Sunday, October 29, 2006

TISWAS

Sally James vs Swap ShopI met up with my good mate, Tris, last night for a gentlemanly catch-up of personal news and life happenings over a couple of bottles of red wine in Leamington’s coolest uptown joint, Wilde’s wine bar. And as we sat handsomely in the darkest corner we could find we discussed all the important world issues that have currently been keeping us awake at night and preoccupying our waking minds…

…like the undoubted superiority of TISWAS over Swap Shop.

It’s an unarguable fact that TISWAS was leagues ahead. There was and still is utterly no contest.

I mean just compare the two shows yourself:

Swap Shop had Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin and Maggie Philbin – three presenters who in themselves were enough to give any TV studio sick building syndrome and cause kids to vomit up a week’s supply of penny chews on the spot – but dress them in awful chunky knit pullovers and novelty 80’s jumpers and suddenly you have a recipe for turning kids into dysfunctional psychotic misfits who develop a pathological counter-fashion need to wear lycra and purple shell suits. Take a look out your window right now for evidence that this country has been completely destroyed by the Swap Shop generation…

TISWAS however had Sally James whose major contribution, as Tris rightly pointed out, was a pair of amazing tits struggling to burst out of a tiny waistcoat. For a teenage boy that ticks every boob-shaped box in the book. Anything else is a bonus.

Much as Maggie Philbin was an intrinsically likeable person there was nevertheless something ineffably asexual about her. She was like a school lab technician. Kind of there but invisible. Or should that be visible but not exactly there? It’s very common to develop a crush on a teacher at school but unheard of for anyone to fancy a lab technician. It’s just not possible. It’s like they’re not real people. They’re clones. Or synthetic people. As well fancy a Barbie doll (albeit a very speccy mousy one with sensible shoes and a clipboard).

Sally James, however, oozed earthy, filthy, rock-chick sex appeal from every pore and hair flick. And she got splattered with custard pies and various cream toppings every week.

I leave it up to you to draw your own analogy…

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Touching Wood

Gwen and Captain Jack from TorchwoodThe BBC's new version of the Robin Hood legend is still - like a lucky wolf at a "Win A Farmyard Animal Competition" – getting my goat. The only difference now is: I know I am not alone. Emails from various friends have confirmed that there is indeed something very wrong with the state of Nottinghamshire as portrayed by the Beeb film making department...

The chief complaints appear to be thus:

1) Where is Friar Tuck? Reports that he was dropped from the legend for fear of offending the obese and the religious are quite frankly un-tucking-believable!
2) Why is Guy Of Gisbourne wearing a coat half-inched from a Spandau Ballet video?
3) Why does the Sheriff frequently appear in public without a hat – surely this was not done by those who held high office in the Middle Ages?
4) Why were Robin and Much wearing vests with perfectly stitched round collars in a recent episode – since when did Ye Olde Burton’s open up a store in Loxley?
5) What’s with all this talk of “torture camps that turn men against their home country” – was there a Ye Olde Guantanamo Bay in the Holy Land?
6) Why is Robin sporting a re-curve bow that I’m pretty sure wasn’t invented until much later by the Mongols (correct me if I’m wrong)?

And lastly:

7) why oh why have they made Robin a pacifist?!?

The Normans were absolutely hated by the English – and in principle we still hate them now. We WANT Robin to shoot them! Shoot all of them! Horribly and violently!

Sigh... Much as I applaud the notion of pacifism I have to say it makes for a pretty naff hero. What next? Robin and his men form a dispossessed Saxons action group – English Serfs Against Norman Rule – and hold a rally and rag-rug making event in Nottingham Market Square to raise money for their cause?

All of this is a great shame because the acting is pretty damn good and it’s plain that a lot of money has been invested in the show. I could even forgive the anachronistic costumes if only the script writing wasn’t so pants. The people who thought up this post modern, self reflexive version of Robin Hood should be hung, drawn and quartered at their earliest inconvenience... for murder. They’ve killed Robin Hood with Political Correctness.

"Robin Hood! Robin Hood! He re-appropriated from the commercially buoyant and redistributed to the financially disadvantaged whilst adhering to his Zen Buddhist pacifist beliefs..." I’d like to see someone put that into a song.

Torchwood, on the other hand, is a triumph for the BBC. Decent sci-fi on terrestrial TV at last. Aliens, a bisexual hero and girl-on-girl snogging in the first two episodes! Wow. Best of all was a scene featuring an errant security guard beating one off the wrist whilst watching a couple shag on his CCTV screen. Torchwood? Touchwood more like!

Good old Russell T Davis. The Beeb should have got him to script Robin Hood... having Marian work in a Mediaeval Pole Dancing Club might have improved my opinion of the show...

Lame

Got the grumps today.

More trouble with Pocketropolis.com – or rather more trouble with the web host. Basically it’s been off-line since Monday which, for a sad, neurotic, perfectionist writer like me is akin to having both my hands chopped off, my tongue ripped out and my brain lobotomized. Yes, I know that for many of you the latter would be deemed a worthwhile improvement to my character...

And due to a pathetic bottom-rung ladder accident at work I’ve been limping around like Brian Blessed in Long John Silver (only without the booming voice and voluminous beard) since last week. The doctor’s diagnosis was “a badly sprained foot” and recommended copious amounts of Ibuprofen and the application of heat to the injured part, however, all attempts to purchase a foot microwave on eBay have proved fruitless.

Consolation: the BBC’s new sci-fi series Torchwood is excellent. So much better than the continually disappointing Robin Hood....

But more on that later...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sunny Side Down

I have to admit, tail drooping between my handsomely formed legs, that since Friday’s Courier article on the web based adventures of yours truly my web sites have not exactly been overrun with frothing visitors or vibrant fanatics.

It isn’t so much a case of my stone making only infinitesimal ripples in the diamond pool of fame as the fact my stone appears to have fallen short, hit the bank, ricocheted backwards and buried itself in the anus of a passing stoat - unlikely to be seen again and unlikely to be welcomed gladly if it is.

I have to face the fact that the best efforts of myself and the kindly journo at The Courier haven’t been enough to propel me into the heady stratosphere of tabloid centrespread stardom and broadsheet column inches. It seems they’d rather wax lyrical about Charlotte Church’s botty and the unending pantomime that is Iraq. The poor blind fools.

Maybe I should have gone for the vice shame exposé angle (as a mate of mine initially suggested)? Photographed Craig Charles stylee in the back of a taxi cab snorting badly cut drugs from a homemade bong cobbled together out of an old biro and a carton of Sunny D?

No.

Who am I kidding?

I wouldn’t be seen dead with a carton of Sunny D.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fame At Last

What a day. I’ve had Jonathon Ross on the bleedin’ phone all morning, Fern Britton on email trying to line me up to do an interview on This Morning and I’ve had to fight my way through a huge scrum of flash happy hacks and journos salivating on my doorstep just to get to work this morning!

And why?

All because of some article about me in The Courier!

I mean really!

Is it really that big a thing?

I’m certainly not going to let it change me or let it go to my head…

Visitors to this blog please note the following:

Signed photographs are available upon request.
I’m available for weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs and barbecues – I do the lot, me.
I only do supermarket openings on Saturdays.
I don’t work with children or animals.
Or Pete Burns.

Jeeves, start the car. I wish to see the flowers at the bottom of the garden…

You can read my world shattering Courier shenanigans by following the links below:

Blogging Article
25 Questions

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It’s 1973. It’s lunchtime. I’m havin’ hoops.

Gene Hunt picKaren and I are fighting off a hefty dose of the pre-winter blues at the moment by watching copious amounts of Life On Mars. Not content with mere re-runs on TV we’ve been sad enough to invest in the rather princely packaged boxed set so that we can watch the kipper tied adventures of DCI Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler whenever we feel like it.

And incredibly it’s even better upon a second viewing... which is saying something because personally the show got my vote for Best of 2006 the first time round. And I’m not at all alone in this opinion.

I suspect the show has proved so popular not just because of the clever premise (DI Tyler horrifically run over by a car in 2006 immediately wakes up in 1973 and finds himself immersed in the police culture and bigoted politics of that decade) but because - ostensibly set in 1973 - the show can justifiably dispense with all the tedious, irritating, creative red-tape that is Political Correctness.

Now I’m not saying that we should all open our doors once more to the Four Horsemen Of Idiocy – sexism, racism, homophobia and disability discrimination – but I think it’s a commonly held opinion that Political Correctness has turned the corner from sensible consideration for other people into a cul-de-sac of ridiculous and unending prohibition: can’t do that, can’t say that, mustn’t write that, shouldn’t wear that, etc, to the point where nobody knows what the best thing for anybody else is anymore and every example of PC-ness at work has had the effect of narrowing people’s freedoms and sowing more discord than there was before (Jack Straw’s comments about Muslim women wearing the burqa being a case in point).

Gene Hunt’s response to all this mock-saintly, nanny state prescriptiveness would be simple: “Stick it in yer pipe and smoke it, deaf-aid.”

And I bet you’re all laughing or at the very least smiling as a result.

But that’s the point. Have we gone so far down the road of trying to offend absolutely nobody that we now inevitably offend everybody? Has Political Correctness become so inhibitive and synonymous with the idea of “thought police” that a show that reminisces about the “good old days” of un-PC-ness and schoolyard intolerance actually makes the old days seem somehow glamorous, more free and attractive?

Of course I’m sure this wasn’t at all what the makers of the show wanted to achieve. But be honest. Who was your favourite character in Life On Mars? Who is the one that people enjoy quoting the most?

“Guantanamo Bay? Give over – it’s nothing like Spain.”

I have a sudden itch to wear Hi Karate and grow some sideburns.

Victory

Monkey picWow. Result. Pocketropolis.com has been fully restored.

I’m almost gobsmacked. It’s amazing what you can do with a horse’s head and a computer.

This means I am now operating my cerebral circus of internet buffoonery from two web sites - Pocketropolis.com and Pocketropolis.co.uk. Could this be the start of a web based, globally ambitious evil empire?

Mwuh ha ha! Mwuh ha ha! Mwuh ha ha ha!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hit Man

The battle for Pocketropolis.com has commenced.

I have just issued Stuart Conroy, the erstwhile director / technician of Web Warehouse, a not very veiled threat that if he doesn’t restore full ftp access to Pocketropolis.com to me by the close of business tomorrow I will initiate the transfer of the domain name elsewhere.

Yeah, that’s right! You don’t mess with me! You wanna start, eh? Do ya? You wanna start? C’mon then! C’mon!

Of course, given the appalling service that Web Warehouse has been spitting my way of late I should just commence transfer proceedings forthwith... but even in the midst of my Ray Winstone-like rage I have this lame desire to give Mr Conroy yet one more chance to make good.

God I’m so soft.

“Yes, Giuseppe, I appreciate that you have the horse’s head all ready and waiting. Yes, I know you’ve risked life and limb to get into Mr Conroy’s bedroom. Yes, I’m well aware that a horse’s head in Mr Conroy’s bed will terrify him into immediate compliance. I just feel that giving him one more chance won’t do any harm and will reflect the better on us. Bring Dobbin home and we’ll re-schedule for Wednesday. Bad-a-bing.”

Yeah, deep down I know that I’m wasting my own time. Nothing will have changed by Wednesday and ultimately I’ll have to make good my threat to transfer Pocketropolis.com (a whole new can of worms in itself). I guess I just lack the killer instinct.

Mind you if he refuses to allow the transfer then I WILL get mean. I’ll be directing some pretty stiff complaints to the www.icann.org ombudsman, I can tell you.

Yeah.

Bet ya scared now, eh?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Death Of Pocketropolis.com

Cheesed off isn't the phrase.

Due to an incompetent and infuriatingly incommunicative web host - Web Warehouse - www.pocketropolis.com has effectively been disabled. For the time being it is suffering the internet version of a coma. It's there to look at but I can do eff all with it.

I won't bore you with the details but needless to say I'm about to commence what will probably be a very protracted process (given that the support team at Web Warehouse seem incapable of answering emails or publishing a telephone number that actually works) of transferring www.pocketropolis.com to a brand new web host... most likely the one you are utilizing now to read this blog. Once I've achieved that - and frankly I'm not confident given the contempt Web Warehouse show for their customers - www.pocketropolis.com will rise again.

In the meantime I have had to hastily set up a new domain name from which the legend that is Pocketropolis can operate: www.pocketropolis.co.uk

Welcome to the new world order, folks.

P.S. You'll see from the reply to the "Curse You Courier!" entry below that the blogging article isn't now due to appear in The Courier until Friday 20th. Just as well, really. It's given me time to set up this alternative domain name. I've emailed the journalist and hopefully he will be kind enough to update my web address in his article...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Monkey!

Monkey picA proud admission this: I utterly loathe and detest the Power Rangers. I absolutely hate them. With a passion that would see me willingly tear apart whole countries if it would enable me to destroy them and their intrinsically shite by-blows and spin-offs.

Which is a shame because my 5 year old boy absolutely loves them. With a passion that sees him tearing apart the house and any toy with a limb in an effort to emulate them.

This makes for a modicum of conflict as you can imagine. I’m afraid to say that in response to this my answer has been to adopt the Victorian Dad approach and ban Power Rangers utterly from my kingdom (i.e. the house) and this ban has extended so far as to ban the entire God-awful Jetix channel from ever sullying my television screen. Yes, like all cruel fathers before me, the television is my ultimate weapon. The biggest gun in my arsenal.

Maybe this seems overly cruel and unjustifiably unreasonable? Perhaps. But in my defence I would like to point out that after a mere half hour’s exposure to Power Rangers and other copycat shows my boy – along with every other boy who watches them, I hasten to add – becomes so blindingly aggressive and pumped up with adrenalin you’d think he’d wolfed down a two pound bag of sugar (the transformation is like Jekyll and Hyde and has been noted by various family friends). Trouble and tears inevitably follow and in the end Karen and I both decided that the short tantrum that ensued from not being allowed to watch the show was infinitely preferable to the madcap violence that possessed the boy when he had been allowed to watch it.

Anyway, what brought all the above to mind was that for my birthday a few months ago Karen bought me the entire Monkey box set. If you don’t know what the hell Monkey is – tough, look it up on the internet. The box set contains all 52 glorious episodes and every weekend since then the boy and I have watched a couple of episodes per afternoon. It’s kind of become a male bonding sort of thing. But the thought struck me that in a weird kind of way Monkey is possibly the forerunner of all these horrible shows like Power Rangers and Mutant Ninja Turtle Doves or whatever it is they’re called. Cowabogoff, dude.

So why do I approve of Monkey and not Power Rangers?

Easy. There’s a deep-set spiritual aspect to Monkey that anybody, whatever their level, can connect to. But more than this the moral viewpoint of Monkey isn’t so abrasively black and white as it is in Power Rangers – it is in fact exceedingly grey just like real life and so behoves the viewer to think and consider and empathize with all the characters before forming your own judgements. With Power Rangers it’s all so easy and simplified that there is just no need to empathize or show mercy and so it encourages a ruthless streak which borders on the nasty.

Sure my boy still likes to emulate the fight moves in Monkey but underneath it all I can also see that he’s battling to crystallize his own sense of good and evil, right and wrong. Better he does that than blindly accept the bigoted intolerantly moral codes of the horribly Americanised Power Rangers and end up stomping his way round the world with an unassailably righteous chip on his shoulder...

A little bit of uncertainty can be a virtue.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Robbing The Hood

Maid Marian and Guy picMy first impressions of the BBC’s new production of Robin Hood are not at all positive, I’m afraid to say. I’m sure readers of Thursday’s blog will not find this revelation at all startling. What can I say? Hand on heart I really did try to like it and after Thursday’s blast tried to approach the show with a completely open mind and magnanimous view point… but the constant cross-cutting and those awful location titles zinging into the bottom of the frame (accompanied by computer generated sounds of arrows flying) just got on my tits from the off.

My initial synopsis after the end titles had zapped themselves off the screen was “style over content” and after a good night’s sleep I will whole-heartedly stick with that first opinion. The acting was fine. Can’t fault any of the performances. The locations were sumptuous – can’t fault those either – though I’m not sure of the architectural accuracy of the buildings in the villages. Can every village in the 1100’s have looked like Stratford-upon-Avon?

My main problem is the awful stylisation and shallow nature of the show. It’s hard to explain why I found it all so without depth. The basic ethos of the legend is there (God knows it’s not a difficult premise) – good over evil, the defence of the poor and the oppressed, the exulting of old Saxon values over the unfair and voracious laws of the Norman conquerors – but it’s all done without any real emotional heart or true empathy.

The script felt like it had been written by Guy Ritchie in collaboration with John Ford: East End gangster movie meets wicked wild wild west western. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Robin and Much skinning up in the forest and banging some jumpin’ rave music out of a brightly painted lute. “Yo, Robby, gonna go down to see Bez after? E’s got some top E, knah what I is sayin’?”

All the Western motifs were there too – the quick on the draw bow shots (“how many arrows did I fire, kid? A full quiver or one short? Feeling lucky, huh, punk?”), the dramatic soundtrack punctuating every raised eye brow and head turn, the heroes returning from the wild and civilizing themselves once more by enjoying a hot bath… Did Saxon nobles even have baths, for God's sake? Why bother to fill a trough when you can dunk yourself in the nearest river?

Worst of all were the costumes. They just did not look right. They jarred. And most jarring of all was that of Guy Of Gisbourne. Dressed in some awful black leather duster coat complete with airplane collars he looked like he’d stepped right out of an atrocious 80’s pop video and was auditioning to join Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. This is mediaeval England for Heaven’s sake! How difficult can it be? If in doubt check out the Bayeux Tapestry!

However I’m sure the show will be a success. Why? The proliferation of eye candy. Plenty of doe eyed men for the girls and plenty of Maid Marian for the boys. Even my boy, aged only 5 bless him, was heard to audibly gasp when she hit the screen. Zounds! A bullseye! Have her in a field of poppies eating a Flake and I might be tempted to change my opinion of the show…

Friday, October 06, 2006

Curse You Courier!

It appears I baited my breath for nothing!

After hotfooting it down to my nearest newsagent there to grab a copy of The Courier hot off the steaming press I was grief struck to discover that the article on Leamington Bloggers has not graced this week's pages!

How can they do this to us, my sweet salivating public?

Don't they care?

Harrumph. To be honest the hack I spoke to did say that it might be an article that they hold over until next week or the week after. I guess the news this week was just full of more interesting and entertaining morsels than me. Hard to believe I know. Oh well. Better cancel the press launch and the TV interview with Philip Schofield and Fern Britton. It seems I won't be appearing in Extras just yet...

But on other matters, my poetry reading at Warwick Castle went well and I met some lovely people. Karen, Ben and myself were made to feel very welcome and it was a fantastic venue in which to find ourselves. I'm glad to say I didn't make too big a fool of myself and got some very positive feedback.

Here as promised is the poem:

The Trolley

We found you in tussock, wheels up
like a shot donkey.

Spiders had grown the metal ribs
of your belly shut. Chrome

gleamed beneath the matted poultice
of gnats and bindweed.

Beautiful.

Brushed off we knew the hill and you
were made for one moment.

Down as birds, eye-cornering, swing
across a fast sky.

Quickly you were not made for two.
I barely made it

passed the brink

and met the fierce angles of this world
headlong in tall grasses.

My mate tobogganed on and drove
your jolting government

hard against the sod, laughs flailing
into a cross wind,

inseparable,

your weights ox-ploughing twin grass-tracks
fast through muck and turf -

a railroad of whoops and curses
billowing clock seed

and thistle leaf - until the rough
jerk of wheel pivot

met hidden stone.

In my mind now he doesn’t stop
but rattles on, flag

in a long wind getting smaller,
his shouts like copper

on the tongue or an empty basket
dropped

over an edge of years

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Throbbing Hood

Having been a massive Robin Of Sherwood fan since I was a teenager I’m awaiting the new BBC Robin Hood production with breath as baited as Friar Tuck’s nosegay. I feel amazingly precious about how the Robin Hood legend should be portrayed and, much to Karen’s amusement, am already mithering about the BBC’s current adaptation – forming my groundless opinions purely from the trailers that the Beeb is currently hurling at the nation like giant arrows from a slick multi million pound ballista.

Having grown up with Robin Of Sherwood my heart leans more to a grimly realistic portrayal of the legend – full of muck and hardship and dark Anglo-Saxon gods - and I worry that the new production will instead lean towards Kevin Costcutter’s take on the story: cheesy grins and coiffured hair, Hollywood style tavern room brawls, machismo sword play and flash-bang-wallop what a picture dramatization and dialogue. God how I hated Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. What a thoroughly reprehensible film. Stiff, heartless and grey. Robin Hood? Lobbin’ wood, more like.

The Beeb’s Robin Hood has already raised my hackles with fast zoom camera shots and a “hero muzak” soundtrack apostrophizing Robin’s every bow twang and sword clash and I’m not sure what kind of Sheriff the swivel-eyed Keith Allen will make. He’ll have a hard time following Nickolas Grace for my money. But hey. I’m being unfair. Condemning the programme before I’ve even seen it. Who do I think I am – the gov’nor at Guantanamo Bay? I’ll be good and reserve judgement until after Saturday.

In the meantime I just want to say that the new BBC Robin Hood, played by Jonas Armstrong, bears an uncanny and unfortunate resemblance to Gorillaz / Blur front man Damon Albarn which I’m going to find very hard to overcome when I watch the show.

“Curse you, wolfshead! What do you want with me?”

“Awight Sheriff. I wanna house, a very big house in the coun’ry, dun I? You wanna cut down on the venison matey – too much pork life, no worrimean? Now gis me giro.”

Robin Hood and Damon Albarn pic
I bet Kevin Costner is kicking himself for a missed opportunity...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poetry Corner

Ah luvies, tis time for a bit of culture don’t you know. As my poetry reading debut at Warwick Castle nears (27 hours and counting) I thought it incumbent upon me to offer up to you, the delirious reader, a short poetic aperitif with which to whet your appetites.

Providing I don’t massacre my prize winning poem at the Warwick Words ceremony tomorrow I may well bung it on this ‘ere blog at the end of the week. In the mean time you’ll have to make do with the haiku below. TTFN.


Toothbrush Haiku

Ninety-five. No teeth.
Toothpaste dead. On windowsill
dry toothbrush bristles.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Magoo

Last Friday afternoon witnessed the photo shoot of the century. Yours truly, the photographer from The Courier and my freshly dusted PC (gleaming under a glass-like patina of Mr Sheen - my one and only glamour prop) were all crammed into my office at home in an attempt to recreate on digital media that classic iconic image of a fast tracking media mogul about to hit the big time.

Picture leopard skin rugs draped seductively over the chaise longue. Picture black silk sheets draped like Bedouin tent flaps from every wall and rafter. Picture exotic cocktails in the hands of fawning dolly birds pawing at my quivering flesh as I fling yet another verbal masterpiece onto the internet with the lightest of touches... and you’ll have an exact idea of what the whole experience wasn’t like.

To be fair the photographer was a really decent bloke and if he fulfils his promise to me of not making me look like a nerd or a pratt I may even buy him a drink should I ever run into him the next time I frequent my usual drinking establishment of choice.

The problem was, given the tiny proportions of my (steady! steady!) office I spent the entire duration with my ugly mug practically crushed up into the guy’s zoom lens. Not exactly the close-up that either of us wanted. I lost count of how many photos he took but by the fifteenth attempt to get the perfect shot my carefree, natural smile had become a rictus of spasming muscles and I looked like I was trying to pass a gold plated Boeing 747 out of my nether regions. By the twenty-seventh shot I’d become so blinded by the flash that I was blinking entirely out of trauma reflex and probably resembled a photo-phobic Tourettes sufferer. Great. Say effing cheese for the camera.

The end result will no doubt be that should I be lucky enough to actually have my ugly mug feature in The Courier I will simply look like Mr Magoo with a terminal coke habit...

Marvellous.

Point me to my limousine, Waldo.