BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK

Bill Cunningham New York

 

Admittedly when it was first suggested to me that I might like to see this film about New York photographer Bill Cunningham, I had no idea who the central subject matter actually was. In the few days leading up to actually seeing it however his name cropped up frequently in the unlikeliest sources and then the night before the films screening I was reading the Andy Warhol diaries and the particular instalment I reached mentioned bumping into Bill Cunningham and Warhol’s subsequent envy at how anonymously Cunningham biked around New York capturing anything that caught his eye with his omnipresent camera with astounding results. Naturally my interest was even more piqued by this intriguing character and I can state after viewing the film it is a fascinating insight into an intriguing character whose attitude towards life and his rejection of conventional material values and positive outlook could serve as a lesson to us all.

From the very outset Cunningham’s amiable nature is apparent to even the most casual observer. Claiming he believes that ‘the best fashion show is on the street’, his photos bear this out as they are seldom staged affairs with most of his models unaware they are even being photographed. It is an interesting insight into how fashion works its way down from the magazines, catwalks and stores to take on a life of its own via the general public who parade it on the streets. It is this that Cunningham sets out to capture attending not only glittering parties with socialites and celebrities in his role for the New York Times who run his column weekly-the latter incidentally are of no interest to him as they have been given their clothes free so therefore have not created their own identity- but simply scouring the streets astride his bike pausing only when inspired by something which captures his imagination.

What an incongruous figure he cuts as well, it is no wonder Warhol was envious as Cunningham possesses none of the cool, mannered iciness of the image the artist projected. He, instead, is chatty, intelligent and outgoing with a seemingly genuine smile permanently warming his features. His own plastic cape-similar to those worn by the refuse dept.- held together by tape may not be high fashion but it is instantly recognisable as his own style whilst his love, knowledge and fascination about others fashion and clothes are inestimable. His response to those who dismiss fashion as frivolous is telling in that he describes it as’ an armour for every day life’.

This is the man  even, notoriously haughty, Vogue editor Anna Wintour rates as having an intrinsic knowledge even deigning to add ‘we all get dressed  for Bill’. This is the man who can sense a style evolution as it occurs on the street and Wintour is not alone in her effusive praise with author Tom Wolfe, David Rockefeller and Brooke Astor all making appearances to garland him with respect and praise. This is the man described during Paris Fashion week-‘A laboratory of ideas’ according to Cunningham- as ‘The most important man in the world’.

The best scenes however are at his apartment block within Carnegie Hall where he and several other residents have resided for decades but are now required to leave. The scenes with his neighbour Eddita are hilariously funny and full of warmth as they recall events through the misty haze of nostalgia and topsy-turvy wigs wearing Cunningham designed hats from his previous employ as milliner to the stars.

Director Richard Press has done a great job in assembling the footage which makes up this film and although Cunningham is now in his eighties he still crackles with youthful vitality and energy. Part of this is down to his rejection of the financial aspect of life which usually creates ego driven monsters propelled only by their love of money. A man who lives simply-he doesn’t even indulge in the free food and drink offered to him at parties, something else which fascinated the constantly freeloading Warhol in his diary entry- he seems happy simply in the fact he has his own place in the world.

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THE APPRENTICE WEEK 2

The Apprentice Week 2

 

After last weeks explosive opening where, the human irritant and unable to shut up, Bilyana/Balaclava was removed by the SAS- an acronym for slap and stilettos, and a more worthy name than the lame Sterling, for a group of women who are more than willing to take out their opposition both within and outside their own team- the second instalment from the Alan Sugar game-show began with both teams claiming they were the tighter knit group. With that opening salvo you immediately sense the teams are about to rupture with internal divisions imminent, swiftly followed by recriminations, and you would be right. This week the contestants were set the task of designing a household gadget and both teams struggled to come up worth anything either team could agree unanimously on. Despite this the male team did slightly better than the females who struggled for a solitary idea and even more with any semblance of solidarity.

So with the male team constantly high-fiving and congratulating each other on their absurdly lucky win in the previous week’s episode, it was clear from the outset that this faux camaraderie was teetering on a very dodgy precipice. The ructions started almost from the off with a sub-team opposing the chosen product which was basically a black patent cafetiere which was somehow miraculously able to compress any waste food thus providing a solution to the whole problem of recycling. Recycling is obviously an issue with this team as they are constantly rehashing old ideas and clichés although are yet to attempt to try and think ‘outside the box’ as in previous series, usually with disastrous results.

The only alternative to the coffee compressor was a pair of rubber gloves with scourers and sponges attached. Why they didn’t go the whole way and attach a plunger to the coffee maker/ recycler then claim to have invented the Dalek is unclear but it would have been a better idea than any they put forward. Thinking outside the box is an alien concept in corporate business and independent thought usually actively discouraged therefore the thought of this particularly uptight bunch getting out their boxes never mind thinking outside them is pretty unimaginable though would prove highly amusing.

As it would transpire  division in the boys team was not too much of a drawback as they were a up against a group of women- I struggle to call them a team as they bicker, screech and bitch almost incessantly- who are even more inept than they are. This must surely rank as the worst grouping of females The Apprentice has yet assembled. Unable to come up with a product better than a piece of plastic whose purpose was supposed to prevent any spillage from children splashing in the bath or a toe cosy to rest your feet whilst bathing, they were on a sure loser from the word go.  The end result was a piece of floppy Perspex which ultimately could only be described as a bit shit.

Like the boy’s team, divisions surfaced when opposition to the chosen product arose almost instantly. This weeks sacrifice, the neon blue eye shadowed Amy Winehousealike, Maria made the fatal mistake of falling asleep as the nasal tones of Jenna droned on and on ad nauseam. This woman-Jenna- should come with a mute setting as her adenoidal twang goes beyond annoying into the realms of justifiable homicide. Perhaps if someone removes the clothes peg which seems to be permanently attached to her nose creating that comedy voice her chances may improve-she is an obvious goner within the next few weeks as she is simply too irritating- although I did a double take along with the curmudgeon like Sugar when she announced she specialised in the beauty industry. I am not sure which area it is she specialises in but obviously it must be the part specialising on inner and silent beauty.

The hyenas were in full shriek when they reached the boardroom again this week and eventually project manager Jane took in Maria and, reluctantly, Jenna. Initially her first choice was to take in Katie who is clearly pissing the others off by being too pretty and with her, very vocal, opposition to the stupid product choice. Eventually Maria got fired but both Jenna and Jane had a lucky escape as they both deserved to go as well.

What next week needs is some of the male team in the Board Room as the feeling is they will be every bit as bitchy as the women if not even more so. Also not enough time has been afforded them as yet so it is still difficult to work out who is the most annoying/ obnoxious/ deserving of being humiliated. At the moment only Ricky, Steve and this weeks project manager Azhar-slated by the whole team as incompetent although in typical delusional fashion he refused to accept this- have stood out as being particularly twattish. Bring on week three!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday March 23rd

 

An interesting documentary featuring Richard Bacon this week focussed on the unsavoury practice of internet trolling. For anyone not familiar with this pastime it uses the anonymity afforded by the internet to provide those with an axe to grind or a nasty nature to share their venom through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. In short it is cyber bullying carried out by people who feel so strongly about unleashing their venom and vitriol that they often have to adopt a pseudonym or steal another’s identity to effectively get their point across. The whole process reeks of cowardice and a need to negate others lives for no other reason other than the fact they actually can.

Hosted by Bacon who has the misfortune of having a troll of his own who incessantly posts messages of hatred at his quarry through his Twitter feed it was interesting to witness how this recent form of bullying can be easily dismissed at the beginning but as the abuse continues and gathers momentum, becoming nastier and more distasteful, then it requires some more obvious form of action rather than simply turning the other cheek. Unfortunately not every victim of such tactics is strong enough to withstand days, weeks, months or even years of such abuse. During Bacon’s investigation he encountered the family of a fifteen year old victim who, after receiving a torrent of abuse from schoolmates over several hours one evening, had taken himself to the shed at the bottom of the garden and promptly proceeded to hang himself. This was the most tragic case in this documentary but it is by no means an isolated incident nor is it confined to teenagers- either in victims or perpetrators- although it is usually more prevalent amongst teenage girls.

What is it that drives people to make other peoples lives a misery? This is what Bacon set out to discover as he himself has been the target of an internet ‘troll’. At first dismissive of the abuse-being in the public eye does leave you overly exposed and some hostility will always inevitably arise- he only became concerned when the malevolence started being levelled at members of his family and, most worryingly, his new born baby. Although he was unable to answer this satisfactorily he was able to surmise that the anonymity of online social media encourages those who have such tendencies to become nastier and more malignant as they are unable to see the physical and mental anguish their words actually cause. Instead they feel any attention they receive is a positive response and this spurs them on even further,

Particularly despicable are those who gatecrash memorial sites and spread their toxic lies and accusations all over the page that families and friends have set up for people to pay their respects and assist them through their grieving process. The fact they very rarely do it under their own names shows the true nature of these ‘trolls’. In fact during Bacon’s investigation the two ‘trolls’ he encountered either refused to speak to him or else denied the allegations made against them. The fact that the latter eventually later relinquished and admitted he had made some of the remarks attributed to him but someone had stolen his identity-which he had made up- and that is who was responsible for some of the more outlandish remarks. Hardly seemed like a credible excuse or a sufficient reason explaining his vile actions and it wasn’t.

Inevitably it would seem there is no solution to this problem, as yet, and the only way of dealing with it is to either ignore it when it starts and if it persists report it to the police who cannot do that much unless they can track down the person responsible which becomes increasingly complicated due to the vast and complex nature of the internet which allows those prone to such a disposition to hide behind various nom de plumes and forged identities.

Although I am truly opposed to bullying in any form and abhor violence I must admit that I did enjoy the Grace Jones/ Russell Harty encounter from the early eighties which was shown in its entirety the other evening. This is the one which gained Grace a bucket load of notoriety and a sheaf of press headlines as during the course of the interview she whacked him around the head several times, almost knocking him out of his chair, after he had turned his back on her once too often. It was interesting in that it was enjoyable to see a star giving her host a hard time rather than simply playing the promotional game followed by obsequiousness we are used to nowadays. Grace, on the other hand, behaved exactly as we secretly want our stars to behave; aloof, indecipherable, cool, and as far removed from the girl next door as any amount of postcodes would allow. That she ignored his baiting when he questioned the conservatism of her attire remaining in it until the very end  then when about to perform she unbuttoned the full length leather coat she  had kept on throughout revealing a metal breast plate and bursting into an uber-cool version of Love is the  Drug. This wasn’t so much making an entrance as making one hell of an exit and a defiant V sign at her bumbling host.

Bullying-obviously the subject of the week- reared its head in the return of the Apprentice this week and clever editing-there are sixteen candidates at this stage so giving them equal airtime would make boring viewing I suppose, better then to fixate on the most annoying- allowed us to see who would be evicted this week. It was an annoying Bulgarian girl called Balaclava, or something, who had worked her way from a one room communist flat to the penthouses of London but this could not prevent her from being taken out by the SAS – an acronym for Slap and Stilettos which would make a perfect name for the collection of tough cookies that make up the female team- who could not bear her pushy ways nor could stand up comic Lord –yawn- Sugar who could not tolerate her inability to know when to shut up. A full dissection is available here.

This weekend bids a final farewell to the winter which never really was as the clocks go forward and we edge into spring. This past winter has been a relief after the severe harshness of the last two years and my only concern is that it doesn’t get any better and this mild but inoffensive weather continues through to the summer. This hasn’t stopped me from hopefully planning a summer wardrobe although last years hangs mainly unworn in my wardrobe so I suppose I can pass it off as recession chic. How very zeitgeist!

Here with an exercise in uber cool and the eternal sound of summer is that gloriously stroppy diva Grace Jones performing Private Life in 1980.

THE APPRENTICE -WEEK ONE

The Apprentice

 

So the return of the Apprentice did not disappoint in its opening moments as this years group of  loatheables contestants made a return to our screens with the usual delusional declarations of egotistical self worth. Within the first five minutes this group, supposedly the future of British commerce, had described themselves as-amongst other cringe inducing descriptions- ‘Like an animal I will roar my way to the top’, ‘A master puppeteer pulling the strings’, ‘A blonde assassin’ ‘A shark and total reflection of perfection’ all delivered straight faced without even a flicker of irony.

This is the great beauty of the Apprentice in that from the very beginning you are not rooting for anyone to win, as they are all usually such despicable characters, but instead you seek out which one you hate the most and hope they get fired first. Last nights episode was no different from any other opening episode-other than the fact the boys team won for a change- in that it was clear from less than half way through that someone called Balaclava, due to rubbing every one on her team up the wrong way, was not going to reach week two. Actually I later discovered her name was Bilyana although a balaclava may have been more apt in drowning out her incessant bleating. Despite the fact she had me reaching for the mute button on my remote when she simply refused to shut up even after professional curmudgeon Lord Sugar had told her to several times, a sadistic part of me wanted her to stay if only to annoy the other contestants more. Alas this was not to be and she found herself carrying her suitcase into the waiting taxi with seemingly not one part of her confidence dented. Unlike my ear drums!

The task was typical in the Apprentice scheme of things in that the teams were split according to gender and then set a simple buying and selling task. The next step was to name the teams with the boys opting for Phoenix whilst the girls chose- after the weirdly adenoidal accented Jenna revealed it had come to her in a dream- Sterling. The revelation that the latter name arrived in a dream aroused- or perhaps it may have been her comedy voice- the same eye rolling and snort of derision from both Lord Sugar ( what is it with him and his titles as he was formerly Suralan?) and myself providing a rare moment of empathy between us.

The task was the usual first week disaster with both teams struggling to work and bond with complete strangers and it is often hard to spot who has any capabilities amongst the rabble aspect this flung together method engenders. Surprisingly enough the boys team- led somewhat unwillingly and hesitantly by the surprisingly pleasant and non-wanky Nick who seems amiable enough so will probably be stitched up by the others around week four- won despite creating a sub standard and unimaginative product versus the girls well thought out and cleverly crafted one. There seemed to be more solidarity in their ranks also- Bilyana was earmarked as troublesome in the girls team from the very off although this is probably down to clever editing which usually leads the audience in their way of thinking- but this may have changed if they had lost and had to endure a grilling in the boardroom.

The boardroom invariably provides some of the shows best moments and last night was no exception. Almost as soon as the result was announced and it began to emerge that the girls had lost the task you could almost see the eyes twitching and painted talons all start to point at each other. Any evidence of previously stated female solidarity went flying right out of the Gherkin’s seventh floor windows. A bunch of baying hyenas may have had more subtlety and probably left behind more survivors. Inevitably the final decision lies with Sugar- I am officially dropping the Lord forthwith it is about as tiresome as his lame attempts at humour- and this is where Bilyana quite literally talked her way out of a job by simply refusing to shut up despite being told to at least three times.

Not many other contestants made too much of a mark last night although a special mention must go to Stephen whose selling technique resembled a man offering a woman an STD and garnered the expected response such an offer would elicit; one of mild disgust followed by a swift exit in the opposite direction.

So with the first evictee from the programme dispensed with it will be interesting to see who will become our hate object in week two. The male team didn’t make too much of an impression last night but there must be something lurking in there to raise our ire. ‘Business superstar by day and professional wrestler by night’ ,Ricky Martin looks like such a contender and his name is bound to be followed by at least one reference to La Vida Loca by professional stand-up Sugar accompanied by the obsequious laughter of the mildly embarrassed contestants which will surely massage his rampant ego even further. I doubt anyone will be quite as annoying and delusional as Stuart Baggs and his field of ponies from two years ago but we can live in hope!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday March 16th

 

According to a poll conducted by the NME, Liam Gallagher is the best frontman of a rock band ever. Really? I am not sure how such a conclusion was reached, even allowing for generational difference of opinion, as the heyday of Oasis was brief and era defining but it didn’t really change much, other than allowing overweight men to wear their shirts loose and over their trousers in a vague attempt to cover up the beer bellies attained by consuming the obligatory twelve pints essential to garnering any enjoyment or appreciation of an Oasis track. Perhaps this is a little harsh as their first two albums were pretty fine specimens of a rock and roll band at its rawest although, to these ears, they were always a little more reminiscent of early seventies rabble rousing foot-stompers Slade than the Beatles-to whom they were often confusingly compared and who managed to boast two frontmen, Lennon and Mc Cartney, although it was only ever Lennon who counted– and there is nothing wrong with that. But to claim Gallagher as the best frontman ever is overstating the case somewhat. What about Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, John Lydon (nee Rotten) , Marc Bolan,Joe Strummer, Ian Curtis, Morrissey, Kurt Cobain? Elvis and Bowie don’t count as they were solo artists, unless you include the folly which was Tin Machine and no-one does. Each of these surely trounces the Oasis singer. Even my personal favourite, David Johansen of the New York Dolls, had more charisma and attitude teetering in his high heels than Gallagher could store in the many pockets of his parka. Also I have seen each of the aforementioned live, including Oasis, and can state quite honestly Gallagher does not come close.

Even their main rivals, at the time, Blur were able to progress and their frontman, Damon Albarn, despite being overly pompous and more than a little smug has embarked on a career of diversity and experimentalism resulting in two post millennium successes The Good the Bad and The Queen and Gorillaz. Oasis ,on the other hand, remained mired in plodding derivative works and inter-personal relations which prevented them from progressing  beyond their mid-nineties heyday. Their initial success was down to timing as much as anything- all the best rock and roll is- arriving on the scene when, post-grunge, rock was in the doldrums and dance music was becoming ever more faceless and moving into its handbag years. Rapidly the club scene was becoming more like the disco scene which had necessitated the underground culture which spawned club culture in the first place and so the time was ripe for young, vital rock music to rear its noisy, arrogant head. Enter Oasis.

At the time they were a breath of fresh air bringing a bit of yobbish vibrancy to a scene which was stagnant and over indulgent. Unfortunately most of the music, whilst holding a certain swagger, was devoid of longevity or any deep rooted meaning. There was nothing in their repertoire as zeitgeist defining as Pulp’s ‘Common People’ or as wry and observant –or even controversial- as the same bands ‘Sorted for E’s and Whizz’. What about Jarvis Cocker as a late addition to the greatest frontman list?  Certainly he had more to say than how much he hated his brother or how he wished Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon would die of AIDS. Actually the latter comment was made by older brother and songwriter Noel Gallagher but you get the gist that a return to boorish loutishness was on the agenda rather than any artistic endeavour, foresight or imagination. Unfortunately it was left to dance meisters Underworld to write the line that encapsulated the whole Oasis myth in ‘Born Slippy’ with ‘Lager, lager, lager’. See what I mean, they couldn’t even write their own legacy thus confirming that the title of greatest frontman surely belongs to someone-anyone- else.

Elsewhere this week I have been dismayed at the offerings and standard of what is being slopped out on our television screens. Many evenings I have not bothered to turn on my TV after looking at the schedules and finding absolutely nothing to remotely pique my interest. It almost makes me hanker after such trash as Laid In Chelsea-due for a return series too soon although I fear it is one series too many- and the Apprentice makes a return next week and which always serves as a reminder that no matter how bad you may feel about your own shortcomings you can always console yourself that you still possess some integrity and are not as shallow, egotistical, deluded or down right obnoxiously arrogant as the contestants all vying for the position of professional curmudgeon Alan Sugar’s latest profit increasing lapdog.

This is a man who is considered so influential that his programme could not be broadcast in the lead up to the last General Election due to his involvement as an advisor to Gordon Brown. Not that his opinion would have made much impact anyway as we still ended up with a government which had little to do with how the public voted. The Apprentice is an interesting concept, however, as you always end up rooting for the one you hate the least rather than any well being towards the winner. It is a bit like Peter Andre believing that the British public love him when in fact it is just we hate him less than Katie Price. Personally I always considered him a waste of sperm and egg and thought they were well suited. Not spoiling another couple as the saying goes.

Perhaps television would not be such a major consideration if there was any decent nightlife in Edinburgh. As mentioned in these pages before the club scene has been seriously depleted and the cinemas are still raking in post-Oscar monies by showing the same films they were a month ago. The Edinburgh Film Festival is on the way however and after last years non-event a return to big names and premieres seems to be the way forward.

My favourite moment of the 2010 festival was sitting next to Britt Ekland in her granny glasses- which she only swapped into from designer shades after the lights had dimmed- and Patrick Stewart whilst watching what could only be termed art-house porn at 10.30 in the morning. By the end of the film we were both more familiar with the genitalia of the principal two stars than we ever could be with our own. She never responded in the slightest although that was probably as much to do with the botox as to any lack of reaction. Mind you she probably has more risqué moments captured on her home video collection anyway-this is the woman who along with a bottle of amyl nitrate and bedroom prowess induced a heart attack on Peter Sellers- so it probably didn’t register as anything too outré in her eyes. The best moment however was when as the closing credits rolled she rummaged in her bag before whipping out a lipgloss which was hastily applied in the dark and still managed to have her shades  back on before the credits finished ,maintaining her Hollywood dignity even in the Cineworld complex  of Fountainbridge. We could all learn a lot from her. Class!

Here is a slinky slice of delicious electro pop-Oblivion from Grimes- which  makes me want to go out dancing although there is nowhere to hear delights such as this in Edinburgh. The bedroom- again- it is then.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday March 9th

 

Much has been made over the last few days about one of the more likeable inhabitants of reality television, Stacey Solomon. and her being caught having a crafty cigarette outside a television studio whilst being seven months pregnant. The following furore has since resulted in her being dropped from her role as the face of Foxy Bingo for setting a bad example in her role as a responsible mother; you know Foxy Bingo it’s the one which encourages women, in particular, to gamble away their housekeeping money. Whilst it is a no-brainer that smoking whilst pregnant is damaging to an unborn child’s health it is however not illegal nor is it the worst thing an expectant mother can do. The stress of the whole debacle has probably caused Solomon will not be doing her any good either- a tearful confession on one television show and a breakdown of sorts during a broadcast telephone call- and will probably have her reaching for a cigarette to soothe her frayed nerves.

I am not sure what good printing such a picture and reporting the story has really done anyone and although I usually have no time for reality ‘stars’ Solomon was an extremely likeable character during her tenure on the X- Factor and also was the outright winner of I’m a Non-entity Get me out of Here and it was her personality which endeared her to viewers. Yes, it was stupid to be smoking at seven months pregnant but I doubt her popularity was attributable to the honours degree we all suspected she was keeping a closely guarded secret. No, it was her stupidity and naiveté which made her popular and these are the very two words that are being used to attack her which smacks of little more than hypocrisy.

Since when did smoking become illegal anyway? Everyone is aware that pregnant women are advised to stop smoking but surely advised means whilst they are under a moral obligation to stop it is by no means compulsory. First of all it was banned from workplaces swiftly followed by restaurants, bars and clubs. I see the point of banning it in a work environment and restaurants and even in bars where food is being served makes sense but I have never understood how banning it from clubs was to anyone’s benefit. Not many folk I know go to clubs to get healthy and any atmosphere that a DJ’s are attempting to engender is generally deflated when a significant proportion of their audience is outside puffing away on their illicit fags. I remember when the ban was first imposed and attending a club in, the at the time named, Ego which housed a large smoking garden outside which was full to capacity whilst inside the dance-floor was less populated than  outer Siberia.

Whilst the smoking ban is not solely responsible for the sorry state of clubbing in Edinburgh at the moment-the problems run a lot deeper- it is still a contributory factor and a sharp decline in the scene occurred around the time of its introduction. The recent closure of venues however seems to have more to do with clearing out a creative and, occasionally, subversive sub culture to replace it with something more commercially visible and mainstream. Unfortunately the shocking state of Edinburgh’s nightlife looks set only to decline even further if the new restrictions being imposed by the council forbidding any free live events after April without a licence are allowed to go ahead. This will basically kill any creative cultural scene at grass roots level as it prevents things such as art openings and poetry readings, amongst others, without a specially issued permit which has to be applied for six weeks in advance of said events. The licence will only be issued if the council sees fit so will be yet another form of censorship. If this continues Edinburgh will soon be hosting little other than Stag and Hen parties and the Festival. Unfortunately any cultural scene of its own will be pretty much non-existent unless it is part of the overground mainstream.

For a city which has always prided itself on its thriving nascent underground scene this is bad news indeed. Whilst Glasgow has always embraced the shinier side of clubbing, Edinburgh clubs always prospered better in makeshift venues and word of mouth. Clubs were always more a hotbed of creativity alongside the full on hedonistic approach which is synonymous with the scene. For this to disappear will be a major drawback for a city which is fast losing its cultural identity and exists mainly for visitors to indulge in behaviour they probably wouldn’t condone if it was happening on their own doorstep. Saturday nights out in the city centre are populated by gangs of girls in very few clothes and L Plates whilst groups of guys maraud menacingly quite often in synchronised themed outfits. Both groups are usually drunk and overly boisterous by the early evening-despite the governments supposed crack down on drinking, numerous trays of shots seem to be de rigueur from early afternoon onwards- and less and less are the residents of the city venturing into the city centre as they are accosted and outnumbered by these visiting revellers.

Returning to the issue of ‘celebrity ‘endorsements apparently since Chloe from TOWIE recommended using Sudocrem as a  moisturiser sales have gone through the  roof. Has anyone actually looked at the state of this woman before following her advice? By using a cream recommended for nappy rash does this mean that even she can’t distinguish her arse from her face? She, for anyone not familiar with this surgically altered creature, is the one who looks like she is made up of the left over bits of Pete Burns- the ones they didn’t use in creating Cher Lloyd- and looks as if she may melt, leak or explode-hopefully all three- if within ten feet of a naked flame. An ideal of beauty? I don’t think so.

Tonight unfortunately sees the last opening at Axolotl at its current premises in Dundas Street. It is a collaborative effort with many different artists contributing individual pieces. Typically it will, no doubt, be an extravagant affair will serve as a reminder that any opposition to the stupidity of the tax on free events is a necessary and worthwhile thing.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 2nd March

 

Spring seems to have arrived early in Edinburgh-or perhaps it is just last year’s one arriving late- and the crisp air and sunshine causing the city’s inhabitants to embrace an uncharacteristic form of euphoria that does not involve moaning about the weather. Give it time though as it is only the beginning of March and on evidence of the last few years it probably won’t get much better than this. At the moment however it makes for more than a pleasant change to not to have to leave the house wrapped up in hats, scarves and coats-yesterday I eschewed all three, though in hindsight that was a tad ambitious especially when the skies clouded over and the temperature dropped around 4pm- but as the saying goes ‘Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May is out’ and it is advice well heeded. Mind you moaning about the weather is such a British trait I feel it is one of the few things that actually unites us as a nation.

On this topic Channel 4 have done another of their interesting experiments in determining what defines us as British by going into Bradford, a racially diverse and unsettled  area of Britain, and encouraging the different classes to live together in some awkward sense of understanding, compromise and, hopefully  some eventual form  of harmony. After last years thought provoking, intelligent and skilfully handled My Transsexual Summer where a taboo subject was handled with sensitivity I had high hopes for this idea. The contestants were selected after failing a test to determine how much they know about being British- I did the test on the website and scoring only thirteen out of twenty which translates as 65%, I stumbled mainly on the religious questions, apparently I failed also as 75% is the accepted pass mark – they were then put in a living quarters where they will live together throughout the duration of the programme.

The opening didn’t show a lot of promise as straight away  one household member’s religious beliefs necessitated him  praying five times a day and this inconvenienced everyone else’s mealtimes resulting in the comment from Audrey, a nice middle class lady no less, that ‘the colour of skin is irrelevant, but if you’re a dickhead then you’re a dickhead’. Whilst the basic sentiments behind this statement are true it was rather a swift judgment to make and in essence I feel this documentary is all about pre-conceived, misinformed and ill advised judgments. To be fair she did modify her opinions rapidly when she realised how important his faith was to him and not merely an inconvenience to others but I suspect we will encounter a lot of this change of opinion over the next few weeks although I am not sure how genuine most of it will be. Compromise and understanding seems to be attained a lot quicker when a TV crew is in the room unless it’s Big Brother of course where the opposite seems to hold true.

It will be interesting to see how next week each party will cope being introduced into sections of others lives they have never previously been involved with. The trailer showed a Muslim serving behind the bar of a pub which is an interesting concept to say the least but most fascinating will be when, the not overtly bright, Damon visits a Mosque and announces that previously he thought they functioned mainly as ‘terrorist centres’. It is ignorance like this which has divided a city like Bradford-and other sections of our country- but it is not a lone opinion unfortunately and this is the most worrying thing.

I don’t know if anything will be resolved during this ‘experiment’ as in many ways it was like an episode of Wife Swap wherein immediately everyone is hostile to anyone else’s ideas and arguments flare up unnecessarily followed by fragile egos masquerading as opinions which start to infiltrate causing even greater rifts than before. I am also not sure how the inhabitants of Bradford feel being portrayed in this manner and there has already been a lot of tweeting about the lack of representation of youth in the selected participants. This last criticism I feel is slightly unfair as youth do get a lot of representation over the airwaves and maybe the older generation who have lived with the problems longer have a valid insight and, hopefully, a more measured approach, Though to paraphrase a quote from before ‘Age is irrelevant but if you’re a  dickhead then you’re a dickhead’.

Dickheads certainly seem to be rifer in Essex than in most other parts of the country however, if the ailing TOWIE is anything to go by. I have avoided most of this series which really is a joke too far. Unintelligible conversations, arguments about nothing and desperate, surgically enhanced women in search of husbands is not my idea of good television but somehow it is strangely addictive in the having a nasty smell on your fingers that you can’t stop sniffing kind of way. It would be a good idea if this series was the last as it really has reached it’s ‘Jump the Shark’ moment- a phrase signifying a programme has become tired and desperate coined in relation to Happy Days where Fonzie jumped over a shark immediately transforming him from  cool to naff-and should bow out gracefully. No chance though as everything these days is trundled out until every last penny has been squeezed out. Now maybe if we could transfer the cast to Bradford then that that may make interesting television. Doubt it though.

Also this week saw a film called Weekend which, if you get the chance, should make a point of seeing. It is about two gay guys who embark on a weekend that starts with a one night stand and continues onto an exploration of drugs, sex, hedonism and deep discussions that reveal a lot about not only gay culture but the world as a whole. That the two protagonists are gay is incidental-but simultaneously important- and the whole thing is handled with extreme sensitivity, insight and compassion. The lead actor Tom Cullen won best new actor at the British Independent Film Awards and deservedly so. There is something in this film for everyone regardless of sexual orientation and nothing to offend as it offers up intriguing and valid arguments about a scene which is so often misrepresented in film and the media. The only thing about it which caused concern was the amount of checked shirts and unnecessary facial hair worn by the audience on the day I attended. And that was just the women!

Next week sees the very last opening at Axolotl Gallery and a showcase which promises to be a little like a Greatest Hits package featuring many of the artists who have shown there over the last couple of years. I expect this will go off with a bang and hopefully some news of its relocation will be announced soon. Elsewhere Spring is still very much in evidence though whether it will see out the weekend is another matter.

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