Tag Archives: entertainment

In the light of the disco ball

“Come on, it’s fun!”

Listen, I’ll be the judge of what’s fun and what’s rigid sigmoidoscopy. And don’t think I can’t see the hidden message behind your eyes. You only want me to join in with this farce because you’re picturing me wheeling about the room like an epileptic in a ball pool.

I’m truly sorry but I’m going to have to do something I swore I’d never do. Hell has frozen over, water is running uphill and yes, that’s a flock of pigs up there. I’m going to quote Phil Collins.

I can’t dance.

And Eddy Grant: I don’t wanna dance. I have all the natural rhythm of a vomiting teenager on the Nemesis Inferno, but you already know that don’t you? That’s why you’re imploring me to gyrate comically while being stared at by angry young men with their top buttons done up and no socks, worried my mysterious new shapes are going to dazzle that one woman they’re all trying to impress who looks like Ronnie O’Sullivan.

At various points in a young, then less young, then fuck-me-was-there-that-much-grey-up-there-yesterday man’s life he’ll be faced with the nightmarish prospect of dancing. Sure, women can squirm about however they want and still earn the approving gaze of prospective paramours in your standard low-rent mating ritual. But men trying to dance consistently reminds us of a herd of lolloping wildebeest praying not to be the one picked off by hyenas cackling with hilarity beside the dancefloor. Do hyenas hunt wildebeest? In that bloody metaphor they do.

It starts with the school disco. I can still see the look of disappointment on Catherine Powell’s face as she watched me jerk awkwardly to Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, back when the world was a far more innocent place. I knew at that moment my chances of marrying Catherine were but a speck of dust on a pinhead and my tiny little eight-year-old cock would have to remain nestled up against Luke’s lightsaber in its Star Wars pants for now, though of course we called them willies before Rolf got sent down.

Secondary school: further disgrace, compounded by the fashion sense of a retarded Scouser. It’s not my fault there was a brief period when shellsuits were in vogue though it’s probably my fault mine was turquoise. The whoosh of the material might have drowned out the gales of mirth but I didn’t need a sign language expert to recognise pointing and laughing as I twitched preposterously to New Kids on the Block or Technotronic.

By university I’d realised dancing was for buffoons. Obviously that can’t stop people thirsty for tears of humiliation suggesting a ‘nightclub’ in ‘Coventry’ as the ideal place for a man from southern England to finally become a man of the world. “Come on!” they said. “Come on!” they said again, more menacingly. So into the fray I allowed myself to be peer pressured and away to casualty they all went with sides split wide open. A face of embarrassed rage looks so much funnier in the light of the disco ball.

Only at 20, 21 did I establish that taking a drink with you onto the dancefloor is a cunning defence against utter ignominy. Sadly, feigning aloofness with a barely perceptible shuffle to Eminem’s latest act of aural cruelty marks you out as an enemy of fun, and that in itself entertains your friends (enemies) just as much. What precisely it is about dancing that turns a normal, judicious man into a self-conscious sack of shame I don’t know. I do know the next person who tries to make me dance will earn the type of abuse that would get you disappeared in most African countries.

As with everything a hypocrite says, there’s a caveat. I can mosh. Jumping up and down on the spot to music of genuine quality is a pleasure that makes me misty-eyed as it fades into the memory, though even today with enough cider in me I’ll occasionally show terrified infants how it’s done. If moshing was a sport I would be UK champion in the 100kg class, rebounding off innocents like lumps of iron in the early universe, which is apt given compared to your average young rock fan I’m large and impressive like a planet.

But these days the most dancing I face is at weddings. The odds of people with names like Lisa and Lee slipping Slipknot into their playlist are remote. It’s Come on Eileen and Sweet motherfucking Caroline and a City-to-win-the-league chance they’ll be loving angels instead for their first dance. Can’t we call it the last dance? I’d have a lot more time for weddings if that dance signified the final time a man has to sway ludicrously and pretend to be loving it, before a lifetime of leaning up against the bar graciously turning down invites to jive with the mere flick of his ring finger: sorry, I’m married, I don’t have to dance ever again.

You’re not getting away with it that easy my boy. Though picturing myself as an old man is like picturing anyone born this year seeing a single flake of snow during their lifetime, if I get there they’ll still have me wheeling myself onto the dancefloor for one last hurraaaaaahahahahahahaha. I’ll still hate it with a passion belying my angina and I’ll have to bring a half-full bag of piss with me but that’s all right – I exist for your gratification, so please ignore my protests of genuine discomfort. That new move I’m trying out, thrashing about on the floor, I call it ‘the coronary’.

There’s no hiding from it; even when you die your body twitches and spasms like it wants waking up before you go-go. I’m resigned to there being further instances of this exasperating fiasco no matter that I really don’t need to bet how good I look on the bloody dancefloor.

Just a few notes, though. I reserve the right to refuse to shout ‘OI’ in the first verse of the proper version of I’m a Believer. If I hear the slightest hint of a decent beat I will leap up and down for a full four minutes and welcome the horrified stares with devil horns aloft and my eyes filled with ROCK. If it’s dancing you want from me it’s the full monkey boy you’ll get, so prepare yourself for bruised shins, eyes out and whiplash.

Come on, it’s fun!

Magical redheads

I watched Harry Potter yesterday. I’ve had quite a lot of time on my hands over the past few weeks, for one reason or another, and it’s something I’ve known was going to happen eventually; things that are so easily achieved are rarely put off forever, I find, and I thought that ‘well over half my life’ was long enough to leave this particular activity before completion.

I got called ‘Hermione’ quite a bit at school as well, so it seemed best to find out the precise implications of that before I forgot the entirety of what being at school was like. Admittedly this name-calling was mostly contemporaneous with the early films, back when she was mainly just a smart-arsed pre-teen with massive hair (I see what they meant, the more film-savvy kids), and tailed off drastically when it emerged that she’s quite fit and physically heroic as well as the book-learned kind. I’m not going to pretend that didn’t smart a bit.

Oh, also, when I say “I watched Harry Potter recently”, I should also add the caveat that what I actually did was watch the last two, or one, depending on how you look at it. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen the first one, having been alive for a decade’s worth of Christmases since its TV debut, so that didn’t seem worth it, and having skipped that I thought I may as well cut to the ‘good stuff’, as it were.

It wasn’t an unenjoyable experience, I’ll admit that now. They’re not demanding films, even when lacking knowledge of the bulk of their backstory, and having grown up utterly irritated by the leads they didn’t grate excessively on my nerves. What really pissed me off, more than the shitty CGI acting or the word ‘Muggle’ or the sheer scale of the stupid moral showboating on display, was that bit at the end when Harry chucks that really powerful wand in the moat thing.

It’s presented as a moment of great importance. Harry’s the ultimate Goody Two-Shoes, a pacifistic non-ruffler of…bloody unicorn feathers, or whatever, and he’s just so fucking great that when presented with ‘the most powerful wand in the world’, he thinks, ‘Nah’. He’s not up for that. That’d be bad probably. So he snaps it in half, this wand that’ll only answer to him anyway, and he lobs it off a big bridge.

‘Most powerful wand in the world’. That’s a relative thing, that. That suggests a scale of power with this stick at its zenith. Harry’s just destroyed the biggest evil in the world and he’s got sole control over the thing that’s most powerful out of what’s left, and instead of looking after it with some sodding willpower he thinks, again for clarity, ‘Nah.’

Whilst I think understand that particular sentiment more than most (thinking ‘Nah’ and fucking something off because it seems like a bad plan, that is), this strikes me as somewhat problematic. Take the aforementioned Power Wand Index. Surely there’s a second most powerful wand in the world that’s just been promoted? How great a margin can there truly be between the two? And what’s going to defeat that? Harry? Not anymore, no. He’s thrown away the thing he’d need to sort that out. His stupid friends didn’t even stop him, they just stood there looking precious and a bit grubby, and then it cuts to them all rubber-faced with lots of ginger children.

I know you wear unfortunate glasses, you scabby git, but for God’s sake have a bit of foresight. That snake-nosed bloke might be gone, but are you so naive as to think that he’s the only one? Weren’t there other baddies you didn’t murder? One of them’s got the most powerful wand in the world now, and he’s going to fuck you up with it. This is how this sort of thing works, and no number of magical redheads will be able to save you this time.

Harry Potter and the Gigantic Fuck-Up. I knew there was a reason I’d avoided this shit.

The disease of modern living

Next month will commemorate my 24th revolution around the sun. Already my forehead resembles a weathered ball-bag and I find myself aimlessly sprawled in front of a screen more evenings than not. This never happened two years ago. Now, like some declawed beast sedated by glossy images rolling seamlessly over one another, I lounge and gape with numb abandon, occasionally flick through Facebook on my phone and wonder why exactly people from school feel the need to repopulate the Earth with smaller humans that look like them before McDonalds ravaged their bodies. This is adult life, so I’m told, and you too are welcome to the party, please make yourself comfortable and wait for the air to run out.

Everything you need to know about me is explained by the steaming pile of cat shit that has collected outside my bedroom window. This veritable Everest of faeces makes me feel at home, as does the decapitated pigeon with its guts strewn out like a meaty party popper that’s stuck outside my office, in a location that the cleaners can’t reach. It rots there, sun-baked and spoiled, festering in the British summer.

These features of my surroundings help me to keep my perspective, much in the way that drama teachers educate young minds on what shattered dreams look like. They symbolise perfectly how much we crave our precious distractions in order to ignore the grim brutalities of life: their continued existence is damning proof. Even as I write, the gangrenous disease of modern living cramps up my hand with premature rigor mortis and spreads through the veins, pumped ever closer to the brain by a palpitating aorta that struggles against the thickening walls of tar that I have cursed it with.

Gradually I too will be pacified by the epidemic that sweeps the nation. As the world hurtles down into the belly of the abyss, we will watch with apathetic disdain as the stomach acid swirls around our ankles, melding our shoes to our feet, kicking up a mighty stench in the process. By the time we’re half digested we might reach feebly for an app to save us, but it’ll be too late and when we reach the sphincter of the universe to get sprayed out into the cosmic toilet bowl, only then will we admit that perhaps, just maybe, mistakes were made. Such is the nature of this affliction.

The first symptom was an involuntary twitch of the hand, reaching ceaselessly for the mobile phone to save me from reality. My phone-orientated spasm is akin to a phantom limb, but the ever-loveable philanthropists of Microsoft recently conducted a social study on some screen-worshipping Canadians and established that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds down to just 8, so I doubt I’m alone in the quarantine zone.

This mutated strain of the 80’s TV-borne virus could be seen as the next step towards in our evolution where we transcend our physical forms to live entirely digitally, floating around the ether poking at one another’s faces with three and half inch floppies like cognitively impaired sea-monkeys in screen-saver form. Or maybe it just marks the next step towards a society of preening, gurning blobs of self-absorbed cellulose, hopeless invertebrate wads that could grow a spine if only they found use for one.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe our jobs really do have meaning in and of themselves. Maybe George Osborne isn’t fuelled by orphan tears and it’s even possible that Adrian Chiles and the rest of TV land aren’t just a collection of gelatinous guff-wagons constructed of meat. But don’t worry about it, just distract yourself with more words.

As the disease assaults your ability to think or even dribble coherently, the modern office does little to treat symptoms. Constant reminders from HR flow in via email reaffirming our enthusiasm for the casual business Friday dress-code and advising us not to jump from the east facing window because yesterday’s pile of mangled bodies hasn’t yet been cleaned up on account of the impossible-to-reach pigeon corpse. Whatever they bleat about it’s always in the distant language usually reserved for passive alarm voices who alert you to danger in an unnervingly calm tone. By specialising the function of the individual’s job we have become more and more divorced from the purpose of the work we do, so it’s no wonder we’re perpetually left unable to explain our jobs to relatives or friends.

Graduates are forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat for the chance to win an unpaid role as junior deputy assistant to the intern in some useless consultancy firm, or worse they become unthinking phone monkeys in firms with indoctrination programmes that would give the US Army a hard-on. Those without qualifications are converted into compost to grow, whilst those in jobs too long are quietly bumped off in the night by obtuse phrases such as “regrettably unforeseeable internal restructures” so they’re heaped on the cat-shit mountain as well. Our purpose in employment becomes harder to find, our days flow by in an uneasy wave of tedious confusion and we leave the office without a thought in our heads except for the rush of relief afforded by brief respite.

In a sleep-deprived stupor we’re driven to distraction, urgently seeking anything to ease our minds. It’s all there waiting for us, from kittens decorated by the mentally infirm to the online equivalent of the Dulux colour range told through pornography. And what’s more, the great benevolent dictator of the internet is only too willing to oblige us. With the frantic scurrying of a crack-addled banker trying to hide a hooker’s body we crave any blockade we can erect between the reality of the situation and the collective lie that we all buy into, known colloquially as ‘satisfaction’.

The disease of modern living is the catalysed onset of delusion, the belief that things actually aren’t that bad and that perhaps we ought to be thankful for what we have. This belief drags itself with us, a parasite on our bedraggled carcass shuffling from the tube to the bus to the sweat-stained pavements only to moor up in a desolate port with the TV on, our minds switched off and the glum cyclical nature of the horror pushed out of sight for another day as our eyes close and it’s all over.

In short, I’m becoming one of the idiots. Soon you’ll be like us, begging for distraction from the endless flurry of miseries and injustices that make up human existence. London has succeeded in dumbing me down with its isolating cost of living, alienating social conduct and the beckoning appeal to those who value money, prestige and job title über alles. We try to avoid how unfair it all seems with copies of Time Out and the latest in pop-up restaurants that only serve suffocated gelatine in plant pots and where all the cutlery is emblazoned with the face of Noel fucking Edmonds. Now I even have their haircut. It might get me a promotion.

At this rate I’ll max out a credit card on paper doilies this time next year, bragging to middle-management about the spacious depths of my new living room and how much light the bay window lets in whilst fiddling with a selfie-stick, all the time wondering why no-one can use a word of more than three syllables.

Unless we treat this disease swiftly, that is. Prognosis: amputate at the neck and leave my headless cadaver on the window ledge of a skyscraper where no-one can clean me up.

A bloody great vase of flowers

First there are the camera angles. Everything is taken from the neck up, limiting any possible interesting dialogue pieces with other characters. Suddenly our heroine will be sitting down a lot, behind a desk, or holding large folders for no reason at all. Sometimes they’ll put a bloody great vase of flowers in the way. Clothing will become oversized, which never hides the bump just merely shouts “Look, the actress, the real person, is up the duff! Fuck trophy alert!”

Is she or isn’t she? This has become an all-consuming pastime for me that ruins many a good film or TV series. Believe me, I am not a rabid consumer of Heat magazine, desperate for information on celebrity breeders. It’s that when a director attempts to hide that an actress is clearly pregnant, the subterfuge is so obvious it ruins every single thing I watch. It’s so fucking obvious!

The fourth wall is broken and I sit on my hands, desperate not to bow to the inevitable and search Google to see if I have correctly spotted the pregnancy. The satisfaction that I’ve spotted the truth is nothing compared to the complete ruination of the story I am watching. Every shot, I sit there pointing out when I see it – there. There. Can’t everyone see it? It’s there, look. So what if someone just died horribly, I can see that woman is clearly pregnant.

The point of an actor is to dispel belief. Once my eyes alight on a possible bump, everything is ruined. I stomp about like a disgruntled Kevin, lamenting the blatant destruction of any dramatic tension. Clearly that isn’t Johanssen kicking ass, it’s a stunt double. How can Nikki Alexander carry on her will they-wont they with Harry if she is hiding the fact she is ferrying an embryo that isn’t his? It just isn’t right. I don’t want to see your real life. I want immersion! Pop the brat out between series, don’t flaunt it at me during the limited opportunities I have to watch good drama.

I ponder whether they should write it in, just to stop my own anger. Sadly this leads to the jumping the shark moment that killed The X-Files. Anyone remember how terrible it was to discover Scully’s baby was Mulder’s? Just me? It might work for soaps, but I hate any baby storylines. It kills anything of interest happening in the future, as you are always left (literally) with the baby. Think about Ian Beale, just think. My point is made.

This obsession with directors’ attempts to hide reality has recently reached new territory with the Expendables trilogy. Every scene where Arnie or Sly jump off a building, or roll away from an explosion, I wonder how they manage it. Of course, they don’t. Younger stunt doubles come in, concrete floors are made of soft eiderdown, beer guts are hidden by lofty camera angles and giant clothes. Argh! Why? They are old, that is the entire concept of the film. Sure they have egos, but let it all hang out. You’re too old for this shit!

I have no issues with people getting older. I myself cannot hold back the tide of aches and pains; my ability to bounce after falling over has all but disappeared. I don’t expect anyone to pay to see an old me defuse a bomb whilst jumping through the air but if it was my career I’d at least show that it bloody well hurt at my age.

But if you decide to drop another unfortunate child into this world of war, then don’t bring it into my living room. Wait until the series is cancelled, plan it so it isn’t noticeable, don’t cry feminism at work and demand it is ignored. I can see it. There. Look, it’s a bump. Have some pride in your art and the deception you weave for us. I have no interest in you, or the baby – I want my stories!

True sacrifice

A holiday abroad does so much more than just give your body and mind a well-earned break. You find yourself thinking about the more important things in life, rather than fixating on how quickly people will work out it was you who fucked up their macro, or hiding in the toilets for two hours fretting about whether or not the person you sit next to saw you slagging them off on instant messenger.

You probably take yourself off to a much poorer country for a beach holiday, because you want your money to go as far as possible. You might go somewhere in Asia. Sure, the flights will cost you a pretty penny, but you’ll struggle to spend more than the cost of a Pret salad on most three-course meals, so you can square it away in your mind. And once you’re there buying cocktails for the same price as a packet of Hubba Bubba, your body starts to relax and your mind starts to find that peace and calm you’ve been searching for in the months since your last sojourn.

All the while you’re in a bubble, cut-off from reality with no idea what’s going on at home. So imagine the horrifying, falling sensation that overcomes you when you return to London and read the biggest story of the past fortnight.

All the benefits of every single four quid, hour-long relaxing massage I had undergone were reversed when I got home and read – and believe me I am still ashen-faced with shock as I write this  – about the Back to the Future Secret Cinema catastrophe.

For the blissfully ignorant, let me fill you in. The biggest immersive cinema event in the history of big, immersive cinema events was called off with – oh god I think I’m going to be sick again – merely hours’ notice. Some people were actually on their way to the event when they found out. Some people had taken time off work to attend it. Everyone had put their money and their faith into the belief that they would get to watch an 80s classic in dress-up, with some real life actors thesping about the place, whilst also being able to get bollocksed in the process.

One account I read, in amongst so many harrowing details of devastation and loss, was written by someone I consider a modern day Joan of Arc. Not only had she arrived early, but someone she was meeting there had almost boarded their train to meet her. Suffice to say she was distraught, but showed supreme strength and dignity in not allowing her companion to make a wasted journey. That’s true friendship. That’s true sacrifice.

And of course there’s a backlash.

Supposedly they’re a pampered bunch of spoilt film nerds with too much money, an unhealthy obsession with mediocre 80s cinema and an unfulfilled need to raid the dressing up box, harking back to a repressed and lonely childhood.

Or are they just serious, hard-working people, with realistic expectations that, when they’ve paid over the odds for organised fun, have meticulously selected something to wear that says “I’m wacky, but I also like to get things right *points and winks*” and have arranged their diary accordingly, they will be able to embark on their organised fun in a punctual and efficient manner?

Well you show me the father of four selling tat on an Asian beach for pennies who wouldn’t sympathise with these poor sods. Do you honestly expect me to believe that a family of six living in a shack who sell their ancient, healing and holistic massages for less than the cost of a bag of Butterkist wouldn’t break down on hearing about Secret Cinema’s recent atrocity?

Just because they don’t have money doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

All I can hope now is whatever has brought about this disaster is resolved by the end of August, in time for the date on my ticket. Or I’ll be shaking like Michael J Fox and weeping into my three quid, hand woven, silk pashmina.

You can’t fake a suplex

My understanding of suspending disbelief covers everything from traditional cinema, theatre and even the circus, but one remark that really riles me is “You do realise that wrestling is fake?”

Really? You’re telling me that WWE is marketed at children and isn’t real? The handsome young fellow that has shoulder muscles up to his ears didn’t just slam the naughty man through a plywood table? Of course he did, but it wasn’t a proper table was it? Even IKEA have tables you can fall through. Why is this failed bouncer scared of The Undertaker, yet the scrawny referee is unperturbed?

Wrestling isn’t real life, but I know you can’t fake a suplex. “Yeah but it’s fake isn’t it?” OK, I’ll jump on your head and you tell me that didn’t just happen. Get the fuck out of here.

Sure, it’s predetermined, but if it wasn’t surely all of these self-professed wrestling gods would be tearing it up at the Olympics, trying to win a gold medal rather than a belt that doesn’t even hold up jeans. If I thought wrestling was real then I’d expect Motorhead to be playing on my front lawn every time I left the house.

Of course they aren’t actually hitting each other in the face; bare knuckle boxing is frowned upon before the watershed after all. You may still be reeling from the fact you sat through ITV Sport in the 1970s believing Giant Haystacks genuinely didn’t get on with Mick McManus – grow up and get over it. Hulk Hogan came along and made that shit glamourous. It’s now a huge market for both children and adults, just like Christmas is, and just don’t tell me Santa isn’t real when I mention I like Christmas.

I don’t sit through an episode of Eastenders and question why nobody is swearing, or why people in 2014 still use a fucking launderette. How can these people in low income employment be in the pub every night drinking pints, or eating breakfasts in cafes each morning? It’s no surprise everybody is sleeping with someone that lives three doors down when each resident steps out of Albert Square once every five fucking years – and that’s just to die.

It’s entertainment. I’m not comfortable seeing men in trunks at the local swimming pool let alone making it a regular part of my television schedule, but I somehow get taken away to this land of flashing lights where gladiators do violent choreography with each other, all the while contemplating why I never tried waxing my chest. If I wanted to see two sweaty blokes actually hurting each other, I’d nip down the local on a Saturday night – but their tables don’t seem to break so easily.