Monday, 26 January 2009

Skin Deep @ Leeds Grand Theatre

"I could absolutely vomit!"
"Peurile...No, beyond childish."
Just some of the glorious expressions of disgust heard when the interval curtain fell at Armando Iannucci's operetta on Saturday, January 24. Personally I wasn't disgusted enough, although perhaps that might be to do with the fact that I could still class myself a youth at a push, and therefore would not be shocked if John Snow began eating the Channel 4 news crew's brains live on air. My slightly laboured point being that the people who weren't offended were young.

So do real grownups have no sense of satirical humour? Or is it just the ones with Land Rover Discos and 5 labradors who really can't stomach 20 people in extremely fake-looking naked suits complete with wooly pubic hair? (See, it was funny.) It's a confusing thought, because everyone must have had a GSOH at some point in their lives, or that acronym would mean absolutely nothing because it wouldn't have needed to be invented because it would not be true of anybody at all. Still, apparently you can become 50 and not be able to laugh. What a fun life these people must have had.

But it was funny. Yes, mostly in a 'peurile' sense, but come on, willies and boobies are very funny. Especially if they're being sung about by an accomplished opera singer in a beautiful alto voice.

In all honesty, the show as a whole was on the shambolic side. There were times when the words weren't distinguishable at all, and towards the end the plot seemed to dissolve into flesh juice, loads of people were walking around a huge white pedal bin with bathing suits on, and without my glasses especially the stage started to look like a big blob of noise. I think it turned me into a synaesthesian.

It wasn't unenjoyable though, I was as impressed with the performers as I was by the general funny-ness of it, and although the dialogue wasn't as great as I'd hoped for (I'm a huge fan of Iannucci's sometimes insane wordplay...how can one man be so fantastically random?) I still had a roaring good time. At the end I even heard posh people expressing their dislike for the opera, as though they had been expecting a nice lovely rendition of The Magic Flute. It's always fun to hear indignant old poshies get irate. "I have no wish to stay for the second half Maragret. Absolutely no wish in the world." Good, get out. You're ruining it for the rest of us you loudly complaining ASBO old woman. The leading lady had an extremely powerful voice, but to single one person out from the cast would be a shame. They all did tremendously (don't you love that word?) with what they were given. No offence to Armando, but there was a bit of a brightly-coloured-crayons-being-silly-for-the-sake-of-it feel to the show.

Really though, as they said on the Culture Show last week, Louis Theroux's already exposed plastic surgery. There's not much left to expose. The only direction was silly and dark. And silly and dark it was. Especially when Doktor Needlmeier and his lover got melted to the floor.

(note - every time I see "Doktor" my brain screams out "THAT'S TIM BISLEY'S, HANDS OFF!!" I hope at least one other person does too, or I might have to check into a clinic that erases sitcoms out of people's brains.)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow...

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America (I just like saying it. I'm allowed to, it's the truth) has signed the order to close Guantánamo Bay.

The symbol of unnecessary cruelty that was (and still is until further notice) Guantánamo stood only to undermine every act the west has done in the so-called "War On Terror" that may have been in sincere protection. No matter how noble the cause, there is simply no excuse for the toruturing and capitivity of men, uncharged and possibly innocent, as was proven in hundreds number of cases:

21 year old Chad national Mohammed el-Gharani

Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Hajj
and Chinese Muslim Adel Abdul al-Hakim to name but a few of the more high-profile cases.

Hundreds more were freed over the past few years, as more damning evidence came to light that many inmates at the Naval base were being held under no charge, and were - to put it bluntly - assumed to be terrorists.
In the 21st Century, in a free world where we have the capabilities to set an example on how human beings should treat each other, this facility was a disgrace. It served only to disintegrate further the integrity of America. How can trust be gained for a nation that seems to disregard every human right in favour of it's own hypochondriachal fear of an invisible enemy?

The rebuilding of America's integrity starts here. Obama's short speech he gave after signing the important document is quoted in The Guardian: "The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism and we are going to do so vigilantly... We are going to do so effectively and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals."

....aaaaaand so say all of us.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Punchbags

This morning has been the first time this week that I've rolled out of bed without being in a considerable amount of pain.

My mother (who honestly, is only trying to help) took me to the gym over the weekend to show me a new routine to try. It's to get rid of my Pillsbury tummy, although after the gruelling workout and subsequent sauna experience, I became considerably more attached to the squishy blob.

I've never really had a predisposition to fitness, I walk to places because I'm poor, I run on machines in the gym because that way people in the street can't point and laugh. It's not about health. It's pure vanity. Vanity, and a wish to never have my trousers split when I bend down to say, tie my laces or pick up a pie (my greatest fear). There's nothing bad about gyms, they're quite therapeutic in a sadistic kind of way. The punching, the running, the lifting; it's like being in a gangster film for an hour (lifting bodies out of a limo boot - see, I did think that simile through). It's the bit afterwards that's a bit of a problem, because waking up feeling like you got chased through town by an angry mob for the entire previous day while being mauled by dogs doesn't put you in the correct mood for work. If anything, the only activities you'll be any use for is lying in bed eating Domino's (ham and mushroom) and watching Jeremy Kyle until you're sick. And even that'll hurt, because those crunches have successfully disintegrated your ribcage.

Moaning about it isn't going to make working out any easier though. "Working out". I hate that phrase. "I just had a really good work out". Shut up. Prick. It's something necessary if you live a sedentary life like me, and that's just the way it is. I enjoy eating mashed potato with cheese in and continually refreshing my computer screen for hours on end. This means if I don't want to die in my forties (probably not) I need to do something uncomfortable 3 times a week to stop the yummy cholesterol from choking my heart like a deranged euthanasia nurse. You give, you take. Just put your head down, leg lift until you feel queasy, and try not to make eye contact with sweaty members of the public.

Now that I'm able to do basic tasks like putting a jumper on and then taking it off again without falling to the floor in agony, the good news is that I can go back and do some more training this evening. Fantastic. I'm not going in the sauna though. It's terrifying in there. An enclosed space, 80 degrees Centigrade, with strangers talking to me while they're NAKED. Please, I can't even manage when a checkout person asks me if I want a carrier bag. I had an asthma attack last time, god knows what I'd do without the calming influence of a relative - oddly, scenes from Rambo are springing to mind.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Heathrow Airport HooHaa

Just in case we'd all ran out of things to worry ourselves into a coma about, the plans to build a third runway for Heathrow airport have been "yey"'d by Mr Gordon Brown.

Now, I'm not an expert, but I do know that nearly everybody knows that this is probably a bad idea.

The prize for being the most annoyed by the decision (and there were a LOT of people who were annoyed when I was watching Sky News at lunchtime) has to go to the people of Sipson, a community who will have to be rehoused because the runway will simply run straight through the village. That's a bit annoying. Ridiculous in fact. The government has said that they are willing to bulldoze their way through a whole village to build something that was already extremely unpopular. Yeah, well...who needs 700 extra votes, eh?
[More coverage on this here, on the Independent's website.]

The arguments in favour of the runway mainly cover the country's fears of total economic meltdown, and run in the general vein of "it will bring more tourism, and that's an important industry for our country". That's fine. I guess I can believe that. The parts of their argument that I don't appreciate very much is the re-emergence of Joe the Plumber. His profession wasn't mentioned this time however - perhaps he was recently made redundant - instead he was "Average Joe", a lowly working class UK citizen who so desperately wanted to get away from it all to spend a week in Benidorm, but couldn't afford to in the current economic climate. Or at all, come to think of it. Because of the extra runway, more cheaper holidays will be available, because more budget airlines will be able to operate. I don't really swallow this reasoning.

1. If people can go away to other countries for less, that surely means they're going to spend less in the UK. Doesn't it? Surely we wouldn't need as much revenue from incoming tourists if we were tourists in our own country?

2. Why has the battle for the runway suddenly become concerned with class? Way to throw the issue, Labour.

3. What about the climate change thing? Does that not matter anymore? Have we forgotten about that?

All in all I'm confused and fed up with the fact that the Conservatives have jumped to the plate harrumphing and boo-yahing, claiming that if they were in power, this would never happen. Great. So they have one policy worth listening to, and basically what it consists of is doing the opposite of something Labour have done that's been horribly unpopular. So that's what politics means.
I can see David Cameron being prime minister. I can see it very clearly. And I don't like seeing it very much at all.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

This summer, two cities collapse involuntarily due to the sheer unreliability of their connecting public transport networks. Leeds - Lancs, THE MOVIE

Let it never be said that I hate public transport. I know many people who refer to buses as "peasant wagons", and a few more who haven't been on a train since childhood. Their reasons for avoiding these social-interaction-laden modes of transport vary. For some, the memory of a time when their train was late 5 years ago is enough to put them off for life, and for others (usually my friends, and people who I am sympathetic towards) the mere thought of seeing all those people and accidentally getting something wrong and ending up somewhere you shouldn't just because admitting you were wrong was far too embarrassing, brings them out with clammy palms and a panicked, dazed sort of look in their eyes.

I agree, for the most part, with the second group of people. I can't drive however, and so I have to use public transport often, and in various places.

Usually, bus and train services in the places I go to (mainly Lancaster, Leeds and Hull) are quite good. They usually come on time-ish, they are usually quite clean and tidy, and the drivers/ticket people aren't over-friendly. In fact, some of them actively go out of their way to avoid eye contact and interaction as much as possible. That's my kind of customer service. As long as you memorise your itinerary before you set off, no embarrassing "oh my god, I'm on the wrong platform....I can't walk away now, people will KNOW....oh my god, I'm going to have to go to Crewe" moments should happen (although yesterday I made the glorious mistake of trying to operate an automatic ticket barrier whilst tired and on the phone. After 3 years of jamming my ticket into a slot that wasn't having any of it, I realised the barrier was open anyway. And people saw. And probably laughed. My skin's crawling just thinking about it.). My only beef with the national public transport system is that compared to everything else (broadband, TV, other country's public transport) it's about as reliable as wet paper bag trying to keep hold of some yoghurt. Today my train was cancelled after already becoming 30 minutes late. No explanation was given, I'm assuming the entire train carraige was lifted off the rails by a group of pigeons hell bent on slightly inconveniencing 60 people on a Sunday night, because that's the only acceptable excuse I would have taken. It was raining, there was no other way of getting out of Preston - the world's most depressing city - and the were a LOT of us. The prospect of wading through town to the bus station on the off chance that a non-existent late night service may be going to somewhere resembling civilisation loomed in front of me like a massive concrete radiator (...that's what Preston bus station looks like). We were all herded outside into the rain, so we did was was expected of us - we yelled for 15 minutes like trapped cattle until Virgin trains delivered some futuristic coaches for us to go home in.

As I stared blankly at the motorway, I realised I was horribly depressed and accidentally listening to "Look of Love" by ABC. An angry woman with purple hair was driving us home, and there were several thousand exiteable man-children talking about football sat all around me. I wanted to read, but after realising on the train that a man was reading American Psycho over my shoulder and had obviously got to the bit where he's doing something explicit to a lady before I did; I really didn't think that book was suitable for reading in public. So I stared out of the window, now listening to Kids by Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue, wishing for the fourtieth time that I had been born in Leeds, that I could drive, that Lancaster and Preston didn't exist, and that Virgin trains would give me a refund unless the pigeon thing was true. I don't think it is. I'm never seeing that £16 again.

Friday, 9 January 2009

DEAD SET on Scaring My Pants Off - E4's perfect zomborific distraction from real life scary events

Despite the country falling into an economic depression, global warming threatening to wipe out the Maldives, and the devastating and horrific attacks in Gaza, what stopped me from sleeping last night was some gory horror fiction. The world is in a terrifying mess at the moment, and I'm pretty ashamed to say that I'm trying my hardest to cover my ears and hum a little tune to myself, in the hope that I can at least get to the summer holidays without having a nervous breakdown.



Good news then, that there seems to be quite a lot of interesting shows on the telly to keep me distracted. One show in particular which I missed first time round, is Dead Set, a zombie-filled horror short series, based in the Big Brother house. Repeated late last night, I made the mistake of watching it just when I was about to go to bed. Although the show has many of my favourite things incorporated into it - gore, zombies and dark humour - I was just a little too tired to appreciate the programme fully. What mainly transferred itself into my brain was a sort of horror-nausea, a sort of general unease that although zombies are completely fictional, this all looked a little bit too realistic.

Commendations to Jamie Winstone who managed to scream and panic in a non-grating and thoroughly believable way making her character "Kelly" the most likeable; and to the rest of the cast who at times did seem a little wooden, but mostly played their respective parts with real emotion and conviction. Some lines did seem a little "have I heard this before?", but this could proabably be attributed to knowing Charlie's style inside out at the moment. (Yes, I know, embarassing blah.)

On the whole, Dead Set was scary, shocking and at times was even actually moving, and the only downside I'd mention would possibly be the occasional badly-delivered line. It left me too scared to go to bed after it had finished, and so was forced to watch TV for another 3 hours. Great stuff.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Realising I'm pretending to be a journalist, aka. Fibbing

Being back home in the town where I was born is not as fun-packed as I'd imagined. Working hard on placement means not going out at night mid-week, and having only my elderly laptop and mobile phone for company most of the time, I have become faintly obsessed with several things in order to keep my brain occupied.

Said elderly laptop refuses to allow me to play any games involving any kind of graphics. Sometimes websites are linked into the "game" category, and my screen errupts in red cross chickenpox, meaning I have to guess where I'm supposed to click to read my bank balance or check my facebook messages. The thing here is that this is crippling to my Fallout 3 practice. I can't play anything that was created post-Halflife, and if I try, I get ten thousand warnings informing me that my memory status is "dangerously low". Dangerously low? How dangerous can having no memory be? It's not like its ever had any memory anyway, my laptop's capability to remember things is about the equivalent of a pensioner jotting down the bus times on the back of a Tesco receipt. Watch out! There's too much information there! I might have to uninstall paint or something!! And that would REALLY SHIT YOU UP!

So, in light of a severe lack of V.A.T.S rampages on supermutants, my brain has been occupying me in other more creative ways. For example, I now only ever crave ham sandwiches when I'm hungry. Explain that one. I also appear to have lost my grip on reality almost completely, and have begun ringing national newspapers to ask for column space for the company I'm on placement for, all the while realising that I am only pretending to be a professional journalist. At any point, I expect a features official to burst into my office brandishing lists of my recorded phonecalls, demanding to know why somebody let me loose in a provisional media role. They're going to find out soon, I know they are. "Hey! Wait a minute! You're meant to be flogging stuff in House of Fraser! FRAUD!!!!" they'll yell, as they chase me down the road with pitchforks made of staplers and broken tea mugs. All the while I know this however, I still have the deluded fantasy in the back of my head where I send someone at, say, "Recycle Now!" my arse-kissing feature on the company I work for, and they ring me back to beg me to work for them. This begins my crawl to the top, where in 3 years time I have a column in the Guardian, and am best mates with Chris Morris and David Mitchell, therefore rendering it unnecessary for me to speak ever again because they'll say loads and loads of funny and clever things, and I can just listen to it all and never make a tit out of myself by opening my mouth ever again. Of course this is a damaging pretend world, in reality I don't have the willpower to write a column every week, and even if I did, nobody would read or print it, because it would be absolute rubbish about ham sandwiches.

Also in the pursuit of keeping myself busy, I've unfortunately and completely accidentally developed a creepy girl crush on everybody's favourite misanthrope, Charlie Brooker. I've mentioned him before, and I'd like to add that everything I've ever said about him previously was out of either respect or jealousy. What I say now is never to be listened to or repeated, until this weird 'stage' has passed. Which I hope it will. I'm not sure how this has come about, but the very fact that it began when I was subjected to a life without simulated violence and alcohol worries me greatly. Maybe I should start smoking again to give myself something else to concentrate on.

In my defence, it is partly his fault for being such a clever, funny, smartarsed git, and also for compiling all his columns and stuff together in "Dawn of the Dumb" so I can read them one after the other on the bus to work and agree with everything he says.

Now if you don't mind, I'm off to research furniture recycling (exciting) and pretend that I've saved money today by not buying a hypothetical bottle of gin. I love that my brain somehow thinks pretending that I was going to buy something, and then not buying it, constitutes as saving money. Yesterday, by using this same tactic, I saved £10 by not playing Foxy bingo (why would you anyway?) and had a free meal (they gave me my travel expenses at work...probably means my meal wasn't free).
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