Friday, November 30, 2007

Not made like that anymore

You can imagine the view from the Pearly Gates: parked outside is a row of mid-70s Dodge vans, perhaps bulked out with a few yellow school buses and a flaming hoop or three. A ramp is assembled at the far end and way in the distance is a familiar figure, clad in a star-spangled red, white and blue jumpsuit, revving his souped-up motorcycle and waving to the cheering ranks of the heavenly choir, who have gathered to observe the goings-on.

St Peter calls out, "Mr Knievel, if you can make it over, you're in."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Kosovo's possible independence

A line a Belgrade girl once gave me:

"You know, Serbia is like Nokia: every year they bring out a new model, and every year it's smaller."

Monday, November 19, 2007

An American Film Review

It is said there are two rules for Hollywood success as a director.

Rule one is that you do not employ Madonna as an actress (obviously none of my readers would have the bad taste to watch one of her flicks, but suffice to say they're all shite). Rule two is that you put the word "American" in the title.

I can't think of a film that falls foul of the second rule. Is there a bad film whose title features the word "American"? It's some roll of honour: American Beauty, American Pie, An American in Paris, American Psycho, American Gigolo, An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West. Each of them is brilliant in its way.

Thus we come to the latest addition to this line, Ridley Scott's new film, "American Gangster", which I saw this afternoon. It keeps strictly to the two rules, being set before Madonna's emergence as a star so neither she nor her music is present, as well as obviously featuring the "A" word. And the positive news is that the film is very good indeed. When Scott is on form, there are few better "big" film directors in the world, and this latest addition to his canon follows firmly in the tradition of Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator.

The plot follows the true story fortunes of the aforementioned gangster, Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, and his nemesis, good cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). Both leads are extremely good, as one would hope from perhaps the biggest stars in Hollywood today. The last Crowe film I saw was "The 3.10 to Yuma", where he was the villain, a black-hearted piece of work. This time around, he's the purest, most incorruptible policeman you can imagine, working the mean, drug-riddled streets of New Jersey - Dixon of Dock Green meets the Beastie Boys' Sabotage video. Washington is equally excellent as Lucas, the black mob boss who outdoes the Mafia at their own game. In fact I reckon both could be up for a second gold statuette come the end of February.

American Gangster captures wonderfully the shadowy world of 1970s New York, reminding you of in turns of The French Connection, The Godfather, Midnight Cowboy and any number of other similar movies. I'd recommend it to anyone who's ever bought heroin and wondered where it came from, or anyone looking to spend a few hours out of the cold this winter.

p.s. Madonna has tried to claim "American" for herself, with the dreadful cover of Don McClean's classic, American Pie, but only succeeded in ruining a great song in a way few could ever have conceived of. Silly woman.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ne nostra in fundamenta subeamus

Matthew Parris on the alleged plan for a "national statement of values" (*shudder*):

It came to me while addressing a dinner given by the Birmingham Forward association of regional businesses. Birmingham is looking great these days, and I said how much nicer it was to encounter a city where people undersold themselves, than places (but let's leave Manchester out of this) that were up their own bottoms.

An MP and archetypal young thruster of a Government minister, Liam Byrne, had recently bewailed what he called the West Midlands' “malaise of modesty”. Modesty a malaise! How very new Labour. A pleasantly low-key attitude to themselves is one of the great assets of West Midlanders. So I suggested a new motto for Birmingham, which the audience seemed to like.

Philip Howard, the classicist of The Times, has helped me to translate it into Latin, and the five-word motto would be splendid, in fact, for Britain itself - except that it undermines the whole Brownite constitutional project.

Ne nostra in fundamenta subeamus: “Let us not climb up our own bottoms.”

Couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Not name-dropping

So anyway there are those occasional nights, aren't there, you know, when something extraordinary happens and you go out and stay out and stay out and find yourself letting yourself back into your flat sometime in the morning not having slept and needing to go to work pretty soon after.

Monday night to Tuesday was one of those sleepless extraordinaries, like May 97 and Portillo, but without the politics, or the time in Western Australia with the garage party and the chicken sacrifice, when you have to go with it because to not go with it would leave a feeling of wistful regret (If only I'd done that when I had the chance...).

The setup was something like this: new colleague says we've got to see this MASSIVE STAR when HE comes to Lisbon, cos HE's fantastic and what's more I can probably get a free ticket cos last time HE was in England I pulled the tour manager and got backstage passes and met HIM and ohmigod it would be great if that could happen again.

So I say OK, let's do it, it's a schoolnight but there's always the 0020 last bus home which should be late enough, except when we're in the concert and HE's singing and the band are tearing the place up and the girls around are dancing so sweetly and the vibe begins to build and build, I think I'm going with this, stuff the bus, I'll find a hotel and get home in the morning.

Finally the show ends way past twelve and we queue at the stage door till the bassist comes out to fetch us personally and we're in the inner sanctum and it's exciting because there are cool people around, and the band and the dancers are shaking my hand and asking how I am and I'm saying great show and they're grabbing me a beer and then a birthday cake comes out for the keyboardist and I get a free slice.

HE shakes my hand eventually and I'm stoked cos HE IS cool, we joke we're all following HIM like the pied piper and the bassist cracks up and the beers get sunk and the cake left behind cos we're off to a bar now in the Bairro Alto, me and colleague in the band minivan, and I'm leading the band somehow cos I know the streets at least for the first few.

The bar is tiny and jammed and jamming, more music, more girls, more smoke, more beer and we squeeze in, HE's not coming, too cool, another solo gig tomorrow but the band are partying hard because it's their last night, flying home in the morning, they're not sleeping, why should we, and we dance and we sweat and we drink all the beer in the place and it doesn't stop until 5.

Colleague's gone off with the bassist and I think, ought to start making a move, and say ta-ra to the dancers and the girls and put my coat on and start walking cos the tube'll start soon won't it, maybe not, oh well, too cold to sleep I'll just walk all the way to the bus station to keep the blood flowing and my head is full of sounds and images as I shiver along.

Bus home at sunrise that's a classic eh, I'm not a party animal, how did I end up backstage with HIM, can I get enough sleep before work, maybe manage three hours that'll have to do, coffee here's proper so that's on my side, just want to drop off, must change Facebook status later, love these random evenings, love 'em.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Magpie watch...

About a year ago I posted on Maidenhead United's exploits in the FA Cup after they'd reached the first round proper for the first time in 35 years or so. Sadly they didn't get any further, but this year, still under the leadership of Johnson "Drax" Hippolyte, they've got back to the same stage and have a decent chance of further progression.

Tomorrow they are away at Horsham, one of the few teams in the competition from lower in the grand league pyramid. Not an easy game, to be sure, but a winnable one (at least they ought to be able to get a draw). Let's hope they show that, er, world famous Maidonian spirit and do the business.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


October 2006:

Breast milk 'does not boost IQ'

November 2007:
Gene 'links breastfeeding to IQ'

I love the way they use the same picture to illustrate each story. If only I could squeeze in some gag about the kid in the photo feeling a right tit...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Is it safe? (Er, apparently not, no...)

Here's one to turn us all odontophobic. In the nastiest piece of New York State dentistry since Larry Olivier's turn in Marathon Man, Brandy Fanning, a woman from Syracuse, is suing Dr George Trusty (inaptly named, I think) for $600,000 after the drill bit snapped off and lodged near her eye during some work.

The story:

Fanning said she went to the center's emergency dental clinic after pain in a left molar started getting worse. With a root canal ruled out as an option, Trusty gave her some Novocain and began drilling to break up the tooth before extracting it, she said.

So far so good. Hey doc, let's turn the radio on.
As Trusty drilled, he was "performing rhythmical steps and movements to the song 'Car Wash,'" which was on the radio, according to the lawsuit.

Hmm, a dancing dentist? No thanks. Not even to Rose Royce.
Then, Fanning heard a snap.

Uh-oh. There goes the drill...
Trusty tried to use a metal hook to pull the bit out, but that only pushed it farther up, driving it through the sinus and bone near her eye socket, the lawsuit alleged.

Ouch. As if a dentist's drill wasn't already the worst sound in the world.
After first minimizing the problem, Trusty talked to an oral surgeon to set up an appointment — and then told Fanning she needed to get to an emergency room immediately, according to the lawsuit.

She claimed he had initially told she would likely sneeze the drill bit out, but doctors said later that if she really had sneezed, the drill bit could have blinded her left eye.

Good thing she didn't sneeze, then.

Our cousins across the pond in general set a great stall by their oral care. And generally the care is much better than in Europe. Face it, we Brits have horrible teeth and the Portuguese ain't much better. But somehow this tale of mouthly woe just screams only in America, doesn't it?