Friday, August 24, 2007


Supermarkets are shit places. They really are. Don't get me wrong, if the accepted method of shopping was to dash in there and then have a minute to scoop whatever you could off the shelves before legging it off with whatever you could stuff in your trolley, I'd enjoy the experience considerably more. It would certainly make for more interesting suppers than the inevitable choice between spag bol/chicken pesto because I always seem to be faced with. But as it is, supermarket shopping is just a bit dull. Once you've searched through aisle after aisle of what is essentially the same product to find whichever happens to be cheapest, you then have to join the checkout queues. The custodians of which look like the zomibes other zombies shun for being a bit... off. Each one of them has a glazed, hungry look in their eyes that makes me nervous everytime I reach over to hand them my money.

So you can imagine my joy when I noticed that there was a new self-service checkout aisle. Being a fan of new gadgets and not wanting to have to deal with any nasty bites, I decided to give it a go. With the usual, brash cockiness that accompanies such a decision. How hard could it be? Ol' shit-for-brains can do it, I'll be alright. Well let me tell you that barcodes are absolute bastards. Once you've found the thing you have to scan it in. Sometimes the bastardcode will scan, sometimes it won't. After scanning the first item I was hooked. I felt like I was locked in a battle with the machine. Me on one side, trying to scan the bastardcode and hear that satisfactory 'beep', the machine on the other being a total cunt and refusing to make a squeek. Brains cells started collapsing, I felt consciousness ebbing away. Was this how Keanu Reeves felt just before he turned? Suddenly Wolfmother cut in on my iPod, shaking me back into reality. I paused for a moment to catch my breath. I never realised it could happen so easily. I started to feel sympathy for what could so easily have been my zombie brethren.

But that wasn't the most disturbing thing. That would have to go to the voice that came out of the machine. It was the kind of female robot voice that the big computers have in sci-fi movies. The computers that seem friendly and subservient until they suddenly flip. And then you're fighting for your life in a post-apocalytpic world where everyone wears funky leather clothes. It certainly removes any question of shoplifting from your mind. Robot voices have that cold, impersonal edge that suggests the machine would quite happily kill you and dispose of the body, no questions asked, if you tried to pocket that pack of chewing gum. It started to dawn on me that these weren't self-service machines. They were machine service machines. Training stations for the machines so that they can climb the corporate ladder and replace the zombie hordes. In thirty years supermarkets will be full of robots, all speaking in the same voice as they serve you, all doing the same actions over and over again with impeccable precision. And I'd be the miserable old git going on about how service was always so much better when you were served by a real person.

But I'd only say that because I'd be senile. On thinking about it, I'd prefer the friendly, helpful, reliable, possibly insane, service of a robot to a decomposing corpse that keeps dropping bits of itself around the place anyday. And a robot uprising would be easier to deal with than a zombie infestation. I've read books on the subjects. Unless... the zombie infection somehow hardwired the internal matrix core of the robot, turning it into... robozomie. Then God help us all.

Richard is currently seeking treatment for his robozombie paranoia.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lofty Expectations

Charles Dickens once said of Great Expectations: “It’s rubbish, don’t read it. I just write them for a laugh. Honestly, I don’t know why people keep reading this drivel.”*. And he was onto something, if you take the quote as ‘Charles Dickens once said of great expectations: “they’re rubbish.”’*. Expectations are another one of the stray breasts that life pops out in order to titillate and raise hope but that ultimately lead to disappointment for all concerned.

It’s that annoying but deeply necessary part of our brain that after the most beautiful day spent with friends and family, rejoicing in the warmth of shared love and mutual affection, says, “Could’ve gone to Alton Towers…” That bastard voice that always wants slightly more, to achieve this never ending level of perfection. It’s unsurprising great expectations lead to tears before bedtime, they’re all complete lies we make up in our head based on what it is we want or expect. They have no relation to anything that exists in the non-make believe world, if they did we couldn’t expect them. Or something like that. If you were expecting something from this note you’ll know what I mean.

The people who call themselves ‘They’ say that you should never meet your idols, you’ll only be disappointed. I’ve yet to meet anyone I revere so I don’t know if it’s true* but it wouldn’t surprise me given how much of what celebrities are is fabricated in ours heads. It’s this desire to see celebrities that led to my expectations being rather unfairly raised last night.

Now I’m not a big fan of this whole celebrity culture* but I do have to admit to getting some perverted thrill from seeing that bloke off telly wondering around the streets of Edinburgh like a normal fucking person. I’m not the kind of cock who’d go up to them and talk to them like I knew them or point obviously and whisper to my mates, I just like seeing them. Like an ostrich in the wild. I started off this Fringe strong too. Within five days I had spotted Paul Merton, Simon Amstell and Reginald D. Hunter having drinks like normal people. But then a sudden and terrible drought struck. Since then I have seen Dave Benson-Phillips and the Hamiltons*.

There was a high point today when Ewen Macintosh (Keith from the Office*) came to see This Lime Tree Bower*. But that’s only because he’s an ex-Bedlamite* and drinking buddy with Chris Mounsey who’s in the play. It’s because of Mounsey my expectations were raised so.

Mounsey has been drinking manically at the Fringe for the last ten years now so has drunkenly stumbled into enough people to be able to get passes for the Loft Bar. That’s right my friends, last night I left behind the common riff raff of the Fringe and ascended up those steps in the illustrious Gilded Balloon* to the exclusive, VIP with passes and everything, Loft Bar. Where the cutting edge minds and celebrities of the Fringe meet to laugh and lounge, discuss and partake in a decadent lifestyle where the drink and drugs flow, free from the oppressions of normal folk. This was my ticket into their world.

Fig. 3.1478578979823627 gives a rough graphical representation of my expectations compared and contrasted to reality. It was a quiet, empty bar with a rather useful roof to smoke on. Not bad, but no celebrities. No nubile young women. No free booze. Nothing to make me feel superior to everyone else. Frankly disappointing. I think I might have spotted Sean Hughes in a dark corner but that’s hardly the celebrity sighting of the Fringe. The only time I’ve ever been ‘backstage’ before was at a Papa Roach gig. I could think of a lot of negative things to say about it but I never want to think about it again*. So my expectations were a little high, but still, after all the hype I’d heard I was hoping for a little more. Sometimes I fear I’ll never get a sighting printed in Heat. Sigh…*.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Daniel Kitson Is My Master Now

‘Cult Figure’. That’s a phrase you want to avoid in conversation if you can. It’s the kind of comment that often comes up in conversations that involve other such bollock topics as ‘selling out’ and ‘yes, but what is fame, I mean really?’ As far as I can tell, cult artefacts, be they films, books, bands, people, whatever, are just things that are unpopular. That’s the only qualification for being a cult artefact these days. Create something that’s just good enough to appeal to a niche market of people but too obscure, controversial, plan shit for the majority and, congratulations, you have now achieved cult status! Dying early/spectacularly before potential is fulfilled is also another safe(ish) bet.

But it’s bullshit, and it’s fuelled by those fuckwits who believe in the love and worship of these cult artefacts. That’s why the word used is cult. If I hear about a cult film I’ll happy bound along to the nearest cinema and absorb it’s wonderful message because it’s cult, but if I hear about a religious cult forming nearby I’ll start storing supplies and preparing for an all out war. Why? The word refers to the same thing in both cases: sad obsessive nutjobs that have to pigeon-hole everything and are so fucking socially inept and alone that they have to further distance themselves from people by loving something no one else does. Cos somehow that makes them special *. These people are just snobbish cunts.

This belief that being loved by many is indicative of being shit is the last resort* of people still clinging to a fantasy of egotistical exceptionality who believe that their tastes are special or superior in some way and they can fuck off right now. Of course in a lot of cases popularity=shit is true. The reason that the non-existent mainstream is so feared by these people is because there appear to be so many popular things that are just plain bad*. The News for example. Why people spend all their time watching such a dull and depressing show I’ll never know…

On the other hand you have immensely popular stuff like the Beatles which is loved by many and lives on because it’s actually good, no matter how much mass appeal it has. Being a top celebrity isn’t necessarily indicative of selling out or appealing to the lowest common denominator. People like Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais come under a lot of attack simply because they’re successful comedians. Fair enough, I think Carr’s an annoying cunt but that’s because I don’t like his act. Whether you like him or not is purely a matter of taste to do with his style, not how popular he is.

I’ve heard people say they don’t like The Mighty Boosh anymore since it became popular. It’s such an inane point that I won’t dwell on it, suffice to say that the vast majority of people in the Fringe would donate their brain for the chance to play one of the big venues, get that elusive television deal, or be noticed for just being fucking great by loads of people. You can’t get jealous when someone actually makes it, it just means your tastes aren’t in sync with the majority.

One man who doesn’t seem to have any interest in all this is Daniel Kitson, an enigma wrapped up in an enema of a man if ever there was one. He certainly qualifies for cult status, despite being hailed repeatedly as the future of comedy he’s shunned television and the big venues he could easily fill in favour of remaining firmly out of the limelight and playing small gigs to whoever turns up. Either Daniel Kitson doesn’t like people or he’s being a little bit arrogant, clinging onto what he believes is integrity by refusing to ‘sell out’.

It doesn’t really matter which one’s the answer because for as long as Daniel Kitson stays as good as he is at the moment he will always be streaks ahead of any other performer. You don’t garner quite so good a reputation by staying out of the public eye unless you’re exceptional at what you do. And that’s Kitson from start to finish. There are aspects to his performance that appear arrogant. At many times during his show It’s the Fireworks Talking at the Stand Comedy Club, Kitson makes reference to his perceived brilliance and maverick comedy stylings. Taken out of context it could sound like a man blowing his own ginormous ego trumpet. In reality it’s a man who is honest to the core. Self-deprecation is the tactic of choice for many comedians who want to connect with their audience but so often it comes across as false or immodest, a tactic used to garner false sympathy from the audience. Kitson instead just goes for the honesty through and through. He is acutely aware of himself and the other factors that make up humans, as all the best observational comics are, but he presents the material in a way that separates him from the rest of the pack.

Bumbling about the stage with his overgrown beard and glasses that make his eyes look like giant pool balls, he calmly and fluidly works his way through material that only very occasionally strays into traditional observational stand up. His pace and vocabulary are nothing short of inspiring. He can rattle through material that leaps from laugh out loud comment to genuinely insightful and touching within two lines, never losing the audience and always saying something interesting, developing a story or referencing back to previous material. There’s no time wasted, unsurprising for a man with quite a severe stutter. He’ll quite happily stop, go back and deconstruct a gag or just break down the imperceptible barriers that normally exist between comedian and audience because he has the natural ability and confidence to do it. Sounds easy but it’s not. Often it can make the comedian sound like an insecure yet cocky prick. Coming from Kitson it sounds like your man on the inside telling you how it works.

Within seconds I was hypnotised, following his tightly structured theme, feeling that I was actually witnessing something special here, something I had never experienced before, a novel and powerful talent and I was the only one there who knew it. Daniel Kitson was my mate and we were sitting in the pub together while he told me a few brilliant stories.

But maybe that’s the cult in me speaking. I’d heard so much about Daniel Kitson before I went to see him that I just knew he’d be good no matter what. Everything about the evening, from Kitson’s reputation as someone who shunned the big venues (and with good reason to, the small and dingy Stand Comedy Club atmosphere suits his stand up infinitely more than a multi-seater venue) and fame, to the feeling that all of us who were packed into that dark room knew something no one else at the Fringe did, all reeked of ‘cult’. It makes it hard to be objective but fukkit, Daniel Kitson is the greatest comedian ever. Ever. Without question.

He also does secret gigs around Edinburgh, or so I’ve heard. I’m hopefully going to one tonight, if you hear about one definitely try and go. It is something special.

third time's an absolute bastard

it's difficult to go to see a film without pre-conceived ideas that will inevitably effect how you view the film. for example: trilogies. if i go to see the third part of a trilogy i will inevitably assume it's going to be underwhelming at best, and this tends to be the case. it's like the cat in the box, except i know the poor bastard's dead from the stench coming out of the box. you might call it cynical, but you'd be wrong. a pub discussion (the best kind, alcohol produces the kind of truths that sobriety would never dare utter) on the matter couldn't produce a single legitimate trilogy where the third installment was better, or even as good as, the first two. the best people could come up with was: the return of the king, indiana jones and scary movie (my mate's an idiot). compared to the vast backlog of pure unadulterated shit that is the world of triologies this list stands up about as well as a crippled jellyfish with lukemia.

so why, why, (oh god) why do they keep getting made? at the cinema all the posters bar one were for sequels: die hard 4, shrek the third, 28 weeks later, the fantastic four, and pirates of the carribean. i can't help but feel that all these films are the movie equivalent of drinking hp sauce straight from the bottle, unnecessary and kind of nauseating. but there's no denying they're superb money spinners. the bovine public seem more than happy to hurl their money at the next hollywood franchise that wasn't even that good in the first place. i don't understand why so many rational and intelligent people enjoy sucking down pirates of the carribean's rancid love juice so much. it's just one fucking character, that's it. there is nothing else to these films. if you want to watch johnny depp as a funny character in a good film, watch fear and loathing in las vegas. stop telling me it's going to be amazing because of moments such as keith richards playing his dad, because that makes you a liar.

so sequels get made because the originals were successful. sadly it's this initial film's success which invariably means the sequels are going to suck hermaphrodite testes. the matrix: first film was stunning. and successful. so there has to be a sequel! so let's do the same, but more! people love that! and there's never the same level of imagination or originality as was in the first film, because the first film was unique, so they bollocks the whole thing up completely. you can say the same for the likes of shrek. shrek was again an unexpected, hilarious parody of disney tales. they could just about keep it through shrek 2 by throwing in more gags, but the steam will run out by the third. there will be too many repeated jokes, the characters won't have anywhere else to go and the whole thing won't match up to comedy of the first one. don't worry, i'm not a psychic. it happens with every trilogy like this (austin powers, american pie, naked gun) deep in your heart you know it's going to be the same for shrek.

trilogies that are written as one body of work tend to be better. lord of the rings was conceived and written as an entire story, not as stand-alone segments. and peter jackson had the clever idea of filming them all at once, so it feels like a continuous whole. everyone has a different opinion on which part is the best, or whether any of them are good, but it's difficult to find a consensus on which one is by far the worst. most trilogies aren't put together and filmed in this way. it has to be done on a film by film basis. which is why hollywood has fallen in love with comic books. there's an onverwhelming wealth of untapped source material in the comic books industry. film makers don't have to worry about coming up with new storylines and characters for their unexpected sequels, they're all ready-made by someone else! this does mean that thankfully sequels such as X2 manage to surpass the originals because they have to hand a number of pre-written options, but they still couldn't escape the trilogy trap with the abysmal X3.

speaking of trilogies and comic books, the latest spider-man movie came out on the 4th of may. this is the 'dark' one. the big kahuna. and it's the third part. fuck. this time round peter parker (tobey maguire) starts of happy, everyone loves spider-man, he loves mj (kirsten dunst) and everyone loves just about everything. cue everything rapdily spiralling into shitsville, with misunderstandings, awkward moments and even a bout of amnesia all thrown in within the first half an hour. then it just goes from bad to worse when a black liquid alien symbiot thing combines with spider-man's suit affecting his personality. in come villains, more heartache and back-stabbing with a suitable dramatic set-piece finish. no surprises there then.

unlike other films of this nature, spider-man has always focused more on the character of peter parker, with the villains being ridiculous superflous extras to laugh manically and fight every now and again. this approach is fine when the protagonist has an interesting story to tell. which is why it's such a shame that opportunity was missed here. i was hoping for a story that really shows the descent of spider-man from this hero with everything going right for him, into this dark, twisted character who has lost his principals and moral compass. the fact that he kills someone should be a key moment. spider-man never kills people. but they just state it and move on, with no exploration whatsoever. all they do is give him a daft fucking fringe and make him a bit of a cock. the scene where peter parker is strutting down the street, winking at girls and buying fancy new clothes isn't somone who's battling with their inner rage and thirst for revenge, it's someone who's asking for batman to glass them in the face.

and there's nothing much else in there to redeem this film from the depressingly half-arsed story. the afore mentioned villains appear when needed but that's about it. thomas hayden church as the sandman tries his hardest to get some kind of character going, but not enough to actually make you care. one minute he's smashing the shit out of anything that moves, the next he's crying into a locket and saying he doesn't want to hurt anyone. venom's hideously underused and when he does finally appear he's an even bigger cock than spider-man. but not in a cool way. in a, "just fuck off you annoying little shit" kind of way.

but it's not all bad, there are some hilarious moments, unintentional as they may be. when a character jumps a fence with a sign saying, "WARNING. PARTICLE PHYSICS TESTING IN PROGRESS. DO NOT ENTER." you know there's going to be enough bad science to keep you chuckling. but the prize has to go to the moment when spider-man is heroically running into the final fight across buildings with the crowd cheering below as the american flag flutters in the sky behind him. it's the kind of patriotic atrocity that i'd expect to be edited out of releases outside of the US, but it did make me laugh. the special effects and action sequences are as action-packed and as entertaining as ever, but that's just a given nowadays with computer graphics being what they are. still impressive.

this film also made me realise how cut and paste a lot of hollywood scenes are nowadays. as soon as anyone mentions feelings, revenge, talks to themselves in a mirror, dies, in fact does anything vaguely emotional, i get this sharp centred attack of boredom on my brain. it's because i've seen the same scene re-done time and time again in every other hollywood blockbuster. everyone knows what's going to happen, what people are going to say, can't we just show one frame of the scene so everyone can go, 'oh ok, that's what happened', before moving on with the rest of the film, instead of lingering on it for fucking hours. in fact you could probably show most blockbuster films using this method in about six frames, saving me two hours of my life which i'm never getting back.

maybe i've been a bit harsh on spider-man 3. it's because i've been let down time and time again by trilogies, and i don't want to get hurt again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

when students attack

students have always been keen to voice their opinion. god knows why, they're in the worst possible position to make rational decisions. students have no idea what the real world is like because they're floating around in this bubble between school and the real world. feeling like we're grownup but without any real sense of what we're meant to be doing tomorrow, let alone two years from now, gives us rationality and farsightedness akin to one of those dogs that were rocketed up into space. thrashing blindly at flashing buttons as we drift, slowly suffocating before being re-born as cubicle office workers.

but, voice their opinion they do, myself included. no matter how misguided and uninformed they may be. when these opinions are voiced in something like politics, that's fine. student politics is great just cos you can stand on the outside and laugh. there will be no shortage of humour i get from all the 'political' groups people keep trying to get me to join on facebook:


hilarious, every one of them. i enjoy taking a few moments out of my day to check the walls of some personal favourites. not because of the subject matter, jovial as it may be, but more the student views posted on the walls. how do they come up with this bullshit? it's superb. apart from this one. that's just hate mongering.

but now the student's hightened sense of self-importance and lack of ability to perceive a world outside of their own campus walls has gone a step too far. i recevied a group invitation to the group, "Get Edinburgh on the new monopoly board". curious, i went and had a look. in case you're not as curious/bored, it's a new monopoly game where people can vote for which towns and cities of the uk they want put on the board. the more votes a place gets, the higher the value of the property it will be in the board game. unfortunately you can't vote on utilities. maybe they're worried 'fat dan's plumbing services' would win. anyway, the reason this pissed me off is because of the way the votes have turned out. mayfair and park lane, the two sweetest spots in the cherry of monopoly, will be exeter and keele. the two best places in the uk as voted by you. slightly perturbed, i scrolled down the list just to check how far down in the top 10 edinburgh was. i kept on scrolling down. past 15. was edinburgh not allowed to compete because it would be too unfair to the other contestants? wait a minute, there it is! whitechapel: edinburgh. what? that shitty little brown one that everyone has a good chuckle over landing on and buying 'just for the hell of it'. that's where edinburgh is? i did chuckle at the fact that glasgow is one below edinburgh at old cunt road, but surely this would be a more appropriate location for, say, loughborough. a town with the cultural significance of a cat fart. fuck no! say the voting public. there it is at regent streets. in the fucking greens!

then i got a sickening feeling in my stomach. this wasn't an act of open and honest democracry. this was an act of sabotage by bastard students who should be masturbating. they're all university towns. this is an accurate, up to the date tally of which university students have nothing better to do with their time. it's an eye opener into which unviersity students actually care about nothing. and it's besmirched the good name of monopoly. all this thanks to facebook. the time is coming, facebook is starting to destroy the natural order of things. it's allowing students to communicate and organise at a pace never before thought possible. when it came to doing something in the past, most students were put off by the thought of walking. now that barrier has been lifted. thanks to these bastards, kids this christmas will think the likes of sheffield, shrewsbury and lincoln are the places good people go to. i don't want to see their little broken hearts when they run away to live in sheffield, the city of dreams, and see that it's really a bit shit. *sniff*

maybe one day us students will wake up to the fact that the best way to do something meaningful at university is to work hard at your degree so that when the real world comes you can cope with it. instead of wasting hours doing nothing of significance. sometimes i get suspicious that they have, just no one's told me.

EDIT: this is the only time i'm gonna do this, but i just wanted to laugh at the fact that edinburgh has climbed up to euston road, whilst london has slipped in to whitechapel. i had generally assumed that london couldn't take part because the areas in original monopoly came from london. come on, london's got more culture and things of interest than the rest of the uk, combined and squared. dippy tarts...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Little Red Things

Today I did one of those Fringe things I’ve been putting off for a long time. I washed some of my socks. But more importantly, in a way, I saw Little Red Things. I’d heard a lot about this Gomito Productions show, mainly because I spend a worryingly large percentage of my time in Bedlam and it’s a show that’s been coming back to Bedlam for I think three years now. And apparently the cast and crew are all lovely people who take care of wounded puppies. And a lack of any big venue pass means that the ‘other’ Fringe shows are financially dead to me. So my opinion’s as biased as fuck* but who’s isn’t these days? There are people who are paid to be apparently objective.

However it may be, I thought Little Red Things was a beautiful production that awakened a genuine feeling of joy and happiness in me*. It all stems from the six people involved who are positively beaming at every second, not in a pretend ‘hey guys, we’re gonna have some fun!’ way that ends in tears and blood for all, but in a way that is genuinely warm and inviting. These people were actually happy to be there and see me sitting in the audience! Acting of this calibre halfway through the Fringe is worthy of a standing ovation in the first place*.

More importantly cast and crew have a clear understanding of what they are trying to do and how they are going to do it. It isn’t a play, more of a story telling. In the traditional way like your dad used to tell you at night, or the worlds you constructed in your heads or from books. The actors introduce themselves directly to the audience as storytellers and go from there to construct the story. It’s a wonderfully honest approach that makes everything they do believable. You know the Talking Tree is two people under a cargo net, but they’ve told you it is so you forget about and just see the Talking Tree.

It’s labelled as a kid’s show but this is only because it appeals straight to that sense of wonderment and imagination that kids are full of but adults need performed in front of them to experience. The actors achieve this all through heartfelt conviction and imagination. It’s what makes the difference between a giant flying bird being a sheet flapped by two people while another holds the head and being a huge, soaring bird, gliding over the Forest of Inspiration, carrying child protagonist Tailor, lovingly played by Emily Hargreaves (not actually a child), on its back*.

Each character and setting is created from the most basic of props which are perfectly suited and manipulated to draw a whole set of unique characteristics. The supremo double act Here and There and the bug-eyed Owen were both utterly believable, but if there were a prize for cutest Fringe puppets, and Thor willing there never will be, it would have to go to the Little Red Things themselves. There are a couple of them living around the Bedlam Box Office to look out for and they’re the most encapsulating, enjoyable characters in the whole show, with their giant eyes and innovative design. It’s the actors who bring them to life too. I was wondering how the Little Red Things would work in animation, but they wouldn’t because when puppets are handled correctly your imagination blanks out the person controlling them. It’s one of the great things that theatre has over film; the tradition of the travelling story tellers who go from village to village, recounting tales and using basic props to help the audience create the images in their heads themselves.

And when it’s all poignantly accompanied by a touching piano score devised and performed by Phillipa Herrick I’m inevitably going to be weeping like a lanced baby. It’s true, I am. My eyes well up at this kind of thing. When it happens during Eastenders it’s plain embarrassing, but watching this it was because I cared, I was emotionally enthralled in a way that takes the kind of time, effort and skill that so many pieces lack but Little Red Things has at every turn.

From what little I overheard in the pub, they’re people who decided to set up the company and pursue that instead of University and judging from this it should pay off given how far they’ve come already. Like I say, I’m a biased person. There’ll be reviews out there to tell if you if it’s worthy of stars and there may be shows that are better, I just thought it was joyous and hope you do too so we can chat about how lovely it was over that drink you owe me.

Nestlé: Giant Baby Killer

Confectionary giant Nestlé today annouced plans to open their next Child Labour Camp of Death Factory™ in Edinburgh, Scotland. The company, responsible for making Kit Kat and After Eights mints among other products, first sparked off controversy with their infamous powdered baby milk that was given to starving mothers in Africa for their babies. The milk caused the mother's breasts to explode and the babies themselves to turn inside out. This event emboldened Nestlé, who have since made child killing central to their business. Their plan to put sacrificial baby blood in all their products was only pulled at the last minute when it was pointed out that they would be appealing to a very niche market.

However, until now their extreme infanticide has been restricted to Third World countries. This factory will be the first of its kind in the Western world. A Nestlé spokesmen said the planned factory was, "Basically a big 'Fuck You' to Edinburgh University, EUSA [Edinburgh University Student Association] and especially those bloody leftie tree-hugging bastard thought-police in People & Planet." Nestlé apparently did not take too kindly to EUSA banning Nestlé products in their shops. Their aim with this factory is, "to give those whiney, self-important students a taste of the real world and show them why you don't fuck with the big boys."

The proposed building for the factory will occupy the majority of the Meadows, which is currently parkland. The area has been sited for development partly because it is a large area of unconstructed parkland and also because it will "piss off students and children alike. We hate them all." Half of the factory will be a giant incinerator where the bodies of the broken and dead child workers will be burnt. Nestlé claim this process is essential for "making the chocolate runny." Nestlé have assured parents that working conditions will be better than those of their Third World Child Death Factories. A typical working day for a child will consist of turning up to the factory at 4am and after the first beating of the day from the armed guards the children will be set to work on the production lines. Here they will have to perform tasks such as constructing each individual layer of a Kit Kat, whilst having the skin slowly peeled from their bodies. The children will be paid 3p a day and kept there indefinitely until they die.

Reaction among parents has been largely positive, with one mother from Leith saying that she'd "be glad to get these wee ankle biters out of the fucking house." Members of EUSA were unavailable for comment due to being too pissed or incoherent to make a sensible statement, but no doubt they'll be ineffectively bitching about it for weeks to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Halfway And A Turd

I had a horrible moment today when I checked the date. 15th August. Pretty much halfway through the Fringe. Fuck. What the hell happened? Before this whole thing started I had plans… dreams… I was going to see hundreds of shows, party til the early hours each and every night with people I’d never met before, re-define my entire life structure and revolutionise who I was. Now I’m halfway through and I’ve done… well, nothing. I still don’t feel like the Fringe has actually properly started, and it’s all because of the bastard that is: routine.

Everyday has the same pattern. Get up, flyer (or come up with an excuse not to flyer), eat, do show, run to next show, finish, go to trusty Bedlam, drink, drink, sleep, repeat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m having a bad time, it’s just that I feel I haven’t achieved all the things that I should be from the Fringe. There’s so much going on, so many shows, so many people, that I feel every moment should be fresh and new. And it wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m halfway through and I’ve done nothing. The list of shows that I keep telling myself I have to see grows exponentially everyday; for whatever reason (I could blame tiredness but that seems like the coward’s way out) I’m never quite in the mood to go out and see these shows that I earmarked in the Fringe programme as essential viewing. Never put off today what you can do tomorrow is a fine system to live by, but before you know it tomorrow’s caught up with you and you’ve still done bugger all.

If I don’t see the shows, I don’t have much to write. It’s difficult to have an opinion on anything and everything if you haven’t even got any source material to go on. But after doing two shows a day I do just want to get drunk. Is that a weakness? Of course, but at least I’m being sociable. In a way. I think a lot of it has to do with living in Edinburgh all year round. There’s none of that excitement of going to a new, foreign place. In many ways it’s just business as usual: spending all my time in the theatre or local pub, chatting to mates and avoiding responsibilities. It doesn’t help that all my friends are in shows or working ridiculous hours either. There’s no cohesive outgoing mentality, a real lack of adventure and innovation. Mainly cos everyone I know is so fucking knackered half the time. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that there’s that certain something something of fun and adventure lacking at the moment.

And yet still I’m going through money quicker than a chainsaw through an Ethiopian. I thought one of the major advantages of not going to see shows or partying til 4am with random strangers would be that at least I’d save some money. Apparently not. I made the foolish mistake of checking my balance the other day and found that I had been considerably worse at budgeting than I originally thought. The Fringe sucks your money quicker than an Ethiopian does a McDonalds milkshake (cos of all the fat). It’s a pointless thing to complain about, but so’s everything so fukkit: the price of stuff charged at the Fringe is cunting ridiculous.

Everywhere takes every opportunity to rip off as many people as possible. Even my local kebab house stops giving out the free portion of chips with a doner kebab it usually does with no other explanation than, “We don’t serve free chips in August”. The Fringe is another term for unnecessary financial rape. And where does all the money go? No one knows. It disappears. It leaves people who are already poor and underpaid even poorer. And yet we all lap it up. “£3.15 for a pint of piss? Yeah! Give it to me! £10.00 to see Generic Stand-Up No.67? How can that not be value for money?!” Fucktards, all of us.

From reading this you my get the impression that I’m angry. I’m not, really. I love the way the city comes alive during August, I love the opportunities that are presented. But what I’ve really learned is that the Fringe is a learning experience. It’s about learning that dreams never match reality, it’s about learning why you’re shit and how to improve yourself, and it’s about learning that everyone, no matter how ‘arty’ and ‘leftie’ they are will squeeze you for every last drop of cash they can. But in a good way. The Fringe is unique, amazing, stupendous, whatever hyperbole you want to apply, and I reckons that once everyone realises there’s not that much to go it’ll step up a gear and get a lot more hectic. That’s what I’m planning on doing anyway.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Into the Hoods

The Fringe is all about discovery.

Example 1a): This Fringe I have discovered the much maligned joys of the hoodie. I’m not necessarily talking about the garments worn by hooded yoofs who are apparently terrorising some streets somewhere that I don’t walk on, any kind of item of clothing that has a hood as an attachment will do. I see countless* people wearing clothes with hoods, who never use the most important item on the piece of clothing: the hood itself. This is rash foolishness in the highest degree and possibly even a fashion faux pas too, I’m not sure. My fashion sense revolves around the critical features of loose warm and covering all pubic growths. Other than that I find it hard to pay attention.

So this is not a fashion article, just a bit of good ol’ fashion advice m’boy. Because Edinburgh is fucking freezing at the best of times. It’s summer still and sometimes the sun does piss down on us, but that sensation of it being warmer is just because there are twice as many bodies around at the moment generating heat. Clearly the robots are thirsty for energy*. In reality the harsh biting wind blows eternally on into my not quite rolled cigarettes spilling precious leaf everywhere while the rain moistens.

The weather can’t be helped but the level of one’s comfort and joy during these periods of Odin’s wrath* certainly can. Did you know that you lose the majority of your body heat through your head*? Curious isn’t it? If only there were some way to cover your head quickly and easily without that nipple look that comes with the beanie… but of course there is, with a simple flipping manoeuvre you can instantly cover the head and keep in all that pesky heat which is trying constantly to escape. It really does create such a wonderful snug feeling, like a mini cocoon wrapped around your head. No wind or rain can reach you and it’s almost possible to forget that feeling that you’re going to bump into a polar bear at any minute.

In the interests of proving this, I walked a small way with my hood down. Needless to say icicles instantly formed on my face and I felt like I was about to collapse. On returning the hood to its rightful place the warmth and comfort came flooding back and I couldn’t help wonder how I’d ever survived walking these cold desolate streets without a hood. It’s not just a warmth thing either. I’m a big fan of the rain, but sometimes it can be a bit much when it’s falling in your face and dribbling down your neck. Ta-da! With a hoodie you can look out at the rain and experience the joys of frolicking in puddles without having it get in your face. Some may claim that you can do this with an umbrella, but how are you meant to carry a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other, and an umbrella all at the same time? How I ask you?! It can’t be done. Umbrellas are shit.

Hoodies aren’t bloody brilliant just because of their practicalities either. How many times have you spent hours working on a hair do, only to have it rendered laughable by the wind and the rain? Once again the hoodie comes up trumps above any other vestment*. The hood provides perfect cover and protection for your coiffure, meaning that on removal at your destination your hair is still as sexy and stylised as when you left. Of course you have to make sure you buy a hood that is light enough not to suppress your hair but shop around, it is your style.

There’s also the ‘looking kinda cool’ factor. Everytime you walk past a window with hood up and catch your reflection you can’t help muttering to yourself, “Obi-wan… now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time…” simply because all the cool, mysterious characters in films wear hoods. Aragorn. There’s another example. I’m sure there are many others… It’s no wonder the hoodie is the look of choice for gangs and sects, it is the epitome of cheap but awesome clothing.

Ar yes, the gangs… the only slight drawback to the otherwise universal brilliance of the hoodie. True, walking around with your hood up does mean that you also have an unshakeable paranoia that someone’s about to stab you at any moment for no reason, but it’s a minor worry. Besides, if everyone starts using their hoods for what they were designed for the negative connotations will soon die out. Look at it this way: in the Tundra where climate conditions are more similar to where we may well be in a few years, they wear big fuck off hoodies with lots of fur*. They know that you’d have to be stupid to go out in the cold without one. Here, nearly everyone owns a hooded article, never flips the hood and so constantly complains about how fucking cold and miserable they are. Well now you’ve been told there’s no excuse. Sort your fucking lives out.

Example 1b): A person who is too tired/lazy to see any shows will write about nonsensical topics to bide the time until they’ve finished articles that take time and work.

Example 2): Articles can sometimes have misleading titles to do with reviews and what not.

madness? this. is. my. opiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiion!

i'm an impressionable young man. i'm a complete sucker for anything that's unashamedly entertaining. comedy, action, whatever, i find it difficult not to fall in love with something that can make me grin and force me to the edge of my seat. it doesn't have to be clever, but it definitely has to be big and special in some kind of way. so you can appreciate how disappointing it is to walk out of 300 and feel underwhelmed in so many ways.

before i get into the problems with the film though there are some points that should be made in its defence. first off are those clearly intelligent and quick-witted folk who, for the sake of us simpletons, take the time out to criticise 300 for its historical inaccuracies. thank god that classical education wasn't wasted on you. this film is set in the cloudy land of the perpetual bronze sunset, with enough goblins, freaks and monsters to re-film the lord of the rings trilogy three times over again. there are elephants in this film so huge i expected legolas to come surfing down their tusks at any moment. for fuck's sake, there's even an actor from lord of the rings (david wenham who played faramir) fighting on the side of the spartans. of course it's not a fucking historical drama. the illiad was meant to be based on an actual battle but no one seems to care that gods got invovled in the story there. and why should they? 300 is not a historical film and people that throw hissy fits over its historical inaccuracies are just looking for an excuse to prove they know more about ancient history than anyone else, and anyone who doesn't realise this film isn't fact is a fucktard.

the second complaint i've heard about this film goes along the lines of, "oh it's just a piece of american pro-war propaganda." what? seriously, what? ok, so the spartans (heroes) are fighting against the persians (enemies) and as those wonderfully intelligent people are so keen to point out, what was persia is now modern day iran. again, thank fuck for those people well-educated people who are out there to let us common folk know this kind of stuff. they gloss over the fact that a small greek city isn't what's causing so many problems in the middle east these days. and the fact that it's the persians invading greece. and that, apart from there being a war, there are no similarities between this and america's aborted foetus attempts to spread their deranged message of peace and democracy throughout the world. if anything this film should be offering hope to insurgents in iraq that no matter what, you should have the testicles to stand up and fight back with all you've got against overwhelming odds to protect your country and way of life against an aggressive alien horde of invaders. but anyone who gets this message from the film is, you guessed it, a fucktard.

why can't we have entertaining films that don't necessarily have deep, relevant political messages? why is it as soon as anything in the media nowadays mentions the word 'war' we have to compare it to our modern day predicament? how fucking narrow-minded and amnesiac are we being? humans started fighting wars as soon as we came down from the trees and bickered over which part of the 10,000,000 square mile continent that is africa we were each going to inhabit. this isn't a film you can attach your tree-hugging hippie agenda to, get over it.

these aren't the problems i have with 300. the problem i have with it is that it was made into a film in the first place. the transition from graphic novel to film worked for sin city for one main reason. frank miller wrote and drew sin city in a way that was perfect for the film medium. nearly every frame and piece of dialogue was lifted directly from the original sin city comics, which themselves were reminiscent, in a kind of seedy/perverted way, to film noir. this technique doesn't work for 300. the original frank miller graphic novel is a work of art. honestly, it is. when reading it i'd get to the end of the page having read all the dialogue and then i'd have to stop and spend another five minutes just staring at the artwork on the page. by far the best parts of the films are the battle scenes where the director goes nuts for all kinds of slow-motion, high-flying, blood-splattering hijinx. frank miller can sum up all that action and intensity in one full-page drawing. and give it so much more, thanks to his wonderfully unique pen technique and lynn varley's beautiful watercolour work.

here's just one example (and not a very good one). another striking factor is how different dialogue can sound in another person's lips. when you read things such as,
"-a thousand nations descend upon you. our arrows shall block out the sun.
- then we shall fight in the shade."
they sound like the coolest, most fucking defiant things to say. in your head. coming out of someone else's lips the effect just turns into pure cheese through and through. which is a damn shame because it doesn't do miller's writing justice. a great strength of a novel over a film is that you can get away with sustained periods of time in a novel with no dialogue whatsoever. and also with a believeable and compelling narrator. these two techniques just don't transfer to film well. unsurprisingly the biggest weaknesses in the films are also the most forgettable parts of the novel. namely the political intrigue back in sparta involving queen gorgo. they're superflous to the overbearing emotion of the story and feel tacked on. speaking of tacked on, the film would've benefitted massively if it ended sharply as the hail of arrows descended upon king leonidas. a snap ending like this, instead of the uninspired soppy hollywood bullshit, would have summed up the heart and soul of 300's story much more effectively. namely to have the courage and bravery to stand up and defend your beliefs. to never back down, to be strong and prepared to die for your convictions. of such beliefs are war and conflict made but also, undeniably, the human spirit. where the graphic novel succeeds in conveying this snapshot story and message, the film, unfortunately, fails.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Celebrity Amoebas

Celebrities share more in common with amoebas than you might at first think. Not only is the single-celled amoeba one of the most basic and simple of life-forms but they also have the ability to replicate themselves and multiply at an amazing rate involving maths way beyond my Arts Honours level, and celebrities share both these characteristics too.

The number of celebrities out there seems to rise at an exponential rate each year. Come with me on a trip back to the 19th Century. Back then the only celebrities were the ones who either went off to die whilst exploring some desolate wilderness, the person who was fucking the queen or the queen who was being fucked. Nowadays you can’t move for the bloody things. It seems anyone can become famous for doing just about anything.

Actually that’s a complete lie. The dedicated scientists who are working hard to further human civilisation and make all our lives that little bit more bearable by facilitating our access to porn get next to no recognition whereas dippy tarts who get lost down straight roads are lauded as the best things this country has to offer. As the number of celebrities in the media increases there appears t be proportional decrease in their collective talent. Of course it all backfires eventually as the Jade ‘I would be racist if I understood what it meant’ Goody fiasco proved, but just flicking through any edition of the god-awful Heat will demonstrate quite how many pointless people we as a nation idolise and look up to.

And it’s spreading downwards. Now people are starting to treat non-celebrities like celebrities. The other night after seeing a student show my mate was too intimidated to go up and chat with them at the bar. The show was good and all with some fine performances etc., but to treat student actors in such a revered way just seems a bit… sad.

One of the wonderful things about the large student element at the Fringe is witnessing your peers putting on great performances and then being able to discuss things with them afterwards in a general sense of “we’re all equals here, learning and creating together” without the hero worship that surrounds celebrities. At least that’s what I used to believe. Then some friends started doing a show (Aeneas Faversham, which in my professional and above all unbiased opinion are the best examples of sketch comedy since Sophocles put rock to wood or whatever it was those crazy Greek used to write comedies) and as a result my attitude has changed completely.

All of a sudden I’ve found myself listening intently after the shows to other people’s opinions, hoping that they liked it and thought my friends did a good job. Of course what I’m really hoping for is that they’ll say, “That was brilliant, the cast were all amazing and talented. That bit with the flying? Hilarious stuff. Anyone who knows those people is also amazing and talented by association and I can’t wait to buy them a pint.” I’m well aware of how pathetic this is (mine’s a pint of Guinness if you disagree) but I can’t help it. It’s the desire for recognition. Caught up in an ocean of peers, each person desperately hopes to be singled out in some way, to be recognised and praised just for being them.

The whole idea of recognition is also one of the main foundations of the Fringe and not in a bad way either. Theatre and comedy of the highest calibre travels to Edinburgh so that we can nod along and say, “Yes, that was good.” And rightly so, there should be genuine recognition of the hard work and dedication that’s gone into putting on these shows. But recognition is an addictive drug; you can never have enough. Certain individuals here have a head start over other members of the public to attaining the ultimate levels of recognition because they’re already leaning towards or on the cusp of a career that may well propel them to international stardom in the near future.

Which raises the intriguing possibility that you may already have insulted/shagged/shot a future celebrity right here in Edinburgh. That’s right, the future faces of Radio Times may be in our midst right now and we don’t know it. Hopefully they’ll end up being the right kind of celebrities, the ones that achieve stardom through proper application of their talent but you never now. Some are already on the road to fame and fortune and for other you feel it’s only a matter of time.

So bare this in mind when you’re chatting to the next stranger in the bar and think to yourself, “Is this person going to be on Parkinson in the future?” (Probably not because Parkie may well have croaked it by then, but whatever the generic chat show host alternative is). If you think it’s highly likely then you have two options: 1) Kill them there and then. 2) Sleep with them. As Lois Griffin said, “You never know who’s going to be famous so just make yourself available.” David Guest has made a career out of starfucking, why shouldn’t you? And if you do end up being famous you probably want to avoid that dreaded mid-career dip by dying aged 27 and immortalising yourself forever. Everybody loves Jimi.

P.S. I realise that some people may be offended with the way I have compared amoebas to celebrities in this article. In actual fact amoebas are incredible things that are responsible for much of the wonders of evolution we see around us today. If an amoeba had balls Paris Hilton would suck them.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ECO that is SEP

Cock ups are a part of life and how you deal with them can be an important indication of who you are as a person. Do you always look for someone to blame? Do you say it’s just bad luck and focus on the good things? Do you get angry and take it out on the nearest living thing? Or do you stoically except it and move on? When it’s a cock up that’s arisen directly because of your own fuckwit ineptitude then morally it’s more difficult to shift the blame onto someone else but infinitely more desirable because putting your hands up and saying, ‘Yeah, sorry, I didn’t realise we were meant to gag him beforehand’ can make you feel a bit daft.

The amount you shift the blame when dealing with cock ups is also relative to the scale of the calamity. It’s no surprise that after the recent flooding, members of the clergy came out saying that it was God punishing us for our lack of moral fibre. The bigger the cock up, the bigger and more abstract the entity you have to blame. It’s a basic human trait and one you can imagine pissing God off no end, to the extent that he’d punish us with a natural disaster. Cos any God that does exist must love dicking around with the way humans work. Fact.

The rational thing to do, if no one is to blame as is often the case, is to calmly except that these things happen and we are powerless to stop them, whilst at the same time not looking to things like fate, horoscopes and religion to explain away one of the scariest truths: that there’s stuff we can’t control and we’re powerless to stop it.

But when the show I’m in* gets stopped five minutes in because the lights have gone out due to a technical fault, someone has to die. Not a death in vain, however. It must be a glorious sacrifice to the God of Tech, so that he may not get angry at us again and punish us with his vengeful ways. It wasn’t the fact that it was a missed opportunity to spew acting jism all over the audience that annoyed me about the incident, it was more the fact that it was the first day we’d got a reviewer in. A good show review is the currency of the Fringe. If you’re lucky enough to have a good soundbyte along with a healthy number of stars associated with your show then all of a sudden people take more notice of what you’re trying to sell them.

It’s why you get so many selected quotes and stars on every single fucking flyer that’s laid in front of you every thirty seconds you remain stationary in Pleasance. Most of the quotes on the flyers are what Kant described as ‘taking the piss’. That is they bend the truth and original context of the article to absolute breaking point in order to make this talentless shit sound better than that other one. Promotional quotes from respectable sources that aren’t associated with stars are a good indication of this. For instance, something like “Youthful charm and gusto” – The Scotsman’ should actually run ‘“Youthful charm and gusto is what’s destroying the world of comedy from the inside out like a cancerous genital growth”. – The Scotsman.

It’s fair enough that shows do this though, reviews and stars are the glittery gold that attracts the magpie public’s eyes. They’re what draws in those all important audience members because we’re only doing it for the fucking attention anyway. It is kinda sad to see the shows that at the end of the three weeks still don’t have a single good review to use. Not even, ‘My mate who has a blog thought it was good’. While other shows are covered in much longed for stars, their own remains bare. Naked to any notice or attention. These are shows you know it would be painful to see and should be avoided at all costs.

You never know though. Maybe every time a show had a reviewer in, the Gods of Dicking People Over stepped in and cancelled it by blowing the electronics in a complicated lighting device that I could never in a thousand sunsets comprehend, rather unfairly ending the show only a scene and a half in. If by the end of three weeks Turn Me To Stone has no stars to promote it then this will no doubt be the reason. Because I sure as hell won’t be to blame…

A Departure From Theatre

The Fringe is great and all. You’ve got so many shows that it would take over six years to see them all (statistic courtesy of a mate in the pub), partying and socialising both all night and every night, and more opportunities to better your cultural know-how than you could shake a stick at*, but sometimes you can’t beat a night in with a good smoke and a top class movie.

Take a moment there to get over your inevitable guffawing. And guffaw you should, for it’s a ridiculous thing to say. I should be out there seizing every day and night of the Fringe, wrangling every last drop of shock and awe out of it I can, as a serial masturbator wrangles every last… well, you can fill in the rest as you see fit. But fuck it, after standing on the Mile flyering folk who don’t give a fuck and blowing pound after pound on hookers and blow (tickets and beer) I felt I needed a quiet night in. And that’s after three days. By the end of Fringe I’ll no doubt don a pipe and flat cap and end it all.

I hate doing this because it disrupts the flow of the note, adds onto what will no doubt be a gargantuan word count and makes me seem like a rambling tosser, but I’m listening to Icky Thump, the new White Stripes album, whilst writing this and the song Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn just came on. It’s a ridiculous song involving bagpipes and other such over the top nonsense, but it’s a song about Scotland and it makes me chuckle every time I hear it. The whole album has a groovetastic, varied sound to it. The title track, Icky Thump, is the most accurate song title I’ve ever seen. Don’t take my word for it; check out the album now, available at all good P2P services.

Regardless, stay in and watch The Departed I did. The guilt from not having seen this film already was getting too much to bear*, but I’m crap at getting round to watching films anyway. My movie watching process goes something like this: see movie trailer and get interested in movie, find out that said movie is meant to be good, continually walk past the cinema directly opposite my flat thinking to myself, ‘I should go see that’, get distracted/forget, tell myself I’ll watch it on DVD, hear other people say how good it is, get distracted/forget, rinse and repeat. Not a great mentality for the Fringe I’ll admit.

It does mean that there’s a whole backlog of films I’ve yet to see. It’s always dangerous seeing a film that you’ve been told is brilliant though. Expectations can put you off in the first place (Schindler’s List which I’ve yet to see) or just let you down (Apocalypse Now. Although that was a while ago and I should probably give it another try). Thankfully The Departed was as good as I’d hoped it would be. If only for Jack Nicholson’s performance. He’s a crazy man streaked with brilliance. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the most misunderstood documentary of the 20th Century.

Watching it also made me realise how unique the gangster world is to film. The most well known stage plays about gangs are West Side Story, Bugsy Malone and Guys and Dolls, none of which are on at the Fringe. They’re not exactly the most harrowing of gang pieces either. Characters that are more buoyant than shit-your-pants scary. What self-respect gangster breaks out into song? There’s no one in any of these plays who Tony Soprano couldn’t crack apart with a pair of tweezers, painfully extracting their extremities as he works. Having a flick through the Fringe Programme reveals one play, The Cross And The Switchblade which is about ‘1950s New York, a city of gangs and violence’. You would have thought with the themes of tragedy, violence, betrayal and yes, even darkly comic elements, that people would be falling over themselves to make plays based on this material. Especially given the pedigree of such films as the Godfather and Goodfellas.

It’s not like drama about gang life isn’t easily doable either. Reservoir Dogs is a piece of theatre that’s easily transferable to stage. I’m shooting from the hip here and I’m more than happy to be corrected on this but as far as I know there are very few Scorsese style gangland pieces in existence. Of course there are some film elements that are difficult to recreate. The big street gun battle in Heat for example, the epitome of adrenaline pumped gun blazing action, would lose that certain I don’t know what if transferred on to stage. But they’ve done stage productions of other impossible to stage films, Top Gun, Lord of the Rings and The Matrix: The Pantomime, which my unlucky eyes just fell upon in the programme. How can that show not be bad?

It’s one of those things that is probably a lot more prevalent in America where they actually have gangs and gang problems. I’m not saying we don’t here in the UK, but it seems to lack that recognisable, well-known face that it does in the US. Or maybe it’s just one of those styles that film will always have over theatre because of the very nature of what the director is trying to convey. Whatever the wanky explanation, I’ll just be slightly disappointed if I don’t see a montage of gangland executions, violent threatening masculine characters with gruff voices talking about the family, and a car bomb on stage this Fringe.

Some of you may be thinking that I should be writing about shows and what I’ve actually been doing at the Fringe. Well give me some time and a chance not to be a sad lonely git and I’ll try. I am actually going to see stuff this week. Including Daniel Kitson on Tuesday night. So very very excited…

End of Everything Ever

Sometimes my more cynical side can’t help feeling that the Nazis and the Holocaust were two of the best things to happen to the world of entertainment. ‘Entertainment’ is almost certainly the wrong word but there are endless reams of films, books, plays, documentaries, comics and computer games dedicated to our obsession, and it is an obsession, with the actions of a psychotic man with a silly moustache. Not a nanosecond goes by without another film or documentary being churned out about the heroic deeds of our grandparents, the immense suffering of people during that time, or someone being compared to the Nazis. Even having an opinion on music can lead to one being termed a music Nazi. It’s part of the national consciousness.

And with good reason, there’s no question that one of the darkest periods in human history should always be remembered and mourned. I still find the facts and figures impossible to comprehend. Over six million people murdered and countless more who suffered immensely for no other reason than they were born. How do you even begin to understand that pain, to conceptualise the deaths of so many people? Art is the only way for an outsider to look in on these events. It lets people watch and experience the emotions, albeit in an insurmountably distant way, and we do it time and time again in order to try and feel something alien, to mourn and to respect those that unjustifiably died. But with the overload of material it’s sometimes a worrying possibility that desensitisation may set in.

The trouble is that the source material is just too damn good. It’s got everything a good story needs: a clear division between the goodies and the baddies, inspiring acts of heroism, traumatising deeds of evil, a tragic inevitability to the tale that nonetheless ends with the good guys winning, an intensely intriguing villain orchestrating events and, best of all for the story teller, it’s all true. Well, mostly. The stuff that’s worthwhile is almost all taken from real life experiences that lend the whole thing an air of authenticity which makes it that much more powerful. But with the generation who lived through World War II starting to die out and with their stories having being told and retold, perhaps it’s time to start wondering whether another piece on the subject being added to the pile is really necessary or simply an act of morbid fascination.

Case in point: The End of Everything Ever, which is on at the Pleasance Courtyard at 4pm from the 3rd to the 27th August. It follows the journey of Agata, a six year old Jewish girl who is sent away from Berlin by her parents to England in order to escape the rising trouble of the Nazis. As a piece of theatre it’s highly successful. A travelling band of accordions, guitars and voices that make up the family welcome the audience into the theatre, handing out vodka shots and generally being cheery in the way that you imagine these traditional Eastern European families being.

The air of joviality continues, indeed much of the play is spent making comedy out of situations; watching brother, mother, father and grandfather all cram into a single wardrobe as Agata wanders through the house pretending to be a German soldier, or the eccentric home guard who’s missing an arm, make for some particularly funny physical moments that are slick and well executed. As always with a play dealing with these themes, it’s a comedy tinged with sadness; despite laughing you are always acutely aware of the tragedy of the situation. Maintaining a light air with material that has such a serious undertone is much more difficult to pull off than it looks but this cast make it look effortless. They seem to understand that laughter is the most powerful way of bonding the audience with the characters; when you’ve shared a genuine moment of hilarity with a character it makes their inevitable misfortune that much more touching. This point is never overplayed though, the over the top characters and exuberance come from Agata telling the story and seeing events through the eyes of a child who has only a tentative grasp on what’s going on around her, staring wide eyed out at a turbulent world.

The use of an old wooden wardrobe as a central prop also warrants special mention. Through simple little physical changes it transforms from elevator to train to ferry to sleeping shelter and back to wardrobe and is used throughout. It shows how with some thought and imagination a single prop can become and essential story telling tool and watching five people fit perfectly inside a wardrobe will no doubt be one of the enduring images of the Fringe.

There are some problems with the storytelling – the end of Agata’s journey is rushed through with two characters in a few lines describing the nine years that Agata spends at the end of her journey in England and after the time given to the beginning and middle of her exodus it feels that time pressures necessitated a fly-by explanation so that they could get to the emotional climax as soon as possible but due to the effort that went into the rest of the production it’s a minimal problem.

It’s a brilliant show and clearly the company have a firm grasp on what they’re doing. The End of Everything Ever is the final part in a European Narratives trilogy, the first two parts of which are also on this Fringe and cover events in Russia and Hungary during a similar period, so telling the story of the Kindertransport, a Holocaust subject not often touched upon is more justified than most retellings of World War II tales but it would be nice in the future to see such talent focusing on more modern accounts of genocide and displacement that still take place today and in many ways are more deserving of attention than the Holocaust because they make it so painfully obvious how none of the supposed lessons from World War II were ever learnt.

Spiegeling Shit

So the Edinburgh Festival 2007 has begun. At least according to the Spiegel Garden which opened up on the 27th July to whatever travelling companies passed its gates. As always with these things, there are a few advantages and disadvantages to visiting such a locus, and having consumed a couple of bevies there I’ll try to lay them open to you, whoever you may be, so that you may be fully prepared for what awaits.

The most important thing to consider is of course the price of a beer. Why else would you be at Spiegel apart from to drink? Yeah, there are some shows there, live music, freak shows and what not, but when people say, “Let’s go to the Spiegel” they don’t mean, “I’ve heard there’s an interesting Beckett interpretation there”, what they actually mean is, “I’m thirsty for booze”, which is the first hurdle. After extensive research I discovered that a pint of Tennents costs £3.15.

That may sound like standard Fringe price but it’s a bit of a thorn in my side. Being a resident of Edinburgh I’m used to the space that Spiegel Garden occupies being an area of grassland that students desperate to escape from the confines of the surrounding university buildings escape to in order to bask in the cloudy skies of Edinburgh. The idea of queuing to enter, let alone paying for the privilege of drinking alcohol on the turf just seems a little peculiar.

It’s not as bad as Teviot or Pleasance though. This may sound whiney to someone with money to burn, but going into a building that’s usually a shitty student union where you pay £1.50 for a pint as standard but, in the month of August, in the same bar, with the exact same beer, you get charged twice the price just because a load of suckers have turned up who think it’s fine to pay a ridiculous price for a pint is a little bit galling. And having it justified by the fact that they’ve changed the name of the building to ‘Pleasance Dome’ or ‘Gilded Balloon’, whatever the fuck that means, doesn’t help. Not to mention the fact that Tennents is a god awful beer, the super fuelled version being the tipple of choice for crazy homeless folk.

But this is splitting hairs; it’s the Fringe, inflated prices are par for the course. The important thing is the atmosphere in which you’re drinking. And this is where the Spiegel Garden comes up trumps. In this day and age where smoking is just one step away from child molestation it’s a pleasure to be able to sit and have a cigarette in a heated environment along with your pint. Even if you’re not a smoker, at least you don’t have to deal with the emotional torment of seeing your smoking friends disappear into the distance where no doubt they’ll be bitching about you. Jokes aside, the ability to sit, drink and smoke can not be overrated.

This factor alone no doubt accounts for the fact that the Spiegel Garden is packed already. Through luck alone myself and my friends managed to sneak in before the hour long queue (possible exaggeration) to get in kicked up. Already it’s full because it’s the only Fringe drinking venue open and those companies that have arrived in Edinburgh already (bless ‘em) don’t know about the many wonderful little pubs that the city has to offer.

Which is OK if you’re having a quiet pint in Cloisters, but bad if you’re queuing for the toilet in Spiegel. Yes, Spiegel Garden is the focus of that most bizarre of all phenomenon: a gentlemen’s toilet queue that is longer than the lady’s. It’s something I’ve only seen before at an AC/DC concert, and it is a worrying indicator for the Festival as a whole. In the first place it shows that the Festival is one big sausage fest, but more importantly it highlights what a chauvinistic world theatre is, with men occupying the majority of roles and women left to play second fiddle to their quite possibly inferior male leads who just got their job through an accident of birth. The truth is out there, just look to the toilet queues.

Speaking of sausage fests, Spiegel Garden is also a great place to be chatted up. For the first time in my 21 years I was told that I was beautiful and should be a model. Alright, this was coming from a thirtysomething drunken Scottish bloke in a tight blue t-shirt who me and my mates were laughing at while he was throwing ridiculous shapes on a non-existent dance floor to himself, but I’m sure the sentiment was genuine in some way… It was probably the fact that we as a table were laughing at him that encouraged him to come over and strike up a conversation but still, after hearing his compliments a small part of me did wish I was gay and attracted to bald thirysomething Scottish men.

But that wasn’t the best thing. Oh no. We’d gotten to that stage where the idea of getting to the bar and desperately trying to get noticed by the barstaff was just too much when, with impeccable timing, a waitress turned up to take our drink orders. That sold it for me. When you can sit, smoke, listen to good music while also being able to chat to your mates and on top of that have drinks delivered free of charge to your table then it’s going to be a challenge to make me move. Plus there are some good music acts playing there, or so I’m assured, so if you do decide to visit Spiegel Garden mine’s a Belhaven, cheers!

escape from the prison planet

i tend to be a grumpy person when i wake up in the morning. for the first hour, after tearing myself out of bed, i communicate mostly in grunts. the smallest things make me want to lash out with a stream of vitriolic bile. i find it helps to get all this pent up anger and frustration out as soon as i wake up as it tends to leave me remarkably clear headed and serene for the rest of the day.

which is why i don't take too kindly to be being patronised by breakfast products. innocent smoothies can seriously fuck off. they may be damn tasty but there's an air of smugness about them that makes me gag on my weetabix. they're like that bastard friend who always has to come up with those knowing jokes, and that's exactly what they're trying to be. friendly. i don't like friends like this. the kind that make comments like,

"please keep me in the fridge and shake* me before pouring"

*it helps if the cap's on.

fuck off. what market are they trying to appeal to here? three year olds or the brain dead? either way i don't think they're the kind that can pay the fucking extortionate prices that these things cost. anyway i think the use of the word 'me' would freak out most three year olds. it would me feel guilty, sucking out the insides of something that's trying to have a bit of banter with me in the morning, if i didn't hate the bastard.

another example: "what is in an innocent smoothie?"
"well. since you ask, it a blend of... (enter smug blurb about how fucking healthy and great product is here)" i didn't ask. i don't care. the 'mangoes & passion fruit' written on the front of the carton is all the information i need, cheers. and i don't want to hear how healthy this bloody thing is when i'm trying to guzzle it down as quickly as possible in order to dampen my throat so that i can get my first nicotine hit of the day.

to make myself feel better i just picture one pasty, lonely man sitting in the innocent factory crushing all this fruit himself, putting "we like talking" on the side of the carton with his address, e-mail, etc. in the vain hope that someone equally as sad and smug as him will come in and they can masturbate each other off about how fucking great they are compared to everyone else.

but innocent aren't the only company to try and use this 'friendly banter' approach. now barclays bank are doing it. the idea of a bank trying to be friendly by re-branding their atms as 'holes in the wall' and other such 'witty' slogans is so laughable it makes me cry. they seem to have got the wrong end of the stick here. i don't want my bank to be a friend, i want it to be a fucking bank. they don't seem to understand that most people know that banks see their customers as veritable cash pinatas. the banks are more than happy to smash us pinatas into little pieces, without a smidgen of remorse, so that they can fest on our gooey cash entrails. banks are two-faced cunts. that's fine, it's expected.

i don't expect my friend to come round and re-posses my xbox360 because i owe it a bit of cash. if the bank was really being honest they'd have slogans such as, "you've got three days to pay us the cash or we break your kneecaps and rape your wife." that's a bank i could trust, fear and ultimately respect. i don't respect lying, whiny, smug gits.