Wednesday, December 30, 2009

9/10ths Full of Penguins Review of the Year 2009

As the decade with the crappest nickname since the roaring Nineteen Noughties comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the last ten years. I will be blogging some thoughts over the next few weeks, but I thought I'd kick things off with my customary review of the year.

Best Moment
Laughing so hard my sides hurt for 3 days while watching Bill Bailey live in Manchester ranks pretty high. However, sharing this glorious sunset with Heidi while on holiday in Northumbria wins the accolade.Worst Moment
My 6 year relationship with Refresh FM came to a sad and rather painful end. See my post from November for my thoughts and links to the various other posts and articles.

Best Film
In hindsight, 2009 was a good year for movies with some absolute blinders wowing my eyeholes. Watchmen and Avatar just about met expectations, Star Trek and State of Play exceeded them and The Hurt Locker and District 9 came out of left field and almost stole the show. However, there can be only one winner and that was the wonderfully eerie Let the Right One In which showed all the other vampire films released in 2009 exactly how things should be done.

Worst Film
Channing Tatum and his unfeasible face slunk into a few movies this year including the inexplicable GI Joe. However, he sunk to new depths in the utterly dreadful Fighting. A film called Fighting which is about fighting should have more actual fighting in it. It spent so long talking about fighting and setting up the bouts for the charmless Tatum that when they finally arrived the director appeared to get rather over-excited and crammed 2 minutes of badly choreographed handicam scrapping into the film.

Best TV
Battlestar Galactica finally come to an end in 2009 and still managed to be just about the best TV of the year. Although honourable mentions do go to the superbly crafted Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle and BBC's Life.

Best Album
Its a tie between Neon Horse's Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance, and Delusion and Absence by Paper Route

Best Book
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. It may not be the best book of the year, but it was my favourite. Pratchett is as good as ever and reading his books now comes with a slight twinge of sadness. If you missed the marvellous two-part BBC documentary where he explores possible treatments for his Alzheimers I suggest you seek it out. It's both funny and moving - very much like the man himself.

Best Penguin related story of 2009
The heartwarming tale of penguin adoption in a German Zoo. A hearty slap in the face for all those stupid fundamentalist Christians who use penguins as an example of 'wholesome' family values. They're just animals, they're not proof of anything!

Blogs of the Year
Fat Roland
Cultural Snow

Here's to more blogging in 2010...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cocking a Snook at Simon Cowell

I don't like reality TV shows. Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing, Britain's Got Talent & X-Factor being just the highest profile peddlers of televisual offal. They are lazy and dedicate themselves to one of two goals. The first being the search for the Z-list celebrity or freakish civilian who will humiliate themselves in the most amusing manner. The second being the discovery of a moderately talented singer/dancer who can churn out mediocre pop music to further fill the obscenely bulging coffers of Simon Cowell.Once upon a time, all we had to worry about in the Christmas charts was Mr Blobby or worse, Cliff Richard records (The Lords Prayer set to Auld Lang Syne - remember?). However, we now look back on those dark times with pangs of yearning for the good old days. Now every year with a depressing inevitability we await the latest offering from whoever has triumphed in the X-Factor. Simon Cowell is now so used to having the Christmas number 1 that he now seems to expect it as his sovereign right. The only reason that so many people will lumber out and buy this prepackaged drivel is because ITV have spent what feels like the last 10 months shoving it down our damn throats.

There is currently a campaign to stop the Christmas charts from rolling over and presenting to Codpiece Cowell. People all over Britain are voting on who they want to be Christmas Number 1 by purchasing the Rage Against the Machine classic Killing in the Name of. Check and join the Facebook group here. This group is now approaching 750,000 members and has been branded as 'stupid' and 'cynical' by Simon Cowell.

Lets just think about for a moment.....

So creating a show that broadcasts twice a week for 3 million years to create masses of advertising revenue and gets all its participants to show up for mass auditions to remove the pesky job of searching out talent is not cynical? Creating a show that keeps in a few of the more freakish and vulnerable wannabes so we can laugh at them and their crazy dreams of stardom (dreams fueled by constant reality TV shows and f***ing Heat magazine) is not cynical? Creating a show that has as its end result a prepackaged, bland cover version of a pop song that is arranged and recorded months before the winner is discovered and then has the winner's vocals smoothed, produced, tweaked and then tacked on like an afterthought is not cynical? Creating a show that is so utterly meaningless as a contest because the winner is never the act that triumphs, but rather Simon Cowell, is not cynical?

No, apparently a large number of people going out a buying record they like to get it to number 1 is cynical. I always thought that was just the charts, but maybe Cowell is right. Perhaps the Christmas number 1 we deserve is from a man called Joe warbling a Hannah Montana cover.

Tropic Thunder ** (Apart from Tom Cruise, who is bloody hilarious)
The International ****
State of Play (UK & US) ***** ****
The American President ***
The Clone Wars ***
The Game ****
Prince Caspian ***
Eagle Eye **
High Fidelity ***
The Escapist ****
Three Kingdoms ***
Jurassic Park 3 ***
Star Trek:Insurrection **
Step Brothers **
The Hangover ****
Schindlers List *****
Get Smart ***
Fighting *
Galaxy Quest ****
Juno ***
Starship Troopers ****
Yes Man ***
The Box ****
Pans Labyrinth *****
Constantine ***
Dan in Real Life ****

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Theatre of Noise is Dead - Long Live the Theatre of Noise

The more long-suffering visitors to this blog will know that for the last 6 years, I have been involved with a local RSL Christian radio station in Manchester called Refresh FM which broadcasts for 3-4 weeks at Easter time. This post is not for sympathy or for an agenda, but because the writing is a helpful expression of how I feel about what has happened over the last few months.

Over the years I have helped Refresh in a variety of roles although mainly as a presenter and producer. I have been part of the Scheduling Team and also helped set up the music playlist. They have been a big part of my volunteering life for over half a decade and I will always be grateful for the opportunities offered and the trust placed in me by Refresh FM.

However, unfortunately, that relationship has now had to come to an end. Every year I have presented a show called the Theatre of Noise with one of my friends. We have developed the show over the years and it has been a big part of the evening schedules. Eyan, my co-presenter, was asked in the summer if he was willing to take a larger role in the organising and leadership of the station.

At this stage, Eyan felt it was important to be open with Refresh and informed them that he was gay. Within a month, Eyan and I were invited to a meeting with the leaders of Refresh where Eyan was informed that it was no longer possible for him to continue as a presenter due to his sexuality and the incompatibility of his lifestyle choice with the core evangelical message of the church that runs Refresh FM. For Eyan's eloquent account of this incident visit his blog for the initial article and a follow up piece. There has also been an article in the Guardian CiF section on the wider issue of volunteer rights.

While Eyan was left with little choice as to whether he could carry on, it was made clear to me that because I am straight, I was welcome to continue with Refresh. In the end, I felt that I was unable to reconcile how my friend was treated due to the narrow evangelical views of Refresh's leadership and the core message of Christianity. Therefore, I took the decision to step down from presenting and my positions on the scheduling and playlist teams.

The whole situation has caused upset and soul-searching in all parties and I'm worried for Refresh's future. I have always had such high hopes for a station that has taken some very bold steps in the past (the moment they defied critics to broadcast a Catholic church service in the Sunday morning service slot made me very proud to be a part of the organisation), and I hoped they would react better in this situation. Sadly, it seems (as is the way with us Christians in general) sexuality proved a step too far. My worry is that Refresh will withdraw and look inwards and try to involve only those who share their core beliefs. Its biggest strength has always been the involvement of a wide range of Christians of all denominations, ages and backgrounds. My suspicion would be that a good number of key volunteers would not be willing or able to 'sign on' and that would only make the station poorer.

On a positive note, Eyan & I have already had a meeting with someone interested in perhaps giving the Theatre of Noise a new home. So the Theatre of Noise is dead. Long Live the Theatre of Noise.


This week saw the release of Twilight New Moon to the delight of millions of teenage girls around the world. The film is sweeping all before it and is predicted to make a gajillion dollars over the next couple of weeks. The Twilight empire is a commercial juggernaut of a size to make Harry Potter quiver in his Quidditch boots.

I have studiously ignored the Twilight films so far, but as I was doing my ironing one evening this week (yes, you read that right, ironing) I found myself watching the first one. It is truly astonishing, but not in a good way. If you are one of the three individuals unaware of the story enjoy this parody with bunnies.

Now, I am well aware that these films are not aimed at me, but I was amazed at how technically dreadful the first one is. On every level, the film is a catastrophe...

1) Directing/photography:
The direction is shabby and lazy, the pacing is completely botched, the action sequences (when they finally arrive) are badly arranged and executed. Watching the awful CG/stunt/wired up vampires bounce around trees trying to appear dangerous is simply laughable. The dull grey lighting motif that permeates the whole film is clearly meant to be stylish, but just makes everything appear like a grotty day in Preston.

2) Writing:
Even taking into account the target audience, the writing is woeful. The most publicised zinger is Robert Pattinson's comment to Kristen Stewart where he says that she is his "own personal heroin". However, the dialogue is uniformly idiotic and puerile and the plot holes could swallow entire towns.

3) Acting: Every single 'teenage' actor seems to be trying far far too hard. Pattinson in particular relies on one expression to show every single emotion from miserable to happy to lustful to enraged. The interplay between the two main characters is supposed to be charged with repressed sexual tension. However, it manifests itself in stupid staring and lying next to each other in grass.

4) Mythology: Vampires are undead. The fascination with the vampire legend is the combination of beauty and corruption. When exposed to sunlight, they should burst into flame. They should not appear to be glittering like diamonds. DIAMONDS!! for goodness sake...

My biggest problem with this film is that it treats its audience like idiots. It assumes that because Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books are so popular, they can put handsome clothes horses in front of the camera to churn out this drivel and the masses will lap it up. Sadly, they were right...

Just because a movie is aimed at teens or kids, it doesn't mean that it has to be a film for idiots. Pixar have taught us that. Just because you have budget constraints it doesn't mean you can ignore the basics of making a good film. Anyway, if you want a vampire film that shows a vaguely sweet yet very unsettling relationship between a human and a vampire watch the utterly bewitching and genuinely creepy Let the Right One In.

Have some movie reviews
Silent Hill **
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince ***
Madagascar 2 *
Resdient Evil Apocalypse ***
Enchanted **
Evan Almighty ***
Lake Placid **
The Hurt Locker ****
Prince Caspian ***
District 9 ****
Let the Right One In *****
Twilight *
The Escapist ****
The Kingdom ***
In Bruges ****
Outlander **

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Rise of the Geeks

We all knew it had to happen sooner or later. The geek/nerd/spod (insert derogatory term of your choice here) has enjoyed a meteoric cultural rise over the last 10 years. But as we come to the end of the noughties (for lots more noughties related thoughts, read Tim Footman's excellent blog Cultural Snow), something terrifying has happened.

We've become mainstream. We've conquered the movies with the vast majority of the top 50 grossing movies of the decade having sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural leanings.

TV became our bitch when Battlestar Galactica made it acceptable for people who'd avoided sci-fi to admit they watched it.

The graphic novels by the likes Alan Moore and Mike Mignola are read by cool looking people on the bus. We've even appropriated high literature with the marvellous Pride & Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith.

We bestride the world like a check-shirted, glasses-wearing behemoth justifying why Deep Space Nine is the best Star Trek series.

All of this begs the question, now we're in the majority we will be benevolent overlords or will we enact a terrible revenge on the 'cool' people who spent so much time mocking us? I personally don't mind, although I would like to take fashion Nazi Gok Wan and force him to watch every episode of Babylon 5 until he damn well appreciates it as quality drama...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's health & safety gone mad!!

Aside from some work-based travails and a rather unpleasant situation that I will blog about soon, I have generally been quite happy with the world. Hence the lack of blog posts.

I was recently on holiday in Northumbria and enjoyed the beautiful ruggedness of the area. In winter, it seems a place for chiselled manly men. A place of craggy cliffs and rough seas.

So I was quite surprised to find on a cliff top near Seahouses this marvelous sign warning of a confined space underneath. The people of Northumbria may be tough and rugged but apparently need to be told that holes in the ground are small.

Normal service to be resumed soon...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zombie Outbreak!!

Human-Robot marriages will be legal by 2050.
D.Levy. University of Maastricht 2007

Chickens prefer beautiful human beings.
Ghirlanda, Jansson & Enquist. Stockholm University 2002

Pressures involved when Penguins poo: Calculations on Avian Defecation
Meyer-Rochow, Gal & Eotvos. University of Hungary 2005

Some people like to grumble and moan about scientists doing random and pointless studies and researches. I personally find them hugely entertaining, particularly when related to completely useless areas of knowledge (such as the pressure rates of penguin faeces).

Scientists in Canada have recently completed a study called Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress. On first glance that doesn't seem especially entertaining. However, the title of chapter 4 has promise. WHEN ZOMBIES ATTACK!: MATHEMATICAL MODELLING OF AN OUTBREAK OF ZOMBIE INFECTION.

Apparently, the only way to successfully defeat a outbreak is to remove the heads of the zombies. Intriguingly, they could have watched Shaun of the Dead and got the same result without all that pesky mathematics. Their conclusions are wonderfully backed up by Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London. "My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it's dead forever." Read the story here.
Old School ***
Matrix Reloaded ***
Matrix Revolutions **
Mesrine Pt 1 ****
Terminator Salvation ***
Angels & Demons ***
X Men Origins:Wolverine ***

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Where the wild things will be.

A film directed by Spike Jones, the trailer backed by an Arcade Fire track?

It feels like they're trying too hard to be 'indie'. This worries me slightly.

It does look utterly wonderful though...

Star Trek 2 Wrath of Khan ****
Blade Runner the Final Cut *****
The City of Lost Children ****
The Core *
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory ***
Ultraviolet *
Copland ***
Reign of Fire **
A Scanner Darkly ***
To Kill a Mockingbird *****
No Escape *
The Cell **
Valkyrie ***
Outpost ***
Quantum of Solace ***
The Watcher *
Jurassic Park ****

Saturday, August 08, 2009

We Are Klang

We Are Klang. Vic Reeves Big Night Out-esque chuckles or stupid, insulting nonsense.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Spotted on a railway station in Manchester today.
Apparently, Diggerland offers the 'best day out ever'. Bearing in mind the manifest wonders of this rich and diverse planet, I'm guessing that scraping around dirt in Yorkshire in a mini digger may not make the top slot. For a real hit of bizarre, have a peek at their rather surreal website, complete with corporate song here

Amusingly, this paean to the manly exploits of earth removal was right next to this poster suggesting the unmissable nature of a movie about clothes or something.Reading the poster about the film (its apparently the most stylish film since Sex & the City which is a comparison that even now is making my intestines threaten to rise up and strangle me from within in order to stop me from ever seeing it ) teaches us a valuable lesson, which I am going to pass onto you gentle reader.

If a movie poster reprints reviews from publications like Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle magazine etc, immediately remove 2 stars from the rating. This should leave you with an accurate star rating. The same goes for Heat magazine and all red top newspapers too. However, I'm not being snobbish - you should never trust the Guardian film reviews either. Oh, or those in the Times or Telegraph.

And while I think about it, James King on Radio 1 and Mark Kermode (of wherever he has slithered off to) are also not to be fully trusted in movie review terms.

Due to my lengthy absence there will now follow a bumper list of movie ratings (from which of course, you should immediately deduct at least 2 stars from to obtain an accurate rating)

Lady Vengeance ***
Total Recall ****
Man on Fire **
Keane ****
Ned Kelly *
Tears of the Sun ***
Hulk **
The Dead Zone ***
Red Dragon **
Mission Impossible 3 **
Aguirre, Wrath of God ****
From Dusk Till Dawn ***
Batman ***
Amelie *****
Final Destination 2 **
The Living Daylights ***
Spiderman ***
Timecop:The Berlin Decision *
Wilderness **
Dawn of the Dead (2004) ****
My Super Ex Girlfriend ***
Ghosts of Mars **
X-Files **
Death Note ***
Death Note the Last Name ***
Watchmen ****
Collateral ****
Rock n Rolla ****
Diary of the Dead ***
Tales from Earthsea ***
Hard Target ***
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen **
Fallen **
16 Blocks ***
Star Trek ****
Idiocracy **
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People **
Terminator 3 **
Along came a Spider **
The Crazies ***
Behind Enemy Lines ***
The Terminator ***
Termintor 2 ****
Grizzly Man *****
Infernal Affairs ****
Spartacus *****

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Offical Hiatus

I have been neglecting this poor blog for a while. For some reason, I haven't been able to summon up a decent blog post for months (I have been trying though). Therefore, I think I will let it lie fallow for a time.

Do feel free to follow me on Twitter - thats all I feel up to doing at the moment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Great 2009 Book Odyssey Part 1

Newspapers like to fill their weekend pages with supplements full of things we must do. The 100 Council Estates to Escape Before You Die, The 750 Types of Cheese You Simply Must Smell Before the End of this Week - that sort of thing. I don't normally pay that much attention to these supplements, however a few weeks ago The Guardian was running a series called the 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read. I decided I wanted read as many of them as I could. However, to make it manageable I've decided to read the Sci-Fi & Fantasy segment during 2009. I know its yet another example of me nailing my nerd colours to the mast but never mind...

1) Douglas Adams - Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ***** (an old favourite)
2) Brian Aldiss - Non Stop ****
3) Isaac Asimov - Foundation *****
4) Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin ** (not a fan of Atwood really)
5) Paul Auster - In The Country of Last Things ****
6) Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory ****

I'd read Hitchhikers, The Wasp Factory and Foundation before, but it's always a pleasure to revisit them. I haven't read a book as riveting as the Country of Last Things for ages. It isn't a long book, but I read it in a matter of hours - its definitely worth seeking out.

X-Men: The Last Stand ***
S.W.A.T **
Outbreak ***
Assault on Precinct 13 (the newer one) ***
Unbreakable ****
(I think it may actually be his best film - better than 6th Sense)
Tigerland ***
Mission Impossible 2 ***
Wall E *****
Dances with Wolves *****
Sin City **
(I saw it at the cinema and thought it was good - on the small screen its all style and no substance)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Searching for my Power Animal

Inspired by Patroclus, I decided I wanted to explore the (forgive me) nonsensensical concept of the power animal. Apparently a power animal can empower me towards ever-increasing prosperity and fulfilment. It will also help me to express and embody the person I truly am.

In other words, its a steaming pile of dreamy bollocks cooked up by people too lazy to pick a proper religion and too scared to be proper atheists...

Anyway on with the fun. According to this website of twisted genius, all you need to do to find your power animal is to enter the enchanted forest, pass the mouse (a normal one not a power mouse) over the screen till said creature approaches. Following this wholly random process taught me that my power animal is a tortoise ('take a deep breath and let the spirit of the tortoise fill you'). Interestingly, if you click on the same spot more than once - you'll get a different animal every time...

I was unsatisfied with the arbitrary nature of this selection, so I tried a different website which took the more detailed approach by asking me 15 moronically phrased questions. This site told me that I had high scores in Hawk, but low scores in Cougar - I have no clue what that means, I'm just disappointed my horse score was so low.....

Click here and take the test for yourself. Do post in the comments what power animal you have been lumbered with.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fox is both evil and stupid

Evidence, if any were needed, that right-wing America (as represented by the Fox Network) can be annoyingly dense and small-minded.

Enjoy Jon Stewart from the Daily Show getting the boot in on professional knob Rush Limbaugh.

"If you don't stick to your values when they're tested, they're not values. They're hobbies."

Hat tip to Anna

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Coffee - The cause of and solution to all our problems..

There was a marvellous story on the BBC website recently. It reported research that suggested elevated coffee intake could raise the risk of hallucinations. If you drink more than 7 cups of instant coffee in a day you could start seeing ghosts and hearing voices.
However, there are some holes in this conclusion, as the study was conducted using 200 students from the University of Durham. Can I suggest (without stereotyping) that there may be other factors (lack of sleep) or substances (off milk) causing these poor students to hear voices? My favourite nugget of information however, is that 3% of the population regularly hear 'voices'. This means that nearly 2 million people in the UK right now are talking with the pixies in their head. I could be one of them - so could you.....

Anyway, to the point. The BBC news website very helpfully lists similar stories on the same page as the current story. This led to me spending a very enjoyable hour going gradually back in time reading all the things that coffee does to our poor unsuspecting bodies.

January 2006 10 cups a day increases female sex drive.
July 2008 4 cups a day reduces fertility
January 2008 4 cups a day increases the chance of miscarriage
February 2003 8 cups a day can double chance of stillbirth

June 2008 6-8 cups a day reduces your chances of developing ME
April 2008 1 cup a day helps protect the brain from dementia
January 2008 4 cups a day makes Diabetes worse
August 2007 3 cups a day protects memory in older women

July 2007 1 cup a day protects your skin from the sun
August 2002 May cure skin cancer one day
Janury 2007 2 cups can reduce post workout muscle pain by 48%

November 2005 6 cups of decaffeinated coffee a day increases chances of heart disease compared to 6 cups of regular coffee
October 2004 1 cup a day increases chance of heart disease
November 2002 Coffee doesn't raise blood pressure.

April 2002 Coffee may keep you awake at night (Shock horror!)

So what can we learn from our journey in medical scaremongering? Firstly, if you are female you are much worse off than us men. Particularly as you get the most of the negative effects and when you do get the positive ones - it works better for us. Secondly, if you are old it will help you keep your wits for longer. Thirdly, you can make data from most research say pretty much whatever you want. And finally, its all totally pointless as coffee doesn't even wake you up in the morning.
Blood Diamond ****
King Arthur (Director's Cut) ***
The Wrestler *****
X2 ****
Eastern Promises ****

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What the.....

Having commented on the paucity of quality TV in my previous post. I wasn't planning to talk about TV again for a little while. Praise be then for Paris Hilton, who has made me seethe with righteous fury.

This pathetic excuse for a celebrity has a new programme that will be disgracing our screens shortly. It is called (brace yourself) Paris Hilton's British Best Friend. For the sake of all that is holy - how did this vile idea ever get the green light?

Here is a quote from the idiot in question.
“Everyone knows I love LA,” says the star. “But London, watch out – I’m coming to town and bringing my fast-paced life with me. I’m in the UK all the time, but of course I can’t bring all my friends, so I’ve decided to look for a new BFF across the pond. I need a best friend who is hot, who can keep up with me, and most of all, who is real and won't be a backstabber. I’m not leaving London until I find that amazing girl or guy who can meet the challenges of being my British bestie!”

The hideous trailer shows Paris cavorting with a pair of ridiculous looking dogs, one of which accompanies her everywhere. This of course could be suggesting that she is looking for the human British equivalent of her little rat-dog. A little playmate for her to swan around London with until she gets bored and jettisons them like the human waste they are. The most depressing aspect of this is that there are thousands of people who want to take part in this programme, thousands of people who will humiliate themselves to try and get a tiny slice of celebrity. Thousands of people who will essentially prostitute themselves to become a hanger on of a woman whose only talent is to be famous. Here are the cream of that particularly pathetic crop.
This apparently is a time when creative and interesting programmes that don't actually cause your soul to shrivel within you are being shelved due to a lack of money. How is it then that ITV are paying this vile woman $100,000 per EPISODE?!! Surely that money could have been better used?

However, there is a glimmer of hope. The following paragraph has been posted on the show's website.
"The ambitious wannabes will share a house and will gradually be eliminated until one of them will be inaugurated as Paris Hilton’s British Best Friend."

This may mean that instead of being merely evicted, the 'wannabes' will actually be executed in a Doctor Who Bad Wolf style. (Watch it here, if you aren't familiar with the Doctor's exploits)

We can but hope....

The Hive *
Miracle on 34th Street **
Thank you for Smoking ****
Airplane *****

Friday, January 09, 2009

In 2009 I will mainly be angry...

For 2009 I have decided to be more angry about things. The gentle therapeutic effect of bitterness and bile will ease my soul thoughout 2009.

Here are the three things that exercised my ire the most through 2008:

1) Banks
While I understand that I'm no economic expert, the sheer arrogance of financial sector was astonishing. In my really simplistic view, its seems the banks have been gambling with our money for years and they've finally lost. Years of appalling excess, greed and enormous salaries have made bankers some of the most unpopular people on the planet. And when global economics came around to bite them on the arse, they moaned and whined and demanded our help with a complete lack of humility. When the goverment bailed them out with our taxes, they strutted around as if they'd done nothing wrong. These people are the slime of the world (along with reality TV show producers) and you can bet the heads of the banks in question are not out of pocket - unlike many of the people whose money they pissed away.
2) Fashion 'Nazis'
I wrote a terribly grouchy post back in July 08 about fashion and the endlessly annoying Gok Wan. Read it here.

3) Cheap and stupid TV involving cheap nudity
Like any other year, 2008 saw an endless stream of cheap and easy TV programmes designed to make brains dribble out of your ears. According to several articles, one of the depressing minor side effects of a global economic crisis will be a decrease in the number of good TV programmes. As quiz shows and reality TV shows are relatively cheap to produce, we can expect many more of them. Therefore, we should look back on 2008 as a relative high point in TV and film.

One of the standout features of the TV schedules this year has been the stream of programmes using the flimsy excuse of 'empowerment' to create gratuitous shots of naked people. The sheer hypocrisy of some of these shows was breathtaking. Trinny & Susannah, Gok Wan and Dawn Porter should all be very ashamed of themselves. For a better skewering that I could ever deliver of these type of shows watch this episode of the gloriously angry Screenwipe.

Watch Part 2 here
Be warned - there is some bad language and some clips from the shows concerned.

I'm looking forward to many things making me grumpy in 2009....

Van Helsing ***
Fatherland ***
The Recruit **
Young Frankenstein ****
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ***
Independance Day ***
Castle of Cagliostro ****
Wanted ****

Friday, January 02, 2009

9/10ths Full of Penguins Review of the Year 2008

I apologise for my lengthy absence. I have been pondering the purpose of this blog and took something of a furlough to consider whether I should keep going or not. I never wanted my blog to be a 'today I had my breakfast and then went to work' type-blog and felt it might have been slipping slowly that way. However, I'm now back and raring for more blogtacular action in 2009...

2008 has seen some extraordinary moments. Barack Obama's huge victory in the US presidential elections, global economic meltdown and two pensioners making jumpers out of their dead dogs' hair.

Best Moment
November 5th at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. I finally got to see the peerless Sigur Ros live in concert. It was simply the most extraordinary gig I've ever seen and leapt straight to the top of my all time gig list, unseating Iona at the Royal Festival Hall in May 1999.

Best Film
The year's best film was an easy choice in the end. Nothing even came close to the dazzlingly bleak Dark Knight - brilliantly written, directed and acted. However, my favourite film of the year was the marvellously entertaining Hellboy 2.

Worst Film
The Happening. For the sake of all that is holy - please lock M Night Shyamalan in dark, windowless room until he promises to stop making films this terrible. It was a film with nothing going for it at all.

Best TV
Battlestar Galactica was once again the best thing on the goggle-box in 2008. I have also discovered the wonders of the West Wing. I'm about half way through season 3 and I'm reluctant to carry on watching it as the further I go throught the seasons, the closer I am to never having a new episode of the West Wing to watch....

Worst TV
I was subjected to a few episodes of Strictly Come Dancing in 2008. I was truly astonished by the level of self-importance and vanity oozing out of most of the contestants and judges. The fact that the judges continued complaining that the public kept saving John Sergent demonstrated that they thought far too much of themselves and their dance show than the fact that they were part of a reality TV show that asks for public opinion. What they told the viewers was that they (the judges) were right and the great unwashed of the British public were incorrect because they had the temerity to disagree with them.The truly magnificent John Sergeant
Best Album
Dial M - Starflyer 59

Best Book
The Separation by Christopher Priest - a pleasingly complex and intriguing book of alternative fiction.

Best Penguin related story of 2008
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Do people need rescuing? Nah - its just two inflatable penguins. Read all about it here

Blogs of the Year
Here are my 3 favourite blogs of the year in no particular order.
Fat Roland
Cultural Snow

On a personal level, I decided to follow the example of a good friend and start trying to lose weight. In the last 5 or 6 weeks of 2008 I lost over a stone in weight and have set myself the goal of losing enough weight to start playing cricket properly again before the end of 2009.

In 2008 I also rediscovered an old friendship that has blossomed into somewhat more over the course of the year which has made me very happy.