.Bo Burnham the American teenager who wowed everyone last year left the Fringe to sign a multi million deal with a major American channel so his rise is,by far, the most meteoric and deservedly so.

It is hard to envisage now but Whitehall when he attended last years Fringe it was simply as he had been involved in a cocaine scandal by our former moral guardians the News of the World- a large part of his act-and banished from appearing on TV, apparently, permanently,. In short he was on his uppers. How one year can change things as every time I turn on my TV Whitehall is there settled in for the long haul and the News of the World? Well, we all know what happened there.

Time will tell who we will be seeing more of in the future but I will be surprised if youngster Lloyd Thomas who gave an outstanding turn in ‘Time for the Good Looking Boy’ doesn’t achieve some level of mainstream success in the very near future.

Not sure what shows I will see to day but I have a Flamenco experience lined up for the evening. Tomorrow am not even venturing anywhere near the city centre as I don’t feel my sensitive nature could handle the overspill of the English Bank Holiday weekend. Reviews for yesterdays shows are in Fringe 2011 Reviews section. I will endeavour to sort them in order later on today for any one only wanting to see what my tips for the top are.

Thursday August 25th

The end is in sight and today is my last ‘official’ day covering shows. After this I will play things by ear -a Flamenco show tomorrow is the only arranged show- and may even attempt to take in some of the Free Fringe. Maybe not though, as the centre of town this weekend will be a living Hell-not as much so as a Liberace musical witnessed last week-putting every other weekend of recent weeks into the shade as regards annoying interlopers. This could be a generational thing however as I am sure to the teenage and twenty something hordes pounding the streets the hustling ,bustling vibe may be enjoyable in a way that I remember it being for me once.

As long as I don’t end up sitting watching X-Factor with new judge Gaary Baaaarlow- his pronunciation- and his attempts at creating tension with pauses so pregnant someone should call a midwife. I swear his voice is the aural equivalent of a vocal sloth. I imagine it took him longer to say Kiliminjaaaaaro than it took him to actually climb it. Certainly it took him no longer than it took him to call a private helicopter to take him back down. Very charitable and environment friendly!  I no longer find the delusions of the contestants amusing as by now they all know that by being excrutiatingly awful they are guaranteed some air time thus perversely validating their fifteen minutes of fame. I’ll be hooked in three weeks,you’ll see, and hate myself for it. Mind you there is always Jon Pleased Wimmin’s night ‘Dare’ at the Speakeasy above Cab Vol on Saturday night so I could still be tempted to venture out.

Yesterdays shows ranged from the good-‘Black Slap’-to the Godawful-‘Batman- spoof Musical Batstravaganza’- and the rain arrived just as I was making my way to the latter combining two of my least favourite things rain and musicals. Combine those two with queueing -next occurrence unfortunately- and I start to resemble a petulant wasp. Not that I hate all musicals as I have been known to enjoy and even shed a tear-every time embarassingly enough- at crucial parts of ‘West Side Story’ and find ‘Grease’  a more than pleasant experience.

Today I have only two shows lined up including’The Quotidian Revue’ which I chose as there was something vaguely familiar about the name.On Sunday I am attending a memorial/tribute to the late Paul Reekie -as part of the Book Festival in the Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square- who was an Edinburgh legend and an important part of Rebel Inc. who was already a fixture on the scene when I first emerged as a teenage ingenue and an all round good guy. Extremely literate and talented I am glad that he is being honoured in this way and as I missed his funeral it will allow me to pay some respect to someone who deserves it.

Now the next dilemna, what to wear? Will it rain ? I know the answer to that one really. Imagining or hoping for anything else is almost as delusional as those cringeable no-hopers on the X-Factor.Oh! and only four days to go.

Wednesday August 24th

Well only five days left for those who are counting-me-and Festival fatigue has given way to  a vague sense of euphoria of regaining our city and settling down to moaning about having nothing to do and the weather which we can no longer blame the tourists for bringing with them. Actually there is still a lot to do in the coming month it is just a question of looking for it. Once I have got this Festival malarkey out the way I will keep you informed about interesting local happenings.

As for the Fringe/Festval 2011 it hasn’t actually been an epic year in my estimation. The great shows have been ouitstanding but so much else-especially the comedy- has barely scraped average and with the price of tickets at an all time high I would hesitate in recommending something unless I felt it justified the ticket cost .2011 as a year so far hasn’t forged much of an identity for itself in other spheres either however. No great fashion moment, musical high or unifying movement to speak of, but as a show I saw the other day pointed out the first ten years of this century have been beset with upheavals- Global Recession,Tsunamis, Hurricanes, Terrorism and Wars just for starters- that it may be time to take stock and try to sort out the mess that the human race must take a lot of responsibility for. What is more this recession is stopping me from affording the Kurt Geiger python skin boots I so desire or, more correctly, need.

On another note reviews for the last two days are in the REVIEWS section and a drama called ‘My Filthy Hunt’ by a young group called Horizon Arts is definitely worth seeing. Cool, edgy and sexy this group have two shows on-the other is Laundry Boy-and I have no idea how they pull out two such outstanding performances in the space of three hours.

Today I have ‘The Black Slap’ which I am looking forward to then ‘Batman’ a spoof musical which maybe not so much so. After this ‘The Captain of Kopenick’. Last night I wangled myself onto the guest list of the National at the Corn Exchange which was outstanding and if anyone has any contacts that can get them a ticket to their show in Glasgow tonight then I suggest that you do so pronto..

Right off into the breach and will see how long it is before I curse profanities at the first tourist who foolishly gets in my way. Perhaps I should chill out more but unfortunately that is not likely.

Monday August 22nd

Well another Festival weekend dispensed-only the busiest one yet left-and after venturing out on Saturday night I have made the decision that next weekend I will attempt to get home on Friday evening-not too early-and then not venture anywhere near the centre of town until Tuesday when the bank holiday revellers and Festival Fannies will -like Elvis- have left the building. Seriously though not being able to walk down the street without being shoved, poked in the eye with a multitude of umbrellas or forced off the pavement by the crowd is no longer just an irritant it is rapidly becoming totally intolerable. Part of the reason is obviously the incessant rain which just seems to put everybody in a bad mood but a fair proportion is down to inexcusable bad manners and rudeness and don’t even start me on the hen and -to a much lesser extent-stag do’s. The state of some of the women attending the former is horrific and they shouldn’t hesitate getting that ring on their finger as in five years time for most of them I doubt it will be an option.True to form Saturday was a relatively pleasant dry day but at the juncture I was about to leave the house a glance out the window revealed torrential rain just chucking it down. Slightly pissed off doesn’t even begin to capture my reaction and it wasn’t improved encountering one of the aforementioned hen do’s within the first five minutes.

Anyway after a weekend off and first up today is a drama called ‘Generation 9/11’ which sounds like an intriguing prospect then after I am not sure which shows I am attending until later on-a double booking malfunction (my bad memory) on my calendar- then comedy later on. In between I may make my way to the Montague Bar on Montague Street which is having its very own Fringe offering featuring Dave Lynn which will be well worth a visit.To round the evening off I have some comedy in the form of Bob and Jim which I was talked into by a really persistent PR agent.

Dry ,so far, today so hopefully stays that way. For those that are on a Festival countdown this time next week it will nearly be over.

Saturday August 20th

The penultimate weekend of the Festival before the big one-English Bank holiday- next week. Already Edinburgh residents all seem to share the same feeling of thanks very much for the very welcome-and necessary- cash injection but please can we have our city back. Oh, and take the rain away with you please. Actually it managed to hold off yesterday and things look relatively hopeful on that front today. Hmmm!

Yesterdays shows were fair to middling though I will update the Recommended section to include the best things I have seen this week. Quite a few of which are quite excellent whilst quite a few are not. I am not taking in any shows over the weekend as I feel the thought of queueing up with the pissed up hordes is anathema to my tender sensibilities. Instead I will take in some of the exhilirating night life on offer. Most of the year clubs in Edinburgh range from average to not so average but ‘Green Door at studio 24 is a secret gem. I have only been a couple of times but every time I go it throws up a few surprises. The crowd is mixed-age wise and in every other way-and the atmosphere is extremely friendly. Other options include the also excellent White Mink at the Voodoo Rooms and a Clash night featuring the music of and inspired by that great band at the ECA Wee Red Bar. Being the first band I ever saw live- slinking out the house in my early teens on the pretext of going to a friends house to do  homework- they will always hold a place dear to my heart.

So that’s the weekend more or less taken care of although I may venture out into town tomorrow and check out the book festival or any of the other things going on .No doubt once the Festival interlopers have left the city will seem rather deserted and resemble the morning after an extended three week party.Then comes the comedown!

Friday August 19th

Had a really busy day yesterday and forcing myself to sit through the theatical Hell that was ‘Liberace:Live from Heaven’ was most definitely not the high point it almost made Craig Hill’s show seem tolerable in comparison. Almost.. This show ,for a professional production, was an embarassment and tortuous from beginning to end. Or as much near the end as I could stomach. ‘Federer Vs Murray’ was slightly better whilst Simon Callow shone in ‘Tuesday at Tescos’ although the script was a little dull in places. Haven’t much time to write today as have to be at show early-midday which is early for me to be out-but yesterdays reviews are in Fringe 2011 section.

Thursday August 18th

Phonecalls from both Sarah Millican’s management and PR agent yesterday requested-begged even-that although I was still able to use the ticket issued for her gig last night would I please not publish a review of it. Changed days indeed. Two years ago before Millican had achieved mainstream acclaim the same people were desperate to know how quickly I could get my reviews online. I am not sure what the fuss was about as she put on a reasonable show that had several laugh out loud moments but didn’t push any boundaries. The most shocking thing about the thing was when she revealed she was only thirty six. In an industry- and real life even- where youth and looking young are of prime concern and we have to endure the unsightly visions of people in their forties and fifties making the ill advised decision to wear clothes designed for people twenty years their junior Millican stands alone in her non-ironic Granny knits. To be honest I am not sure which end of these two opposing spectrums is the less visually attractive, mutton as lamb or mutton as dead carcass.

Other shows yesterday were the excellent piece of comedy drama ‘Laundry Boy’ and Scott Capurro’s afternoon chat show at the Gilded Balloon. Capurro yesterday had,among, others, Henry Rollins and the conversation took many twists whilst the atmosphere was relaxed and refreshingly the guests were encouraged to talk unlike other interviewees, Graham Norton and Allan Carr et al, who always feel it is about them and promoting their own egos. Guests change daily and so far have included Michael Barrymore and Kate Copstick.

Today I may need that bit of butch that ‘Briefs’ mentioned on Monday night as Bobby Crush as Liberace is on the agenda tonight-Crush was a low rent, British Liberace in a ruffle shirt from a pre- ‘X Factor’ talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks’-as well as Simon Callow as ageing transvestite in ‘Tuesday at Tescos’ whilst Drags Aloud will round the day off. Some much needed testosterone will hopefully be attained at ‘Federer versus Murray’ unless this throws up a few previously unknown revelations or is even possibly performed in a tennis skirt.

Too much to hope for that perhaps the rain will hold off as I was caught in two downpours yesterday on a day that started off more than pleasant. For those counting down the days until this Festival madness is over there are only ten days left then normal service will be resumed and it will be possible to make a ten minute journey in ten minutes as opposed to an hour.

Wednesday August 17th

With the Fringe more than halfway through its duration- only 11 days left for those who are finding the proceedings little more than an irritant- everything has reached the stage where it is feeling a little tired. Usually things kick back into gear about this juncture as performers,reviewers and the general public get a boost when they realise that they are on the home stretch. There is still the living hell of the final bank holiday weekend where the wave of visitors to the city swells into a tsunami and all hell breaks loose. I went out on the Saturday night of this weekend last year and spent most of my time wondering why in hell I had bothered. In the words of the immortal Stooges-and later the Sex Pistols- ‘No Fun’.

After a day off from shows, getting battered by zimmers and offended by blue rinses I am back on the trail today kicking off with a drama called ‘Laundry Boy’ by a company who have produced some of the best pieces of theatre I have seen over the last two years. Next up is comedy-hopefully-Scott Cappuro before rounding the day off with Sarah Millican. Millican has achieved major success since I first reviewed her two years ago and I can even forgive her for regular appearances on lunchtime show ‘The Screeching Harridans’ or ‘Loose Women’ as they prefer to be called.

On the weather front it seems almost reasonable today and I am hoping for the last half of the Fringe being a little drier and, highly unlikely I know, a little sunnier. Good weather puts a different complexion on the face of the Festival as it just makes the proceedings about five times more pleasant for everyone. Let’s face it we deserve a little sunshine after the rain drenched misery of the last fortnight.

Tuesday August 16th

Yesterday was a good start to the week as far as shows were concerned. Starting off with the reasonable Tokyo Game theatre group, followed by the charming mindreader/illusionist Chris Cox , peaking with a surreal and sublime David Reed only to finish with the pyrotechnic high of all male burlesque-boylesque- troupe ‘Briefs’. To be honest I was seriously contemplating not attending the latter when I discovered that it didn’t finish until 2am and after a long day thought I would be too tired. I am extremely glad I did however as the show is brilliant, totally infectious fun and well worth the effort. And the Festival doesn’t sleep apparently so why should I. Not sure whether I have time to up load reviews for the latter two shows today but the former two are already completed and awaiting perusal.Not going to any shows today as Tuesday is apparently Pensioner day and I am far too young for all that nonsense so instead am busying myself with other Festival activities.

I was sad to hear the official news that the summer is officially over and any chance of a late Indian summer is highly unlikely. I suppose it is good to hear it is official as perhaps I can now stop misguidedly laying out a t-shirt in the vain hope that it may be suitable apparel and instead just slip straight into winter wear. Twice this month already I have worn my parka which I generally reserve for extreme weather conditions. I  read in the Sunday Times Style section at the weekend that the parka was the coat of choice for the coming season so am relieved that my finger is still on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Unfortunately this is through accident rather than by design and necessity rather than any informed fashion nous. Them’s the breaks I suppose.

Speaking of which the rain is back on so it must be time to venture outside again.

Monday August 15th

So after a day of rest and a chance to recharge the batteries before embarking on another weelky round of shows and events enthusiasm is definitely on the agenda. To be honest taking a backseat during the weekends of the Festival is always a good idea as everything is more crowded, takes twice as long and is generally at least four times harder to cope with than the week days which,if being honest, are a shock to the system to anyone used to going out in Edinburgh at any other time of year. At this juncture residents are starting to look perplexed and frustrated in equal measure by the invasion of their city by all these interlopers. It is an exciting time for the city and I do love the atmosphere but with every night feeling like the weekend I don’t see the point in multiplying it by ten. Frankly dealing with ten times more drunken loud, aggressive,arseholes as well as the Festival fannies-as the locals affectionately refer to them- is not my favourite cocktail. No that accolade goes to a specially made Mojito with good friends in a quiet location-preferably the comfort of someones living room- rather than out in the carnage of the city centre where the volume of everything is maxed out.

First up tonight is the Tokyo Game Theatre featuring a group of men in body tights acting out various iconic performances . It sounds strange but they impressed everyone at their press launch. After this Chris Cox who performs illusions and does a bit of mindreading on the side. A good act when I saw him a couple of years ago so can only hope he has improved in the interim.Next up stand up by David Reed and I can only hope he is better than the rest of the stand up I have seen this far. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that stand up doesn’t really do it for me as I generally always feel totally underwhelmed by it. Perhaps the never ending collection of guys in plaid shirts hunched over a microphone talking about drinking and masturbation has limited appeal after a while. Had a disagreement with a friend last week who claimed that women can’t really do comedy. I, on the other hand, feel they can and offer a more interesting, intelligent form that does not rely on the audience being pissed. So far this year the female comedians have outclassed the males in every way. To finish off the night I am going to the all male burlesque show ‘Briefs’. I don’t really feel I can say much more about this that the title doesn’t. Not at this moment anyway.

As for the weather at least the rain seems to have taken a sabbatical and I can only hope it is an extended one.  A little bit of sunshine goes a long way in Edinburgh and the tourists deserve to see the beauty of this glorious city in all its spendour (check out some of it’s history captured in photographs on this page.https://www.facebook.com/lostedinburgh) . Best to pack an umbrella just in case though.

 Saturday August 13th

Talk about Instant Karma; after yesterdays rant about Plastic cagoules or ‘abominations’ as I referred to them the first thing I was handed as part of the first show I attended yesterday was one of those very fashion monstrosities.Much to my chagrin I must add. It is only because it is an essential part of the show that I agreed to actually wear it. The show incidentally was ‘You Once Said Yes’ which starts at the Underbelly but takes in the Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral, the Grassmarket,  Greyfriars Graveyard and a Bingo Hall amongst several others. It was definitely my favourite experience of the Fringe so far though I hesitate to call it a show in any conventional sense as the participant is as much an integral part of it as the performers. The whole thing wrapped up with a drink and a specially written song that detailed the journey I had just been on.Simply outstanding,brilliant and bonkers at the same time.

Other shows yesterday included Ruby Wax’s self indulgent , ultimately depressing show about mental illness and depression where the audience pay for her to use them as a human version of a psychiatrist couch. When she was being funny she excelled but the rest…. well. Pass the razor blades now. Stand up in the form of Chris Martin who to avoid confusion with the lead singer of bland band and soft mock rock merchants Coldplay labels his show ‘No, Not That One’ . Not sure why he bothers really because to paraphrase a well known advert ‘If Coldplay made comedy it would be like this’. Mainstream avenue is where this brand of comedy resides usually on a couch with a glass of Pinot Grigiot in hand. Full dissections on Fringe 2011 Reviews page.

Not going to any shows today-avoiding Saturday crowds is always a good idea at this time of year-but am going out to  White Mink at the Voodoo Rooms tonight after I have attended an Alexander McQueen homage/exhibition in The Village in Fort Street early evening (7pm onwards) so will have nothing to report tomorrow unless I encounter some scandal or scabrous tales that I feel it is my duty to impart post haste.

Friday August 12th

Week one of the Festival down and all it seems to have done is rain continually. It has provided moments of perverse amusement at the sights I have seen of tourists caught unaware by the constant downpour and having to invest hastily in apparel resembling transparent rain macs made in a plastic of even flimsier quality than a  Tesco Carrier bag. Double bagging  is essential if you expect one of these abominations to protect you from the extreme elements of Edinburgh in August. Probably the worst thing about them is being able to see what people are wearing underneath.

Mind you as much of the influx is from London I expected more fashion nous from the capital as there seems to be pretty much an exclusive uniform for either gender. For the guys low slung skinny jeans and tee shirts with boating shoes-no socks- seems to prevail along with oversized spectacles. I don’t know whether the vast majority suffer from myopic disorders but it certainly seems that way and I must have blinked at the moment when it was decided that Buggles were a fashion icon to be emulated. I have a friend who attempted this look in the ’90’s and it didn’t work then either. In his case however people merely speculated as to whether the Proclaimers were indeed triplets. The phrase ‘geek chic’ can never truly work as it is so obviously an oxymoron , therefore a fashion faux pax and ultimately just wrong. A definite-to paraphrase the late Amy Winehouse-no,no,no!

For the girls leggings and cut off shorts with loose fitting tops seem to be the order of the day. Why many of them want to cover up their voluptuous upper halves whilst revealing their oversized arses is a mystery to all but their inner circle which judging from their-overly loud-constant chattering and whining are to the Aga born. So horsy do they sound I am surprised they don’t just neigh at each other  through overbites that could chew an apple through a letterbox  and are fast emerging as this seasons must not have accessory .

The above seem to represent the media types who migrate north every August and adopt- take over- the city as their own. They should take a tip from the far more friendly, polite Japanese tourists who converge on every street corner  in their luminous yellow kagoules. It is much like approaching a bunch of Fyffes bananas in a monsoon as you espie them ahead and try unsuccessfully to slip effortlessly by .

The star spotting has been relatively sparse thus far as no-one is venturing outside unless they have to thus resulting in social mingling being drastically reduced. I passed through a sodden, rain drenched Uddebelly Pasture last Saturday night at 10pm and it was virtually deserted. It had the feeling of the end of the party rather than the beginning. I can only hope that the weather improves-staying dry would do at the very least- to salvage some kind of enjoyment from it all.

Apparently it is the shows that are important-yeah right!-and thus far I have seen some great ones, some not so great and on a subterrenean level, Craig Hill. Today I have a one on one show ‘You Once Said Yes’ arranged by the press office as some sort of twisted revenge on one or both parties to be followed by Ruby Wax’s latest outing. Later on I have two stand up shows which although never my favourite things to attend  Josie Long’s seemingly rambling outpourings at the Pleasance last night were highly entertaining and enjoyable.

Reviews from yesterdays shows can be found in the Reviews section and I have a recommended section from the first six days which will be updated to my top ten for the first ten days tomorrow. So far it is dry today and as the one on one show involves being outside at some points- I must admit I am intrigued- I have told the press ofice not to expect me to turn up if it is raining. That is not unless they want to see my rainy day outfit. Oh, what those London folk could learn from me .

Thursday August 11th

Well it is still raining and doesn’t look likely to let up today. Everywhere I went yesterday all I saw were faces marked with a grim resignation. Or as much of a grim resignation as I could make out from the barrage of umbrellas and hoods that perpetuated throughout the rain drenched Festival city. It has to stop sometime and let’s hope it does so in time for the weekend.

Two brilliant shows yesterday however that, in some way,compensated for the atrocious  weather. First uo was the amazing original animation show ‘The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik’ about the fall out of climate change- a look out any window will confirm it is a reality- that is wholly original and totally moving. And this comes from one who can’t usually abide animation. On a completely different level was the awesome , captivating and spellbinding Camille O’Sullivan at the Pleasance Grand who really is in a class of her own. Tackling songs by Jacques Brel,Nick Cave,Trent Reznor, Bob Dylan and Radiohead she brought something new to each one. Simply stunning. Even the rain couldn’t put out the fire in her performance nor dampen her audience’s enthusiasm and appreciation.

Today I am hoping to be thoroughly entertained by Gemma Goggin who is a bit of a saucy minx with a great delivery. Later on Josie Long is on my agenda. Here’s hoping that,at least, the wind dies down as  the rain  stopping would be the most welcome and unlikely performance of the Festival. It would certainly get a five star-and beyond- review from me.

Wednesday August 10th

I don’t know if Tuesday was pensioners day out as the three shows that I attended were inundated with senior citizens. Then again it may have been as two of them- ‘Bette & Joan’ and ‘The Billie Holiday Story’- were situated at Assembly which I always consider to be the more mainstream side of the Fringe. It is good on such days to realise that the Fringe encompasses something other than pissed up twenty ,thirty and forty somethings. More power to the oldies as it is as much their Fringe as anyones.

The two shows at Assembly were reasonable enough although ‘Bette &Joan’ wins out as it felt like a black and white movie matinee and is perfect for a lunchtime slot. Lots of bitchy comments cocooned in a comfortable narrative and stylishly delivered. ‘The Billie Holiday Story’ however relied a little too much on the strength of Holiday’s musical legacy without bringing anything new to the proceedings.

Yesterdays highlight had to be Fascinating Aida, at the Gilded Balloon, the Irish trio who are Fringe veterans. What this act could teach the young hip gunslingers around town is inestimable. They are totally awesome and although the age group was still heavy on the advanced years quotient the reaction- a little too knowing in my observation- to a song about dogging was astonishing as well as rapturous. This trio would appeal to a much younger audience and they could teach the likes of low rent guttural acts- Craig Hill are you listening- how to incorporate excessive swearing to genuinely funny effect. More details in the Review section.

For anyone planning on going out over the weekend check out the Preview section for information about who  is appearing when at  the not to be missed  White Mink at the Voodoo rooms over a three nights a week residency. This night guarantees to make you swing until your knees hit your nipples.

Shows today include ‘Alvin Sputnik’ of which I know very little and the wonderful Camille O’Sullivan later on. Oh ,and the rain is back. Whoopee!

Tuesday August 9th

On a day when a self elected government that no-one voted for  cut their summer holidays short due to rioting in the streets, Loretta Maine-as a guest of Marcel Lucont- suggested that London was in such disarray as all the comedians who usually live there are in Edinburgh thus there is no humour left in the city. She may actually have a point although after the disappointment I felt after the shows I saw yesterday the humour the Londoners supposedly brought with them was not on open display. Perhaps the rain washed it away.In fact in this department the capital’s bright young things offerings were outclassed by a trio from Ireland;,A Betrayal of Penguins, who were on top form although their material was not as sharp as they were.

The big disappointment of the day was Marcel Lucont’s show as he ultimately failed to deliver what he is so very capable of. Not even the inclusion of comic genius Loretta Maine-sadly not appearing this year- as one of his guests could rase this show above the level of average. A good show by anyone else’s standards but by the high bar raised by last years success ultimately a little disappointing. Katherine Ryan, a late night comedy show, was pleasant enough and I feel with a little work her act could take off. One to watch out for in the future I think but not a bad show if you find yourself out and after a few drinks fancy a bit of comedy. I,myself, when I reach this stage am only ever in the mood for more drinks but each to his own I suppose.Reviews are in the review section as usual.

Today bodes better starting off with a drama called ‘Bette and Joan’ ( Davis and Crawford obviously) at Assembly which should have the camp meter running high. Harking back to an era when Hollywood rivalry pitted various stars against each other- Deitrich and Garbo also spring to mind despite the fact they never met- it should at least throw up several clever bitchy lines as the rivalry between these two divas was legendary. It will certainly beat the low level gutter sniping of their contemporary equivalents; Kerry Katona and Katie Price. Later I will be seeing The Biilie Holiday story also at Assembly where ,if nothing else, the music will be excellent. Then due to a calendar mix up I will have to sprint over to the Gilded Balloon- itself a comedy show worth catching- to catch ‘Fascinating Aida’ who wowed everyone attending the press launch last week.

Let’s hope today provides a few brighter moments than yesterdays shows which promised to be a riot that never arrived unless you live in London, Birmingham and, if reports are to believed, Manchester . I’m now away to listen to the Smiths’ ‘Panic’ as if teels appropriate today. Oh and it hasn’t rained since Sunday!

Monday August 8th

Two things that I hate, not dislike, but hate, loathe and despise are the rain and queueing. So you can imagine that on a day when it was chucking it down outside I hardly relished the thought of having to stand in queues for the various shows I had to attend yesterday. Almost late for the first one ‘Free Run’ at the Uddebelly it was only the frantic exhortations of my companion-the Minx- who determined not to miss a moment of this show almost broke into a gallop in her desperation to get there on time. It is an amazing show however and you will not disapponted with the athletic pyrotechnics on display. The Minx claimed she wanted to get close enough not just to smell the sweat but also to feel it and in this she almost succeeded. The high octane performances cannot help but impress and I am thinking of taking up Free Running myself during my lunch break. I mean there is very little that they do that I can’t it is just that I choose not to.

Later I went to see a show of two halves-more queueing- the ever charming magicians Barry and Stuart in their ‘Show and Tell’ . The first half consists of them performing a vast array of impressive tricks and illusions followed by another show wherein they reveal how they carried out said tricks. I would recommend seeing both halves but only a small proportion of the original audience can gain access to the later show so if you are curious as to how tricks are performed or even learning a great method of memorising the contents of a book or magazine then this is not to be missed.

It has been a highly successful round of shows this weekend with ‘Time for the Good Looking Boy’ being top of my list- initial feedback is that I am not alone in my opinions on this outstanding show-followed by Frisky and Mannish and ‘Randy is Sober’. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the disappointing cheap trashy comedy of Craig Hill. Best avoided unless the aggression and guttural language of a drunken city street centre which you have just paid to get away from is your entertainment of choice.

Up today is A Betrayal of Penguins at the Gilded Balloon an Irish act who seem to improve yearly so lets hope they do so again. Later on the best thing to come out of France since Thierry Henry and ‘Ca Plane pour Moi ‘ is Marcel Lucont at the Underbelly with his superiority complex masquerading as condescending wit. I loved his show last year so am looking forward to hearing him cause more disharmony as he lays down his case for French world superiority. The night rounds off with Katherine Ryan at the Pleasance. I know very little about this act but i will provide details of all you need to know in tomorrows reviews.

With the rain in respite it seems like a good time to venture into the crowded streets and try to avoid the gaze of those handing out flyers who admittedly peform a thankless task as most just view them as an irritant. It would help if more than a small minority knew something about the shows they are promoting rather than responding to any enquiries with a gormless, vacant stare. Reviews of last nights shows are in the Reviews Fringe 2011 section. Later.

Sunday August 7th

Well the rain certainly dominated the day yesterday as it never stopped pissing down. So totally relentless was it that many obviously felt that the only indoors activity available was going to the pub. Not unlike several of my good friends do whatever the weather-you know who you are!. This resulted in more pissed up crowds than usual so the comedy acts had more than the usual amount of hecklers than normal. This suited Scottish comedian Craig Hill perfectly as his act is basically an hour long heckle anyway. If your idea of entertainment is trashy gay banter punctuated with lots of swearing similar to a tourettes convention then I suggest a trip to C.C. Blooms for an after show drink to see if you can spot the difference. Heath McIvor and my favourite purple puppet was, on the other hand, just as bawdy though profanities were used sparingly and as appropriate rather than punctuation. Good to see Randy back after a spell in rehab and with only a slight hint of superiority at his new alcohol free existence. John Osborne’s show about a competition in which he won a box of records from John Peel’s shed was a late afternoon/early evening show that is well worth a look and a million miles away from the forced, hysterical over the top antics of Craig Hill. As usual reviews of these shows are in the Review section.

Today the late night ‘Show and Tell’ at the Udderbelly featuring magicians/illuionists Barry and Stuart- who resemble a graveyard shift Lennon and McCartney- should be an interesting proposition. I gave them 5 stars last year and they have appeared on mainsteam television since so their star is very much in the ascendant. Earlier on I am going to see physical theatre in the shape of ‘Free Run’ at the Udderbelly at which I will be accompanied by the Minx, a pre-Demi Moore cougar with talons as sharp as her tongue. I can almost hear the rustling of restraining order papers as I write this. Before this it will be an early dinner at the fabulous Under the Stairs as the Minx always insists on ‘Food first, filth later’.

May I take this opportunity to recommend the opening of the new bETAMAX night at Studio 24 on Friday night featuring the soon to be local superstar group Her Royal Highness. This band are excellent and a review of their last gig in Edinburgh is in the Live Music section of my reviews. Seriously this band is not to be missed and catching them now on the cusp of success is highly advisable.

The rain seems to have worn itself out for the moment so time to prepare for the days events but remember it is Edinburgh and it is August so ALWAYS pack an umbrella.

Saturday August 6th

Well yesterday was a great day as far as shows were concerned. Two five star reviews submitted and one four star indicate an enjoyable day where rushing from theatre to theatre is not too much of a hardship. Not that I ever do too much rushing about as between shows I indulged in a refreshing Pimms or two accompanied by energy boosting bananas and very necessary mini chocolate brownies. The weather was even pleasant and this also ensures a much more enjoyable Festival experience. There is little in life worse that the smell of wet tourists in under ventilated cramped venues. It was also the first day where it became obvious to local residents that their city no longer belongs to them for the next month and is therefore advisable to leave your house half an hour before -or even after- the time you normally would. Queueing for everything is the order of the day including ATM machines that are invariably empty by the time your turn comes around.Alternatively stay north of Princes Street where the pace is considerably less frenetic. As a last resort the option is always there to go into early hibernation if the thought of the Festival becomes all too much.

Back to the shows however -reviews are in the reviews section- and an astounding performance from Lloyd Thomas in ‘Time for the Good Looking Boy’ that is essential viewing and not simply because he fulfils the criteria of the play’s title. It is a thoroughly rounded, compelling performance of an interesting drama. Dana Alexander provided sardonic, observant wit that more than satisfied her audience. Frisky and Mannish raised the roof- or more correctly the udders- at the Underbelly and showed why they are a huge unstoppable Fringe hit yet again.

Today a drama about John Peel’s shed, Craig Hill and my favourite puppet Randy talking us through his rehab experiences are on the agenda and I can only hope that one or all of these shows comes close to yesterdays high points. Anyone looking for a late night weekend experience I can totally recommend the ‘White Mink’ residency this is another night that guarantees a good time and never disappoints.

Friday August 5th

Round two of the press launches and round one of shows to review yesterday, a day that started off wetter than Christine Hamilton watching the ‘Free Run’ boys preview the day before but somehow redeemed itself by concluding with sunshine. The two shows I saw yesterday ‘The Historians (Underbelly) and ‘Catriona Knox Free Lunch’ (Udderbelly Wee Coo) were a reasonably good start and are both likely to improve during their run and cut their teeth on a few audiences. Full analysis can be found under the Review section which at the moment has not been categorised so reviews will appear under the general Reviews heading in the order  I see them.

The Gilden Balloon Press launch however certainly pulled out all the stops where the alcohol poured like the rain on an Edinburgh August day. Cuba Libres, Bombay Sapphire with Cranberry, Wine and Fosters were the order of the day and plentiful amounts that ensured the press pack were well oiled for the showcase. Drinks were even delivered to our seats by attractive staff as we watched the acts perform. Highlights included Hannah Gadsby-on a limited run- and Fascinating Aida who wowed the crowd with their’Cheap Flights’ ditty and if they hadn’t already been on my must see list they would be at the top of it today.

Today  I am attending theatre at the Pleasance in the form of ‘Time for the Good Looking Boy’ this afternoon whilst later expect to be laughing out loud to Dana Alexander at the Underbelly and  rounding    the evening off perfectly the always awesome ‘Frisky and Mannish’ who never fail to deliver and are the perfect way to set yourself up for the weekend. Detailed reports of all shows wil appear tomorrow.

In between all this entertainment I will be attending the Richard Demarco/ Joseph Beuys exhibition at the Axolotl Gallery in Hanover Street where ,no doubt, the artworld glitterati and cognoscenti will be converging. Gallery owner-and shoe fetishist- the always impeccably clad Sarah Wilson has her own show a homage to Alexander McQueen and other fashion icons at the Village in Fort Street next Saturday (13th August). Although the surroundings may not be those of an uptown gallery the attendees -including myself who always raises the bar at these outings-  and atmosphere will ensure that the glamour quotient remains at a high level.

Well that’s Friday more than adequately taken care of . Now, bring on the weekend!

Thursday August 4

So the first round of press launches have been attended, free drinks consumed and press passes attracted both right and wrong attentions. A brief exchange with a very on form,heavily botoxed Ruby Wax and a drink nearly spilt over by a very apologetic Christine Hamilton-who annoyed me more  by being thoroughly charming and thus unfortunately quite likeable-provided the more memorable moments of the day. A show called ‘Free Run’ at the Underbelly featuring lots of half naked men with more mussels than a healthy portion of moules mariniere would allow, revealed itself to be a high octane, fast paced show  not to be missed. Mrs. Hamilton had a Tena Lady moment or ten sitting next to me. So impresssed was I that I am trying to squeeze their show into my already packed schedule today. Not that they do anything that I can’t it is just that I choose not to .

Other highlights and further recommendations include Dana Alexander at the Underbelly with a rapacious wit, Alison Thea-Skot asThe Human Tuning Fork-hilarious- and Tokyo Game- with a show that I couldn’t even bring myself to describe but it is safe to say they stole the show at the press launch- are on my rapidly expanding must see list. The latter two are at Just The Tonic in the Caves which reminded me just how hot the majority of venues get during the Fringe. Lucky there was a free bar on hand to assuage my thirst.

I am attending the first shows of the Fringe later today – theatre in the form of ‘The Historians’ and comedy from Catriona Knox- and reviews will be up on the review section of this site within 24 hours.

Right,off to embrace the day with a critical eye  and as if on cue the rain, drizzle and general greyness associated with Edinburgh in August have made their appearance stage centre where they will probably appear daily for a month.

    • Peter Miller
    • August 7th, 2011

    I want to be a Sadie. Isn,t that a song?

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