Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In A Coma

Comics are great! I mean really, really great! I used to read them all the time as a child, Batman mainly, those 75p a week/fortnight editions that last for 10 minutes once you get home. But recently, thanks to Jonster and The Si-ning, I have been getting back into them, mainly graphic novels.

There are some shit ones ('Excaliber' being one), but there's a whole world of interesting stories and amazing artwork to be enjoyed if you dig a little deeper. Or have friends that fill your bag with arty goodness when you see them.

So lately I've been ordering old graphic novels off the net like a crack addict ordering crack off the net. Namely, 'Batman: The Killing Joke', 'Watchmen' and 'Arkham Asylum'. I don't own it (yet) but I highly suggest getting a copy of 'Strangers In Paradise'. It is, hands down, the best comic/graphic novel I've read in all my life. And doesn't even have any superheroes in it! Just two slightly fucked-up women and a slightly surreal story. It. Is. Genius.

That's it for now. Go find your inner child (not like that! You sicko!!!).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Love Is Hell

I feel a bout of schizophrenia coming on, which is annoying because I'm enjoying my marmite toast. But I fear I cannot keep the beast at bay. Lots to spew about, all random and different, and certainly no hope of them making any sense. First off; Carnivale Fun!

A coin of two sides, to be sure (unlike those three-sided ones, which are buggers). Busiest night of the year if you work, as I do, in a booze emporium. As my chum Jonster has blogged so eloquently, customers in a booze emporium are a rancid bunch on the best of days, so imagine them just as rancid but pissed-up and overly friendly, totally ignoring the fact that you haven't had a drop of boozey juice yet and are simply trying to do a job. We have many, many panic buttons at work. What we need is a cattle-prod. Or gun.

"Why you dressed like Harry Potter?!", slurred a drunken bastard to me. To be fair, I was dressed as Harry Potter, otherwise this question would have been slightly more bizarre. I explained to said pea-brained yob that it was a last minute costume to try and get into Carnivale spirit whilst working. He then decided to quiz me on my boy-wizard knowledge, as if I needed to prove I had the right to wear this silly outfit. Surprisingly, his knowledge of the books was quite staggering, even more so if you consider he was probably seeing 3 of me. Of course, I knew the answers to his questions, as I am currently third in line to the crown of uber-geek among my friends, but there were more rancids to serve behind him, so I feigned ignorance and ushered his body-shaped smell away from me.

On the plus side though, Carnivale is a great opportunity to rope your non-employee friends into working the night with you to help, all the while enjoying lovely foody-nibbles and dressing up all fancily (witness the various pics, and this time the Feisty Hedgehog has given permission to be included). And when you finish you get to go to the pub dressed very strangely and not give a shit because you deserve BEER and god help any man (or woman or child) that gets in your way! So all in all, a shit and great day. Times that by life and it also applies.

Random rant #2: "Have you been seeing any girls lately?", asked a friend recently. In fact this is a question he asks me a lot. I would be worried as to his intentions, but I'm fairly certain I'm not his type.

"No, I haven't", I replied.

"How come?", asked the friend, in the manner someone would ask a person "Why haven't you breathed today yet?"

I spouted some pre-set jokey answers, such as not having time, or the bank balance to afford such an extravigance. But the more I thought about this later, the more agitated I became. Why should I need to defend this answer? In recent months I have made various attempts to 'see some girls' and all have ended in nothing, except stupid self-searching and questioning. And even these thwarted attempts were based on some ridiculous assumption that I'm getting older and should sort this situation out before I -god forbid! - hit 30 years old. It's become nothing more to me than the person that goes out to buy a new sofa, because you really should get that sofa soon before all the sofas are gone. This makes me angry at myself. I'm by no means the sharpest tool in the box, but I am not stupid. So to give in to such stupid thinking has lowered my opinion of myself. Why do I need a partner in life to feel happy about myself? If it happens, then fantastic, but why should I rely on it happening? I have great friends, and most days am pretty happy. So why stoop to this? Answers on a porn mag please!

Random rant #3: Why do all the girls on myspace look the same? Not even similar, but exactly the same! I don't think these 'girls' even exist, I just think myspace has a really good version of photoshop and has concocted thousands of different variations on the same girl.

Random rant #3b: Why do all 14 year old girls long to instantly be 25? And why do all 14 year old boys try and act 25 but in doing so actually come across as 9? My mind ponders the conundrum to no avail.

Not really a rant #4: Went to see 'Little Miss Sunshine' at the weekend and it is super-duper-tastic. The funniest, most uplifting film I've seen in years, and certainly the happiest I've left a cinema in quite a while. I left this part till last because I wanted to prove I have the ability to be happy and enjoy myself (although it was touch-and-go there for a while). And a simple thing like being put in such a good mood that you're still smiling an hour later can right all the wrongs I've mentioned before. I'm going to try and replay that film in my head all day long, every day. Because I'd like to live like that. And I think I can.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm Fine

Yes, laydeez and fellas (notice my 'cool-speak' there? Rubbish, wasn't it?), it's that time again. The time where I share the pain of my lonely free time with you and bring you ALL down to my level. Yes, it's... Ian's Useless Movie Review #2!

Find a hat and hold on to it... etc, cliche, cliche... because this week I'm throwing a twist in the formula and reviewing a good(ish) film! This week's review:


To set the tone straight away, I personally don't feel writer/director Cameron Crowe - no, not the one that made Titanic, that one's got a beard - has made a bad film yet. Some are incredible ('Almost Famous', 'Jerry Maguire', 'Say Anything'), others are just great ('Singles', 'Vanilla Sky'). The guy knows how to frame a... well, frame, and is among the best at capturing the tiniest little human details in relationships. He is also a writer that has no business being as good as he is. How can a kid that started writing for Rolling Stone and touring the world with bands when he was 15 be so good? I think I just answered my own question - namely, experience. In fact, I challenge anyone to watch a Cameron Crowe film and not find one character/situation they can relate to.

The core of this film is about loss; a cocky young executive learns his new design for a sports shoe (the hilariously named 'Spasmodia') has bankrupt the company he works for, and is ruined. So he decides to kill himself, and thusly ensues the most humorous (and intentionally so) suicide set-up scene ever committed to film. However, he then gets a phone call that his father has died and he needs to travel to a small town in Kentucky to collect the body and return it home.

So our executive (Orlando Bloom - actually really good when I thought he'd be shit) gets a plane home and meets quirky stewardess Clare (Kirsten Dunst - actually really shit when I thought she'd be good). She's blonde and quirky, he's dark and quirky, so they love each other in about 5.3 seconds, although obviously neither of them can know this until one hour forty-five minutes into the film otherwise there'd be no point.

Once he's arrived in Elizabethtown (yes, it's a really real place) he meets small town folk and learns a lot about himself. This sounds like it should be cheese incarnate, but as this is a Cameron Crowe film there's a different feel to it. Yes, he learns values and what's important etc, but he's still planning to kill himself once he leaves. He loves Clare but knows there's no point, he's treated as a hero upon returning home for all his success but knows that in less than a week everyone will know he's buried a company that supplies aid to third-world countries. And all the while his mother (a loopy-as-you-like Susan Sarandon) is coping with her husband's death by learning to cook/fix cars/tap dance and generally going bonkers!

This is the part where I step into unknown territory and actually defend Orlando Bloom. We all know he's a pretty boy with limited talent. Sure, he's great in those pirate memory films, but then all he has to do in them is look pretty, which he does admirably. Besides, with Johnny in the films no one really pays much attention to him. But I was genuinely shocked to find his performance here to be raw, emotional and actually funny (the American accent could be better but it's passable). Again, I think this is down to Cameron Crowe, the only director in history to make us empaphise with Tom Cruise, but my hat is well and truly off to Orly. Good job, sir!

Kirsten Dunst is blonde in her performance, as anyone who's seen the Spider-man films can tell you (except she's got red hair in those, but you know what I mean), and manages to mysteriously lose her southern accent roughly halfway through the film. Which is just careless, if you ask me. Susan Sarandon is quite frankly ker-azee, which is all the criteria I need to award full marks, and the always excellent Judy Greer is... well, excellent (if not quite given enough to do. And if your heart isn't warmed by a scene involving tap-dancing to 'Freebird' then, being perfectly honest, you're probably dead!

Being a Cameron Crowe film, the soundtrack is fantastic, if a touch predictable. If you've seen any of his previous films you'll know what to expect: Tom Petty? Check! 70's Elton John? Check! And this is where I remove a crab rating, as the last half hour becomes nothing more than an over-long music video/montage thingy. It's trying to make a point, and does include some of Orly's best work, but it gets completely lost in its overly-nuanced, heavy-handed sentimentalism.

Having written such a big word as that, I now feel light-headed and must wrap up this review so I can lie down for a bit. A sometimes ace film with some bad bits.

3.8 crabs out of 5

Lunar Park

Has been a hectic week, to be sure. Many musings to rattle over and, believe it or not, most of them good. It was my mother's birthday this last saturday, and thusly we (well, her and dad, I was working one of the nights) enjoyed a weekened of Many Happy Returns. Quite possibly the strongest and bravest lady I know, and never seen without a smile on her face - Happy Birthday Mum!

On Monday I took a visit to the big smoke that is known to 'tourists' as London Town. We all had tickets to go and see Richard Herring's new Radio 2 show being recorded. This is the 2nd of 3 recordings, and I went to the last one too, but this time many more of us attended. I decided to leave early and make a day of it, and with my friend Hockster we embarked on a day of - dare I say it - culture. Or at least as near to it as people such as us get.

I enjoyed a nice pot of tea whilst admiring the fine phillies walking by on this sunkissed day, all the while ignoring the sounds of Hockster gobbling his kebab. It was only when such philly approached us and asked us to fill in a form I realised these afore-mentioned phillies were foreign students, and probably 17 years old at best. Suddenly felt quite wrong, and we departed hastily. After enjoying a pint, we wandered to the National Gallery and had quite a splendid hour or so viewing priceless works of art. It's one thing to see a picture of Van Gogh's Sunflowers, but to stand in front of the actual thing and see the globs of paint he splattered on the canvas some century or so before was quite stunning.

Then on to the show. It was, as to be expected, utterly hilarious (Radio 2, 1pm - so tune in!). After thanking TV's Emma Kennedy when the recording had finished, we were invited to join the cast for a drink upstairs. I'd love to say this was down to our ravishing looks or personalities... or even bribery. But no, due to our new-found love of 90's show TMWRNJ, in which TV's Emma Kennedy played Nostradamus, I had made Si-Pod a Nosty tee-shirt. Then, just for larks and the like, I emailed Emma the pic of him wearing it, and she responded saying she'd love one.

I'm sure she didn't mean it, or was being polite, but we brought one to the show anyway (well, the transfer as we didn't have time to make it)... Long story short, we found ourselves on the balcony of Bush Hall supping drinkies with Emma, Richard Keith Herring and the rest of the cast. We had to dash for the coach, but TV's Emma Kenndy was an absolute joy and so kind and generous to us. Thank you, Emma, Richard, Christ, and the entire TWTTIN team! See you in 2 weeks! (pics above; my ma & pa, then the tube ride back from TWTTIN)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Beautiful Insane

It's been a week now since we dubuted our new acoustic album, 'Lens Flare', for all our friends and family. I really should have posted before now, but the shock and surrealism of the night has just worn off, so I feel I can now talk about it with clarity and truth.

The truth is, it was an amazing night, for so many reasons, and some that I'll never be able to put into words. I don't want this to come across as a huge pat on our collective backs, I never did, and that's why I waited to write about it. And I've tried to find bad points about the experience - believe me, I really looked for some. But if I'm here to tell you the truth, then all I can honestly say is... there were none.

Most of the credit for the evening has to go to Chloe and James, as they had set up the most beautiful room for the first listening of the album; candles, amazing foody nibbles, drink and a killer sound system! The room had space for about 15 people. We had nearly 30 there by the time we pressed 'play' on track 1... and suddenly the room fell silent.

And it stayed silent.

I can't speak for James, but I never expected this. I thought the album would be playing, people would sit and listen to parts, chatting amongst themselves most of the time. But I never expected that people would sit listening, for almost an hour, without saying a word or making a sound.

Except for the clapping. Again, something I never anticipated was that people would applaud between every track. I thought we might get it after track 1 cuz, you know, that's the first one and it's over now. But not every song.

I think in a way, I may have underestimated my friends and family. I knew they all wanted to hear the album but we'd been so secretive about it, not letting anyone hear a single note, that after the many months passed I'd assumed they'd almost maybe forgotten about it.

In the past, myself and James have always given little tasters of what we're recording to the people we know - whether it be different mixes or demos. In the case of 'Lens Flare', nobody had heard a thing since last December, and all they knew is that we would vanish to a studio some nights and come back saying cryptic things like "it's getting there", and "needs work".

And these are the people that have come to our gigs when we had a mildly packed room, and made their way to the front. But more importantly, these are the people that have been to our gigs when no one showed up, and still clapped us and chanted, and shouted like they were at the Astoria. I cannot praise them enough.

I didn't think we'd have a captive audience, who'd applaud as if they were watching a live show. There are no words for how that felt.

If nothing else happens with this album, I'll always remember that. And I don't mean that in the hokey, cliched way. I mean that in the sense that I never thought I could able to write that.

Love to you all xxxx

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Neon Ballroom

"Can I ask you a personal question?" yelled a drunk and terribly over-zealous beast of a man at me, disturbing the quiet drink I was enjoying with my friend the Feisty Hedgehog recently. Succumbing to my inner-politeness I nodded. At which point he launched an unprovoked attack on my personal shortcomings, focusing mainly on a skin condition I have which comes and goes. Stunned into silence by the shear audacity of this monstrous yeti, I was only brought back around when the trusty Hedgehog came to my aid and launched such a tirade of her feisty rage on him that he soon scurried away at a speed I have only previously seen in cartoons.

I'm sure in his silly, silly atom of a brain he was simply making conversation. What everyone else in the world heard, however, was "Raaaaahhhh!! Look atch your faysh!!". I came away from this encounter, more than anything, with a sense of pity. Some people are just born with an ignorant mindset which may start harmless enough but soon descends into personal attacks on individuals they do not know, and ignorance breeds hostility. In this way, I don't see a world of difference between an attack on someone's skin condition, or an attack on someone's skin colour. Or religion. Of course, the fallout is different for different situations, but I still believe it adds up to a single decision in the mind of an individual.

Not that I would dream of comparing my little encounter with the complexities of living in a war-torn country, town, village, or even a war-torn family. Those are horrors I could not even imagine, and won't try to write an opinion on them here, I'm not nearly enlightened enough the situations to make intelligent statements on them, have never experienced them, and believe me there are better people than I to read on those subjects.

This had started out with the intention of being a quick and mildly amusing blog about a drunken buffoon, but alas my brain started thinking about stuff, which is never a good thing. Might be back with another of Ian's Useless Movie Reviews soon, and boy have I seen some gems lately...