29 June 2009

Singing songs while wearing clothes

The Guardian's Anna Pickard, on TV coverage of the Glastonbury festival:

'We cut back and forth to see what clothes Lady Gaga had chosen to wear at least four times. And, to be fair, she was wearing increasingly ridiculous outfits every time we did. She was also singing songs, of course, while wearing clothes, but the emphasis was definitely on the clothes.

It was an ever-present pressing question with the bands who dropped by the BBC3 sofas. "So what'll you be wearing on stage, then?" - though mainly this was related to the lady-bands. Lily Allen (with her single white glove and catsuit) the Ting Tings (catsuit) and so on. Of course, we would then cut to them singing, onstage, wearing what they'd just described - so, really, we could have just waited. And then seen their clothes. With our eyes.

But it could be argued that with Lady Gaga, it was not only part of the appeal, part of the package: it was the majority interest. Undeniably she cuts a fine figure, in increasingly bizarre outfits. First up, a glass-shard covered dress with a skirt seemingly designed with displaying her pert buttocks top of the priority list. With blonde hair mostly covering her face, from the neck up, she resembled nothing so much as a cross between Karen O and a blow up doll, while from the neck down, she was a 3D paper doll with detachable outfits. Including one with a bra that spouted fire. The crowd screamed approval, but you had to wonder how much of that had to do with the music. And isn't that the point? Or am I being outdated about all of this?'

- Guardian, 27 June 2009

25 June 2009

The shouting auteur

New York Times movie reviewer Manohla Dargis gets stuck in to Michael Bay, the director of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen -

[...] And make no mistake: Mr. Bay is an auteur. His signature adorns every image in his movies, as conspicuously as that of Lars von Trier, and every single one is inscribed with a specific worldview and moral sensibility. Mr. Bay’s subject — overwhelming violent conquest — is as blatant and consistent as his cluttered mise-en-scène. His images, particularly during the frequent action sequences, can be difficult to visually track, but they are also consistently disjointed. (And proudly self-referential: the only director he overtly cites is himself, with a shot of the poster for his movie “Bad Boys II.”) The French filmmaker Jacques Rivette once described an auteur as someone who speaks in the first person. Mr. Bay prefers to shout.

- New York Times, 24 June 2009

24 June 2009

Beauty is duty and duty beauty

Trademark nimble word-wrangling courtesy of Stephen Fry from 'A Bit Of Fry And Laurie':

[Via Mike Riversdale]

23 June 2009

How to be content

'Read carefully the following list that I have compiled. It is the product of a lifetime of occasional study and comprises all the ambitions anyone should ever have in life.

1) Have a place for the Sellotape and wrapping paper. Giving presents is tedious enough without having to turn the house upside down every time you want to pretend you like someone enough to have remembered their birthday.

2) Find your dressing gown cord.

3) Find a job in a book or cake shop, depending on which you'd save first from your house if there were a fire.

4) Cook only meals that dirty just one pan.

5) Don't be afraid to eat out of the pan.

6) Get a cat. Not if you're bounded on all sides by dual carriageways, motorways and a shooting range, and are out 14 hours a day, obviously, but otherwise, get a cat.

7) Buy only every fifth thing you take a fancy to when out shopping.

8) Always take an umbrella.

9) And a mini A to Z.

10) And put the phone back on its thing.

11) Buy one of those plastic eggs that you put in a pan with real eggs that tells you how hard-boiled they have become. A life of perfectly boiled eggs is a life of true contentment.

12) Maybe the cat will even come and sit in your lap. You see how it all begins to tie in?

Have a bit of a tidy up and then a cup of tea.

13) If you are a woman who alternates between two favourite handbags, buy a second set of everything you habitually take with you - make-up, hairbrush, painkillers, cosh, hip flask, facsimile of the Holy Prepuce, or whatever else it is that helps you get through the day - so you don't have to keep decanting your support system from one to the other. This is not a waste of money - it has been estimated, by me, just now, that the average woman loses 406 years of her life shifting this stuff around, so what you are actually doing is buying yourself literally hundreds more hours a day. Do it.

14) If you are a man who alternates between two favourite handbags, I suspect you may have already engineered for yourself a lifestyle that can admit of no more happiness and I applaud you unreservedly.

15) Remember, unless she's actually in the room, your mother cannot see you. And even if she can still sense that you're doing something wrong, she'll never be able to prove it.

Upon fulfilment of these goals, perfect happiness, I assure you, will ensue'

- Lucy Mangan, Guardian, 23 May 2009

22 June 2009

The ultimate Christchurch news report

On Saturday the Christchurch Press reported on the increasing use of heat pumps in New Zealand, as we seek to fight off the winter cold in our poorly-insulated houses. The article, which raised concerns about future capacity issues for the country's electricity generation network as a consequence of these energy-hungry machines, contained the ultimate Christchurch editorial device, which guaranteed its success for Cantabrian readers:

[Transpower's chief executive] told The Press heat pumps were efficient and ideal for parts of the country with colder winters, like Canterbury.

"My big worry with heat pumps is in areas like Auckland. They do drive up winter load, but initially some of the load will go down because they are more efficient than what they are replacing. But then people will use more electricity."

Aucklanders also tended to use heat pumps as air-conditioners in the summer, which could lead to a secondary summer peak in electricity use as well as the country's traditional winter peak, he said.

Anything that can shift the blame to the evil Aucklanders obviously goes down a treat in Canterbury!

- Source: The Press, 20 June 2009

In space, no-one can hear you table amendments to motions

The United Nations recently held a panel discussion at its New York headquarters to discuss how “Battlestar Galactica” might inform the international body’s approach to some problems of the day: terrorism, torture, religious conflict. No, really, it did. According to the New Yorker,

Placards at the seats, which earlier had identified delegates from France and Venezuela, now read “Caprica” and “Aquarion.” The panel included William Adama (played by Edward James Olmos), the admiral of the spaceship Galactica, and Laura Roslin (played by Mary McDonnell), the president of the Twelve Colonies, along with two producers from “B.S.G.” and a handful of earthbound U.N. dignitaries. Whoopi Goldberg, a big fan of the show, had been enlisted to moderate. The line of sci-fi buffs snaked out the door. A sign on the wall reading “Smoking Discouraged” (the U.N. is not subject to New York City regulations) enhanced the feeling that the event was taking place in another dimension. What the frak?

- New Yorker, 6 April 2009

16 June 2009

Don't ask, don't tell

From his live comedy tour visiting US troops in Iraq, Stephen Colbert conducts one of his signature Formidable Opponent debates (with himself) on the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Formidable Opponent - Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq


Yes, it's pantyhose for men. Just what the world needed. Apparently black mantyhose is 'for the serious macho'.

E.Mancipate: Pantyhose for men

11 June 2009

British and American humour

"I've been to LA and it's horrible. I don't want to live there. I think, fundamentally, the people I want to make laugh are British. I can't ever imagine living abroad. I love all elements of how British society lends itself to comedy - you know, it's own sort of pompousness and self-loathing and class system and cynicism and irony: all these sorts of things are strongest here. Something like Curb Your Enthusiasm, great though it is, it's like their first faltering steps into that world of self-loathing that we, as a post-imperial power, have been in for the best part of a century. I think the Americans will be doing some amazing comedy in 60 to 70 years' time. But for the moment I'd say we're in the right part of the curve of the decline of our civilisation in order to be funniest."

- Comedian David Mitchell, interviewed in the Guardian, 8 June 2009

08 June 2009

The colonial sense of humour

It wasn't up to much, if this example from a travel guide entry for Alexandra in New Zealand's South Island is anything to go by:

Today the antics might raise less than a smile, but in the mood of the times and even 30 years later they were regarded as hilarious. It was in the late 1890s that Ah Fook Hu, a Chinese storekeeper, won spectacularly at fantan, withdrew his savings from the bank and set off for his homeland, never to be heard of again. Relatives, suspecting that Ah might have been murdered for his money, posted a reward which attracted the attention of a Swedish miner, John Magnus, then working a claim about 10 kilometres downriver from Alexandra. Magnus had little sympathy for the Chinese and could not resist the opportunity to dress a sheep's carcass in the manner described in the reward, complete with pigtail woven from the hair of a black billygoat. Elaborate surgery was carried out on the sheep - its head was covered with inverted sheepskin, teeth were bared and a nose fashioned from a sheep's kidney before the whole "face" was stained with Condy's fluid. By the time they had finished the carcass was stinking, which doubtless aided the success of the scheme, for the "body" was placed by a river for another miner to find and rush to Alexandra in all innocence to claim the reward. The local constable, despatched to recover the corpse, was assisted by Magnus' friends to bring it to the town. Here a sergeant and a doctor made a hurried examination before they converted the stables at the Bendigo Hotel into a morgue for the purposes of a post mortem. Ah Fook Hu's brother denied that it was his relative, but others were more certain and positively identified the corpse as being that of the hapless Ah. The post mortem began. Slowly the body was undressed. Eventually, when the trousers were cut to reveal a sheep's leg, the shocked and sombre crowd erupted with mirth. Doctor, police and mayor all rapidly retreated in a state of embarrassed confusion, as Magnus and his friends repaired to the bar of the Bendigo to celebrate. A local resident was paid to bury the corpse but at dawn the next morning it was propped up against the hotel's front door. Those taking part were overcome by their hilarity and seemingly none spared a thought for Ah Fook Hu, who had disappeared without trace.

- Diana & Jeremy Pope, South Island (Mobil New Zealand Travel Guide), 6th ed., Auckland, 1993

Welcome to the future (it's not as good as the past)

Michael Tomasky, on the sad fact that train travel in the US is actually considerably slower than it used to be 30, 40 or 50 years ago, which is rather a pity given the ease of high-speed rail travel in Europe and Japan.

Tomasky talk: European rail en route to America?


'New Yorker George Pakenham is, in his own small way, doing his bit for the environment by approaching drivers who park with their car engines idling, politely passing them a small card detailing the relevant traffic codes preventing engine idling. He does this in the name of New York's air quality and the preservation of finite fossil fuels. He's distributed nearly 2000 cards over the past few years, and has recorded a 78 percent success rate in convincing strangers to turn their engines off while they wait. But he also keeps a log of the ones who refuse to cooperate:

'November 30, 2007, black male, limo, age "50+": 'He was peeing into a bottle and I disturbed him'

February 12, 2008, white female, truck, age "50+": 'I won't freeze for you'

July 11, 2008, black female, bus (Access-a-Ride), age "25-35": 'Then don't breathe'

August 8, 2008, white male, sedan, age "35-50": 'Guy was rolling a joint'.

Pakenham is unusually shy and well mannered for a curmudgeon, and his accounts of unpleasantness make several references to 'guff' and one mention of a 'MAJOR ISSUE'. Some of the most vivid rebuttals have come from what he calls 'two-time losers', or repeat offenders. (September 3, 2008: 'Get away from me. Go move to China'. September 16, 2008: 'His buddy said, "You are not human"). The idler-in-chief appears to be Tommy, a white male who works for the city and has been caught by Pakenham four times. (March 13, 2008: 'It's Tommy once again. Asleep at the wheel'). But - good news! - Tommy now drives a hybrid'.

- Ben McGrath, 'Engine Trouble', New Yorker, 18 May 2009

[Courtesy of Louise]