Posts from 4th May 2004

May 04

Easy as it is to believe,

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 381 views

Easy as it is to believe, sellout culture guru Malcolm McLaren had a shot at writing a musical with none other than Pete Waterman back in the early nineties.

What did this consist of? Its hard to say based on the evidence presented here, but plenty of narrative and a post new-age shopping trip seem to feature heavily. As does a souped-up riff on the allegretto from Beethoven’s seventh. It should be hateful of course, but then, just as with A Fifth of Beethoven, you can’t help finding disapproval getting caught up in the fun.

I saw Pele’s first competitive goal!

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I didn’t, of course, but apparently I’ve seen the next best thing: the first competitive goal by the All-American wonderboy, 14-year-old soccer sensation and certified New Pelé, Freddy Adu. Young Fred is to be seen with The Great Man himself on an ad for some soft drink or other: Freddy out-skills Pelé in a competition to own the last remaining bottle but the old master sneakily snaffles the lot while the whippersnapper is off performing some baroque sequence of flicks.

It was interesting to see the fairly muted Adumania in the US: there was terrific applause from the rival sets of fans when he scored, like they were just pleased to witness history being made. In the reports we saw on the TV news in a boozer, they didn’t bother to mention that Adu’s team DC United, had lost to their enemies the NY / NJ Metrostars. Instead they chose to show the (very good) goal again and again.

In England, it would likely be considered bad form for such a young player to receive this sort of attention. Following Manchester United’s lead, Everton appear determined to shelter Wayne Rooney from publicity as much as possible, though it’s not yet clear whether WR would have anything even vaguely entertaining to say. There seems to be a fear ‘ a reasonable fear ‘ of allowing handsomely paid young men to receive too much adulation. Feet must be kept on the ground, preferably in boots you’ve cleaned yourself, and precious young limbs must be cherished. Cautionary tales of ‘wasted’ talent and injuries caused by too much physical punishment at an early age abound. Of course, clubs see the words ‘curtailed career’ and read ‘reduced return on investment”

I was interested to see that there is an ongoing lawsuit in (I think) American Football where the authorities are trying to prevent a player entering the draft before the age of 21, arguing that he won’t be physically or emotionally prepared. I’m told that our hero (14) is already among the best-paid players in MLS.

Apparently it is a rarity for a soccer game to get on the TV sports round-up in the first place, so it’s easy to see why MLS have cleaved to a homegrown sensation in their attempts to popularise football (soccer) in the States. Freddy’s well-being probably doesn’t figure near the top of their list of priorities.

So how was he? A couple of decent touches, a marvellous step-over which avoided being fannydangle by virtue of the tremendous cross which it allowed, and another 30 minutes or so of not much. But he is only 14. I hope he’s the sort of fellow to take the attention in his stride. I’d be delighted if he becomes an international sensation. I saw his first competitive goal. It’s always good to have boasting rights.

The art of the film poster has taken a nosedive in the last twenty years

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 327 views

The art of the film poster has taken a nosedive in the last twenty years, well thought out collages, montages and paintings have given way to often messily generic screen grabs, cheap poster printing and photoshopped monstrosities. Every now and then your eye is taken by good design (the Kill Bill ones unsurprisingly) but there is little to match the wit and verve of the best of the fifties and sixties.

That said, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (first eight minutes reviewed here) has opted for an atmospheric painting of its leads. As befits its attempt to be a modern noir, it has gone retro with its poster. It is therefore a pity that such a nice idea has lead to such a bad painting. It is, as yet, unavailible on the web though it is bill stickered all over London. I’d appreciate a second opinion on this one.

Giggling happily at the horrible violence

Do You SeePost a comment • 414 views

Giggling happily at the horrible violence

No, not Kill Bill, but Home Alone!! Tarantino wd employ John Candy if he could and HE WOULD BE RIGHT! (Baffled non UK-ers note: this xmas movie was shown as a Bank Holiday TV Movie yesterday…)

The Time Out Pub Of The Year shortlist

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 349 views

The Time Out Pub Of The Year shortlist has come out, and it looks like the beardy beeries of CAMRA (stereotypes are there for a reason chaps) have had a look in. Perenial CAMRA, and to be fair publog, favourite The Wenlock Arms is there. But also so is The Salisbury Hotel, a sympathetic refurb which was in the controversial historic pub interiors book. It used to be a bit of a shit-hole, even when poor publogger Emma briefly worked there. So has much magic been done to improve its reputation.

I was in there about two months ago, and certainly the whole place looks rather grand. The manky toilets by the bar have been removed, the back room refurbed and the carpet replaced by natty tiling. There is some suggestion that it may be from the people who brought us the Swimmer and The Approach, as the beer selection is the same, and the juker is likewise idiosyncratic. All in all a nice job – except the punters.

A local is a local, and a pub like the Salisbury (the Sally as we called it) was always a bit of a sink pub. Considering that back in the day it had a Wetherspoons six doors down we need to consider the kind of sink pub it was. The drug users seem to have been moved on but “the characters” were being encouraged when I was last there as they seemed to be the only punters actually drinking. Said characters were toothless old soaks who liked the Pixies and fell over on exiting the pub at 5pm. If punters maketh the pub, the the Sally has not got a hope in hell.

Of the five pubs listed I would imagine it being between the Wenlock Arms and The Lamb in Lambs Conduit Street, with the Lamb edging it for being central. How The Elgin got on the shortlist I don’t know, the service has always been appalling every time I have been in there, and as any fule kno there are no decent pubs in West London. The only one on the shortlist I have never been to is the The Sultan in Wimbledon, which being owned by the Hopback Brewery is probably another CAMRA fix. A trip may be in order.

Les Kellett

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Les Kellett

The Wrestling Channel is a welcome addition to my Sky line-up. To be honest, most of it is Japanese shows with Japanese commentary or third-rate WWE knock-off stuff, not all bad, often fast and lively, but I think what little genuine star material they have is just waiting for the WWE call. But it also has old selections from when wrestling was on World Of Sport ages ago. Today’s showed up what I loved best and least about that show, decades ago.

First up was a tag match, with the good guy team being Kid Chocolate (ah, the good old days when a black wrestler would have such a name…) and Big Daddy, a 24 stone fat middle aged bloke who somehow became everyone’s favourite wrestler. The script had the small Kid Chocolate getting beaten up for ages, until he finally gets the tag. The bad guys then try one tactic against Big Daddy: running into his huge belly, until he falls on top of one of them for the win. Astoundingly dreary, and according to more than one good judge, what killed British wrestling.

But after that they showed two matches featuring Les Kellett, easily my favourite British wrestler ever. He was an unimpressive figure, short, 14 stone, looking about 50, very unathletic. I think he was also among the funniest men I’ve ever seen, and a unique wrestler. His skills were deceptive, but sometimes evident in his very smooth reversals, he was clearly very tough, and he had some original moves – I particularly liked when he’d fall back over the second rope, his knees would hit the top rope and he’d catapult back through to headbutt an opponent in the belly, making the whole thing look completely accidental. He also had an extraordinary way of staggering around as if completely out of it, then slowly swaying out of the way of any attack, as if drunk – at these times, he seemed a physical comedian in the Buster Keaton league. Another schtick was not hearing the round bell when he had a good hold on, and when eventually forced to break getting in the opponent’s face and shouting “The bell’s gone!” in apparent astonishment. Sadly neither of the matches on show today featured his figure four leglock, which he would seem to relax when the bell went, but the ref would spend the break trying to untangle it, and as soon as the bell went again he’d power back into it. Add in all the chat, all the “Shouldn’t you talk to him about that, ref?” and hands to his face in embarrassment when he ‘unthinkingly’ did something naughty and other byplay, and he was a great entertainer.

Incidentally, turns out he was also something of a psycho who most wrestlers would refuse to train with. There was a finger hold that was an instant win, as breaking the fingers was very easy, so it was an automatic submission. Unless you were fighting Les Kellett, who would just snarl “Fucking break it then.”

Now With Added Stats

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 253 views

Now With Added Stats
Cosmetic Ads on TV are perennial science-blog fodder*, but I have noticed something new on the ads on (British) television. Statistics. Not simply “10 times smoother” but things like “10 times smoother, 15 women asked, 60% agreed”.

I’m pretty sure this must be a new regulation as it’s appeared on all these ads pretty much at the same time. Also, it’s not doing any of the advertisers any favours. The low numbers involved, and the often ludicrous “agreement level” seem like foot shooting** in extremis. I have seen as low as “55% agreed”, surely not statistically significant with such small numbers of people asked. Perhaps, as this is from a group of people who are experts on the smoothness scale (viz ladies***), that extra 5% is all the more certain. Or something.

I can’t find any info about this being imposed on the advertisers, so any info on this would be welcome.

* Try googling Nutrileum, go on. Apart from the sites advertising the product, it’s only on a couple of sneery blogs.
** In the common sense of the phrase, for all you pedants insisting on the original meaning (of deliberately causing small “accident” to avoid impending doom)
*** bless them

Screwing The Black

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Screwing The Black

My snooker story is much the same as most of my generation. Watched it with grandparents, now find it dull, played it once – it took forever. The game is still suffering from the damage inflicted upon it by Stephen Hendry, a charisma vacumn who suceeded in making Steve Davis look like Sammy Davis Jnr, showmanwise*.

Last night I was forced into a tricky situation. A couple of very good friends invited me round for dinner and drinks – to watch the snooker. The lure of free food and convivial bouzing obviously won out, but I was dreading the green baize lull. Thank goodness for “Rocket” Ronnie O’Sullivan then, not only does he seem to have a character, but he polished the match off in twenty minutes. This left a potentially disappointed audience (including and Archduke Ferdinand lookalikee in the front row), but left me very happy. And I could not be happier for the lad, especially as he is now taking the piss by playing left handed every other shot.

What struck me though is the resistance in working class sports to Britain’s ethnic minorities. There are no top flight black snooker players. There are no top flight black darts players. Why is this? Can we call in our old friend genetic disposition, which we use to cover the excellence of balck spinters? It seems unlikely. Snooker can be seen as a way out of the gutter, but it appears as a way it is an exceptionally white one. Look at Ronnie O’Sullivan. Chingford lad from the wrong side of the tracks, he may have spent his youth playing snooker in a low rent snooker hall, but it would be a Chingford low rent snooker hall. As the history of racism on the football terraces shows, just because people share similar economic differences does not make for solidarity. Snooker halls are usually private member clubs, and it is quite possible they operate in a way which would be openly deplored if they were the actions of golf clubs.

Darts on the other hand is a pub game, a game which needs no club to join to play. Competative darts, at pub level however, is a team game – and you don’t get into the solo spotlight without triumphing with a team. Of course it is quite possible that there are plenty of Black and Asian players who do not want to make the leap. I find this as unlikely as the complete lack of Asian footballers being wholly down to their parents wanting them “all to be doctors” (a theory I have heard proclaimed on more than one occasion). Are the various associations doing anything to deal with this? I wonder if they want to? After all perhaps one of the other reasons my grandparents liked watching snooker was that in their ingrained racism, it was the one thing on television that did not offend their sensibilities.

*The truism is that Steve Davis of course has always been quite a funny bloke, and the whole Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis persona fit as a juxtaposition to the wild boys of snooker. Certainly in the commentary booth he does a much better job at entertaining than John Parrott, yet another man hired solely on the assumption that all Scousers are funny. Has there ever been a case where the evidence is stacked so strongly against.

Nobody was expecting hard science from the BBC’s Test Your Pet

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Nobody was expecting hard science from the BBC’s Test Your Pet, but even so it left pet owners shortchanged in its attempts to define animal intelligence as ‘doing cool tricks’. This is all very well if you have a dog, otherwise it’s nonsense – but there was room for a populist programme which really would teach viewers a few things about the animals they live with. As it was the attempt to shoehorn everything from snakes to puppies into one ‘pet’ category was plainly doomed. There are really obvious and basic distinctions, for instance, between intelligence shown by prey and predator animals. A cat entering a room might well head straight for where it thinks a treat/prey is: a guinea pig doing the same would be mental, it needs to scope out the area first for boltholes and potential threats before it can deal with the food.

(Of course we went and tried the various ‘tests’ on our rabbits and they did very well, the male being particularly persistent with the broccoli tied to a string. Awww.)

I did something yesterday that I’d not done for several years.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 179 views

I did something yesterday that I’d not done for several years. I went to a Beefeater Restaurant. Truth is, I wasn’t even sure there were any left. The Epsom Downs Beefeater had been a ‘big night out’ for Isabel and I in the early days of our relationship, before I learned to cook even slightly. I’m not quite sure why we didn’t go for curries – there was something appealing about the basic big-portion fare of Beefeater with its giant steaks. It was on the way to meet Isabel for a Beefeater ‘date’ that I was attacked by a gang on a train (resulting in cancellation of meal among other things), and shortly afterwards the Beefeater was rebranded as an ‘Out And About’ with a salad’n’surf-heavy menu. So I felt I had unfinished Beefeater business.

I had older, fuzzier memories of the place too. My Dad’s favoured birthday treat was a meal at the Berni Inn*, which the pubstaurant had been called in pre-Beefeating times. In fact the only times I can remember eating out as a kid involved steaks and big ice cream portions at the Berni. The chain was a favourite with families who basically didn’t go out for meals in 70s/80s Britain – if you were like my Dad, and didn’t enjoy spicy food, what else was there? My Mum would occasionally go to a local ‘French’ place but he considered this an extravagance. Yesterday I realised that the special-occasion trade is still the Beefeater customer base – lots of dressy families determined to enjoy themselves. Luckily the staff were all about making sure they did.

The service at the Beefeater was GREAT – warm and friendly, just enough fuss made but never any intrusion, food arriving quickly and not being whisked away. OK, you’d expect quick food given that the Maitre D’ is a microwave but the rest was spot on. The secret was not hiring waiting staff for looks – lots of jolly middle-aged women beat out supercilious robed students a la Belgo’s any day, for instance.

The food, on the other hand, was mediocre – no great surprise there. (And I should say at this point that Isabel loved it). The chips were flavourless and pasty; the vegetables tough; the chicken goujon starter nice enough but pretty miniscule; the potato skins starter bland; the sauce watery. The mushrooms were pretty tasty though, and the Beefeater does still do steak well – basic, flavoursome, not too fatty, and BIG. But nothing to justify the bill, which was ?15 over a decent Tooting curry.

*(A Google on “Berni Inn” brings up reams of feeble observational comedy and little respect. I still remember it as being rather classy! – you’ll believe anything when you’re 10.)