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.

Also this weekend I attended Electric Cafe at the Institute in Marchmont described as ambient sounds and visuals. Apparently this could be a regular event-monthly perhaps- and proved a successful concept on its debut. As someone who very rarely frequents the city centre on a Saturday night the idea of an event in a cafe/gallery is a worthwhile alternative and the crowd it attracted seemed to consist of those who have put their Saturday nights out-though not their attitudes or beliefs-behind them.

Here though is Winehouse  unplugged with no dancers ,pyrotechnic displays and little else apart 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.


Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975


In the sane week that a woman was arrested after a racist rant on a London tram this film makes its much anticipated release in the cinema. Although set in the United States and focussing on the years between 1969 and 1975 when Black Power was in the ascendant many of the issues covered in this documentary although contextual obviously still have relevance in the present day. Featuring previously unseen footage captured by Swedish journalists and edited together by contemporary director Goran Olsson the film shows an outsiders perspective on a country’s internal struggle to reconcile its differing races in a particularly turbulent era when social consciences and attitudes were changing at breakneck speed causing those who had previously held the upper hand to take radical measures in order to retain their position of power whilst the underlings for several generations strove to attain a voice that was not only heard but listened to.

Although many of the names – Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are probably the main exceptions- may seem unfamiliar to a contemporary audience their struggles will not. Stokeley Carmichael took on the baton handed him by King and adapted his doctrines of equality but imbued them with a sense of power and aggression which was a marked change from King’s more passive stance. It is the heroic Angela Davis and her unfair treatment whose tale really stands out in this film however. Wrongly incarcerated for 18 months for the simple crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being black her tale is particularly poignant. In answer to a question that questions if and why there was violence and aggression at the heart of the Black Power movement she gives an articulate and detailed response which more than explains and instead reasons why such measures were necessary. Other notable moments include an extremely disturbing scene in which we see a newborn baby born to a junkie mother going through cold turkey. This is followed by a traumatic scene where a young black girl details how the only option open to her is prostitution and then explains how heroin is the only thing getting her through this circumstance by numbing her emotions. It is a heartfelt moment and one that shows cause and effect and its long-term effects on the next generation some of whom-like the withdrawing baby- are born into a life of no future.

Black Power Mixtape is a worthwhile effort showing an important time in America’s history both politically and socially. Whilst the time shown has to be considered contextually for full effect – I am sure no-one involved could have anticipated a black President only forty years into the future so desolate was their plight at this time- it still raises issues that need to be considered. If that young woman who sat on the tram whilst abusing those around her for not being British enough had suffered in the way Black people in America prior to the civil rights movement- sitting down on buses was only permitted in certain areas and if every white person was seated first despite paying the same fares-then she may have had something to complain about. Somehow I doubt she has suffered in the same way and her outburst really was nothing more than an ignorant racist rant.


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.


My Week With Marilyn


This Simon Curtis directed film about Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe’s involvement with one of the crew –third assistant director or more accurately gofer-during the film shoot for The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 is an entertaining insight into the star at the pinnacle of her powers and success. Michelle Williams gives a star performance as Monroe; one which is probably the best portrayal of this actress who had such an indefinable quality that no-one, despite many attempts, has ever been able to capture the essence of what made her so very special. Williams succeeds on many levels and whilst this is the films main strength  Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier ably supports her and their onscreen chemistry is greater than their real life counterparts.

Ostensibly it should have been a happy time in Monroe’s life having just married celebrated playwright Arthur Miller and embarking on a project with British theatre royalty Laurence Olivier. In reality it was merely the beginning of the downward spiral that culminated in her death, still shrouded in mystery and myth, six years later. This film concentrates on the fact that her relationship with Miller was already in crisis whilst her working life alongside Olivier was faring little better and probably even worse as he found her working ‘methods’ intolerable and at one point huffs that ‘teaching her to act is like teaching a badger to speak Urdu’. Enter Colin Clark (Eddie Remayne) a well to do clean cut young man who wants to make it in the film industry and through family connections ends up working with Olivier. Befriending Marilyn on set and in her darker moments he forms a close bond with her after Miller abdicates his duties and ‘abandons’ her to fly back to the states in order to see his children. It is this week that lends the film its title though it is never clear how far their relationship progressed and there really is no need for such a sense of propriety in a 2011 film even if it is set in the still sexually uptight 1950’s. This reticence is not apparent in Williams’ performance however. The usual Monroe trademarks are all over the film from her luminous, platinum incandescence through to the wiggle, pout, the booze and the many pills. It is an over familiar story though and any Monroe fan will feel disappointed in the fact there are no new revelations although to a younger generation it may introduce Marilyn to a whole new audience.

The cinematography on the film is excellent and combined with the camera work it does a great job of evoking the era it is attempting to portray. On occasion it does feel like a tour guide of beautiful England what with thatched cottages and Windsor Castle both getting a look in. Likewise the supporting cast seems to have been drafted in from Luvvie Central. Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Zoe Wannamaker and Doug Ray Scott and Emma Watson are all present and correct. At other times it seems that the film has its sights set on a few of the accolades garnered by The Kings Speech and Williams must surely be a contender for best actress but as a whole the film sometimes feels a little too like a BBC period drama to be a attract those kind of awards. Despite this it is still an extremely well made and enjoyable film that perfectly captures both the era and the star at the centre of the maelstrom she created on her visit to these shores.


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.





In a week when the Leveson inquiry is investigating press misconduct through phone hacking this film arrives in cinemas harking back to the late seventies when although technology was not as advanced the methods deployed by the tabloid press were still as underhand and condemning as today. Focussing on the tale of Joyce McKinney a former beauty queen-Miss Wyoming-and a young Mormon, Kirk Anderson, who she allegedly kidnapped, held captive and forcibly had sex with it is still, even after viewing the film, unclear what actually happened so clouded with prejudice are the preconceptions instigated by the press. Matters are not helped by McKinney who although an extremely and intelligent interviewee in possession of a high IQ -168- and charming manner of discourse when recounting her version of events comes across as a delusional fantasist and therefore a less than credible witness.

The drama starts to unfold when McKinney first lays eyes on Anderson who she describes as a handsome desirable man though others point out that he was hardly an obvious object of lust weighing more than 300lbs and being of less than average attractiveness. This does not deter McKinney however who sets out to ensnare her man at whatever the price. Apparently some sort of compromise is reached and the two embark on an affair but when Anderson is removed to England as part of his Mormon training the trouble begins. McKinney believed he had been spirited away from her clutches and sets out to reclaim her true love and does what any (ab)normal person would do in those circumstances  enlisting the services of an accomplice-JK May- she then hires a bodyguard, a pilot and private jet then armed with a bottle of chloroform and an imitation gun flies to England to ‘persuade’ Anderson to impregnate her thus destabilising the hold the Mormon facility has over him. Where the financial backing she needs to fund such an elaborate plan derives from is never made clear but minor trivialities or reality never stand in McKinney’s way when her determination in overdrive. Along the way the bodyguard and pilot opt out so with May in tow as a loyal lapdog she tracks Anderson down and here matters become clouded in the various participants’ memories. According to the press McKinney held him captive and chained him up spread-eagled whilst she forcibly encouraged him to have sex with her repeatedly. McKinney however states that Anderson willingly accompanied her and chose to have sex with her and the handcuffs and manacles were merely sexual role play with him as her sex slave. The tabloid press, in the shape of the ever reliable Daily Mirror, cotton on to the story adding their salubrious sensationalist twist and immediately it becomes front page news and a national topic of conversation.

The subsequent coverage follows its way through the court case and after McKinney serves several months on remand is released on bail, Moments of notoriety then ensue including an infamous appearance at the premiere of The Stud where her presence even upstages that of the films star a certain Joan Collins. The story continues to become even more surreal after her release however as disguised as deaf mutes both she and May flee Britain only to turn up elsewhere as two unconvincing Indians from Calcutta. Meanwhile the press, in particular the Daily Mirror, have a field day and all manner of unsubstantiated stories are paraded as truth across their front pages. To counterbalance this the Daily Express attempt to tell Mc Kinney’s version of events and she suffers the confusing problem of having two radically alternate and differing stories about the same set of events spread across two of the biggest newspapers in the country at the same time. From the testimonies given by those involved at the time it would transpire that the truth is somewhere between the two events detailed but as no-one seems to be totally credible even this is debatable. What does become clear is that truth is a minor factor when it comes to selling newspapers or scandalising a nation by preying on those with petty morals to buy into their own brand of righteousness.

Tabloid is a thoroughly engaging film and McKinney remains to this day a fascinating character. All wide eyed disbelief and a raucous raconteur with ribald storytelling abilities who at one point, tellingly, insists that all the drama lessons she had have stood her in good stead. She reveals herself to be a thoroughly engaging if not wholly convincing or reliable interviewee although the tales of treating those around her as slaves still persist only nowadays it is the five Pitbulls she has had cloned –really- from her beloved soul-mate Booger who fulfil this role dialling phone numbers and retrieving drinks from the Fridge!! As all this is revealed at the end of this captivating and often unintentionally hilarious film it becomes clear that McKinney can quite accurately be described as barking mad.