Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Strange meeting

Last night I went for dinner and drinks with my friend Emma. We must have looked an odd couple in the cool Soho bar, both equally out of place among the stilettoed and quiffed posers. I had come straight from work - minimal make up, hair in a ponytail, quiet air of exhaustion; she had come up from Kent, where she works as a piercer, and was sporting a different kind of uniform - dreadlocks, denim skirt and footless tights, tasteful niobium piercings in her cheeks, nose and lip.

We must have looked like complete opposites, me City-smart and her Hoxton-trendy. The only clues that we were once the same were the ears - we both have stretched earlobes, mine an almost-unnoticeable centimetre, hers a more extravagant couple of inches.
We first met aged 17, in Worcester, a place which demonstrates amply Morrissey’s small-town lament: every day was like Sunday, every day was silent and grey. It is alleged that in the four or so years since I left, Worcester has improved immeasurably. I find this very hard to believe.

We were both looking for a way out - I was counting the days until university, when I could shed my Convent school friends, with their alice bands and narrowmindedness. We ended up meeting through friends who ran a tattoo and piercing shop (now sadly defunct).

I loved that place, loved the people - loved particularly the fact that they were different, they didn’t care. I met my first real boyfriend there, a 21-year-old who had at least ten jobs in the course of our nine-month relationship, who lived with a paedophile, had a child-killer for an uncle, and proposed to me to end an argument he couldn’t win. We broke up two weeks before I left for Oxford.

Emma met someone too, an American piercer. And when I left for university, she escaped too - by moving to America and marrying him. By the time I graduated, having shed the piercings, the pink hair and, it must be said, the world-owes-me-a-living attitude I’d adopted with them, she was back in Britain, a divorcee at 21.

I expected that meeting her would make me feel sad and boring, having given up my attempt at non-conformity pretty easily in the face of financial and career blandishments. But as we sat together reminiscing, I realised that I hadn’t changed that much. That angry 17-year-old might now be buried until several coats of adult veneer, but she’s still there, but tamed now. More than that, I realised that the only things which have really moulded me have been my mistakes - the wrong man, the wrong job, the wrong thing to have said or done.

That cheered me up. The only thing worse than having to be a grown-up would be having to be that teenager again, with all those hard lessons left to learn.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

unfunny women.

Have been reading Tibor Fischer’s Dont Read This Book If You’re Stupid, and came across a story in which a female stand-up comedian ponders the meaning of humour. She also scales Nelson’s Column naked and loses eight pairs of tweezers, but that’s modern fiction for you.

Various neurons winked off, and I started thinking again about one of feminism's great unsolved questions: why aren't women funny?

It's been bothering me for some time. In a recent FHM awards, there were plenty of nominations for their 'Funniest Man' award, but a rather poorer showing in the female equivalent. Catherine Tate, Victoria Wood and Jo Brand all picked up a few per cent each, but the overwhelming winner was, "No women are funny".

Then I found a survey of Britain's funniest women, carried out by Readers Digest. Look at this:

Victoria Wood
Dawn French
Jo Brand
Jennifer Saunders
Julie Walters
Joyce Grenfell
Hattie Jacques
Joanna Lumley
Maureen Lipman
Kathy Burke

God. It's depressing, isn't it? The only faintly amusing thing about Victoria Wood is her haircut, and I don't think that's intentional. As for Joyce Grenfell and Hattie Jacques - it's 2005! Imagine a male top ten that still included Benny Hill and Larry Grayson.

So is it really be true that women aren't as funny as men? this blogger certainly thinks so. All the arguments he trots out are pretty well-worn: being funny is a competitive activity, and therefore men take it more seriously; men and women have different types of humour; women can't remember punch lines in the same way they can't read maps.

Really, though, this is the twentieth century, and this just won't do - neither can we totally cop out and do some 'comedy is in the eye of the beholder' schtick. Yes, I know there's no objective yardstick for humour, but it's pretty clear there are some reasons why Bernard Manning plays to thousands of people and the majority of stand-ups face an audience of about 10 (although I'm not sure I want to question Manning's popularity too closely, for fear of losing my last remaining scintilla of belief in humanity).

So allow me to present my theory: women are funny, but usually only to other women. I see this anecdotally: things that my housemate A finds funny on this blog leave my male readers stony-faced. Weirdly, though, the reverse isn't true: things that men find funny, my female friends and I do too...

I tried this argument out on W recently, figuring he'd wouldn’t laugh at me (so to speak). "I think," I opined, "that it's a gender divide thing. There's no 'universal' humour - like all male-dominated discourses, women are just made to think that comedy about beer and farting is 'universally funny', whereas as Jenny Eclair-ish stuff about periods is 'women's humour', and therefore devalued."

Sadly, although this kind of reasoning found great favour with the Oxford exam board in my magnum opus ‘The Mail/Female Divide’, it seemed he was made of sterner stuff.
"OK," he said. "Tell me a funny joke about a period."

And that had me stumped. I hate Jenny Eclair’s comedy. Arabella Weir let the Fast Show down, frankly. And they were certainly doing ‘women’s comedy’, if such a thing exists. Whereas I loved Men Behaving Badly and Bottom (but, looking back, I’m going to attribute that to the overexuberance of adolescence, as it is quite crap). But perhaps that’s because I have been indoctrinated to despise jokes about tampons, in favour of knob gags?

So now I have refined the theory, although it’s still pretty old-school feminist. If the discourse of comedy is male-dominated, then women learn to appreciate ‘male comedy’, even if they are not native speakers. With ‘female comedy’ being more marginalised, and in a lower hierarchical position in the binary, men never have to acquire its resonances and references.

At least, that’s what I think. You may say: Balls. But comedy is so much about points of reference - there’s nothing less funny than a joke that needs explaining - that it doesn’t seem a completely outlandish theory.

I suppose that means I should advocate all men to watch back-to-back episodes of Ellen and Roseanne. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Instead, try Smack The Pony, Sex and The City (there’s tits in that, you’ll like it), anything with Tamsin Greig in, Jo Brand and Ronnie Ancona. No, Eddie Izzard does not count. Yes, I know he wears dresses, but that’s not the point.

Gluttons for punishment, more here:
  • Stand Up For Equality, from feminist e-zine the f word.
  • ah, the Guardian. Standing up for the inexplicably successful Gina Yashere.
  • Sunday, November 20, 2005

    what a let down.

    musing on the lyrical stylings of R Williams Esq for the last post got me thinking about bad lyrics. A common complaint of my mother's is, "These modern bands! The words just don't mean anything!" Which I think is a bit rich from a woman who:

    a) mis-heard Abba's Summer Night City as Have A Nice Day for seventeen years, until the release of Abba Gold (she also believe that minge was a verb, a synonym for whinge, until my sister and i, choking with laughter, corrected her).
    b) champions the Beatles, peddlers of such toss as "It's been a hard day's night/And I've been working like a dog/It's been a hard day's night/I should be sleeping like a log".

    But she does have a point. I read recently that Scandinavian songwriters are much in demand in the modern pop industry because they write the kind of rhyme music producers love, and native English speakers would be too embarrassed to inflict on the public: together/forever, love/above, boy/toy and so on.

    The trouble with bad lyrics is that they pop up even in great songs, totally ruining them with their tooth-sucking badness. I can't listen to the otherwise excellent Flip Flop Rock by Outkast any more, after many evenings laughing with Artegall over Jay-Z's pisspoor contribution... "YO! CASH! BITCH! HOLLER!" Admittedly, trying to rap after Big Boi, an MC so talented he transcends the beat, is never going to make you look good (rather like the poor kids in the Harry Potter films being acted off the screen by the cream of British acting talent in cameo roles) but really... "Niggers want to hijack the flyness"? Pull yourself together, man.

    It's not just lyrics, either. My enjoyment of the Killers' fantastic Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll has been shot to pieces by some monkey's decision to insert a jangly flourish of a tambourine directly after the lyrics, "She plays the drums/I'm on tambourine" - like we'd otherwise be completely in the dark about what a bloody tambourine sounds like. While we're on the Killer, what's up with "save some face/you know you've only got one" as a statement of the bleeding obvious? If she had two faces, that might be a nice twist, in keeping with the general bitterness of the song.


    So, as a management consultant might say, I've outlined the problem. What's the solution? Well, there are a few simple steps which might help. Forcing Jay-Z's immediate retirement would be start, as would sitting down all the Scandinavian songwriters and explaining patiently that some rhyming combinations are now beyond parody, and should be banned. Then confiscate their rhyming dictionaries.

    The next step would be to make all aspiring songwriters listen to the work of the great lyricists of the day: Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Morrissey, REM, Outkast (and before you start, yes, all of the above have off days, but cut them some slack - you'll never write anything with the beautiful purity of "I long to see you in the early light/I long to reach for you in the night"). You wouldn't write a novel with reading a few of the classics, surely, so why think you can write good lyrics on a diet of Sugababes and Westlife?


    after further pondering, i have decided who the worst lyricist in pop is. Step forward and take a bow, Noel Gallagher.

    Dear Noel wins because, frankly, he should know better. He's not a 12-year-old, or a foreigner. In interviews, he's lucid, amusing and charmingly self-deprecating. Why then, does he consistently produce absolute twaddle, and think that sprinkling it with a few literary or cultural references makes it OK? He's the Tom Stoppard of the music world - all glitz and no substance.

    Again, Noel wins on points over more obvious choices like 2Unlimited because he's so nearly there. You can tell in songs like Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova and Stand by Me that there's a kernel of something beautiful and meaningful. Unfortunately, it's lost beneath a morass of trite and simperingly over-neat rhyming like "And all the roads we have to walk are winding/ And all the lights that lead us there are blinding" or "Slowly walking down the hall/ Faster than a cannon ball".

    P.S. After consultation, the jury's still out on Chris Martin's lyrical ability. Complete twat or touching wordsmith? You'll have to decide for yourself.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Take That

    Last night my housemate A and I (and, apparently, every woman I know) sat down on the sofa with a bottle of red wine, to watch the Take That documentary.

    Now, being a young ‘un, my memories of Take That only start when they were already on their way out. My older sister, bless her, was more into New Kids on The Block, but still managed to introduce me to the Northern five-piece, if sadly not in time for Gary’s Morrissey haircut.

    I certainly remember them splitting up - the crying, the wailing, the helpline, the items on the ten o’ clock news. Never let anyone tell you that journalism is dumbing down, when it seemed in the 90s that some pop story made the BBC news every other night. I mean, Oasis against Blur for number one? It seemed important at the time, but now I think - did NO–ONE die that day? People, people.

    It was a very well-made, well-edited affair. They’d interviewed each member on his own, in his own house, which threw up the differences between them. There was Howard, in a woolly cap, in some minimalist pad, the only decoration a distorted portrait of himself. Then we saw Mark Owen, with a spaniel, in the Lake District; Jason, much camper than I remembered. But these three, you felt, were always condemned to be the padding; now, just as much as they were ten years ago. It was Gary and Robbie we were interested in. We remembered how the headlines went: Gary, the obvious songwriting talent, destined for success, while Robbie attempted some lame Liam Gallagher impression... but then Angels happened, and suddenly Robbie was a global superstar, and Gary was yesterday’s pop star, dropped by his record label and consigned to obscurity.

    What this documentary did, though, was show that this is entirely the wrong way to look at it. Robbie’s chart success came at a terrible price - devastating alcoholism and drug addiction, swings from mania to depression, and awful, seemingly eternal loneliness. As he was interviewed, you could see exactly what a feckin nightmare he must have been to live and work with - constantly showing off, doing impressions, saying outrageous things for effect. It must have been like working with a drug-addled five-year-old.

    Gary, on the other hand, was interviewed in his (admittedly extremely tacky) Cheshire home, at his piano. Every so often one of his unbelievably cute children would show up, clamber on his knee and hug him. His wife, former TT dancer Dawn, was there too.

    It should have been nauseating, but it was constantly intercut with Robbie, in solitary splendour, receiving Brit Awards and adulation.

    The best bit came right at the end, when Gary, Mark, Howard and Jason were re-united. They made brittle conversation, waiting to see if Robbie would deign to grace them with his presence.

    “We asked Robbie to come,” you heard one of the producers say off-camera. A long pause. “But he declined.”

    Instead he had recorded them video messages, telling Gary he was a great songwriter, and the others they were great people. Gary looked disappointed, in a grown-up way.

    It cut to former manager Nigel Martin-Smith. “Robbie and Gary were at each other’s throats,” he said (or something similar), “but Robbie did Gary the biggest favour ever. Look at them now. Who’s happiest?”

    Back to Gary, teaching his daughter to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Then back to Robbie. “I’ve got one more thing to say - fourteen Brit Awards! Aaaaaaaaaah!”

    The tragedy of it nearly brought a tear to my eye, I can tell you - between the two of them, they had one perfect life, and yet they’re both doomed to wishing for what the other one has.

    It’s a pretty basic choice that a lot of people make - career success or domestic happiness. Robbie admitted in a recent interview he hadn’t had a girlfriend for six years. Gary, despite being dropped by his label, is now writing for Charlotte Church.

    I know which one I’d rather be.

    (And I would have rather written Back For Good than Angels, if it comes to that - they played it, and the lyrics are shocking. How can pain walk down a one-way street? And since when have traffic restrictions been an emotive metaphor?

    Whereas lipstick still on a coffee cup, well that just says everything about a failed relationship - the mundane things which are all you have left when the romantic fantasy is over.)

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    no, not *those* libertines

    This week two of my favourite shaggers - one dead, one very much alive - are making waves. Priapic blond Tory Boris Johnson is to resign as Spectator editor, according to Andrew Pierce in The Times, and there’s a new film out chronicling the life and early death of Restoration poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.

    To Boris first. After six years spent trying to calm Mark Steyn the fuck down and dry Taki out enough to get anything approaching a coherent column out him, BoJo is apparently set for stardom on the Tory frontbenches. David Cameron, (“a fellow Old Etonian”, The Times reports with a conspiratorial wink) apparently loves the bumbling bombshell as much as I do (although probably in a different way).

    All very exciting - the more so since it was barely a year ago that his political career seemed in tatters, and that he would see out his dotage saying increasingly eccentric things until the scales finally tipped and he was put in a home. But, under the new David Blunkett Memorial Rules of Political Propriety, it seems every politician is allowed one mistake - witness Cameron and the drug rumours, George Osborne sitting next to a prostitute, Anne Widdecombe's hair... the list goes on. And so BoJo has been forgiven.

    You know what this means, of course. Once again, the Tories will have a jowly posh bloke on the front bench who can be guaranteed to fall asleep during PMQs. Think! All that and a Tony Blair clone for leader... a few policies, and they’ll be home and dry.

    UPDATE: Boris vehemently denies that he's stepping down as Spectator editor. "I am a mere toenail on the body politic. I am flattered that all this attention is being paid to the vagaries of my career but it is all a bit previous, frankly," he said.
    Seriously, "toenail on the body politic"? How long do you think he's been waiting to use that line?


    And so to The Libertine, which is out this week. Were it not for my bangin' social life, I would be off to see it on Friday. It looks excellent - Depp in the title role as Rochester, plus support from Samantha Morton and (to continue a running theme of the blog) both Jack Davenport and Richard Coyle. The cinematography looks amazing from the trailer - they've deliberately drained some of the red from the palette to give that authentic 1600s London smoggy feel. Time Out have praised its "fogbound, piss-stained visuals", and what higher praise could there be?

    Even better, it's adapted from a play by Stephen Jeffreys, and as a rule of thumb, films from plays = good. Look at The Madness of King George. Fact. I just hope that they've actually included some of his poetry - think how crap Sylvia was because the Plath/Hughes estate wouldn't let them use her words. Given that he's been dead for over 300 years, I would have thought copyright wasn't a problem - more traumatic might be the content of them (lots of swearing, shagging, masturbation and general tomfoolery). Considering it took nine years to bring the film to the screen, however, I'm hoping that the producers dug their heels in and let it be as dirty as it needs to be.

    On that note, I'll leave you with a few links to Rochesteriana (not a real word). The reason I love him so much was that I studied him in the second year of my degree, and it was then I realised that I didn't have to read epic 1400 page poems on politics, war and government, but instead spend two years of my life finding out what people in the eighteenth century did in bed (yes, the answer was have sex, but often not with the people you'd expect, or in the way you'd expect, but that's a post for another day). A much better use of my time, I feel, and one that has made me the person I am today. Copies of my extended essay on lesbian communities in the later eighteenth century available on request.

  • A Satire on Reason and Mankind, from Rochester's Oh-Shit-I'm-Dying-Of-The-Clap period.
  • To The Postboy and Song. Two of Rochester's most depressingly anatomical and misanthropic poems. Yes, he may have had a title, an heiress for a wife and all the whores he could shake a stick at, but he was buggered if he was going to be happy about it.

  • Monday, November 14, 2005

    galatea's centre for the easily amused; and random statistics.

    From Hello! magazine's interview with Jean-Christophe Novelli, earlier this year:

    "He was asked to leave school at 14, and found a job in a local
    bakery. it was there he fell in love with cooking. "I loved the smell,
    the noise, the taste of fresh bread and the feel of the dough. It was
    a joy."
    Sadly, the bakery was closed following an industrial accident after a
    colleague fell into a dough mixer."

    (See? Not only does Hello! smell great, but it does po-faced bathos extraordinarily well. I love that "sadly". The same issue also presents, without a trace of irony, Lord Freddie Windsor's Cannes diary. Sample text: "Met Paris Hilton, who is very friendly." Move over Tom Wolfe, this is the New Journalism.)


    Anyway, I'm finding it hard to write a coherent blog entry, as I have been driven mad by the number of Christmas-based features I have read in the last ten days. Did you know that a greener alternative to a Christmas tree is to take the kids out, find some twigs and leaves, and decorate them with baubles? Neither did I, and frankly it sounds shit, but there we go.

    I have also discovered that Jamie Oliver's favourite Christmas memory is the time his Nan wore too much hairspray, leant towards a candle, and set her hair on fire, that Mutya from Sugababes will be out of the country this Yuletide (kids, it's safe to come out from behind the sofa!) and that 80,000 people end up in casualty due to Christmas-related accidents. All of which gave me a chuckle.

    So, inspired by my efforts to find synonyms for 'Christmas' (5 and counting - play along at home!), I present this entry in pared down alphanumeric form:

  • Number of people who have been sick in my room in the previous fortnight: 2 (neither of them were me).
  • Terms which, when put into search engines, have directed people to this blog: “richard hammond fan club”, “rebecca loos pig video”, “i admit i made a mistake”, “gamekeepers”, “anal ponders”, "poorun blog", “rebecca guttersniper”, "charlie dimmock nipples" (even I am at a loss to explain that last one - can't remember ever writing about dimmock's nips).
  • Number of emails sent today: 22.
  • Times I have been to the loo today, purely for lack of anything better to do: 2.
  • Average number of words read per working day for my job: 7,500.
  • Average number of words read per working day not related to my job: 20,000.
  • People who I think are dead if they don’t email for a whole day: 4.
  • Words and phrases I have removed from features given to me to sub this week: "it is possible to become the perfect hostess without going Christmas crackers"; "swarv"; "hostess with the mostest".
  • Number of national newspaper editors I have texted while pissed to say "du bist ein legend": 0 (if only the same could be said of my friends)
  • Best news story of the week so far: Rugby fan cuts off tackle.

  • Thursday, November 10, 2005

    day in, day out.

    Another day in the features department, my current posting. All seem affable, in the slightly oestrogen-addled way of features departments. Much excitement yesterday at the arrival of Hello magazine.

    “Hello!” cried my boss, clapping her hands together. “I love the smell of Hello!”
    When pressed, she claimed that it smelt of ‘pure celebrity trivia’ at which I scoffed internally. Until I smelt it... and she was right. A brand new copy of Hello smells so, well, glossy. You know new car smell? Well, this is the gossip equivalent.

    A better class of freebie is also in evidence here: not only have we had chocolates, AA Gill’s book and ‘chocolate salami’ (much nicer than it sounds); yesterday, a consignment of stick-on toenails arrived.

    Am overwhelmed with excitement at the proximity of work to actual shops. It turns out that the only thing which has kept me solvent for the last year has been the fact I’ve been working in places like Wapping and Farringdon. Here in central London, I have turned into the Demon Shopper, apparently. I’m worried my personality might have been melded with that of hangthedj in some Fly-esque experiment.

    Take yesterday. I made some very conservative purchases from Zara - black jacket, v-neck jumper. Totally justifiable. Then I wandered into Hobbs, where I was practically mugged by the sales assistant, who was desperate to help me try stuff on. This should have set the alarm bells ringing - the more attentive the staff in a clothing shop, the more money is about to be sucked from your wallet.

    It’s like food: the more hyphenated adjectives a dish or ingredient accrues, the more it costs. Witness those M&S adverts: pan-shaken, hand-picked, orphan-bagged new potatoes that cost about two quid a pop - and anything hand-dived, pan-roasted or honey-glazed is going to require a mortgage. You can see it in Tesco’s too. Bog-standard bangers are enigmatically branded ‘Pork Sausages’ (and with the value range, you’ll be lucky to even find out what animal they’re from) but go to the Finest range and suddenly they’ll tell you everything up to the name of the pig and its inside leg measurement.

    But I digress. The woman in Hobbs was good: very good.
    She sidled over as I was trying on a dress which made me look, truthfully, like an albino pygmy going to a children’s birthday party.
    “Oooh,” she cooed. “You’re so lucky to be able to wear a dropped waist. You look like you have such a long body.”

    It was then I knew I wasn’t escaping without buying something, because that is the most bare-faced lie anyone has ever told me. I am freakishly, storkily, out of proportion, with my mid-section shifting imperceptibly from rib to hip with no apparent waist in between.

    But I went for it before I had even realised.
    “Do you think so?”
    “Oh yes,” she purred. “Perhaps you should try the skirt and top as separates. That would be so much more versatile.”

    Now, she knew as well as I did that there was no way even her charm could persuade me to buy the pygmy dress, but there was a pretty big chance that another ten minutes' intensive complimenting would yield a sale.

    And so it was: I was suckered in, and walked out of the shop many pounds the poorer, carrying a red (red! me, the person who regards grey as a little bit risky!) ballet cardigan... covered in sequins. I’m wearing it now, and I honestly cannot decided if it’s really fashionable or something my mum will want to borrow and wear at Christmas, because she thinks it’s “jolly”.

    I also realised that my decision to team it with a tutu-ish A-line skirt and ballet pumps means I now look like I’ve been hired by Sadler’s Wells as the result of some new anti-sizist discrimination law. At least I didn’t get it in black... that made me look like Liza Minelli. And not Liza Minelli in Cabaret: Liza Minelli now.
    Clearly, I can’t be trusted to go shopping alone.

    On another note (but, happily, a related one) hot email debate has been raging over the worst shopping centre in Britain. JXH offers the following spirited plea for Meadowhall:

    "By the way, if anyone has seen the [work] trip to Meadowhall (also, and more accuracy known as Meadowhell) and been vaguely tempted, not having lived round Sheffield before and thinking it's be worth a try, thought I'd warn you off.

    You'd have to pay me a not inconsiderable sum of money (a good week's wages) to get me there as it is the most godforsaken hell-hole full with chavs and chavs-with-kids who dawdle with buggies (not to mention the old people who shouldn't be allowed out on any day other than pension day, and certainly not on weekends when working people have their one chance to shop and all these senile old codgers clog up the pavements). The only thing for it is a cattle prod frankly, optionally with an explosive shell on the end, to shove up the derrières of these sloth-like dimwits.

    So that pretty much is Meadowhell, not to mention the crappiness of the shops, and over proliferation of 'girl' shops (surely between every Dorothy Perkins and Accessorise there should be a Dixons so at least there is a TV screen with football scores on to read) and the hugely marked up substances which pass for food in the nasty eateries.

    Don't say you weren't warned."

    Surely there must be worst places? I know the Bullring is all sparkly and new now, but surely there are still awful provincial malls, specifically designed to reconcile us to the prospect of death...


    ps. you cannot see, but i am currently crying tiny tears of smug joy. my post about the gay penguins got listed on the newsweek website (here). Finally, I am the astute social commentator I always dreamed of being.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    richard ii: some thoughts

    off to the theatre with Laura to see Trevor Nunn's Richard II at the Old Vic, starring Kevin Spacey. Thoroughly recommended: the play is beautifully directed, arranged and acted, and even though they've plumped for a full version (a bladder-busting three hours) it held our attention.

    there were problems, of course. the first scene, as described in many reviews, was a tableau of Richard robing for his coronation, stretching out his hands for the expected orb and sceptre. but i feel someone should tell Kevin Spacey that, being so short, breeches and white tights make him look even smaller. he looked to me not unlike Ronnie Corbett in some particularly high-budget 70s sketch.

    the ceremonial costumes gave the scene a timeless air, so it came as a bit of a shock when Bolingbroke (Ben Miles, Patrick in Coupling) wandered on in a very sharply-cut and obviously modern suit. in fact, it seemed as if the pomp and pageantry, which would have been at home in a traditional staging of Shakespeare, had been a trick, lulling us into expecting something very different to what we ended up getting. video screens, tv crews and a host of other modern details throughout the production made this as up-to-date as you could want... the focus on the media was a choice which underlined one of the play's central conceits: the best rhetorician most deserves power.

    but... i'm sure you don't want to read my ill-informed comments when actual theatre critics have been to see it and given it rave reviews. it's splendid, and whoever produced As You Like It with Sienna Miller purely to make money out of people who wanted to gawk at Jude Law's missus (yes, including me) should be ashamed. Ok, Kevin Spacey occasionally sounded like someone doing an impression of a Shakespearean actor, and the Queen's french accent was distinctly ropey, but these are minor gripes. It was a shame Spacey abandoned his own accent and pitch in favour of gravelly, booming theatrical English.

    In fact, the biggest let-down of the night was the deposition scene, through no fault of the play. Imagine the climactic scene: Richard is forced to resign his throne, and in front of the assembled court, has to come to terms with the loss of his crown, his kingdom, his identity and, ultimately, his life. And so he was, with Spacey giving it both barrels: "Ay, no, ay, no; for I must nothing be," when suddenly -


    Yes, the Nokia ring tone strikes again, laying waste to all before it.
    Spacey soldiered on, clearly pissed off, and there was the most beautiful ripple of prim disapproval in our circle.

    We had an ulterior motive for going, anyway, not just the pure love of Shakespeare. And no, it wasn't the hope of seeing a second cast member of Coupling scratch his balls in our face (see posts about Richard Coyle passim).

    Although I am pleased to report that, as we were hanging with the cool kids in Pit Stop, the Old Vic bar, Ben Miles sauntered up behind us to have a drink. So - technically - I have now been within touching distance of two Coupling actors' balls. (Jack Davenport: your time will come.)

    No. We were there to see Laura's childhood best friend David, who was Spacey's understudy (and also played A Groom and various other parts). And very good he was too, even if my enjoyment of the play was marred by Laura poking me whenever he came on. I think Laura found the experience quite surreal, as afterwards she repeated in wide-eyed awe, "It was like watching you in a school play... but... you were touching Kevin Spacey!" He's on Doc Marten in a few weeks, playing an inbred with bloody diarrhoea. Ah, acting. The noblest craft.

    But enough. Clarkson's Extreme Machines and the sofa are calling me.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005


    it has been suggested that, to put it plainly, i am a miserable cow. therefore today's post is a loose collection of things which have made me happy recently.

    autumn: the inspiration for my favourite hymn from primary school, "autumn days" (i'm sure at least hang the dj and the grinch will be familiar with it, given their stunning rendition of "jerusalem" and "shine jesus shine" at 5am on Saturday in my living room.) autumn days was a great hymn, one of those where you point your voice at the end of the verse and just go for it. the lyrics are also complete crap (jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled? what?), and completely irreligious, all about how much the writer loves bacon and milkmen.

    but i digress. autumn is clearly the second-best season, after spring. i'm on holiday this week, and went to south kensington yesterday to see the museums - something i've wanted to do since moving to london. it was perfect: crisp and dry. the natural history museum must be where all the happy, friendly people in london go to be nice to each other. even the busker in the subway had talent.

    being jordan by katie price: just fantastic. over to my friend f, who works in publishing, to describe what reading it was like: "after finals, i munched through it like a wild boar, gorging on willy sizes and broken trust."

    smoking: it's brilliant fun, but it's stupid - the eternal paradox. living with a cigarette smoker has made me realise how much i miss my 20-a-night-then-none-for-a-fortnight marlboro light habit. (look, no one said these had to be funny, or interesting, did they?) i love it, it loves me. getting stuff in the post is like christmas, only without my family, and hence fun.

    Marcel Berlins: my old law tutor at City has been upgraded to having a proper column in the Guardian, and by god it's good. Find it here. If only the same nice things could be said about Greenslade.

    great anecdotes: i thought that my seminal tale of animal-related disgracefulness, "The Time I Licked A Hamster's Balls", could never be bettered. I was wrong...

    the river thames at night: particularly from waterloo bridge, with the loops of fairy lights along the bank, and the lights of the national theatre, and that nameless embassy-type building. ok, i understand, it's no eiffel tower, but it's one of my favourite bits of living in london.. especially coming across waterloo bridge, or tower bridge, all the blues and greens... it makes london seem like a themepark. i'll tell you what would make it better, though. a fountain. several fountains, preferably illuminated. everyone loves a fountain.


    more later... in the meantime, robert crampton has got there before me.

    also, a suggestion from guest commentator The Bolt: clear skies. He opines, "it's amazing how lack of clouds can make you happy. also, managing to achieve a marked improvement in someone else's day, that's really cool."

    in fact, in the last five minutes Bolt has afforded me another one of life's little joys: explaining a recondite sexual terminology to my more innocent friends. i.e. "hey, what's 'taking it up the Gary'?"


    and whilst i might be happy, i'm also going to hell.
    (thanks to lostmertonian.)

    The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
    Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
    Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
    Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
    Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
    Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
    Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
    Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
    Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
    Level 7 (Violent)High
    Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
    Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

    Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test