Friday, 23 December 2011

GC signs off 2011 with B. B.'s Back Door Santa

B. B. King's Back Door Santa sets just the right festive tone for my last post of 2011. It's spiritual message is in keeping with the moral tone to which this cultural blog aspires. I'd like to wish readers a Merry Christmas and will see you back in what I hope will be a Happy New Year for one and all. GC

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Last Night - a belated appreciation of the Keira Knightley movie

I picked up the DVD of the movie Last Night at my local charity store. This is the first time I’ve found anything worthwhile to view in the bargain box.
But I can see why the copy's previous owner might want to dump the film – and why the movie was for the most part poorly received when it was released last year.
Certificate 12, it could appear lightweight to a redbloodied film like the earlier Closer, which was a similar four-hander about relationships.
There is little plot. Set in New York, Keira Knightley bumps into an old flame visiting from France, Guillaume Canet, while her husband played by Sam Worthington is out of town on business with a work colleague, the seductive Eva Mendes.
Yes, in intercutting the night the young couple spend apart, there is an element of will they/won’t they be unfaithful to the other. But director Massy Tadjedin has big ambitions for a 90 minutes movie which looks like it was shot – in 2008 – on a cheapish budget.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The FA is right to kick out player racism but what about the poison chanted on the terraces?

Racism has a long and inglorious history in English football. The time for its eradication is long overdue.
The courts will have to decide in the New Year on the allegation that Chelsea and England’s captain John Terry racially abused QPR’s Anton Ferdinand at the teams’ match in October.
If he’s found guilty it will leave the Football Association with the mother of all decisions. It will have to consider a similar draconian punishment to that it has just dealt Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez – an 8-match ban and a £40,000 fine – having found him guilty of much the same offence.
This time Manchester United’s Senegalese-born French defender Patrice Evra was the alleged target of racial abuse at a game also back in October.Their confrontation is pictured above.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Art of Stand-Up sets Bob Hope in a class of his own

A first rate documentary The Art of Stand-Up by Alan Yentob on BBC 1 last night, as part of the Imagine arts series, has set me thinking about my comedy likes and dislikes.
You can watch the programme here on BBC iPlayer and this post has to be completed in time to allow me to watch the second part later tonight.
Happily Yentob’s approach was not didactic which was just as well because no two comedians among those he interviewed about stand-up agreed with the other.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Sex and the Krankies - Fan Dabi not so Dozi

Of all people the Krankies have been reminiscing about their colourful sexual past – enjoying marathon sessions, al fresco sex, and the swinging scene of thirty years ago.
They were confessing all on BBC Radio Scotland at the weekend to drum up publicity for their winter season pantomime in Glasgow.
The Krankies – Scots-born Ian Tough and wife Janette were at the height of their children’s television fame in the 1970s and 1980s.
She would dress as naughty schoolboy Wee Jimmy and Ian played his/her father.
It seemed pretty weird even back then and has been a byword for tackiness ever since - always allowing they were a children’s act (catchphrase Fan Dabi Dozi) and kids loved them.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Christopher Hitchens - GC pays tribute to a unique talent

I’m daunted by the flood of fitting tributes today to author, thinker, wit, polemicist, drinker, and smoker Christopher Hitchens who died of throat cancer yesterday at the age of 62. So here are a few thoughts of what Hitchens, the enemy of all bullshit, meant to me.
Foremost, in his book Orwell’s Victory, he showed that despite the attempts of some iconoclasts George Orwell remains “impressive, uncompromised, and right” among British writers. A man who defended Orwell so passionately had to be on the side of the angels.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Labour should dump Ed Miliband - but it won't

Most attention today will focus on how badly the LibDems fare in West London’s Feltham & Heston by-election; the party could come fourth behind the Tories and UKIP in the safe Labour seat.
But Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, badly in need of some positive news after severe opinion poll setbacks, will be praying for a convincing win to bolster his party’s fragile morale.
Since taking office Miliband has always trailed Tory PM David Cameron in personal popularity. This didn’t matter too much while Labour had a comfortable lead over the Tories in voting intentions but the latest polling suggests the party has drawn level with Labour – or even ahead.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Second thoughts on Big Man's Scotrail rough justice

Anyone who doubts patience with antisocial behaviour is on the wane in Britain should check out the internet comments the hit YouTube video Scotrail No Ticket has attracted.
There’s more to the story but basically a sweary albeit weedy teenager refused to leave a train when failing to present the right ticket to an elderly conductor. The situation was resolved by Big Man, a burly passenger, bundling the youth off the train to the applause of the compartment.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Strange bedfellows - the French Left hate Brussels accord as much as David Cameron

David Cameron isn’t the only one categorically opposed to the recent Brussels summit treaty, which saw every EU member apart from Britain agree on closer financial restraints such as the enforced capping of budget deficits.
According to the latest opinion polls, if he stands again Nicolas Sarkozy will get his derriere kicked by his socialist opponent in next May’s final round of the French presidential elections.
Francois Hollande has gone on record saying he will aim to renegotiate the treaty if elected.
In a RTL radio interview he said (Ed Miliband, please note) the agreement dooms Europe to years of austerity budgets and reductions in social services.
The European Central Bank should have been obliged to take action to relieve the crisis rather than continue standing on the sidelines, he told listeners.
Hollande added steps should be taken to stimulate growth rather than cut budgets. None of this would play well with Germany’s Angela Merkel and may not be deliverable even if Sarkozy is ousted.
Although he is the personification of Gallic confidence, Sarkozy has it all to do to remain in office.
The Brussels accord put him centre stage and he must hope his role as international statesman played well to the electorate back home. But rather than winning plaudits Sarkozy has been criticised for being in Merkel's pocket.
It would be ironic if the French socialists remove right-wing Cameron’s bĂȘte noire.

Monday, 12 December 2011

No contest - Marilyn Monroe v. Lindsay Lohan in the buff

Lindsay Lohan, the celebrity gossip magnet was ill-advised to shed her clothes for a Marilyn Monroe-inspired Playboy spread. The pictures leaked on to the internet forcing their early release by the magazine.
Some sorts of parallels between the women’s troubled histories were drawn but all that was achieved was to again underline that Monroe remains in a league of her own nearly 50 years after her death.
Playboy tried to plug the leak but you may still be able to find the Lohan shoot on Google - or else the superior session with Monroe's favourite snapper Bert Stern for New York Magazine in 2008.
If it's been taken down think any busty airbrushed girl in a wig completely lacking the fun and sensuality of the original iconic picture.
Monroe’s nude picture (see above) was reproduced in the 1953 launch edition of Playboy magazine having been first published in a pinup calendar several years before.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cameron's veto - preserving British sovereignty is a price worth paying

Although I don’t share the glee of Tory right-wingers, I can’t see prime minister David Cameron had any other option in Brussels but to veto EU-wide treaty changes, which would have weakened the influence of the City of London and, in time, led to an accelerating erosion of British sovereignty.
Even so it was disturbing to wake up this morning to find myself in the same camp as triumphant little Englanders like former tabloid editor Kelvin MacKenzie.
He told the Financial Times: “I am dancing with joy. Despite what’s going to happen in the future, and there will be terrible, terrible moments for us, we are an island nation, a warrior nation, and we’re best off alone.”
It’s true; the rest of Europe doesn’t get us.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Fond memories of The Fiend Who Walked the West

The Fiend Who Walked The West was the first X-film I saw – that was back in 1958; I was thirteen. The film in today’s certification is closest to an 18 (or NC-17 in the US) although fifty years ago you had to be over 16 to see an X-rated movie.*
My father ‘smuggled’ me into the cinema wearing his overcoat. I often accompanied my dad to the movies.
He must have got tired of the diet of quality – often foreign language – movies we viewed together for him to have chosen The Fiend as my introduction into grown-up films.
Perhaps he reasoned that a western – albeit a violent one – would be safer territory for a father and son than a film that might have sexual content.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Thumbs up - Happy Birthday texting

I came to mobile phones late and therefore SMS (text messaging) even later and predictive texting later still.
At this rate I’ll never make it to a Blackberry or iPhone.
This is no hardship – I’m at the stage in life where no data is so urgent it can't wait until I boot up my laptop. In any case I doubt I have the patience to master any mobile gizmos more complicated than my current £10 bog standard Nokia, which is sans camera.
According to this Daily Mail online story today texting was launched by a Brit 19 years ago this week. I can’t confirm the accuracy of the article. But I was a Fleet Street city reporter at the start of mobile phones, which in the UK began with the birth of Vodafone.
I can confirm that mobile phone companies were completely unprepared for the popularity of texting.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Have you ever been short-changed?

Perhaps I’m imagining the danger but the older I get the more I find myself wary of being short-changed while out shopping.
It happened again today in a local supermarket. My change - I prefer to pay cash rather than plastic on sums under 10 quid – was £1 short.
I think it was a deliberate fiddle because the checkout girl gave me the wrong amount from coins she had at the side of the till rather than in it. Grudgingly she gave me my correct money
There are a number of conclusions to be drawn which reflect as much on me as my alleged fraudster, albeit a minor league one.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror reflects on the mob and the individual in the internet age

The National Anthem – the first of Charlie Brooker’s three-part Black Mirror series, which I take to be a dark satire on how the impact of the digital age changes the position of the individual in society – broadcast on Channel 4 last night deserves its positive reviews.
Michael Hogan in the Daily Telegraph of all places was full of praise for Brooker’s “dementedly brilliant idea” – the pressure on Rory Kinnear’s British prime minister Michael Callow to meet a bizarre ransom demand that he have televised sex with a pig to spare the life of a young royal, Princess Susannah.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, camera-phones, and rolling television news all play a part in preventing the Establishment imposing a D-notice blackout on her kidnapping, which would have been effective in a pre-internet media world.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Come to Britain and enjoy free entry to our national museums while you can

Come to Britain and enjoy free entry to our national museums while you can. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of one of Labour’s better ideas in government – the dropping of museum charges in exchange for increased state funding.
In London this meant, in particular, the South Kensington museums – the Natural History (pictured), Science, and V & A - joined existing institutions such as the National Gallery, Tate, and British Museum in not charging.
It’s meant museum attendance has more than doubled across the UK in the last 10 years. A boon to our tourist industry, overseas visitors are attracted to these shores by the notion they will only be asked to make voluntary contributions when enjoying our major museums.
The worrying note in yesterday’s celebrations was the concern expressed that the economic climate is so severe funding restraints might require museums to introduce entry charges.
Special exhibitions are already prohibitively expensive; it would be a blow to the cultural life of the UK if our national museums were to start charging.
Our museums are in contrast to say, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the Vatican Museum in Rome all of which levy significant admission prices.
As culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Our free museums and galleries ensure that culture is for everyone.” Long may it remain so.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Jeremy Clarkson 'execution' row reflects UK's humour reserves running on empty

The thousands who complained to the BBC about Jeremy Clarkson’s remarks on yesterday’s The One Show that public service strikers should be shot are almost as big oafs as the Top Gear presenter himself.
The country seems to have suffered a major humour by-pass all round.
Clarkson – in a clumsy, unfunny jest - gave his best impression of an outraged Daily Telegraph reader. In going over the top (his stock in trade), there are deluded types who, for reasons known only to themselves if we exclude stupidity, took Clarkson at his word.
The man’s apology was too slow in coming; he is, after all, paid handsomely by the public service BBC. But when he did, he asked for his words to be judged in context. Clarkson has a point.