Thursday, 31 December 2009
Apparently director Spike Jonze said he wanted to capture the essence of being 9, for which he used handheld camera work, a Karen O soundtrack, and a lead actor who is 12. The end result is more of a poetic indie representation of what being 9 was like than the experience of anyone who has recently spoken to a 9 year old. I would say, though, that the changing your mind all the time, lacking in self awareness, emotional outburst stuff that young kids do was very well realised.
I have read a couple of comments from people who saw the film saying it was stagnant and dull. Whilst things happen in fits and starts and action-wise it's no Die Hard 4, it's based on a picture book of about three sentences, so really what do you expect? You could argue that there wasn't enough to make a full length movie I suppose, but that would be missing the point. The story is a character study, following Max's gradual realisation that different aspects of his personality are reflected by the monsters, and that his outbursts affect other people just like theirs affect him. Part of the fun of watching is trying to work out precisely what character trait each Wild Thing represents - some are more obvious than others.
Overall this is a beautiful film, definitely worth a watch. But in all likelihood you will be in a cinema with some young persons who will ask searching questions - by which I mean banal questions - all the way through, so if you can't cope with that then maybe wait for the DVD. FYI, it'll be things like, "he doesn't like it there does he?" and "when is he going to get home?" Hey, they're kids, they don't gotta be pithy in reality. Just in the imagination of nostalgic grown ups.
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
In other news, I managed to completely forget about Edinburgh’s torchlight procession last night, despite several quite large clues (it always happens on or around the 29th of December; my bus – which usually goes up and down the mound - was diverted; and there was an enormous fireworks display). Apparently though I was in the minority as it was record turn-out this year. Which is nice.
And finally, a penny dreadful. Of interest to fans of Victorians, steampunk or unusual names. It's set out like a blog so scroll to the bottom to read part one first.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
... scary pirahanas...
... and a fraudulent 125th Anniversary of St Johnstone FC DVD (apparently it's not really their 125th anniversary) featuring Captain Tact's dad as a talking head (he's the club historian) and THE MOST AMAZING SONG EVER, Song for St Johnstone, written by Jim Malcolm. This appears to be totally unavailable anywhere on the internet, but if it ever appears I will link you right up.
Gifts included a funky hat and an enormous hardback Absolute Sandman. Oh yeah.
As the first Christmas without parents or siblings it was a bit strange, but I swapped them for a terrified dog so y'know... something witty. It was nice anyway. And of course it finished with a world populated exclusively by John Simm, so all's well that ends well.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Merry Christmas for tomorrow, everyone.
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
Last night, Yul Brynner happened. For those of you who weren’t there when my mate invented it, this is breakfast for dinner (brinner, citation: Scrubs) at Christmas time, hence the ‘yule’ part.
This entailed more people than could feasibly fit in our living room coming round to squeeze into our living room, listening to festive choons such as the Official UK Christmas Number One, Killing in the Name, and eating an elephant’s weight in quality meat products and tatty scones. It was pretty epic.
Photos by Madame Bellamy.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
The premise of the show is a school nativity where the little kiddlywinks are played by adults. Hilarity ensues, along with some sad bits when you read between the lines of what the kids are saying and get a glimpse into their lives - there’s some stuff they haven’t quite got a handle on yet. S’a good dramatic device, that.
The rivalry between the girls over who should be Mary (it should be the prettiest one, and Jenny Bennett isn’t the prettiest, I am) was well realised, as was the world-weary attitude of the kid who’s grown up on a farm and therefore knows how childbirth works. When she explained about the pancake of blood and the play-centre that come out as well as the bairn, a woman a few rows behind us just about killed herself laughing. How embarrassing for her.
But yes, it was all very fun, and the cast list ran like a veritable “who’s that again?” of Scottish acting talent, featuring Julie Wilson Nimmo (Miss Hoolie in Balamory), Sara Crowe (who did those adverts for philly cheese in the mid-nineties - she's the blonde), Gordon Kennedy (Absolutely, and more recently the BBC Robin Hood where they all have impossible hair – he was Little John), Shabana Bakhsh (Waterloo Road), Jane McCarry (Still Game), and none other than that ginger manny out of Taggart, Sir Colin McCredie aka DC Stuart ‘the gay one’ Fraser. NB, he is not a sir, except unofficially because he is the crème de la crème of Scottish telly. The best person in it, however, was the aforementioned farm kid, played by Gail Watson, who I think I saw in Sunshine on Leith at the start of the year.
One negative point, in my opinion, was the overlong scene where they all got changed and played the parents talking about the play afterwards. It seemed a bit haphazard and didn’t really add much – they could easily have cut it down to their song, which was quite nicely done and explained some of the kids’ misunderstandings from the first half. But overall, very nicely done. Keep an eye out in case they do it again next Christmas.
Saturday, 19 December 2009
We may've decided after work that it would be a great idea to drink 5 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of sherry on empty stomachs, before heading to the pub for some tasty ale.
For the record, I don't even smoke. Well, not usually.
Monday, 14 December 2009
This is the first year I’ve watched beyond auditions, and what an incredible journey through mediocrity it has been. It has also served as a constant reminder that the minds of the great British public – or at the very least those who exercise the right to vote – are a strange and terrifying thing. Seriously, Jamie Afro? Not big and not clever.
So now young Joseph is to be the proud owner of a shiny Christmas number one, a cover of The Climb by Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, no less. Whilst I can enjoy this musical lobotomy in a spirit of festive cheer as much as the next person, I am firmly wedged behind the campaign to get Killing in the Name by Rage Against The Machine there instead. Obviously it won’t have any effect on the finances of Cowell, who is already incomprehensibly rich, and it won’t have any effect on Joe, who has a bright future in musical theatre ahead of him (not in a euphemistic way). But Killing.. holds a special place in my 15 year old nu-metal loving heart, and let's be honest, it would be a bit good to have it on those Christmas number one countdowns presented by Noddy Holder.
However, before you go on a downloading spree, take note! Apparently you need to spend a minimum of 50p on your MP3 for it to be counted in the Top 40, so do NOT be fooled by the sneaky 29p version on Amazon. Presumably it was planted by evil X-Factor henchmen. That Dermot O'Leary will do anything for the money.
On the other hand, if you don't like your festive tracks quite so political, why not help out London-based band The Mistletones, who exist solely for the noble purpose of gaining a Christmas number one? Or alternatively, there's this guy. So many choices, and a genuinely limited time frame in which to make yours.
When you go into a cinema expecting absolutely nothing, and have spent the trailers wondering whether in fact this was a terrible idea and how feasible it would be to bail, it’s quite hard for things to get worse. And fortunately, New Moon is more of the same old shite that Twilight was, but much funnier.
R-Pattz, as we surely all gleaned from the adverts, loves Bella so much that he dumps her and flees the country, thinking she’ll be safer that way – not least cuz his brother keeps trying to eat her at all their family gatherings. Awkward.
You might think she’d notice something amiss after he bursts into tears at the prospect of giving her a birthday kiss, but apparently she sees this as normal behaviour. Maybe it is for vampires, I dunno. Anyhoo, a most excellent emo montage ensues, as she sits in the same chair for three months with the camera panning around her as the seasons change outside. One imagines this was the most succinct way they could find of covering an estimated third of Meyer’s book… Correct me if you know this to be wrong (e.g. you know it to be more like half).
Out of the narrative necessity of a blockbusting film including more than a pouty girl sitting in a chair for two hours, Bella then discovers that whenever she puts herself in danger, R-Pattz appears as a floating head giving helpful advice like "aw no, don’t do that." So naturally she decides to take up biking - the most dangerous of all the sports - in order to see the floating head of Edward Cullen more often. To do this she must enlist the mechanical aid of her childhood friend Jacob – the now buffity buff buff Taylor Lautner you’ve seen on the posters. He’s put on five stone of pure muscle, one of which is just on his neck. Naturally the film makers want to show this off at any cost, and one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a film is when she wangs her head off a rock and he rips off his t-shirt to wipe the blood from her tender face. It’s not gratuitous nudity, incidentally, there is simply NO OTHER WAY TO STEM THE BLEEDING.
My other favourite part is when R-Pattz thinks Bella is dead (echoing a tenuous Romeo and Juliet theme that runs throughout), and crushes his mobile phone in sheer grief before heading off out to annoy the king of the vampires into killing him. It was fucking heart wrenching – there was not a dry eye in the house. By which I mean we were not the only ones killing ourselves laughing.
So, in summary: buff werewolves (so buff, in fact, that one of my companion’s contact lenses popped out in apparent protest at said buffness) show up mopey vampires (God knows I'm not immune to the charms of the skinny white man but you do not want to be looking at the torso of R-Pattz after all the wolf tiemz, he looks like an extra from Trainspotting), but very little actually happens. For hours.
Kind of what you'd expect, really.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Friday, 11 December 2009
In other news, Edinburgh is very foggy today.
Gull 1: S'affy foggy the day, int'it Archie?
Gull 2: Shut up.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
(That's Thursday 10th December 2009, people who are reading this tomorrow.)
Concerned that the monotony of your own company may finally tip you over the edge?
Text MILL57K to 82500, or go here, where you will get FREE tickets to see Homework and Kid Canaveral at Caberet Voltaire.
Drink some booze, have a dance, and become part of the delicious indie sandwich you have always dreamed of. Fantastic.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
I'm a recent graduate. Here are the highlights of my day today in my job that I was 'lucky' to get in this economic climate. (For this I am paid minimum wage.)
8 year old comes in swearing its tits off and winding up other kids. It is asked to go outside for ten minutes to calm down. It refuses and throws a wobbly, which includes:
- pulling most books off the shelves in non fiction, general fiction and some of the kids section
- setting spinners going so books fly off in every direction
- crawling under the tables where adult PCs are and annoying service users
- stealing book trolley and running round the library with it
- punching a ten year old girl in the face
- kicking various kids and staff
- once it has finally been removed from the building, kicking the front door till it smashes the glass - then it continues to kick in an effort to get the glass to fall out of the frame.
Emergency contact for kid does not appear, so we end up getting polis out.
This excitement makes all the other childs very hyper, and nobody will settle to anything for the rest of the afternoon.
- Teenagers steal team leader's keys and hide them in a hedge
- Seven year old (with whom we have a history - he isn't allowed in) appears, chucks draughts around, runs about building, jumps on table, kicks anyone who gets near him, incites other kids to general sofa dive-bombing and annoying-ness
- All refuse to leave, despite being threatened by their 'supervisor' (mum's useless mate, who has inadvertently become some kind of pied piper figure, followed round by malnourished children refusing to go home)
As Captain Tact said, would it really matter if any of these people died?
It certainly can make a person wonder why they wracked up 4 years worth of SAAS debt. My one and only reason for going to uni was that I wasn't getting anywhere with journalism in the year after school. I'm still not.
Yesterday's plan stands.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
It said things like, "I know you'll be disappointed," which has never been acknowledged in my experience and is very true - this afternoon a child threw a can of irn bru at my head and I am a little disappointed that for the forseeable future that will continue to be part of my daily life.
I am also disappointed that it's going to be a while before I can put all the time and energy I would like into quirky features like A Week In The Life of Greyfriars Bobby or On the Trail of Mr Uibe; or highlight the problems faced by the Moredun Community Centre, or publicise any of the new music, art and poetry I keep coming across every day along with the backing of a national paper rather than on a small blog.
However, that doesn't mean I'm going to take a strop and stop blogging Edinburgh-centric articles. And I take comfort from phrases like, "we would encourage you to stay in touch" and "as the Guardian local blog project moves on, I'm hopeful there could be ways we could work together in the future." So, I'll be following the project with interest and may yet be actively involved, p'raps on a voluntary basis. Better experience than nothing, after all.
I do think, though, that I need to look at getting a job that will allow me to focus more on comics and writing, and less on social work issues that I am not professionally or emotionally equipped to deal with. So I guess that is the plan for now.
An aquatic adventure I would not hesitate to recommend, on the other hand, is Shark Swarm. There are sharks, and boy do they swarm. Thank you, Sky 3.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Anyway, there I met an eighty year old woman who was supremely chirpy - chirpier than I find it physically possible to be now even when I'm in a great mood, so I doubt I'll be there by 80 - and another older person who was phenomenally pissed off with the fact that despite her 54 years in a local community centre and her MBE, her organisation keeps being roundly ignored by everyone (including all the speechifiers at the meeting). I'm more likely to be her in the future, bar the MBE, not least because one of her defining features was the tableful of knitting she was attempting to sell to raise funds for her project. A particular highlight was a truly awful salmon-coloured cushion cover with lace trim. Sadly I didn't have a camera on me, but rest assured I'll be firing off hundreds of those bad boys when I retire.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
It's not because it's ugly and loud, or because the diversions slow everything down, or because all the fencing and scaffold make you feel very claustrophobic when attempting to get to any shops at all. No, people prefer Princes Street open so that they can THROW THEMSELVES IN THE PATH OF ONCOMING TRAFFIC, for no reason at all. Seriously. Stand there for a minute or two and you will be able to observe men, women and children staring glaikitly at the oncoming 33, 29, 47, 3A and a rank of taxis, think about it for half a second, go 'nah, sod it,' and leap onto the road.
Personally I have no idea what the bus routes are supposed to be, on account of everything having been going down George Street for at least a year, so now that everything is back to 'normal' I am somewhat screwed commute-wise. And to add insult to injury, the Evening News reported today that there are no plans to close Princes Street to public transport again till they put in the overhead lines, which is like a year away. So presumably I'll get used to that, and then it'll change again. Ridiculous.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Other than that, a free stuff to do in Edinburgh is occurring near you tonight (if you consider Hanover Street to be near, or merely just accessible).
It is an indie club night of sorts held downstairs in Jekyll and Hyde, where you will be dazzled by the mad DJing skillz of Marcus Forealius (who has been on that Eggheads programme) and DJ Very Friendly (who hasn't). Free food, free music, free entry - what's not to check out at least this one time and see what you reckon? Make yours a Club Sandwich from 8-12. You might enjoy yourself.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Saturday, 28 November 2009
For instance, we went to Cameo and saw Bunny and the Bull, which is a film from the team who make The Mighty Boosh. It was a very nice film, with lots of funny parts (and featuring turns from the usual Boosh suspects) and then some serious bits thrown in for good measure. I'm bad at reviewing films without giving things away, which is why I avoid doing it, but essentially there is a surreal road trip and it is good.
Then we went to the castle.
As previously discussed, admittance is free this weekend, which is totally worth it because as you can see they have gone to the trouble of CAPTURING THE MOON and putting it in a cage for your pleasure.
That's one hell of a Christmas decoration.
Meanwhile, the Market by the National Gallery are selling tiny doughnuts on sticks. Good with hot chocolate, cheaper than crepes. (Three pounds! For flour and milk! Scandalous.)
We then daundered down Princes Street, still pretty tram work heavy at 5pm but a lot better than it has been. Whereupon we discovered that for this weekend only you can take your child into a huge plastic bubble and throw fake snow at it. Which is nice. Sadly we failed to procure a child at which fake snow could be thrown. Mainly on account of not really trying too hard.
And finally, the Art Car Parade. An interesting spectacle indeed. The raving milkman was a particular highlight - he loves dancing his heart out whilst pretending to deliver milk. Well, who wouldn't. I made a wee little video on my camera, but the milkman is not involved. Sorry.
Friday, 27 November 2009
As is so often the way, I have mixed feelings on how I acquitted myself. Time restraints meant that I barely skiffed the surface of what I had to say, and nerves meant that I felt I didn't really represent on the first question. But I was super-enthusiastic (now concerned in case this may have been in the way that makes one's teeth itch, but hopefully just being paranoid) and The Guardian's head of Social Media Development did compliment my shoes, so there's nice. They are brilliant shoes, it must be said.
I don't hear till the end of next week, so considering returning to NaNoWriMo to distract myself. That and designing a mega-awesome leaflet advertising services for older people in the library, which we won't be able to print because the new computer booking system has disabled the printer. PURE BANTER ahoy, that's what.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Edinburgh-specific, if you are busier than the sun and have no time to look at the list, are Craigmillar Castle and Edinburgh Castle. The latter is extending the event to St Andrew's Day itself, which is Monday 30th. That's three whole days of historical goodness. Are you excited? Of course you are.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Technically unrelated to either of the above but still good, tonight sees the launch of Cryptonite, a club night in Jekyll and Hyde with free sandwiches and all manner of musical tomfoolery from DJs NETTLES and THE DOCK (capital letters make them sound more dramatic - not that they need this, already being magnificent figures of DJery).
Tomorrow is the previously mentioned switching on of the Christmas lights by the Lord Provost (who is called George Grubb - working on something appropriately witty to say about that), resulting in Edinburgh Sparkles from Thursday till Sunday. Shiny. Said sparkles involve an anamatronic polar bear called Bjorn, so frankly you'd be a fool to miss it.
Saturday (28th) between 11am and 3pm on Princes Street, it's the Third Annual Why Buy Day organised by Friends of the Earth. Take stuff you'll never use again and swap it for other people's stuff that they'll never use again. It's good for the environment, and procures you more stuff. Everybody loves stuff. I'm going to stop saying the word stuff now.
Brought to us by Homecoming organisers in association with the Christmas lot, later on Saturday evening is the art car parade, which is probably worth a look. Cars are on display from 3pm in Parliament Square and start parading themselves about at 5, finishing in St Andrew Square Gardens. I am given to understand that some of the designs are totally crazy. LOL.
Sunday (29th) Free Movies at the Filmhouse to celebrate St Andrew's Day - these will be I Know Where I’m Going! (where I fully expect to encounter Captain Dancehall), Mrs Brown and The Flying Scotsman. Also whilst they are free, they are also ticketed so you should book by going to the Filmhouse Box Office on Lothian Road or calling them on 0131 228 2688.
A lot more stuff and things are forthcoming over the next few weeks, some of which I may draw your attention to if I am feeling enthused. This post, however, is mainly a 'speriment in creating readable events content. I reckon to make stuff like this more manageable reading, short sharp bursts might be the way to go.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Monday, 23 November 2009
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Instead I went and had a beer out of a tankard (always cause for celebration) at The Negotiants, which was quite nice - but DO NOT TRY TO BUY A DRINK AT THE BAR. They don't like it. Table service or nothing, kay? Kay.
It's still raining.
Stagecoach have had more funding for their hovercraft project. It’s going to go between Portobello and Kirkcaldy. Futuristic.
"I saw that 2012. It was shite." – flatmate’s boyfriend
"I used to think that Henry was alright, decent player, quite honest. But now if I met him I think I'd actually be physically sick. All over his face." - (Irish) colleague on the footy.
But I'm not a newspaper, so instead of telling you the above information I will dance a little jig.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Although I own an umbrella, it's pretty rubbish. I have a tendency to leave them on buses, so getting a heavy duty one seems pointless. And the current one came with a totally helpful label advising me to hold it so that any wind blows against it, cuz otherwise it'll turn inside out.
This advice is all well and good in theory, but my question is, what am I supposed to do when the wind is blowing in fourteen different directions at once (which is most of the time)?
Regrettably the answer is not to use an umbrella at all when it's windy - they aren't designed to cope with such treatment. But I resent that, as it means I have to get myself a hat and waterproof shoes. Ridiculous.
18 days in (ie today) I ought really to be around the 30,006 word mark, but I only have 12,516. However, this is nothing to do with not having any ideas, it's just a question of having the time to type them. So I'm not giving up just yet. In fact, I'm going to do some more right now.
Monday, 16 November 2009
The whole operation is working out OK, except for the minor point that it goes against everything I have ever stood for (being warm and comfy, eating cheese sandwiches, staying very still, etc). I’m not even too self-conscious about it anymore, because although I look a state when I’m done, I genuinely feel quite good. I believe endorphins are involved.
Having said that, I find it a bit much when FAT BUILDERS sit in their van EATING PIES and laughing at me as I go past, which happened this morning. Do they not see the irony of this situation? Apparently not, because they’re too busy blocking up their frontal lobes with processed meat and gravies to use their reasoning or problem solving skills.
For you see, fat builders, after sixteen minutes of joggling I may look as if I am about to explode, but I won’t actually, because that's like, impossible, and afterwards I’ll be in the metabolic position to burn off my pies, leaving my cerebrum shiny and clear. Ha. In your faces, that's SCIENCE.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I'll miss it though, because I have work. Stupid work.
Anyway, I think these ones look like ickle baby Racnoss ships.
Saturday, 14 November 2009
4 bottles fizz, 2 bottles vodka, 1.5 bottles blue curacao, 1 bottle Malibu, 1 bottle peach schnapps, 1 bottle mystery schnapps, 1 bottle jack daniels, 1 bottle barcardi, most of a bottle of gin, and most of a bottle golden tequila.
Last night was not conducive to a productive today.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
In other news, Goodbye Solo is a lovely film, although p'raps a faintly depressing choice for a birthday outing. Expect things of interest from actor Souléymane Sy Savané in the future.
I was also one of the last people in the world to see Up today, which lived up (no pun intended) to all the hype. Absolutely brilliant.
Now I am eagerly anticipating the UK release of Where The Wild Things Are, and catching up on The Sarah Jane Adventures on iPlayer. Conclusion? Things aimed at kids are generally better.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Sadly my personal word count is only 5327. Woe. It ought to be 8335 by now, assuming equal distribution of writing across all the days. The fact that this was clearly never going to happen is irrelevant.
Still, worse things happen at sea. Especially around Somalia.
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Samhuinn/Samhain is the last day of the year in the Celtic calendar, traditionally thought of as the night spirits and ghosts can walk the earth. This is where guising (trick-or-treating) originated - people got dressed up to frighten them away.
The procession was really vibrant and colourful, but sadly my last minute remembering that I had a camera in my pocket doesn't do it justice...
Sunday, 25 October 2009
My colleague put me onto it, here. We're going to use the young persons' version at work as a template to try and trick kids into writing. Wuhahaha, we are pure evil.
Basically the aim is to write 50,000 words by midnight on the 30th of November. The idea is that deadlines encourage you to do things and that the teeny time frame allows you to abandon your inner editor and just get it done. S'a good theory, and I am sold.
Wish me luck...
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Monday, 14 September 2009
Saturday, 5 September 2009
Admittedly everything is absolutely terrible at that time in the morning, but this is up there with the phantom banana snatcher. Now I finally see where emos are coming from.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Certain Edinburgh buses (which shall remain nameless – although a main offender may have a route number that ironically rhymes with ‘late’) are allergic to water. By which I mean that when it looks like it could rain of a morning, they pretty much just don’t turn up.
This mightn't be so bad if my shoes were in any way waterproof. But they aren't, and neither is my head. The longest I have had to wait in the rain, in the times before I got a bus pass and still had to rely on having exact change, was 45 minutes. During that period, 5 buses were timetabled to go by.
What I want to know is, how has this defect not been picked up on by whoever supplies the vehicles? It's a pretty serious problem when whole buses are being melted away by mere H20. This is Edinburgh, for jimminy cry-eye. There's always the chance it might rain, any second, even though the sky is clear and blue without a cloud in sight.
Someone other than me is at fault here. I must find a scapegoat and pen them a stiff note. Or write something mean about them on facebook.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Saturday, 11 July 2009
You’re A Bad Man, Mr Gum is the first book by Andy Stanton, who I now both love and aspire to be in a sort of incestuous way. It’s a Spike Milligan-esque tale about a man who hates children, animals, fun and corn on the cob. It's full of silly wordplay and throwaway lines like “Mr Gum was too fast this time and shot out of bed like a lazy onion.” The illustrations by David Tazzyman are excellent and what’s more, it is produced by the ethic-tastic Egmont Press, who check with the books if they’re up for being published before putting them through that harrowing process using paper made from sunbeams and rainbows. What a package.
In all seriousness though, read it. To a child, if you must, although I don’t think they really deserve such a fun book. They’ll probably only spill juice on it.
Friday, 3 July 2009
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Thursday, 14 May 2009
During our sojourn we visited a comic museum where everything was in Flemish (except a couple of excerpts from Death Note which were in Japanese), a Magritte exhibition that wasn’t open for another month (but was probably in Flemish), and a small statue of a child doing a wee. There was also an open-air jazz festival with approximately no jazz to be had; an outdoor rave; and a musical instrument museum with an ocarina shaped like an elephant. It was all very nice if fairly incomprehensible, but the captain’s famous Sean Bean impersonations didn’t so much aid translation as create a vague sense of uneasiness and mistrust.
Nevertheless, we reached the end of our trip unscathed, and were back in plenty time for me to attend a job interview, which several weeks later led to me being told I was overqualified. The moral of the story? Move to Brussels.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Saturday, 25 April 2009
9am on Saturday morning, first into the library is our resident computer enthusiast, a man whose main claim to fame is a recent appearance on Jeremy Kyle. We aren’t entirely sure what it was about, having only learned about it through some kids taking the piss. Seems a little beyond the librarian/reader relationship to quiz him on whether Jezzer told him he was a terrible father, a slimy love rat, or a mixture of the two. A colleague looked into acquiring the episode online, but the only way to do this is to watch an entire series until we find the one he’s in. Frankly, life is too short.
First teen to appear, around 9.10am, shall be called X. She is resplendent in grey tracksuit and fluorescent yellow eyeshadow, piled above a thick layer of black eyeliner and several coats of mascara. She’s toned down the blusher lately, perhaps in response to a negative comment from one of the boys on her ‘permanent beamer’. She was up at 8am apparently, and had pizza for breakfast. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder how much of the bad behaviour we see is diet-related. Someone should get Jamie Oliver on the case.
Next on the scene (9.20ish) is a fellow of 14, who requires a shot on the PS3. As he reclines upon the comfy sofa playing Fifa '09 on the indecently large plasma, he engages in witty banter with the young lady, who is checking her Bebo. It transpires she is also on msn, talking to the gentleman’s sometime-girlfriend.
“ASK HER,” he bellows at a volume some traditionalists might consider unreasonable for this setting, “IF SHE’S MEETIN ME LATER. I THOUGHT SHE WASN’T BUT NOW I THINK SHE MIGHT BE.”
To the untrained ear this assumption may seem baseless, but it makes sense to the girl, who taps something in before thundering back,
“SHE’S NO SURE. Why’re you goin oot wi hur?”
“Ah’m doin it fur Liam,” he explains, “cuz he’s goin oot wi hur mate.”
What a lucky lady.
“SHE KENS THAT’S WHY,” he adds as an afterthought.
I feel old.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Boys and Girls Alone. Have you seen it? I have. It's hugely entertaining. But apparently it is also child abuse, which is a shame.
For those who haven't seen the show, the premise is Lord of the Flies. They put a load of boys in one settlement* on their own, and a load of girls about a mile away on their own, and left them to it.
So it isn't 'Child Called It' style abuse, where the children are starved, locked in cupboards and soundly beaten at regular intervals, but Cornwall Children's Services Authority maintain that during the course of the programme, “some of the children were greatly distressed and this in our view is abusive."
Seriously though? Children are always upset about something. They thrive on it. These kids get upset by all sorts of things, bawling their eyes out about absolutely sweet FA for ten minutes, and getting over it almost instantly. In the second episode, the boys all ganged up against one lad on the grounds of a fictional murder attempt for nearly a whole several hours before forgetting about it entirely and pooling their money to go bowling together.
"This distress has now been publicly broadcast to all of these children's peers and is therefore likely to have long-term consequences for some of them."
That's true, and something we did actually wonder about when watching it. All of those kids have done something that will probably get them ripped on in school. There again, they've all given their consent, as have their parents (who are watching their every move on cameras close by). So maybe this will teach them the 'making your own bed' cliché, and they'll know not to be so naïve next time channel 4 approaches them to participate in a 'sociological experiment'. Mind you, the feedback the channel had back from those involved was quite positive. But they would say that, the exploitative, money-grabbing bastards.
"In addition, given the current national concerns in relation to the safeguarding of children in this country, it is in our view highly irresponsible for Channel 4 to broadcast a programme which demeans and to some extent demonises children and thus reinforces negative public perceptions of children and their vulnerability.”
All this programme does to demonise children is to show them how they actually are. Sometimes they are moody, and selfish, and do nasty or ill-advised things without thinking about the consequences. Other times they are brave, considerate, kind, clever and funny. The idea that showing them as vulnerable is negative seems odd to me - I think it helps to remember that they are kids, susceptible to things they see on the street or on telly, and that before demonising them you ought to have a crack at offering some kind of guidance. But it also points out that excessive mollycoddling is equally unhelpful, because it means they don't do things for themselves, and might prove daft enough to take sweets from the nice stranger in the beige mac.
The Times online reports that one child psychologist says “There is deliberate torment by adults of children in obvious distress,” which isn't true - when the kids have been upset, most of the parents have leapt in to see them. Another professional throws in her two cents with the logical leap that, "If you put children together, unsupervised, as sure as day follows night, there will be bullying... How much worse will it be for them to know they have been bullied in front of the whole nation?”
I dunno, 48.739%? Children are together unsupervised every day, and bullying goes on unchecked every day. They all know that bullying is bad, but continue to do it. If anything, seeing it happen on telly in front of their faces is going to make them aware of the effects. Because lets be honest, there is a wide range of behaviour that constitutes bullying, and I know of cases where the bullying kids have genuinely not considered themselves to be bullying. They see it as self defence or joining in with a 'joke' other kids are making, whilst the other party goes home in tears. Point is, they're not adults, and they haven’t got a very developed sense of empathy. Maybe showing them will help.
Their lack of adult-ness also makes their treatment negligent, it has been argued, because most of them can't cook or look after themselves. Course, that was the reason a lot of parents allowed them to take part - to teach them that they actually have life pretty easy, with people to do all that stuff for them. However, the adults were entertainingly perturbed when both communities took the view that those who could cook should only do so for themselves - or in the girls' case only for their house - leaving the others (some only eight) to fend for themselves. Having watched this they swooped in to lecture their offspring on the importance of looking out for people who are younger than you, taking responsibility, caring, sharing etc. So it's not as if they swanned off on holiday and deliberately left the kids to it, which the word negligent seems to imply.
I can't conclusively say whether there will be negative long-term ramifications for the kids who did this show. It seems possible. But I don't think any of them are going to slide into drug addiction or other life ruining chaos as a result of taking part in a documentary. And I hope Channel 4 do get to show the rest of it, not least because I want to know the outcome of the much hinted-at love story of eight year old Maddie and nine year old William next time when the two groups get to meet each other. My money's on them eloping, and giving OK! the exclusive interview.
*a pair of very nice country houses in Cornwall
Monday, 26 January 2009
Today I was doing some research for a job application, and accidentally found out that dyslexia is fictional. Fantastic news for all those dyslexics out there who were under the impression that they had difficulties concentrating on reading because words jump off the page, mix themselves up, replace themselves with blocks of colour at random, or any of the other problems associated with the condition.
The surely Nobel-worthy discovery was made by a Labour MP from Manchester, Graham Stringer, in this here column.
Ordinarily I would jump at the chance to rip on dyslexia, not least in order to annoy my dyslexic younger sister. You know the type of thing… it’s just a made-up term for stupid people, dyslexic walks into a bra...
Unfortunately, Stringer seems to genuinely believe that it’s a made up disease – ‘political correctness gone maaad’ and other clichés. Essentially, like Dawkins on Christianity, Stringer doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.
For a start, he insinuates that being dyslexic and being functionally illiterate are essentially the same thing. Bollocks. Functional illiteracy means a person can’t use reading or writing in everyday situations. Dyslexia is a learning disability that means the sufferer has trouble learning to read and write, but it doesn’t stop them from doing so entirely. The brain processes information in a different way, and whilst that can cause frustration and lead to people giving up (ergo sliding down the helter skelter of functional illiteracy), if they get support there’s no reason it shouldn’t be overcome.
I know several dyslexic people who have not only made it through university, but done pretty damn well. Being functionally illiterate would have hindered them somewhat. Not that being dyslexic didn’t pose problems, but you know what I mean. If the two conditions were the same, they wouldn’t have been able to fill out the application.
Stringer contextualises his findings in his regular visits to Strangeways, where many of the inmates are illiterate. He thinks that if literacy rates were higher, crime rates would decrease. That’s probably true – if you can’t read or write you’ll have problems getting a job and you’ll be poor and therefore potentially more tempted to go out on the nick. It’s not rocket science, it’s the gospel according to school. But how does this relate to dyslexia, you might ask? Well, the reason people are illiterate is down to bad teaching. And when bad teachers get caught out, they say “o hai, iz not ma fawlts tho, the childs are dyslexic.”
“If dyslexia really existed,” bristles our intrepid hero, “then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.” Now, I’ve looked this up (on Wikipedia), and apparently literacy rates in South Korea are indeed 99%, so that checks out. Nicaragua meanwhile, is at 80.1%. And the United Kingdom? Well, 99% again, actually. What kind of government are we dealing with, that doesn’t Wiki its figures before writing an article about the fictional nature of a condition whose existence is supported by mounds of ongoing research?
Towards the end of his diatribe, it transpires that Stringer is actually trying to make a case for something called synthetic phonics, a teaching method piloted in West Dumbartonshire which, according to him, has achieved great results and all but eradicated functional illiteracy in the area, which we can all agree is A Good Thing. But he incites ridiculous examples to make his point, like some idiot medical student saying she’s discriminated against as a dyslexic by having to do written exams.
“I don’t know about anybody else,” he says (the subtext of course being that of course he knows about everyone else, and more besides), “but I want my doctors, and for that matter, engineers, teachers, dentists and police officers to be able to read and write.” Well, fair enough.
Except I looked up what the idiot was actually arguing, and it seems the case goes a little bit beyond what Stringer mentions in his column. Quel surprise. Her problem was specifically with multiple-choice (ie not written) exams, for two reasons.
1) It discriminates against dyslexic students because the nature of the condition, as mentioned above, is such that words seem to move about on the page and it’s quite difficult to read and select the correct answer. A further point might be one that my sister explained, which is that she finds it hard to go back and check over what she’s written - she sees what is supposed to be there rather than what is actually in front of her.
2) “In normal day life, you don't get given multiple choice questions to sit. Your patients aren't going to ask you 'here's an option and four answers. Which one is right?”
I think on balance I would like my doctor to know what’s wrong with me based on a little bit more knowledge than picking at random out of four possibilities. And I know some are picked at random (about 50% of them according to the medical student I lived with in first and second year of university…). The main alternative to multiple-choice papers is apparently a ‘user input quiz’, which asks a question and requires you to come up with an answer yourself. Kind of like an old skool exam, then. We’ve all heard how education has gone to crap; surely Stringer ought to support this girl’s advocation of a return to the good old days, before dyslexics were invented?
It’s one thing to say that the education system has failed some people, and another to say that dyslexia doesn’t exist. The same system has failed both groups, and whilst there presumably is overlap between the functionally illiterate and the dyslexic, numerous other factors are at work here. From just a few weeks of experience working in a ‘community’ library I know that truancy, drug taking and crime affect young people who are well able to read and write, but don’t bother because it’s not cool, or because they don’t have to, or because they think there are better things to do. There’s a whole culture of choosing to be ignorant despite abundant resources and support being available – ten year old girls saying they can’t wait till they’re sixteen cause then they can “get a hoose wi ma mate fae Livvy, it’ll be brrruuwyant.” School is shite, reading is boring, and so on. It’s not because they're incapable - far from it. They just aren’t interested, and nobody is giving them any compelling reasons why they should be.
Furthermore, schools quite often don’t pick up on it, assuming instead that the kids who read slowly or can’t spell are just thick. Why bother to put someone forward for the test if they’re just slow? It’s expensive to do. Better to just bung them on a table with the other stupid kids and let a classroom assistant deal with it.
If synthetic phonics is as good as Stringer thinks, he should be campaigning for it using the results from West Dumbartonshire as proof, not questioning the existence of dyslexia by means of tenuous comparisons with famous prisons. I don’t know why anyone would be so wilfully obtuse in their arguments when it sounds like a perfectly sound case could be made without them. There again, I’m not a member of parliament. Yay democracy.
Monday, 12 January 2009
Ah, iTunes. The magic of shuffle is indeed a powerful tool.
It has in recent moments come out with ‘Losing My Way’, a provocatively poor track from the otherwise surprisingly enjoyable Future Sex/Love Sounds by none other than Justin Timberlake.
The CD came via an embarrassed friend who entreated me not to tell anyone its origins. Released in 2006, just ahead of several undeniably better albums (Jarvis Cocker’s first solo effort, a re-release of Pavement’s Wowee Zowee, Pieces of the People we Love by The Rapture - the list goes on), it received mixed reviews. I know this because I just read a load of them. Tim Finney of Pitchfork, for instance, wrote: “According to the laws of momentum which govern pop music, any sequel [to a debut album] could only be either be a pale reflection or a hubristic monstrosity. With FutureSex/LoveSounds he unrepentantly chooses the latter.”
That’s a tad unfair. The album is by no means a total failure, although it does veer from the sublime to the ridiculous with the breakneck speed of a toddler pumped full of cherryade, and it fizzles out a little bit towards the end. On the other hand, I was rather expecting it to be gash, so the fact it was any craic at all is a tribute to the Timberlake. The first single, after all, was SexyBack, a hugely confusing track for those of us who didn’t know sexy had left in the first place, and the song chosen to annoy the crap out of anyone who listened to Star FM (the St Andrews University Radio Station) at the time of release, as it was their signature tune. St Andrews University Radio is not now, nor has it ever been, bringing sexy back.
But what I really want to talk to you about is not Sexyback, nor the album as a whole, but the aforementioned crap in a bag that is ‘Losing My Way’. This is an anti-drugs song so preachy that a gospel choir comes in half way through. Lucy Davies of BBC online “can't decide whether this is brilliant or cheese on toast.” It’s the latter. No question. Rolling Stone’s Robert Christgau is far closer to the mark in describing it as a “clueless embarrassment.”
It’s about a crack addict called Bob, who will probably never know the colour of his daughter’s eyes on account of all the drugs. Drugs are bad, m’kay. It’s deep, meaningful and touching. Victor, of lyricsdepot.com, said “Justin expressed my pain in one song”. A few posts down, Nanea elaborates “this song could for so many situations not just drugs.. like alcohol problems or anything that might cause you to lose your way. I pray for those who have lost thier way and hope God lights their path. I thank JT for singing a song that touched me.” Evidence that people who genuinely enjoy this track are unable to proof read their own posts, if nothing else. The only thing this song touches is the gag reflex, or whatever nerve it is that makes you cringe.
The epic melodrama sees Justin, whose acting you may remember from Shrek 3, sings from the point of view of a junkie. To engage the listener, he easily introduces himself through rhyme:
“Hi my name is Bob and I work at my job.”
The man is a poet.
“I make forty-some dollars a day
I used to be the man in my hometown
'til I started to lose my way”
The reason Bob thinks that ‘forty-some’ is a number is quickly explained:
“It all goes back to when I dropped out at school
Having fun, I was living the life
But now I got a problem with that little white rock
See I can’t put down the pipe.”
It’s about as subtle as Just Say No.
“It is breaking me down, watching the world spin round..
While my dreams fall down
Is anybody out there?”
It is unclear whether Bob is tripping and can see the world spinning around as part of a hallucination, or whether the fact the world spins round is something he vaguely remembers from watching National Geographic in the middle of the night having been unable to score. But more important is the point that his dreams have not come true, and he feels alone. Drugs and lack of schooling will do that to you.
“Can anybody out there hear me? 'Cause I can't seem to hear myself…”
Wow, that is like, so true! Nobody listens to drug addicts except for the people they mug to fund their addiction.
“Can anybody out there see me? 'Cause I can't seem to see myself...”
Nobody makes eye contact with them, either. And not being seen makes you feel invisible. God, that Justin is good innee. Look at his hair.
“There's gotta be a heaven somewhere”
Fair play. You can’t argue with established facts, like the proven existence of a physical heaven.
“Can you save me from this hell?”
Yes, for I am Justin Timberlake, popstar, actor and superhero! But I shall not tell you how yet, for we must add EVEN MORE DEPTH to this utterly believable, clearly based on more solid experience than watching a couple of True Movies, tale.
“Now you gotta understand I was a family man
I would have gave anything for my own”
(His family, that is)
“But I couldn't get a grip on my new-found itch”
“So I ended up all alone
I remember where I was when I got my first buzz
See I thought I was living the life
And the craziest thing is I'll probably never know the colour of my daughter's eyes.”
Mmm. That implies she was unborn when all this transpired. Which begs several questions. How old is Bob? How long has Bob been on the drugs? Is he actually intending on getting clean at any stage? It seems he wants someone else to solve his problems for him, which is totes lazy imo. JT, you are a busy and important man, you shouldn’t be trying to find friends for indolent crackheads. And yet, he does. What a guy. All Bob need do, Justin suggests, is repent. And lo, he will be saved. Biblical.
Justin, it may be worth pointing out, has been in the entertainment industry since he was about ten. Call me a cynic, but it seems unlikely that he ever met a proper down and out junkie from the street when he was doing the Mickey Mouse club. When he comes into contact with drugs, it’s surely in rather more glamorous surroundings than poor old Bobby Bob Bob. Essentially, I think he’s watched a documentary and written a song about it.
I look forward to the follow-up, a ditty from the point of view of the half-ton boy who was on that Bodyshock program. It’ll be poignant as fuck.