Sunday, December 24, 2006

It takes two to make a thing go shite

It’s the night before Christmas and I wish that nothing was stirring. Instead, surfing through the channels on TV I stumbled upon the equivalent of aural rape. I wish I could have changed the channel or turned off the TV completely but it was so hypnotically bad. I think my will to live drained so fast that I couldn’t summon the strength to escape its clutches.

Welcome to the world of ‘Duet Impossible’.

No doubt conceived by some coked up TV executive after seeing the Radio 2 advert starring Elvis, Keith Moon, Stevie Wonder et al, current ‘stars’ get to duet with dead ones. I’m not sure if the impossible part of the title is for the incredulity that this ever got past the first pitch meeting or for the implausibility that stars of the past would ever deign to share a stage with these pretenders. With Vernon Kay presenting, you knew that it would always be nylon on offer rather than silk, with little spark, static or otherwise.

The Sugar Babes continued to make me suspect that there’s a chip shop short of 3 staff somewhere as they took on Dusty Springfield with a version of ‘Dancing in the Streets’. As soon as Springfield opened her mouth, completely blowing the ‘Babes’ off the stage, I was left wishing that they would go back to the fish suppers and leave Dusty to sing. It was like being in a nightclub, hearing your favourite song and the DJ cutting out the best bits to sing over the top.

McFly announced that they were going to duet with Lulu, which made me wonder when she died. They appeared with a 15 year old version of Lulu which, they claimed was the impossible part, while attempting a predictable version of ‘Shout’. It looked like performing was the real impossible part as their contribution resembled miming to the original with a bit of extra shouting. Lo and behold the real Lulu appeared at the very end of the song and again I was left wondering when she died.

As McFly were out of their depth with Lulu, so too was she as she performed with Marvin Gaye. Simon Ward (I have no idea either) mumbled over Peggy Lee’s classic ‘Fever’ and for the grand finale, Boy George showed that there’s no greater love than self-love by dueting with himself. By this stage I nearly performed a ‘Duet Impossible’ myself with Mama Cass as I choked on my sandwich.

Choosing such obvious, classic songs was the first mistake. How anyone can think that altering the near perfection of ‘Heard it through the Grapevine’ will result in anything but disaster needs help. The second problem was the gulf in talent between the current and past acts. It highlights just how far good marketing and PR will get bands these days compared to acts of the past relying on pure talent.

The only person to come out of this with merit was Katie Meluah. Her duet with Eva Cassidy on ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ was understated, restrained and touching. Her voice and guitar complimenting both the song and Cassidy’s vocals, surely the most important quality of any duet. The fact that Meluah is a talented artist rather than from the conveyor belt that churned out the other acts is telling.

A truly terrible Christmas offering from the BBC and I’m only grateful that I didn’t catch all of the acts. If this is the best of the Christmas TV treats this year I only hope that someone has kept the receipt.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What did you do during the war?

You know the clock's ticking, time's running out and you still have that last minute shopping to do. Panicking you check your shopping list;

Porn mags?
World Peace?


Today, wankers all over the world will unite, unashamed and striving single-handedly to end all wars. By the simple act of self-love while thinking positive thoughts, aggression and violence around the globe can be reduced. Yes, today they come in peace.

Brought to you by the same people who spelled the word ‘peace’ with their naked bodies to show just how alarmed they were with the state of the world, Global Orgasm is their next step in ending conflict. You may be surprised to discover that the organisers are Californian hippies. Their website provides the following information:

The Event

WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone
you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.

Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd,
at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment.

And while you may think this is all nonsense, they have science on their side:

The Global Consciousness Project runs a network of Random Event Generators (REGs) around the world, which record changes in randomness during global events. The results show that human consciousness can be measured to have a global effect on matter and energy during widely-watched events such as 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami. There have also been measurable results during mass meditations and prayers.

The Zero Point Field or Quantum Field surrounds and is part of everything in the universe. It can be affected by human consciousness, as can be seen when simple observation of a subatomic particle changes the particle’s state.

We hope that a huge influx of physical, mental and spiritual energy with conscious peaceful intent will not only show up on Princeton’s REGs, but will have profound positive effects that will change the violent state of the human world.

So that’s cleared that up.

Looking at the countdown on the clock, there are less than 10 minutes until the synchronised global orgasm. Hopefully there aren't any trigger happy types out there because who knows what could happen if shooting starts prematurely. War is a messy business.

Perhaps the earth really will move.

Cover me. I'm going in.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Has it come to this?

Something’s been troubling me for some time. It started as a slight nagging feeling after failing to get the schadenfreude I was so eagerly anticipating. It quickly led to sympathy rising to support and, dare I say it, respect, leaving me in a state of confusion. This brings rise to the importan question of the day;

Is it ok to actually like Jamie Oliver now?

I know, I know. It’s a horrible thought, flying in the face of so many years of well deserved hatred but once you get past that ingrained, reactive, resounding scream of ‘No!’, take a deep breath, pause and reflect. Deep down it’s there. The same niggling feeling that I have.

Now the evidence against is significant. Years of being subjected to that hyperactive, fat tongued, mockney twat shouting ‘Pukka!’ and ‘Wallop on some of that!’ certainly have to be taken into consideration. He so often resembled an attention seeking child that it was hard to resist the urge to slap his legs and send him to bed without his olive oil drizzled supper. Is that one glug or two with halloumi?

Then there were the Sainsburys ads. Hundreds of them. Each one more irritating than the last. Here was a man that worried little about familiarity breeding contempt, failing to see how a chef promoting processed food might seem a tad hypocritical. He wasn't so much the Naked Chef. More over-exposed. And then there was the moped. Yet despite all this I now find myself thinking ‘Those flavour shakers seem like a good idea! Maybe I should get one.’

How did this happen? How did I get here? What the hell is Appenzeller?

First there was ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’ where he took disadvantaged youths and gave them the opportunity to train and work in Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. There was the cynical whiff of self-promotion about it but it was a worthy project nonetheless. Seeing Jamie lose his temper time and time again was entertaining, not to mention taking a certain pleasure from every failure, but the seeds of doubt had been planted.

When the trailers for ‘School Dinners’ appeared it looked like compulsive viewing. Jamie trying to introduce healthy lunches while suffering the cruel insults, tantrums and disobedience that only children can dish out. The project was going to be a massive failure and I couldn’t wait to see it.

At first it was fun but the more I watched, the more I started to sympathise. Faced with resistance from the children, the school cooks and the parents I should have been riding on the crest of a wave of Oliver’s misery but I wasn’t. I started to feel his frustration, share his horror of those turkey twizzlers, see him actually attempt to make a difference and began to will him to succeed.

Then came those ridiculous pictures. Mothers trying to stuff bags of chips and burgers through the school gates, trying to save their poor little broods from the horrors of a nutritional, balanced diet. The utter stupidity of it all and their actions in the face of Oliver’s attempts to change children’s diets across the country triggered something.

It was an epiphany.

I was on his side.

This couldn't be happening.

Now I feel dirty and conflicted. I’m in need of help and guidance. I don't even know what butterghee is, pure or otherwise. I’m considering setting up a support group.

“Hello. My name is MonkeyBoy and I like Jamie Oliver.”


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone

Browsing through the papers lately will testify to the fact that 'tis the season to be silly. Drag yourself away from the breaking news that after a 3 year inquiry, Diana's death was in fact an accident, a revelation nearly 10 years on. Try looking beyond the sports pages heralding how England are performing much better with Monty Panesar in the team. A fact that was obvious. As obvious as the nose on your face. The nose on your face being repeatedly hit by a baseball bat. A baseball bat with 'Play Panesar, for crying out loud' written on it. Unless you're Duncan Fletcher, of course.


Ignore even the rather splendid 'Dolphins saved by world's tallest man' story or the world pie eating contest and you get to that seasonal tradition loved by our press;

Stories of councils re-branding Christmas, Christmas songs taken off playlists for being too Christian, carol services unable to advertise in local libraries, decorations forbidden, Santa silenced now 'ho, ho, ho' is considered a derogatory term for women. In short, Christmas being banned less it offend those of other religions. Most of these stories have the journalistic depth of a That's Life investigation and you can imagine one of Esther's fawning minions repeatedly crying out the newspaper mantra that accompanies each story of Scrouge like behaviour;

'It's political correctness gone mad!'

It's a great excuse for the likes of the Mail and the Sun to beat those horrible liberal, lefty types, ridiculing anyone who might actually show some sort of social consideration. More importantly, it's a thinly veiled attack on those dirty coloured foreign types who are the fuel that this imagined PC engine runs on, jumping in to save them from insult. However it doesn't take the investigative skills of Poirot to discover that these stories are, like The Snowman, old, repeated every year at Christmas and blatantly not real. Furthermore, most non-Christians actually enjoy Christmas.

So if these tales of political correctness gone mad aren't true and no one is offended, who wants Christmas banned?

In short. Me.

Ignoring the fact that Christmas is a cuckoo of a festival, usurping the pagan ones established long before, let's consider these reasons:

Christmas adverts in October. And what adverts. I still have hysterics every time I see the deluded Argos advert, the Debenhams one is just plain irritating with its rapping Santa and M&S just about get away with it for its camp Bond overtones and Shirley Bassey singing about coming up on ecstasy.

Christmas songs. Which level of Hell contains Noddy Holder screaming 'Iiiiiiiitttt'sss Chriiiiiiistmassss!' and what did I do to end up there? Don't you wish that last Christmas George Michael had given book tokens instead? And if that girl had stayed another day, we'd never have been inflicted with E17. It's no coincidence that The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' tops most lists of favourite Christmas songs. It contains all those popular seasonal themes; hatred, alcohol abuse, shattered dreams and bitter recriminations.

Christmas shopping. Suddenly everyone has the urge to head, lemming-like, to their nearest shopping centre to buy crap. Aware of this, every shop stops their special offers and raise prices. A 5 minute trip to buy lunch turns into survival horror, battling through the masses of stumbling zombies, as they gorge themselves on consumerism. Still, it'll all be discounted come January.

Christmas drinkers. It takes hours to get served, if in fact you can even get in, as every pub and club is filled with those part time drinkers that reserve Christmas as their one solitary time to abuse alcohol. Their part-time status leading to rapid inebriation, a chorus of 'Away in a manger' before vomit and/or unconsciousness beckon. Show me Christmas and I’ll show you a drunk girl crying in the corner. Compounded with the office party, an excellent time to get drunk and then discuss with your boss exactly why you hate him. Either that or attempt to get off with the receptionist and after failing, dancing on a table without your pants. You only hope that everyone was as drunk as you or suffer from short-term amnesia before you return in the New Year. If you still have a job.

Santa hats. Stop it. Stop it now.

Carol singers. Do you really think that 3 of you shrieking 'Silent Night' off-key deserve anything more than a good kicking?

And I won't even start on the nightmare that is traditional family Christmas Day dinner.

This year, if you want me, I'll probably be enjoying a leisurely walk along the deserted streets or sea front, getting away from the fights, the over-eating, the paper hats, the Queen's speech, the crying kids, terrible TV and drunken relatives.

Well, it wouldn't be Christmas without the Great Escape.