Posts from 1st March 2004

Mar 04

I’ve been reading a lot of recipes for Cassoulet lately

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,060 views

I’ve been reading a lot of recipes for Cassoulet lately and they are all completely different. I made mine with duck legs, haricot beans, salted belly pork, some spicy/smoky sausages and some lamb neck fillet. It tasted great, from what I remember……. You see what none of the recipes advise, but should be there in flashing neon is that Cassoulet takes a long time to make, drinking constantly while making it is akin to a decent session down the pub, so go steady when you make it, or you may have trouble taking the duck meat off the bones while serving up, just like me.

Here’s my vote for Lost in Translation as the A Hard Day’s Night for a younger generation

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Here’s my vote for Lost in Translation as the A Hard Day’s Night for a younger generation. (Whether Bill Murray’s generation or Scarlett Johanssen’s generation is still up in the air.) Impressionistic, nearly plotless, both trading on themes of loneliness and trying to find a place to fit in (think “sad ballad Ringo”) as well as dealing with fame. And every now and then, the stars get up and sing a song or two.

Clientele confusion.

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 434 views

Clientele confusion. According to 6 Music, Laura Veirs’ ‘The Cloud Room’ will be the first single from her _Carbon Glacier_, an album whose purchase on the recommendation of various middlebrow publications for middle-aged men doubtless confirms my membership of what the Guardian today describes as the fifty quid bloke (point of information: I’m more like a fifteen quid bloke, but there you go). There’s probably some great stuff to be blogged about the idea of cold music, or music about cold places, but this isn’t that post. I just wanted to point out that whenever I hear her description of a piano player doing ‘songs for the clientele’ I always hear the phrase with a capital letter, making it more like songs from The Clientele, a band much beloved of various FT contributors.

‘A Bible with a bit cut out! […] It don’t bind no more’n a ballad book.’

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 286 views

‘A Bible with a bit cut out! […] It don’t bind no more’n a ballad book.’
I flew back to Edinburgh from Brussels via Heathrow yesterday, and on the bus into town I realised that on the second flight I’d left the book I was reading in the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me. Now despite all the obvious reasons — tiredness, general traveller’s disorientation, and the lingering effects of three days of trappist-related beer consumption — which would seem to excuse such a slip, this upset me. Having rung the lost property people twice, I am now trying to reconcile myself to its permanent loss, and wondering why it should make me feel so gloomy.

It’s not that I want to know what happens. I’ve read Treasure Island several times, and will certainly read it several times again this year, if the essay collection I’m supposed to be contributing a discussion of it to goes ahead. Besides, I can download a copy of the text from one of the databases my university subscribes to whenever I want (in fact I did so earlier today). It’s not the cost of the book, since I seem to remember it only cost me a few pounds, even for a new Penguin Classic edition. It’s not even the pages turned down or marked with post-it notes, or the few inked additions to the text (rare for me to write in a book, and testimony to the haste with which I was preparing a lecture on Stevenson last year): many of the memorable passages are also documented in some notes elsewhere, and the text I wrote contains a much more complete account of what I was thinking last time I read it. I’ve lent books out and not got them back, but take that to be part of the life of a book, so it can’t simply be its physical absence. Nor am I sure it’s even anything to do with being that particular novel, but something to do with that particular object, and its specific trajectory through what passes for ‘possession’…

Do we ever think quite hard enough about the curious combinations of circumstances which bring books into and out of our lives? Anyway, if anyone’s sitting in Seat 13E on a British Airways 737, have a look for a copy of Treasure Island: there’s no reward, but you will cheer me up!

What would the people in Location! Location! Location! say of the House Of Sand And Fog.

Do You SeePost a comment • 271 views

What would the people in Location! Location! Location! say of the House Of Sand And Fog. Well I think there would be some consternation regarding the rather dingy interior, and whether they would advocate the installation of a frankly out of place sun porch is questionable. The key point though would be the repainting of certain exterior wind sills and in particular fixing the dilapidated fence out the front of the house. And it would probably best not to mention the lousy film made within its walls.

Everybody Loves Raymond

Do You SeePost a comment • 164 views

Everybody Loves Raymond is one of those shows whose name begs for an obvious response: a bit like calling your single ‘Not Good Enough’ and sending it to Tanya Headon for a review. It’s currently running on Channel 4 at 8am, a time when, on the few days a week I’m not half way into my mammoth commute, I’m sometimes having breakfast. Having had up to an hour of the Today programme before reaching the shower, by 8 I’m usually channel-hopping in search of anything light and frothy instead. So that’s my excuses for even having seen the thing got in nice and early.

It’s a family-oriented sitcom of a kind I didn’t even know they made anymore — and I can’t think of a British equivalent, even prime-time fodder like My Family having opted to make its characters essentially unsympathetic in order to extract more comic agonies from them without the burden of pathos. Family-oriented in the above sentence should I suppose read family-focused: the show is based around a couple, with three children, while the basic premise = they live across the road from the husband (Ray)’s parents. i.e. it’s half an hour of an extended mother-in-law joke, combined with saintly forebearance from long-suffering wife Deborah, cute mugging by the toddlers, and complete confirmation of the oldest myths about men, women and marital power relations. i.e. Ray is hopeless around the house, Deborah is saintly, but under pressure hassles Ray, Ray ends up asking his mother to do his chores, Deborah and Ray’s mother clash, it all ends happily, with Deborah back in control and Ray continuing his over-grown child act.

My tolerance for even the most sentimental US sitcoms is pretty high, and when a show like Scrubs can ladle on the old-fashioned values, but at least manage enough jokes to distract from the flavour, and add in some misanthropy to sweeten the mixture, there seems little justification for something that falls so flat. The other regular at this time of day seems to be Bewitched, and at least that has the excuse of being old. So what’s up? Is this just the cheapest way to fill morning airtime (and surely even re-runs of RISE with randomly selected viewers supplying a ‘DVD extras’ style voiceover on top detailing its flaws would be funnier, and less saccharine at that time of day)? In which case why the audacity of the title? An attempt to face down haters in advance, by persuading you that you must be the odd one out, that everybody else really does love Raymond (and who could you ring at 8am to confirm or deny it)? Well — and here come the obvious bit — not me.

A Tale Of Two Pubs

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 209 views

A Tale Of Two Pubs: it was Isabel’s birthday on Friday so we went for a meal. This post isn’t about the meal, it’s about the two pubs which bookended the evening, both near Tooting Bec tube.

Isabel isn’t a big pubgoer so our locals have been rather neglected since we arrived in Tooting last Summer. We don’t know many people in the area, we don’t work in the area, and while we’ve got onto chatting terms with neighbours and shopkeepers I still tend to go Central or North for my pub needs. The first pub we went to suggests that this is a bad move on my part; the second confirms what a sensible fellow I am.

The first one is the Kings Head, a massive boozer set back from Tooting High Street. From the outside it looks like a Harvester-style shed, an impression not helped by the titanic plastic Santa it had up all over Christmas. But inside it’s terrific, a proper old gin palace with lots of space and lots of cubbyholes. We weren’t in there long enough for me to get much idea of the decor, but it’s pleasingly heavy on the frosted glass and has plenty of amenities (cigar vending machine!). Definitely worth another visit or three.

The second is the Wheatsheaf, across the road from the tube. We ended up here after the meal: it is the sort of pub people end up in, in every sense. As we entered we heard singing – a loud and bad version of “Freedom” by Wham! Karaoke, we thought. But no – it was ‘a turn’, though the woman doing it repeatedly abused her audience for not getting up and singing themselves. The management had cleared the floor of tables; the singing had cleared it of punters. The one ‘hit’ was “Hey Baby”, which has a Pavlovian effect on some drinkers whether played in pub, club, ferry or no doubt church. A handful of men stumbled to their feet and waved their glasses around to the DJ Otzi opus, trying their best to drag luckless women onto the floor to share in the joy. The only other punter showing any signs of life was an older man who looked like Harold Shipman, and shuffled round and round the bar. He was carrying a plastic bag: after a while we noticed the bag had disappeared, but he continued on his circular path. The light throughout the pub was glaring, illuminating every kind of wretchedness. The singer started on Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”, and we quickly left.

I HATE MUSICALS 1: The Sound Of Music

I Hate Music5 comments • 1,945 views

1: The Sound Of Music

Three and a half hours long! There are pregnant women in labour who dont suffer for that long. Now I am no fascist but I bet I am not the only person egging on Rolf and his Nazi chums when they hunt down the Austrian version of the Brady Bunch in the final stages of the film. This is after all a film which is about someone not competent enough to be a Nun. Considering the onerous duties nuns have we have to wonder about her mental state. From what I remember the duties of a nun are
a) Wearing a wimple
b) Being generally quiet, thoughtful and serene

(There is a c) which involves being stern and whipping children but this is predominantly in historic Irish dramas). Anyone who cannot pull off these two jobs not, as the nuns suggest of Maria here, a wilo the wisp, a flibberty-gibbit or even a clown. She is a mentally damaged imbicile and should not be left to look after six children. Especially children who turn twee into an artform. Much like Maria turns curtains into clothes. Do you remember the kid whose mum made him clothes out of curtains at school. No, me neither – I guess I repressed his tragic suicide from my mind.

I have often fantasised about the hill Julie Andrews twirls her way up at the start of the Stinking Sound Of Music. Hoping that this time the hill would suddenly end, leaving a gash in the landscape that she unfortunately tips herself down. Yodelling all the way down so those Men With a Beer With Its Head Afloat could hear*.

If any children of mine, rather than going to bed, took five minutes via a complex, multi-lingual song, I think I would send the right down the workhouse. The Von Trapp children are described as thoroughly naughty, but with all their girlie singing are about as hard as candy floss. The lyrical nonsense thrown up by this film is almost endless. Edelwiess – I am happy to meet you – its a plant! I am sixteen going on seventeen -you are sixteen going on six feet under if I had my way. La – a note to follow soh – whats wrong with La – a rubbish scouser band?

As for Captain Von Trapp of the Austrian Navy. Austria is land locked. He just putts a few yachts around Lake Geneva. So we have a failed Nun, a pointless captain and a family of halfwitted children (especially the youngest one with a face like a sprout) – versus the Nazis. Am I really the only one cheering on the Nazis here? Go Rolf, go.

*The Lonely Goatherd also rhymes Table DHte heard with the titular LG, forming possibly the worst rhyme in musical history.

Four To The Floor causes much consternation in my head

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Four To The Floor causes much consternation in my head. I like it. It is by Starsailor. I really thought I had exorcised the embarrassment of liking something by a lousy band. And more than liking Sing by Travis, the trouble stems from a forebrain knowledge that the song is not just not all that good, but is fundamentally dishonest. Since when could you ever describe a Starsailor song as a Four To The Floor disco classic? Why even this, well I suppose you could dance to it.

Anyway my faith in my own open mindedness shocked to the core I listened to it again to embrace (agh, no) its charms. Which was when I realised it just nicked its piano off of Dr Dre’s production of California Love for Tupac. And since it was only really the piano I liked, I was sorted.

Something’s Gotta Give is a romantic comedy.

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Something’s Gotta Give is a romantic comedy. You can tell this because it starts with one of the most romantic songs ever written. Butterfly by Crazy Town.

Like the title of the film, this is a collection of half baked ideas looking for structure. Beyond the raison d’etre casting the only real thing the film has going for it is that some of the ideas to be half baked are actually quite good. We’ve had our fill of May To December romances, finally we get a December to May thrown in the mix as well as the December to December one the film finally plumps for. Nevertheless it is a curious film who is really not sure with whom its sympathy lies. Is it with ageing lothario Jack Nicholson who finally discovers love in his sixties? Or is it emotionally locked off Diane Keaton, who after getting used to spending nights alone suddenly gets the interest of not one but two men. The feminist comparison of Keaton and Nicholson’s respective places in the world is expertly summarised, though the film seems far too good at analysing its own characters and then merely putting them through the motions.

Oddly, the motions do not exist for a film like this. It happily recycles plenty of clich’s about how the antagonists are thrust together and then find love, but point is that it is pretty unusual to see this happening with two people in their sixties. Equally the other man (in this case the younger man) is thoroughly decent and played by Keanu Reeves leaves us a film without a single baddie. Perhaps we have been too well trained by plenty of other films that Jack’s actions in this film are not particularly deplorable. Whatever, with a lack of truly funny lines the film merely coasts on being able to surprise us with a genuinely novel scenario – even if it sews it all up in a very traditional fashion. Watching the finale in Paris one cannot help but wonder if Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn are down off the bridge, on the banks of the Seine doing their own little romantic dance number from Everyone Says I Love You (possibly a better title for this film). And perhaps Jack and Goldie, Woody and Diane would be better couples.