Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cultural Review of 2009

As in previous years, I present my highly subjective review of the year.

I managed to see all of the films that were nominated for Best Film, Best Actor or Best Actress category at the Oscars, mainly at the beginning of the year. My favourites were Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire (although I still think Trainspotting is a way better film). I also loved Moon, which won an award for best British Independent Film (although the OH hated it) and Rudo y Cursi, possibly the best football film ever.

I may have to retire the music category if my apathy towards new music continues. I did get out and see a couple of bands - Maximo Park and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who were both fantastic and the support band at one of these gigs is my only new discovery of the year, Joe Gideon and the Shark. Rage Against the Machine being the Christmas Number One was probably my musical highlight of the year though.

I achieved my aim of seeing at least one production for each month of the year, although amongst that list were some absolute stinkers. The highlights were seeing Sir Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot, the one-man show Stefan Golaszewski Plays and the very funny The Priory, but my favourite was Three Days of Rain with the wonderful James McAvoy.

In the post-Wire era, any comments about television shows need to be preceded with the phrase "Its not as good as The Wire, but...". So with that disclaimer in place, I was impressed by In Treatment (although 5 episodes a week was a huge committment), Curb Your Enthusiasm was excellent and The Daily Show continued to inform and entertain. Embarrassingly, I became addicted to Come Dine with Me, but I'm hoping to ween myself off it. On DVD, we rediscovered NYPD Blue, which isn't as good as The Wire, but...

I read over 100 books this year so its a wonder I found time to do anything else. The best were Tropical Fish: Tales of Entebbe by Doreen Baingana, Giraffe by J M Ledgard and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I also loved The Picture of Contented New Wealth by Tariq Goddard (I'm looking forward to his 5th book in 2010) and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which left me wondering why it had taken me so long to get around to reading it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making Morph: Attempt 1

This is what Morph should look like

This is what my first attempt looks like:

Like Morph with leprosy.

Crafty Christmas

Amongst my Christmas presents this year were two craft type things, which I suspect may be aimed at children but are probably at the right level for my creative talent.

One was a Make Your Own Morph set. Morph is supplied in his raw form - a lump of plasticine - along with instructions turning it into the character. It all sounds simple but somehow I'm not sure it will be.

The other was a Pom Pom Owl kit, with wool to make two pom pom owls. Again, it should be child's play and again I'm certain I'll mess it up.

I will return to post the results when I'm done.

Belated Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas to you all. Rather late as I've been in The North, away from computers for the past week.

Christmas was good - plenty of gifts, food and booze, but the best part was totally unrelated to the festive period. The parts of my visit I enjoyed were the walks on the beach with a small ageing, fluffy dog.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I may be from the same town as the X Factor winner, but (part 2)

I will not be taking part in the karaoke at the office Christmas party on Monday.

I don't do singing. Even if I did do singing, it wouldn't be in front of my new colleagues, on a Monday lunchtime, stone cold sober. Equally, I'm not that keen on hearing my new colleagues sing on a Monday lunchtime stone cold sober.

I may be from the same town as the X Factor Winner, but (Part 1)

I won't be buying his single. Instead I will be putting my money (all 79p of it) behind Rage Against the Machine.

Certainly not to everyone's taste, I do actually like the Rage Against the Machine song, it reminds me of my youth. But even if you don't like it, I urge you to still buy it - you don't ever have to listen to it. Do something to stop the grip of the manufactured predictable pop machine of X Factor and their lazy complacency that they have the right to the top of the chart.

I have nothing against the show's winner, but I can't stand his so-called mentor Cheryl Cole, who perfectly typifies what is wrong with country, and is part of one of the most contemptible couples ever. She is someone who the nation has taken to its hearts based on her having nice hair (is it even real?) and what most people regard as a comedy regional accent. Another person encouraging young girls to believe it is more important to have lots of hair than a brain. She fell further in my already low estimation of her yesterday, when she compared the Rage Against the Machine campaign to bullying. It isn't bullying - it is nothing personal against the winner, who afterall could have been anyone - and that is hugely insulting to anyone who has suffered real bullying, which I'm certain never involved being stopped from having the Christmas Number 1.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lame Christmas Lights...

I was going to write a post about how lame Christmas decorations seem to be this year.
I was going to moan about the three pathetic light decorations on lamp posts in my neighboourhood

I was going to moan about the pretty but insubstantial tree lights in my nearest shopping area

I was going to moan about how ugly the lights are on Oxford Street this year

I was going too moan about the almost complete lack of lights in Covent Garden

I was going to speculate on whether these half-arsed efforts were due to spending cutbacks, a victim of "the current economic climate" or of environmental concerns.

But then I saw this which more than made up for the other poor shows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

First of the Season

I had my first mince pie of the year yesterday. They aren't my favourite Christmas food (that honour goes to Christmas Cake or possibly even the much maligned sprout), but somehow the mince pie signifies the start of the festive season most to my mind.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sinterklaas, the Black Petes and EuroPop

Last night I celebrated Sinterklaas for the first time. Sinter Klaas usually visits children at 2.30 and 7.30, but he arrived rather late in the pub, by which time the excitement had build up (and wine had been taken).

He was accompanied by the traditional Sinterklaas helpers, the Black Petes. The Black Petes however have been forced to change with the times, and had blue faces rather than black, as blue-ing up is not politically incorrect. They threw sweets and cinnamon biscuits into the crowds and a few lucky ladies were selected to receive gifts from Santa and answer whether they had been good all year, which was as seedy as it sounds.

Then the evening was rounded off with another thing the Dutch seem to love - bad EuroPop dance music including tinny techno-ish versions of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Daydream Believer" and a few numbers in their native tongue.

Hope you all enjoyed Sinterklaas as much as I did.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Happy Sinterklaasavond

Or perhaps it is Merry Sinterklaasavond.

Either way, I shall find out tonight as I'm going to a Dutch pub with a Dutch friend to celebrate this Dutch tradition.

It involves gifts and poems. The gifts are bought, but the poems still need to be written...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

With a fringe on the top

My hair has always been more or less the same. I was born with full head of dark brown hair, and then any photographs of me, it is long, straight and brown. I must have had short hair at some point to go from the baby fluff to the long hair, but there is no documented evidence of this. For 30-odd years, I have had more or less the same hair style. The only major variation has been the issue of the fringe.

From the age of 3 to 16, I had a fringe. From ages 3 to 9 it was invariably a badly cut, wonky fringe, courtesy of my mother. Around the age of 10, hairdressers were obviously invented, and the fringe became straight. At 15, I wanted rid of the fringe. It seemed to take years to get rid of it properly and I spent much of the ages 16 to 18 hiding behind the awkward growing out stage.

I lived happily without fringe for probably over a decade, when somehow a hairdresser persuaded me to let it back into my life. The last few years have seen me swing from fringe to not fringe. and most recently being in the no man's land of the "sweeping side fringe". When I'm without a fringe, I admire the sharp, 60s style fringes of others, and imagine a fringe for myself like this:

With this thought in mind, I allowed the return of the fringe on Saturday. The elfin hairdresser seemed to greet the idea of the fringe with enthusiasm - I think she was more bored with the sweeping side fringe than I was. When it was cut, she proudly announced "It's back!". I was less keen. Now I am with fringe again, I'm looking enviously at those with cascading fringe-less hair and when I think of fringes and look in the mirror, this image comes to mind.