Sunday 26 September 2004

Anti-smoking riposte

S. J. Perelman: Do you mind if I smoke?
Groucho Marx: I don't care if you burn.

Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life"

Groucho: You have 22 children! Why do you have so many children? That's a big responsibility and a big burden.
Woman: Well, because I love children, and I think that's our purpose here on earth, and I love my husband.
Groucho: I love my cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.

Groucho Marx in "The Cocoanuts"

Mrs Potter: I don't think you'd love me if I were poor.
Groucho: I might, but I'd keep my mouth shut.

Wednesday 22 September 2004

Chariots of Fire (1981) - ickleReview (DVD)

Set in the 1920s, the first group of students at Caius College, Cambridge matriculate after the war. Among them are some keen athletes, one of whom, Harold H. Abrahams, is a Jew with a chip on his shoulder. His main rival for gold at the Olympic Games in Paris is Eric Liddle, a devout Scottish missionary, whose sister disapproves of his running, and who refuses to run on Sundays. The script is a bit hammy, as these based on a true story films can sometimes be. Another excuse to use lots of British character actors and raid the period dress department.

Nugget: not as good as I remember it.

Tuesday 21 September 2004

Hare-raising argument

The absurdity of it. The absurdity and the irrelevance. The idea of discussing even...a historical event, an invasion already more than a year old. A country groaning under a dictator, its people oppressed, liberated at last from a twenty-five year tyranny - and freed. Free on the streets, and free one day to vote.

How obscene it is, how decadent, to give your attention not to the now, not to the liberation, not to the people freed, but to the relentless archaic discussion of the manner of the liberation. Was it lawful? Was it not? How was it done? What were the details of its doing? Whose views were overridden? Whose views condoned?

Do I like the people who did it? Are they my kind of people? Hey - are they stupider than me?

How spoiled, how indulged we are to discuss the manner - oh yes, we discuss the manner, late into the night, candles guttering, our faces sweating, reddening with wine and hatred - but the act itself - the thing done - the splendid thing done - freedom given to people who were not free - this thing is ignored, preferring as we do to fight among ourselves - our own disputes, our own resentment of each other elevated way above the needs of the victims. "I trust Blair/I don't." "I like Bush/I don't." "Bush is stupid/Bush is clever." This obsession with ourselves! How Western we are. From what height of luxury and excess we look down to condemn the exact style in which even a little was given to those who had nothing.

Saddam Hussein attacked every one of his neighbours except Jordan. Imagine, if you will, if you are able, a dictator in Europe, murdering his own people, attacking his neighbours, killing half a million people for no other offence but proximity. Do you really then imagine, hand on heart, that the finer feelings of the international community, the exact procedures of the United Nations would need to be tested, would the finer points of sovereignty detain us, before we rose, as a single force, to overthrow the offender? Would we ask, faced with the bodies, faced with the gas, faced with the ditches and the murders, would we really stop to say, "Can we do this?" What is the world, then, for those of us in the West who apply one standard to ourselves, and another to others? What is the word for those who claim to love democracy and yet who will not fight to extend democracy to the Arabs as well?

A people hitherto suffering now suffer less. This is the story. No other story obtains.

(From David Hare's Stuff Happens, currently playing at the National Theatre, London.)


There are WMD in Iraq, and they're being dropped from American planes.

Monday 20 September 2004

Notes and Queries

Why is it that people always seem to sing in an American accent, even if they're English and it's not an American song? When The Proclaimers sing, it's with a Scottish accent. That's why they sound so parochial. Imagine Robbie Williams's "Angels" in a Scottish accent: "An throo i' aaaw, shi offars mi prroteckshun, a lo' a luv an affeckshun, whutharr um righ' orr wrrong..."

Paul Weller: Studio 150 (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

Former member of The Jam plays his new album of covers live at Riverside Studios, including a Noel Gallagher B-side and The Carpenters' "(They Long to Be) Close to You". Not mind-blowing, by any sense. Filmed on DV (and projected from a DVD), the show kept my attention visually, but the telephoto lens means that there's hardly any deep focus. I would have preferred more introductions to the songs and the band, like James Taylor does. The promised "interviews and rare footage" never materialized, which would have made up for the measly 60-minutes playing time. There wasn't even an encore; I guess because he was only playing the new material from the album and that's it.

Nugget: not bad for a freebie, but I wouldn't have paid to see it.

Saturday 18 September 2004

The Color of Money (1986) - ickleReview (DVD)

The sequel to The Hustler, only nowhere near as good, even though this one's directed by Martin Scorsese. Can't believe Newman won an Oscar for his performance. I guess it was one of those lifetime achievement awards from the Academy looking in retrospect, because I don't rate him in this one. The good thing about this movie is its bathos: it goes with the whole spiel of the protégé (Tom Cruise), giving the old guy a second wind, while keeping him on his toes. Only it shrinks from the big one-on-one showdown, and there's no razzamatazz at the end. Just a rather belittling portrayal of the game of pool and its hustlers, who take themselves, and the green baize, too seriously.

Nugget: not essential viewing.

Friday 17 September 2004

The Passion of the Christ (2004) - ickleReview (DVD)

Melson Gib is not the most subtle director. At least he didn't cast himself as Jesus, although I'm sure he would have liked to. This smacks of hyperbole and self-importance. It takes itself far too seriously. I much prefer the Monty Python approach to the crucifixion. The pathetic fallacy bit at the end was just a bit too much. I bet Melson Gib couldn't thread a camel through the eye of a needle: he'd be way too ham-fisted. He didn't make Jesus a very sympathetic character; more arrogant and stubborn. What if he was just a looney like those who claim they're him today?

Nugget: pretentious title, pretentious film.

Wednesday 15 September 2004

Super Size Me (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

McDocumentary: McGinger dude eats nothing but Micky D's for a month, gets fat, McBarfs on camera, explains why, gets healthy again, pressurizes McDo's to sell a McSalad that has just as much fat as a BigMac. Funny ha-ha, funny ew as McFat guy with diabetes has his McStomach stiched up to the size of an apple. Make it bacon!

McNugget: there are better documentaries out there at the moment, so there's no rush to catch it before the DVD, but keep 'em coming! (You won't be eating McNuggets for a while after this...)

Monday 13 September 2004

The Muse

I've just set up a Yahoo Group for the Muse. It's going to be a chance to have email conversations based on portraits created by the Muse. You may have read my self-portrait; well, that's the sort of thing we will be discussing. We plan to post one portrait per week by email. Anyone is free to join the conversation, or just listen in.

Sunday 12 September 2004

Collateral (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

Welcome to a new feature of the site. I'm going to write a mini review for every film that I watch. Given that I've developed a bug for signing up to free trials of online DVD rental clubs, and then cancelling them at the end of the trial, I'm watching beaucoup de movies at the moment - and all for free!

I went to see a preview of Collateral for free this morning, thanks to my Friends of the Phoenix membership. It's an action thriller, but with brains. The first ten minutes develops the characters so that you actually care what happens to them. There are some amazing helicopter aerial shots of Jamie Foxx's taxi driving through the gridiron of LA, and a great montage of his fares during that shift. Tom Cruise plays a hitman who hires Foxx to ferry him around the city for the five hits he has to make. He pulls it off by not being the slimey little snotrag that he sometimes can be.

The dialogue is thought-provoking, which is more than you could say for an Arnie or Van Damme movie - not that Collateral is playing in their ballpark. Stuff about the anonymity of the city, the plod of life, why we put up with it, what would happen if you got outside your comfort zone. A pleasant surprise over all, and I didn't have to pay!

Nugget: see it in the cinema if you can to experience the dizzying shots of the taxi in the cityscape.

Saturday 11 September 2004

When should I start to worry?

I find myself whistling along - even boogying - to a Blondie track. Why is that? Well, let me tell you, as I'm the one asking the questions anyway. I got a freebie CD of covers by a jazz trio called The Bad Plus. I won it on Altered Radio, the Oxford student radio station. I bet I was the only one entering the damn competition, but never mind that. There's an interesting cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". I also come to like the funky melody at the end of "Heart of Glass". Later, I find out it's a Blondie track, so I track it down (no funny punny intended, well, I suppose maybe an ickle wickle punny wunny). The boogie rhythm is still there, although not as cool as the way The Bad Plus do it. Should I pay my life's membership fee to the Club of Dad Music already, at the tender-eared age of 21? I'm already a fan of James Taylor, and had tears in my eyes at his Earl's Court gig on 22 July. At least I didn't sing along swaying with my eyes closed.

Tuesday 7 September 2004


When I came home from work today, a programme called "Just for the Love of It" was on Radio 4 about an amateur piano competition. A blind lady was playing a piece so beautifully, it makes you want to cry, even though you have nothing to be sad about. I want to know what the piece is, so I make a mental note. There's no real information about it on the programme or its website, but I track down the webpage to the competition. Still no luck, but I find out the lady's name (Debra Saylor). Meanwhile, I have just downloaded Napster, to take advantage of a free trial - unrelated. So I find out by Googling that it's Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and download it. Awesome music. I listen to it over and over again, fascinated by its familiarity. I know I've heard it in a film before. I know there's water, it's near the end, there's a parting of some sorrow, perhaps some flashbacks of happier times. I can't for the life of me remember where I've heard it. So I Google again: "Ocean's Eleven" (the remake, not the original), which, by the powers of synchronicity, I had just fetched from my trunk in storage yesterday because I wanted to find an easter egg on it. True enough, it's from the closing sequence where they all meet up by the fountain in Vegas before going their separate ways, never to see each other again after the successful heist. As Hannibal from the A-Team would say, I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday 5 September 2004


Buddy Rich not only plays the drums like Animal, he looks like Animal. Posted by Hello

Now see the video evidence.

Thursday 2 September 2004

Bad taste jokes taste good

Q: How do you circumcise a redneck?
A: Hit his sister in the back of the head.

Q: How do you fit 1000 Jews in a Mercedes?
A: Put them in the ashtray.


Wednesday 1 September 2004

Hello Picasa

Okay, so I wish I hadn't posted so many pics of me when I set up Hello on this site. It's really nifty and everything, but photos of me, generally speaking, are not. It's a bit weird putting photos of me on my own site. Loser. Well, winner at some things, but not this one. Wooden spoon, anyone?

I could just edit them out, but I've got this karma thing going where it would be bad vibes, man, to take anything away that has already been posted. It'd be like erasing history, fiddling with my archives, which is what Big Brother does (George Orwell's, not Endemol's, dummy), not innocent little me, just having an ickle bit of bloggery experimenting fun.

(If I had put "experimental fun" there, it would seem like I only have fun on a trial basis. Three bits of fun at a time for £14.99 a month, 21 days' free trial, cancel any time.)

So anyway, I'm trying to write more posts so that the pics disappear from the front page. Again, I could just change the settings, but I don't want to have to fork out for another Feng Shui consultation.

(A little Googling to check the spelling and capitalization of "Feng Shui" brought up a hit from The Feng Shui Society, based in Brighton. Could it have been anywhere else? I think not.)

Blythey makes films. He'll make some more if you give him a call and some money. Posted by Hello

Coney Island boardwalk, Brooklyn, New York
© Christopher Whalen 2003 Posted by Hello

Coney Island: photo magic

Okay, so that's the best photo I've ever taken. Period. I've had it as my desktop background ever since I got this laptop last May, and I've never really had the urge to change it. You're welcome to set it as your background too. Just don't claim copyright and sell it on for loadsamoney. I know where you live; or I can find out and send those nice people who deal with horses' heads.

I took it in New York, March 2003. I went to visit my friend, James, who's now in his final year at the New York School of Visual Art. (I'll post his call card so you can hire him. ::Hint hint:: Unless you're Jerry Bruckheimer, you evil munchkin.) This was one of the few days when he was free to do stuff with me. I think it was a Sunday. We took the subway all the way to the wrong end of the line, then all the way back to Coney Island. Duh me. It was horrible, cold and drizzly. But I wanted it that way so that I could take pictures like this. I'd wanted to go to Coney Island ever since I saw Requiem for a Dream, with that amazing dolly shot on the pier. There's something that appeals to me about urban decay, so long as I feel reasonably safe there: a little fear is good, though.

If you're really lucky, I might put up some more another time. Why share all the candy at once, eh?

It wasn't me

Disclaimer. This wasn't my thought originally, but I paid my money to go and listen to it at a stand-up gig in Edinburgh, so I feel justified in sharing it here and taking some credit for its wit. At least I made the subconscious effort to remember it. (Although as I write this, I can't remember.) Oh yes, I think this was it. My mental note got smudged when I was doing the dishes, so I can't quite make it out. You know, one of those things when you have to go back into the room where you had the original thought in order to recover it; only I've been sitting here the whole time.

Why are there so many homeless Scotsmen in the south of England, especially London? I've come across a number of them here in Oxford. How proud they do their country! What fine specimens of humanity! What an urge one gets to shout at them, "Get back tae King's Cross!" Kinda like the urge you get, whenever you meet an Aussie, to yell, "Hey, what are you doing here? Get back behind the bar!"

And another thing. Why are there so many retards working in supermarkets? There's this one guy at Sainsbury's who looks like he still lives with his mum. He could be a cousin of Larkin's. All he ever seems to do is collect the empty baskets from the check-outs and take them back to the pile at the door. I don't think he's capable of any more. Don't you sometimes get the urge to spill some milk from the shelf on purpose, just to see what kind of freak they send out to clean it up? No? Well, I guess St Peter will let you through then.

It must be the way I tell 'em.

Note to Self and Others

Don't go to the Post Office on Bank Holidays. It will be closed. Don't go to the Post Office after 4pm. It will be rammed full of people, some of them spilling beer on people and showing no genuine remorse for it. Luckily, I dawdled packing my package and was two places in the queue behind the incident, otherwise it could have been my T-shirt covered in Stella and my white box stained with booze. The yoof of today...tut! Just as bad as the yoof of yesterday and the yoof of tomorrow. Many of them are woofs too.