Confirmation from my mobile phone yesterday of what football-haters have known for years: if you type in “footie”, it comes up predictively as “ennui”, before giving up entirely. With the upcoming Champions League final likely to involve Chelsea and Man U (like last year’s catatonic FA Cup final), I fear that the prediction may be all too accurate.
It’s a quiet Saturday night, and I’ve just finished watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. (For those who haven’t had the, erm, pleasure, it’s a John Hughes teen cult film from 1986 or so. Hughes also did “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club”, both of which I’ve seen, so I was slightly curious.)
Frankly, it was a bizarre experience. I know that teen tastes are more changeable than most with the passage of time, but “Ferris” just left me completely nonplussed. It isn’t tragic or funny. There’s precious little plot (boy, best friend and girlfriend take the day off school and muck about, teacher tries to catch them but fails, and that’s literally it) and the characterization is non-existent (Ferris is lucky - which is a circumstance, not a character trait - his friend is uptight, and his sister’s angry at his good fortune, and that’s literally it). The acting is particularly abysmal - especially from Mia Sara, who plays Ferris’s girlfriend. She delivers her lines deadpan and stares vaguely into the middle distance throughout - she could be contemplating love, homework, the possibility of interplanetary space travel or haemmorhoids for all we know.
Weirdest of all is the complete lack of any moral compass or message - Ferris, who has rich parents and friends, stands for absolutely nothing apart from “taking it easy”; he’s not even rebelling against anything. All he does is skip school, go to a museum, have lunch in a fancy restaurant, lounge around in a hot tub and sing a couple of karaoke numbers at a parade, then get back in time for tea. He doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs, and he fully intends to graduate and go to college. His actions have no consequences (and we’re not shown what becomes of his hapless friend who has trashed his dad’s priceless Ferrari) - but more importantly, they don’t seem to have any purpose either; nothing is achieved, none of the characters learn anything. And if the message is supposed to be “par-taaay”, then frankly I think I’d have more fun at a meeting of the Folkestone and District Table-Tennis Committee than Ferris manages on his “Day Off”.
The film was reasonably successful (Stateside at least), and John Hughes retains some cachet as a “cult” director, albeit very much of his time; I’m interested to know what our American correspondents made of it. Am I missing something deep, or is it just completely vapid?
Radio 5 Live has been “going big” in the last hour or so on the fact that over 100 MPs have admitted to employing their family members “at the taxpayer’s expense” (as R5 had it, obviously with frequent references to disgraced MP Derek Conway).
Shock, horror? Well, not reeeely - surely it’s the most natural thing in the world for someone in that kind of distance-managed, multi-tasky job to share the burden with their partner / family. I’m nowhere near as pressed as an MP, but you can be certain that as soon as my folks move back from Italy, I’ll have them doing my menial eBay stuff so I can concentrate on some serious sleeping.
Let’s be clear - MPs employing family members is 100% legal, and a long-standing tradition. As long as they haven’t got their snouts in the trough like Conway (and, I daresay, sundry other Tories), I can’t see that our elected representatives are doing anything wrong by employing family, or even friends, to help out (meaningfully, of course). Your nearest and dearest are obvious candidates when your work requires trustworthiness from colleagues.
MPs do a very demanding job for not all that much money, and it’s really dumb of the BBC to fuel a “Daily Mail”-style bonfire of ill-informed righteous indignation against the whole political system by claiming this as some kind of “revelation” of “malpractice”. You could almost suspect that the Beeb is exacting a protracted revenge on Labour for the whole Greg Dyke / Hutton thing. Shame on you, Auntie.
An excellent weekend was had by all in Slovenia, at the bucolic hillside retreat of old university mucker The Don, his lovely wife and exuberant 18-month-old labrador. Oh, and the cat. It’s a fantastic country, beautiful in extremis (think the rolling hills of The Shire with both ski-ing and beaches only an hour or so away), which has managed to be right in the middle of Europe with all its wars, dictators and various “cleansings”, yet remain remarkably untouched. Whether it’ll survive the onslaught of Ryanair and Easyjet’s customer base is another matter.
- Breaking the course record (in a bad way) during a round of golf on the most spectacular / hardest course I’d ever played on. I think we also broke the “latest ever finishers” record; at least we probably did, judging by the look on the face of the poor woman who had to lock up. The pre-game booze-up obviously didn’t help on the “sporting prowess” front, but made for a cracking afternoon…
- A St George’s Day celebration on Saturday (yes, he’s a patron saint out there as well…) featuring some of the most polished extremely repetitive oompah music you could ever want to hear. Again and again.
- Finding that they have car boot sales in Slovenia as well (I feel a European tour coming on…)
Lowlights? None at all, apart from maybe some attitudes to animals; on finding that one of the Don’s Slovenian friends had recently acquired a new pet dog, he was asked what had happened to the previous one; he replied (adopt generic sinister Eastern European KGB-style accent) “Ve replaced him”. (For “replaced”, read “liquidated”….)
We also came across the most bizarre piece of warning signage which I’ve ever seen; I’ll run it by you in the next few days to see if you can make any more head or tail of it than we managed.
So Slovenia is highly recommended, and the hospitality of our hosts was fantastic. Folkestone’s obviously a bit of a come-down by comparison - but at least I know that next door’s terrier has a decent chance of dying a natural death (*)…
* - talking of which, RIP Tati, the tafkass family cat who, I found out yesterday, died peacefully (at a ripe old age) over the weekend. We’ve had various cats since I was a nipper, and she was always my favourite.
Isn’t “The Apprentice” a load of crap this year? The contestants are REALLY lame; five of them never say anything, there’s not one single attractive bird, and the producers, unable to find anyone genuinely evil, seem to have gone with the maxim that three incredibly annoying women is equivalent to one Katie Hopkins. I mean, of course, the ginger one, the blonde posh dizzy boho one and the absolutely frightful fat oikish lower-middle-class JB Sports manageress type. I don’t remember their names, no-one does. In fact, the only other one I remember at all is the obligatory “Brideshead Revisited”-looking bloke, who again, says nothing whatsoever. As I said - REALLY lame. Even Sralan, normally quite adept at playing the whole thing for laughs, looks bored throughout.
Worst of all, you can almost see a TV director off-shot when it comes to the
eviction - sorry, firing scene, yelling “THE RATINGS ARE SHIT! KEEP THE CONTROVERSIAL ONE!”. And as a result of this policy, the sackings are bearing no resemblance whatsoever to candidate performance on the tasks. Last night’s boardroom denoument was particularly comical; Sugar unconvincingly yelled “Get out of my sight! Erm, by which I mean I mean get back to the house ‘cos I’m not firing you!” at the fat obnoxious bird who everyone else hated, and who obviously deserved to be fired.
I’ve given it a couple of weeks, but I won’t bother again. Apart from anything else, 9pm is past my bedtime these days. As Alan himself might say to me - “You’re tired!”
(To our American viewers; yes, our “Apprentice” is the same format as yours - with 2 differences.
1) instead of a genuine businessman like Donald Trump, we get Sir Alan Sugar, a washed-up monkey-looking cockney seller of obsolete 1980s electronic products. He no longer runs a viable business, and instead spends the 11 months of the year when he’s not doing “The Apprentice” sitting in his dank Essex warehouse counting his vastly over-ordered stock of house-brick mobile phones from the early 1990s, waiting for the day when they become kitsch and he can get a tenner a pop on eBay for them. And…
2) instead of your hard-working high-flying young go-getters as contestants, we get a comically inept bunch of shouty egomaniacs with charisma bypasses wearing ill-fitting “George At Asda” suits.
In fact, the whole thing is a reasonable analogy for the differences in business practice between the US and the UK…)
Off to Slovenia to stay with an old university compadre who’s set up in the wilds of Vreme; unfortunately, I’ve been reading the Daily Mail all week, so I’m a bit apprehensive about what I’ll find out there.
We already know that Eastern Europeans are generally quite swarthy, and usually moustachioed - like the bloke that took Madeline McCann, probably - or Borat, or a gypsy, or something. We know from various Mail articles that loads of them - probably running into hundreds of millions - are over here. And obviously, the Mail is keen to point out that they have scant regard for our laws; they seem even to be able to defy the laws of space and time. e.g. they’re taking our jobs whilst simultaneously not working (and claiming unemployment benefit); and they’re stealing our council homes whilst simultaneously sleeping rough. Worst of all, they’re stealing our good Queen’s swans and eating them, and worst of all of all, bloc-voting in the Eurovision song contest with the sole purpose of stopping our obviously-better British songs from winning.
So obviously, I’m a bit worried that if I do go, I might be press-ganged into a carp-fishing operation, or forced to retrain as an efficient and fair-priced plumber, or worse.
Hmmm… I’d better put it to a Pole. Sorry, poll.
So, the Italian election results are in, and Silvio Berlusconi has swept to power. Swept under the rug, you might say; his hair-weave is about the only thing which is vaguely up-to-date or convincing about Berlusconi. He’s 71, for the love of God. Not only that, he’s a comical banana-republic version of Rupert Murdoch and a dwarfish philandering fraudster to boot. But Italy is getting the government it deserves.
Italy is the sick man of Europe - the national airline is losing £1m a day, they’ve recently been overtaken by Spain (!) in GDP per capita, the wages are Greek whilst the prices are Scandinavian, there are only about 372 people under 18 left in the entire country (nobody has children any more; it’s too expensive), and the streets are filled with horrible, horrible old women haranguing anyone with a slightly darker suntan than normal, ignorant of the fact that the immigrants are the only ones are prepared to work for the ridiculous wages on offer. The country is a rotting corpse, riddled with the maggots of nepotism, cronyism, tax evasion, bribery, local government corruption - oh, and did I mention the Mafia?
I’m half-Italian, as many may know. It’s such a beautiful country, food, wine, art, architecture blah blah blah, and the people - whilst often retrograde and parochial, and occasionally prejudiced and childish in their attitudes - are still amongst the nicest you’d want to meet. But until the entire country takes its medicine and modernizes radically, it will continue to fail; somehow, I doubt that a near-octogenarian media mogul who makes Robert Maxwell look wholesome is the man for the job.
Whilst I was on a football forum the other day, someone amusingly mis-spelt “Berlusconi” (who is also the owner of AC Milan) as “Burlesconi” - and Italy couldn’t be more of a laughing stock even if Silvio did a strip-tease at the next EU summit ending up with only his wig to protect his modesty.
A fairly yawnsome work-based weekend, made even duller by a REALLY poor last round of the Masters yesterday. Whisper it soft - golf might even be boring. Anyway, a couple of moments brightened up the gloom; firstly from the unlikely source of Co-Op Radio (which plays bad pop along with promotional announcements and on-the-hour news). Whilst instore buying some organic dolphin-friendly tofu-based cleaning products on Saturday, this throwaway gag from the news announcer made me chuckle:
“In the latest health news, doctors are advising that artificial food colourings should be banned, as they can negatively affect attention span. The doctors also said a bunch of other stuff, but I wasn’t really listening by that point.”
Obviously, it was wasted on Cheriton’s collection of wispy-hair-coming-out-of-chin old biddies, Ghurkas who speak very little English, and scary teenagers who, despite being extremely white, still say “arks” instead of “ask”. Secondly, a quick-as-a-flash gem from the great Peter Alliss (golf commentator) when a competitor at the Masters had removed some tree detritus from the path of his shot:
Other Commentator - “I think he’s been fiddling with those catkins, Peter!”
PA - “Well they can’t touch you for it these days…”
Yes, it’s the long-awaited (?) return of Gladiators to our screen. Sadly (?) it’ll be on Sky One, so anyone who hasn’t signed up to Rupert Murdoch’s global drive to disseminate reactionary racist “bloke down the pub” dumbest common denominator media content will miss out.
The new cast of gladiators has been unveiled to the press, with the copy obviously written by a failed Manga translator: some highlights are -
ATLAS - Sam Bond, 24, Bournemouth - “As strong as He-Man, fights hard and with dignity”.
BATTLEAXE - Shirley Webb, 26, Edinburgh - “A weapon of war, domineering, aggressive and indomitable. Battleaxe is a warrior queen”.
ENIGMA - Jenny Pacey, 25, Borehamwood - “Mysterious and beautiful, contradictory and unpredictable, impossible to capture”.
PANTHER - Kara Nwidobie, 26, Morecambe - “Beautiful, sleek, aggressive and powerful. Panther is the strongest and fiercest of the wild cats”.
PREDATOR - Du’aine Ledejo, 36, Newark - “Volatile, quick and poisonous, hunts down prey and takes no prisoners.”
TEMPEST - Lucy Boggis, 19, Quintin, Wiltshire - “Naturally beautiful, a force of nature bringing furious agitation and commotion”.
TORNADO - David McIntosh, 22, Altrincham - “Violently destructive windstorm full of unstoppable energy - leaves you in a spin”.
Immediate thoughts - Battleaxe is obviously the ugly bird …. Enigma’s mysterious qualities are tempered somewhat by the mundane fact of her provenance from Borehamwood… I expect that Panther is black - so no connotational stereotyping there, then… and Tempest will have to go some to top the “furious agitation and commotion” which Jet raised in the trouser department of male viewers first time around.
But what else can we expect? Will Ian Wright (who replaces John Fashanu) be incredibly annoying and shouting “AWOOOOGAAA” repeatedly? (Errr… yes! Obviously!) Will Ulrika Jonsson (whose services haven’t been retained) hang around backstage in the hopes of bagging Atlas or Predator, or both?
I despised “Gladiator” when it first came out as the absolute candyfloss dregs of light entertainment. But in retrospect, I’m quite fond of it; it’s good honest fun in the vein of “Superstars” or “It’s a Knockout”. And let’s face it, in the context of today’s telly, measured against Big Brother, Celebrity Love Island, Noel’s Money-Boxes (or whatever), Lily Allen and the rest of the roll-call of shame, it’s practically Panorama.
Feel free to contribute your own Gladiator names; I’m going for “Navelgaze”…
A reasonably interesting documentary on Sunday night from the wily Louis Theroux on game farms in South Africa (long and short: Americans are paying lots of money to shoot semi-wild animals in managed environments which isn’t particularly nice to watch, but brings the impoverished community a decent income and preserves many vulnerable species from extinction).
No need to prepare yourselves for a stale-cabbage-smelling windy blast of vegetarian ire; I’m more interested in the programme’s maker than the its subject. As with all Louis’s shows (and similar ones, like the Martin Bashir Michael Jackson travesty), it’s all in the edit. Louis invariably comes across as naive, wide-eyed, gently curious and unthreatening; that’s his schtick. He’s actually a very steely journalist - you have to be in his game - and what you don’t see is him niggling away at his subjects by asking the same questions again and again in the hopes of eventually provoking an angry response. He gets one towards the end of this show, but it was pretty much along the lines of “Why the fuck do you keep asking me the same question?” Even when an angry response isn’t forthcoming, the subjects, more often than not, look incredibly shifty, because they know perfectly well that any sentence fragment can be taken out of context and cut-and-pasted into whatever slanted perspective Louis’s production team feels like adopting in the final version.
Louis’s techniques are pure gold when it comes to disarming and then winding up genuinely evil people like South African nazi Eugene Terre’Blanche or the Hamiltons - but are (I think) inappropriate when attempting a balanced portrayal of a thorny topic.
As for the rights and wrongs of this issue; the hunting park owner, Riaan Vosloo, was very convincing in his arguments. Unabashed about the fact that he enjoyed hunting, he nonetheless obviously respected his animals, pointed out the conservation benefits and compared the free, comfortable lives of his stock with those of animals raised for meat. (In pretty much all farming worldwide, cows, sheep and pigs raised for meat have truly horrible, pain-filled lives - this article from the Independent is just the tip of the iceberg.) Louis, a former vegetarian but now a meat-eater, ended up looking like a hypocrite when he wussed out of shooting a pig - as one farm hand said, you’ll eat the meat but you won’t kill the animal. If we had to kill the meat we ate, consumption of flesh would go down by at least 90% overnight.
Which leaves us with what? The fact that thick-shit American game trophy hunters paying to shoot a tame animal is distasteful. But I don’t need a dissimulating specky vegetarian recidivist to tell me that.
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