Hello. My name is Andrew. I am an Englishman in Toronto. This was my LiveJournal, but it's now mostly friends-only. Here's where you can find me on the internet:
Very Good Taste: My food blog, home of the Omnivore's Hundred.
The Post-Game Show: My bent pop-culture blog for talking movies, comics and American Idol.
Twitter.com/Wheeler: My incessant twitterings.
Thanks for dropping by! You're smashing. Toodle-oo.
It has been a little while since I posted anything here, but I wanted to take part in the Influence Map meme, and neither of my blogs are about my creative endeavours, so I'm back here for the day.
The Influence Map started with DeviantArt user Fox-Orian as a way for graphic artists to present their influences in a handy-dandy visual format. I write rather than draw, but I wanted to get in on it anyway, so I put together a list of my own influences and... got very confused.
You see, artists appear to primarily use the influence map to present influences on their aesthetic style - as you would expect. As a writer I felt compelled to include writing influences - but I have aesthetic influences as well. Conflating them together made for a confusing and crowded map. So I decided to produce two Influence Maps, because I'm greedy. One is my aesthetic influences, by which I mean visual style and standards of beauty. The other is my narrative influences, by which I mean writing, plotting and non-visual storytelling.
First up is Aesthetics. If you're a non-writer, or a writer-artist, you may wonder why a writer would need an aesthetic influence map. I'm an especially visual person, but I think most writers have strong visual influences. I'm not just talking about how we describe a scene - though that is part of it - but about what motivates us. Aesthetics can inspire a character, or a dynamic, or an event. Most especially, aesthetics can inspire a mood. Often times a writer seeks to communicate an idea in prose that was communicated to him in art. I don't think writers talk very much about their visual influences, but I think they should. So I will.
The size of each image is meant to correspond to the scale of the influence. Click for largeness.
And because I'm a writer, I can't just let the images speak for themselves, so here's another big chunk of text to expound upon the above. Oh, writers!
The British Museum is my greatest fount of inspiration, and here's a secret about me and museums; I don't spend a lot of time reading the text on the displays. I like to drink in the artefacts. Museums make history visual, and that's a great inspiration for any writer interested in history.
Powell & Pressburger and Orson Welles are my directorial inspirations. P&P are for scale, splendour and the intimacy of madness (the image is from Black Narcissus). Welles is for his uses of shadow and iconography - think Touch of Evil and his version of the Scottish play (pictured). You might also want to think about The Third Man, but, of course, that wasn't his direction. It is also an influence, though.
Winsor McCay is the author of art nouveau fantasias that push the boundaries of the imagination. The other comic artists on the list are: Will Eisner, for the humanity of Dropsie Avenue, but more so for the pulp noir of The Spirit; Tom of Finland, for his iconic reinvention of masculine sexuality; and Sergio Toppi, for his wealth of texture, depth of diversity, and exemplary composition.
Art Nouveau gets its own nod, which covers the perennial influences of Mucha, Gaudi, Klimt, Lalique and Tiffany, plus the Musee d'Orsay and the architecture of Paris. Also included for architecture is Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the great defining visionaries of the 20th century. His style is something I have wanted to capture in words ever since Hitchcock did it in film in North by Northwest.
There are only three 'classical' artists in my list. JMW Turner is my favourite painter. His later works are so wonderfully turbulent, so isolating and emotional, while his mid-period works are exemplary storytelling - see the Fighting Temeraire, which is one of the most beautiful paintings of all time. Sargent is included for his appreciation of refinement and beauty - the painting is another favourite, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw. Canova is included because I love the iconography of classical Greek and Roman mythology, but I love it best reinterpreted and idealised through the neoclassicists, and Canova is the best of them.
There are a lot of commercial illustrators on my list. In addition to the comic artists, there's Rockwell, Gruau, McGinnis and Leyendecker. Rockwell is a bit of a cliché, but he shapes my vision of the American 20th century. Leyendecker is another masculine idealist - his square-jawed heroes with an invert's soul are my heroes as well. McGinnis presents a more conventional view of masculinity. His paperback covers show adventure - sex, intrigue, death, betrayal - in a single image. I'm not much of a fashionista, but I adore Gruau. He is an object lesson in how expressive a simple line can be. Writers need to appreciate that lesson just as well as artists.
On the subject of fashion, I was going to include photographer Edward Steichen, but I discovered him only a year ago. More enduring is Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of photojournalism and the captured moment, who was anything but a fashion photographer. Like Sergio Toppi (and Hugo Pratt), he opened a window on the world. At the other end of the photographer spectrum are the hyper-contrived Pierre et Gilles, masters of the gay aesthetic, incorporating everything from sexualised goddesses to weeping soldiers. They are character builders.
Finally, there's Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen's ugly gods and rickety monsters are probably the reason I ever wanted to tell stories in the first place. he is not my biggest influence, but he is among my first.
The second Influence Map deals with my more expressly 'writerly' influences. It's impossible to entirely disentangle both schools of influence - film in particular is inevitably present in both - but I've tried to make it make sense.
I'll try to be a little briefer here. Try and fail.
Questions will be asked and eyebrows raised about some of these inclusions. CS Lewis? Chris Claremont? Rudyard Kipling? What sort of purple-prosed imperialistic choir boy am I, by jingo? But whether or not you agree with the politics of an influence, or even still hold them up today, you cannot pretend they were not influential. I can only read Claremont through a nostalgic mist these days, and god forbid I try reading any of his new work - but his strong women and tangled world-building are certainly an influence. Because of Lewis, there will always be God in my writing, and because of Kipling my writing will always be... well, a little imperial. I am fascinated by ideas of empire and culture clash.
On which subjects, there are two historical figures in my list whose stories have been major influences on me. I have read a dozen versions of the story of Alexander, and I'm not bored of him yet. Then there's Lady Hester Stanhope, crazy English adventurer and impromptu queen. Mad and brilliant. The colonial theme is also present in two of my favourite works - Shakespeare's The Tempest, which gave me some of my favourite character dynamics in fiction, and David Milch's Deadwood, which boasts the best character work ever seen on television.
Jim Henson's The Storyteller is probably not of the same high standard, but like Harryhausen, it lit the fire of my love for stories. Disney is not in here for its/his bowdlerised fairy tales, but for its lavish love of villains. My love of a good villain is also why Sax Rohmer is in here - his Fu Manchu is my Sherlock Holmes. More respectable pulp comes from Dashiell Hammett - regarded as hard-boiled, but in some ways as mannered and witty as Jane Austen.
America mores are also represented by Fitzgerald and Williams. The Great Gatsby remains my favourite novel; Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is my favourite modern play. Morality, repression, glamour, decay - this is the stuff great stories are made of! Class, culture and propriety are also recurring themes, which is why Chekov is in there to balance out those flashy Americans with his elegant subtlety.
Not that I don't also love melodrama. If you've ever listened to the dialogue in a Hitchcock movie, you know how good - and layered - melodrama can be. Hitchcock is my favourite movie storyteller. Brad Bird is my favourite living movie storyteller. Even before The Incredibles, he set a new standard with The Iron Giant. Movies also gave me James Bond - with the books coming later. Bond established my mental template for a ripping yarn.
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton is a very recent discovery for me, but in reading it I discovered that it has been influencing me all my life. He is the author of a very English, very Catholic sense of subversion. He is absurd, heretical and ambitious, and his fingerprints can be found in everything from Monty Python to The Prisoner. Chesterton was a subtle knife compared to Lewis Carroll, but anyone who grew up loving Carrol's queens, cards, rhymes and inventions will probably claim him as an influence. And finally there's Dylan Thomas, who fed us brutal truths and transforming revelations inside the most exquisite lyrical rhythms. Read Fern Hill and be transported. That's what words can do.
3 comments | post a comment
No Eurovision rundown in LJ from me this year.
post a comment
Because it's over on my blog! Huzzah! Alert the media! Or tell your friends, anyway. Or, you know, just read it yourself. Comments welcome! Preferably over there, not over here.
My Oscar highlights are over at The Post-Game Show, as well as my thoughts on episode two of Dollhouse.
post a comment
New blog: http://www.thepostgameshow.com/
7 comments | post a comment
New LJ blog feed: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/thepostgameshow/
Thank you, Ciaran!
There's still a bit of housekeeping to do over there, but if you see any glaring screw-ups, let me know over here and I'll correct them over there!
(I'm not abandoning LJ, but as I said before, LiveJournal is largely a social thing for me. This will remain my personal blog, and I'll probably start defaulting to 'friends only' posting.)
Your Friday Disco: The underappreciated King/Goffen classic I Can't Hear You, performed by Helen Reddy. There's also a fabulous Dusty version.
3 comments | post a comment
Wiki link of the day: Maria Rasputin. Imagine living in Los Angeles in the 1970s and discovering that the octogenarian lady living next door is a former cabaret dancer, lion tamer, shipyard riveter and 'psychic', and the daughter of Rasputin. She's officially the most fascinating female relative of a more famous male since I discovered Dotty Wilde, profligate lesbian ambulance driver, heroin addict and Parisienne bon viveur. They should have had a team up. Rasputin and Wilde: 20th Century Ladies at Large. (Hrm. That actually has potential. I could definitely win a Booker with that.)
I take back what I said about the new season of American Idol being less of a freak show. After the second night of auditions I can confirm that it is still a freak show. They are showing more good people than they normally do at this stage, but they haven't cancelled the circus.
1 comment | post a comment
American Idol has returned. The audition shows have begun. I've heard tell that they're planning to focus less on the freak show elements and more on the talent this year, as the audition shows aren't as popular as they used to be. Last night's début does seem to haver in that direction.
3 comments | post a comment
In recent years the auditions have tended to be wall-to-wall freaks, and when we get to the show proper, we don't recognise any of the contestants. Last night's show did show a few decent candidates, and a lot of borderline ones, and some bad ones, but it didn't linger so much on the dangerously self-delusional ones. The only true idiot of the night was Ryan Seacrest, who tried to high five a blind guy.
There was also the amusing sight of the girl in the bikini threatening to make out with Ryan Seacrest, to Seacrest's obvious alarm and discomfort. He tries to pretend like he finds pretty girls in skimpy outfits in some way interesting, but he clearly doesn't understand why he might. In a stroke of cruel genius, the producers play out this scene to Katy Perry's 'I Kissed A Girl And I Liked It'. Irony has been found in America, ladies and gentlemen.
The real question of the day, though, is what do we make of the new girl, songwriter Kara Disomethingorother. First impressions are promising. She's saner than Paula 'but you look beautiful' Abdul, and she shows more musical aptitude than Randy 'it sounded pitchy to me, dawg' Jackson, and she seems smart enough to keep up with Simon 'it's a no, sweetheart' Cowell. She also seems to have a little of Simon's mean streak in her, which may be why he chose her. It's rather refreshing to have a second judge on the show with intelligent opinions that she's willing to deploy. That said, I suspect a lot of people won't like her because, well, she's a pretty young woman who says what she thinks. What a bitch!
The only thing I didn't like about Kara was her insistence that Simon pronounce her name correctly. He says 'kaa-rah', with a long 'a' sound. She says it's 'kyer-uh', with a short punchy 'a' and that horrible twangy 'y'. Now, she should know, sure; but Simon is from the same part of the world as me, and we men of East Sussex, we Oriental SouSaxons, we have certain standards. Even if he were to do the short 'a' - I'm sure he would if he were saying 'Farrah Fawcett' - it still wouldn't have that vulgar 'y'. Even Northerners don't do the 'y' sound. If you're not going to debase yourself by saying it exactly right, why make the effort to go halfway? So 'kaa-rah' is it.
Kaa-rah also seems a little insecure, but that's to be expected of the new girl on a panel that's been doing this for so long that any drinking game based on their utterances would be too dangerous and expensive to play. Watching Kara's obvious disgust with bikini-girl was a pleasure, but she should never have risen to the bait when bikini-girl said she couldn't do any better.
It will surprise no-one who saw the show that my early favourite contestant is the 'roughneck' (that's 'worker on an oil rig', to you and me). He is a big scary fella, with a body made entirely of pies and hard graft (which will all turn to fat very quickly if quits his day job and become a singer), yet he has a lovely sweet blue-eyed-soul voice. And his name is Jeremy! Jeremy the singing roughneck. How adorable is that?
"Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas."
20 comments | post a comment
If you recognise that opening paragraph, then shame on you. That's the opening to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I've been reading Geoffrey Pullum's rather amusing assessments of Brown's writing over at Language Log, which extends across several entries and includes such observations as, "to call this novel formulaic is an insult to the beauty and diversity of formulae".
The following is typical of Pullum's criticisms: '[T]he president has eyes which "mirrored sincerity and dignity at all times." Dan doesn't mean mirrored in that last one, not in either of its two senses — look it up. He might have meant displayed, or perhaps even reflected, but he didn't mean "mirrored"; once again he has picked a word out of his thesaurus that he doesn't know how to use.'
(If you decide to wade into the blog entries, ignore everything after "A five-letter password for a man obsessed with Susan", as those entries wander into a dull navel-gazing consideration of someone possibly plagiarizing Pullum's work. If you're in the mood for more Dan Brown-bashing, take a look at the alarmingly extensive Wikipedia entry, 'Criticisms of The Da Vinci Code'.)
I haven't read any of Brown's writing, but I am intrigued by it, for the obvious reason; How does a writer that bad become so popular? I watched the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code the other day (because I have a Tivo and it's cold outside), so Brown was on my mind. His success is enviable, but as an aspiring writer what I envy more is his audience. I don't want to write a Booker Prize winner; I want to write yarns. I want to slum it in 'genre fiction'. I want to be a dirty, dirty potboiling slag. Like Dan Brown.
But not like Dan Brown, because I want to be able to write well. (People tell me I can, but they base their judgement on everything of mine they've read, not on everything of mine I've written. I live in perpetual fear that the next card I turn face up will be the one that exposes my bluff.) I went looking for samples of Dan Brown's writing to see if I could find something in it that would tip me off as to the cause of his popularity, since judging by the movie it had nothing to do with his plotting. What I found was Pullum, and proof that there is no rational explanation for Brown's success. His plots are messy, his writing is shocking; the best I can come up with is that he struck the zeitgeist, and his work was easy to swallow.
Still, it's useful to read criticism of Brown, and it may even be useful to read Brown himself, to see where he goes wrong. Bad writing is not only easy to do; in genre fiction it's also easy to get away with. I'd like to set my own bar a little higher.
I'm quite sure I'm capable of writing as badly as Brown. This list of Dan Brown eyebrow-isms feels all too familiar to me. My characters raise their eyebrows a lot, when they're not busy smiling or sharply taking in breath. It's a problem I still don't know how to fix. Where Pullum points out Brown's abuse of the word 'precarious' - 'precarious tone of voice'; 'her precarious body' - I find I completely understand what Brown was going for. It's not necessarily that Brown doesn't know what the word means; it's that he has tried to expand the word beyond its definition into a sort of prose poetry. Bad poetry. But it's not ignorance, it's bad judgement. I've done that quite a lot. Sometimes you can get away with it. Usually you can't.
Then there's the axiom, 'show, don't tell'. Brown is clearly guilty of a lot of telling, as in that opening paragraph; but isn't any description in a book 'telling'? I don't want to write a story entirely in dialogue and action! I've just written a scene set in Russia, where the narrative voice explains in retrospect how the characters got there from Persia, because it's necessary background but it's not the story I want to tell. Am I meant to 'show' all of that instead? I'm overstating my anguish here somewwhat; I understand (or think I understand) the principle of 'show, don't tell' - but I can still worry that I've got it wrong.
And, by the way, opening lines are a bitch. I can see how Brown fell into the trap of 'job/name/action/setting - ooh, aren't you intrigued to find out what's going on?' Wherever I start my story, I feel like I'm cheating, because inevitably it feels like you're trying to be coy and clever. "Look at me, I'm setting a scene! Where shall I start? I'll start with... a smell! Where is the smell coming from? Who is smelling it? Where are we? It's all so writerly!" What a dickbag.
The reason for all this noodling - and, see, there I am, wilfully using a word in a way that fits no known definition of the word but that makes sense in my head; to noodle is to pooter with a musical instrument, not to think meanderingly around a subject - and come to that, is it even right to write 'think meanderingly', and didn't I just use 'pooter' in the wrong sense as well? God, I'm a terrible writer. I didn't even finish the sentence at the start of this paragraph!
The reason for all this noodling is that I have thus far managed to keep to my new year's resolution, which was to write 500 words a day, not including blogging. This is working out quite well. I'm averaging about 800 words a day, which is not a lot, but for someone with absolutely no discipline as a writer it marks a substantial change in my habits. The simple fact that I'm writing every day means that I'm thinking more about my writing, and I'm feeling more writerly (more dickbag!). It's proving to be a very good thing for me. Mind you, we're not even two weeks in to the year yet, so I may be patting myself on the back too soon.
On which note, it's gone 9pm and I haven't written today's 500 words, so I should probably get on that. He said, raising his eyebrows.
The Golden Globes just happened. You can see the results here. My highlghts of the show are as follows:
7 comments | post a comment
Worst Dress of the Night: Renee Zellweger, wearing an inky ziploc freezer bag and apparently having an allergic reaction to whatever used to be in it. She always has the puffy face and squinty eyes, of course, but she looked especially drowsy tonight. To make things worse, her hairstylist had opted for a busy little nest thing that I like to call 'tête au lit'.
Surprise of the Night: Slumdog Millionaire - the little film that could. I really ought to go and see this movie, eh? I don't think anyone was predicting this to have such an extraordinary night, but it took best film, best director, best original score and best screenplay. An extraordinary result. Who could have predicted that, of all the cast of Skins, Dev Patel would be the one being catapaulted into Hollywood?
Non-Surprise of the Night: Heath Ledger winning for Dark Knight. Entirely deserved, of course, but Mirren-level predictable. (Oh, and Wall-E won best animated, of course.)
Delight of the Night: Kate Winslet winning best supporting actress and then best actress. Because I love Kate Winslet, and it's nice to see her happy, and she gives charming acceptance speeches (given the chance). You have to love Kate Winslet; she's Kate fucking Winslet. Doesn't this mean she has to get an Oscar at last? And isn't it ridiculous that she's still so young and it's already an 'at last'. Kate fucking Winslet!
Funniest Moment: Ricky Geravis (or 'Gervay', as the Americans do insist on calling him), telling Kate Winslet that he knew she'd start winning awards once she did a Holocaust movie, and bemoaning that such movies never have a gag reel on the DVD. He milked his part, but Gervais always gives great awards ceremony. (Sacha Baron Cohen, not so much.)
Weirdest Moment: Salma Hayek waxing lyrical about how beautiful she is. It took me a few seconds to realise that she was actually talking about Penelope Cruz, who is, after all, a different person. They were both in the same room at the same time, so it's definitely true. Mind you, they were never both in the same shot.
Favourite Speech: I didn't expect Colin Farrell to win Best Actor in Not A Serious Film, and I doubt he expected it either. He doesn't have the body of work; he's not overdue; he's not going to get an Oscar nod; and Brendan Gleeson was nominated in the same category for the same film. It was a deserving performance, but it was surely a long shot. Anyway, the point is, I don't know if he'd prepped a speech, and he can be a bit rotten at these things - he was chewing gum and saying stupid things during his presenter slot, and I was shaking my head in despair - but the boy done good. His scattershot acceptance speech was heartfelt and funny and showed an unexpected streak of thoughtfulness. Hated the earrings, though. Loved the waistcoat.
Other Favourite Speech: Kate fucking Winslet, both times.
Disappointment of the Night: Sean Penn not winning Best Actor in a Serious Film for his portrayal of Harvey Milk in Milk. Mickey Rourke winning has that sense of rewarding an old dog, even though Rourke doesn't really have a history of great and credible performances behind him, but having seen Milk just last night and been moved, devastated and amazed by Penn's transformational and humane performance, I was really hoping he'd get the recognition, and it was not to be.
BBC News Story of the Night: 'British people win lots of awards'. The BBC story is always 'how many awards did Britons win?' This year the answer is 'lots'. Sally Hawkins, Tom Wilkinson, Kate Winslet (twice), Slumdog Millionare (several times); that's lots. Colin Farrell isn't ours, but everyone thinks he is, so we'll claim that one as well. And Paul Giamatti. He's a character actor, he must be British.
Wow. Cleveland City Council created a 'non-binding registry of domestic partnerships'. What this does is, it allows couples, both gay and straight, to 'non-bindingly register' the existence of their domestic partnerships. Beyond that, it doesn't really do anything at all. Even so, a group called United Pastors in Mission tried to block the move because, and I quote, "that lifestyle goes against God". They meant the gay lifestyle, in case you're wondering. So, what are we saying here, reverends? Now those perfidious gays are redefining the meaning of non-binding registries of domestic partnerships? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? If there was any doubt left that these Christian crusades had anything to do with protecting faith rather than hating others, this just put the nail in that coffin.
13 comments | post a comment
By the way, I'd just like to thank Barack Obama once again for reaching out to these people. If he weren't sending the message that hate is an acceptable part of modern political discourse, who knows what they'd think?
( Results of the bastardised movie names/cryptic clues/terrible puns/not-sure-what-the-name-of-it-is gameCollapse )
post a comment
Name that bastard film!
37 comments | post a comment
1. Sexually repressed Natalie Wood bursts a packet of sweetener all over the front lawn
2. Barbra Streisand plays a Spanish surrealist painter in Yonkers
3. Young Helena Bonham Carter can just about see through the sleepydust
4. The story of a boy abandoned in Rupert Murdoch's tabloid kingdom
5. The people of Cwm Rhondda sing 'Take Me To The River'
6. A misanthropic romance novelist learns about love from the God of Thunder
7. Ingmar Bergman's tale of a meeting between an outrageous TV chef and the conqueror of the known world
9. Presidential private secretary, presidential private secretary, make me a match
10. Native peoples of Rwanda, dresed up as a woman
11. Blind pianist unionises a cotton factory
12. Frozen food spokeswoman is frustrated by her marriage to a closet homosexual
ETA: All have now been guessed, so check the comments for the answers!
Snakes on a Plane! But the snakes are sharks and the plane is Venice! With a weird Da Vinci Code/Last Crusade treasure-hunting plot bolted on! Starring Alec Baldwin's brother and Scarlett Johansson's sister!
You've got to love a trailer that has sharks leaping out of the water and sneaking up wells, and people being threatened with buzz saws and gored by iron gates, yet it spares a second to show us a woman being slapped across the face, because that's human drama. We also get to see noted homophobe Stephen Baldwin doing his very best seething. The man is an acting phenomenon.
I will say this for Sharks On A Venice; dreadful shark special effects have come along way since John Barrowman's 2002 movie Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. Really; some of these post-production superimposed sharks are almost at the right angle! Almost!
4 comments | post a comment
One of the advantages of being in North America is that I have increased access to terrible, terrible reality shows. Take, for example, True Beauty, which is as shallow as they come, but offers up a transparent self-justifying twist in a bid for credibility.
3 comments | post a comment
The concept sees ten beautiful people compete in various challenges to see which of them is the most beautiful. The twist is that there are also 'secret' tests of their 'inner beauty'. You can't win by being rilly rilly good-looking; you have to be nice as well. Will they hold a door open for a man carrying coffees? How will they react when a waiter knocks a chocolate fountain over their shoes? Will they sneak a peek at someone else's medical files? In such ways a person's true worth is measured!
The tests are banal, but it's an appealing premise - a premise appealing to terrible instincts. We all know that beautiful people are horrible, right? It's what allows us to feel better about our own unspectacular looks.
And indeed, the contestants are reliably spoilt and vicious, but the show doesn't exactly plumb their depth or challenge their powers of reason. In what may be an early contender for TV's lowest point of the year, a scientist (a real one!) claims he's devised a formula that can rate everyone's beauty on a scale of 1 to 100. One of the least-dim contestants (a self-professed 'former fat kid') challenges the idea that beauty can be measured, to which judge Cheryl Tiegs responds, 'this is scientific; he's an expert'. Yes, it's science. It's fact. You can't argue with a scientific formulae, bitches! (Tiegs is billed as 'America's first supermodel'. Janice Dickinson will tear her eyes out.)
So is this the stupidest TV show on television, or does that honour go to MTV's Bromance?
Bromance is a heterosexual man-on-man dating show, where several guys compete to be the new best friend of Brody Jenner. The two questions that immediately spring to mind are, how does one 'compete' to be someone's friend, and who the living hell is Brody Jenner?
The answer to the first question is, 'by building a raft out of blow-up dolls and rolling down a hill in a La-Z-Boy'. It's obvious, really. All my friends have done these things for me. The answer to the second question is, he's a 'socialite' and reality soap star. There is indeed such a thing as a reality soap now, and they have stars. Jenner looks like a Ken doll, but without Ken's hard edge and sexual allure. He's actually so witless and innocuous that he's not even half the twat he ought to be.
None of the men competing to be Brody's brofriend are gay - there was one gay contestant, but he found the atmosphere too fratboy - but the show does feature a lot of weeping, hot-tub sharing and professions of 'I love you man'. The very concept of the bromance conjures interesting questions about the nature of male-male love and the spectrum of sexuality. A reality show may not be the place to explore these issues. But it's not as stupid as True Beauty.
Incidentally, the show's concept was in part devised by Ryan Seacrest, and he definitely wants to be Brody Jenner's friend.
Finally, the granddaddy of trash reality has started a new season; The Real World. If you'te a Briton of a certain age, you may be surprised to learn that The Real World is still going. I thought it ended after the San Francisco season, but no, it's kept on going for the past seventeen years and is now embarking on its 21st season!
Anyone who watched the San Francisco season may have fond memories of the show for its progressive inclusion of a gay man dying from AIDS. It was genuinely groundbreaking and hugely compelling. Anyone unlucky enough to have seen it since may be less forgiving of the show.
The new season, Brooklyn, is being hailed as a return to form. It does seem to have brought together some interesting characters, including an Iraq war vet (who is a bit of a douche), a Mormon who is being presented as a bit of a closet case (and a bit of a douche), and the show's first ever transgender housemate.
At the moment the vet and the Mormon are both talking about the transgender woman, Katelynn, with obvious contempt - one of them even refers to her as 'it' - but I hope that their exposure to Katelynn will do as much to challenge their and audience attitudes as Pedro did in the 90s. The show has the potential for real relevance, if handled decently.
Katelynn looks like she'll have some support in the house, especially from gay dolphin trainer JD (he trains gay dolphins! No, not really). I'm more worried about Chet the Mormon, who insists he isn't gay. They ran a montage at the end of the episode of him complimenting the other guys on their abs, legs and shapely eyebrows. Now, he says he's saving himself for marriage - fair enough; not all Mormons are repressed homosexuals. Only 99% of them, maybe. But this guy seems pretty deep in denial. "Being metrosexual is not a sin", he mentions at one point. As opposed to what, Chet?
Paterson Joseph must have had a bloody awful couple of days, with everyone he knows ringing him up and saying, 'Hey, P-Joy (because I'm pretty sure they all call him P-Joy); congrats on the new role. Oh, I know you have to tell everyone it's not you, but come on, you can tell me the truth, can't you? Great news, man! What's that noise? Are you crying?'
8 comments | post a comment
(No one is phoning up Chiwetel Ejiofor saying, 'Hey, Chewy Edge, great news', because Chewy Edge is a serious actor. He's probably in a cabin somewhere learning all the roles in King Lear just in case.)
By the way, a friend tipped me that it would almost definitely be Paterson Joseph, so I had money riding on it - and I'm still relieved it isn't. Matt Smith is officially a better choice than Paterson Joseph from a watchability point of view.
He's not a good choice from a fan-pleasing point of view, that's quickly becoming apparent, and I'm not sure how the BBC missed that. I think they were thinking, 'You all loved the last pale skinny young unknown actor we cast in the role; wait until you see how much paler, skinnier, younger and more unknown this new guy is! We really ticked those boxes! Go us!' At least James Nesbitt would have only upset 75% of everyone.
The more serious objection, of course, is that we'd all been primed for Whobama, the first black Doctor. How did that rumour get out? Was there any actual fire behind that smoke? A black Doctor would have been pretty awesome and, you know, different. Matt Smith? Not very different. As not very different as they come, really. Very much like the last fella, only less so. The BBC had the chance to be bold and they blinked. Now Matt Smith gets to be the guy who replaces the most beloved Doctor Who of all time and the guy who got picked over a ground-breaking piece of casting, and he doesn't have any pre-existing fanbase. Is it any surprise that people are throwing a strop? None of which is Matt Smith's fault, of course, poor kid. Poor ickle wickle pootie-wootie Matty-Watty Smiff.
And, see, there's the other problem. The eleventh incarnation of the worldly-wise war-worn occasionally godlike last of the Time Lords? That? It's First Year Medical Student Who. I'm not ruling out the possibility that he could surprise me with his gravitas and old soul - the kid's a good actor - but it would be a surprise. And I seemingly can't stop referring to him as 'the kid', and I still think that I'm eighteen. If they'd cast him as the effluent Who grown out of the Doctor's hand at the end of last season, I think I could have believed it.
On which note, it amuses me greatly that one of the main responses to the casting has been to say how ugly he is - unless you're a straight guy! I've seen so many straight guys saying, 'typical, another bloody pretty boy'. Oh, straight boys; you're really not very good at this, are you? On the scale from pretty to interesting, Matt Smith is absolutely fascinating. And it's funny how we never hear a peep from you when pretty girls get cast in TV shows, eh? 'Another one with perky boobs? Man, I'm so sick of all the nice boobs on TV.'
By the way, didn't they already do the storyline where David Tennant gets turned into an unremarkable nobody called Smith? God, Moffatt; derivative much?
So, yesterday I said "if that's true it'll be the very definition of a damp squib", and today, lo, it was true. Way to go, BBC, you berks! Fandom will destroy you! If they were going to cast badly, they should have cast Paterson Joseph, and if they were going to cast well they should have cast Chiwetel Ejiofor. Time for a black Doctor? Oh no, let's go with some scrawny twelve-year-old with a head like a cotton bud. If they were going to go that way then Harry Lloyd was right there.
10 comments | post a comment
Don't get me wrong; I like Party Animals a lot, and I liked whatsisname in it, but I don't see this 'Doctor-ness' the producers claim they saw in him, so I'm sceptical. He's not just young, he's young-seeming. As I also said yesterday; That kid? Who are they going to cast as his companion? Peaches Geldof?
The BBC reports that the identity of the eleventh Doctor Who will be announced tomorrow on Doctor Who Confidential. OooOOOoooh. Speculation ( under the cutCollapse )
12 comments | post a comment
This is a repost, as apparently the images weren't working before. Thanks LJ! It's my annual Men of the Year list - one of the only lists of its kind that Barack Obama isn't going to win. As ever, the list consists of the finest totty to make a splash in the past twelve months. The previous winners were Gethin Jones, Daniel Craig, Ray Stevenson, Colin Farrell and Craig Doyle. Obviously it's a very prestigious prize. No, Zac Efron, you can't have it. Not yours.
15 comments | post a comment
( Presenting: MOTY'08Collapse )
Favourite Games of the Year
2 comments | post a comment
4. Fable II, XBox 360
Equal parts frustrating and addictive. The fights are fun, but there is such a thing as taking an immersive world too far. Do I really want to play a game where I have to worry about my looks and my relationships and take on dull, monotonous jobs in order to pay the rent? Apparently I do.
3. Wii Fit, Wii
Naturally everyone who buys it gives up on it after about three months, but that's because people are crap, not because of the game, which surely represents a remarkable seachange in what we use gaming for. I was noticing real results from my Wii Fit use at the point where I moronically allowed myself to fall out of the habit of using it!
2. Mario Kart, Wii
I'm terrible at racing games, which I blame on the fact that the controls are always rubbish. Mario Kart works because turning the wheel left takes you left and turning the wheel right turns it right - clever, eh? And it's cute, original, and the wheel is wireless! It's a racing game I actually enjoy! But it needs more levels.
1. Little Big Planet, PS3
I've only played this once, but I fell in love with it that one time. Yes the sackboy characters are adorable, but the brilliant thing about the game is the user generated levels; it's a game that, in theory, never gets old. And that one time I played it was at a party, by the way, which is a sign of how things are changing; playing video games at a party is no longer rude; it now is the party, especially when a game is not just fun to play, but fun to watch. Playing this in multi-player mode had the whole room in stiches.
Favourite TV of the Year
5. Mad Men
In 2008 I saw the 2007 season, so I'm actually a year behind on this cold, stiff, dry martini of a show, but I look forward to catching up. The premise - a look at the lives of 1960s advertising execs - is hardly compelling, but using the shifting cultural sands of the era to hold up a mirror to modern mores makes this one of the smartest shows around.
The fourth season of the show was about as radical a retooling as a show can have and still hold on to its cast, and as much as it stretches credibility for the drug-dealing suburban housewife to get in as deep as Nancy Botwin has, the new direction has kept the drama fresh.
3. Burn Notice
A suave spy gets burned in Miami and turns into a latter day Rockford. Saturday afternoon action TV lives again!
2. The Rachel Maddow Show
In a year when US politics was the most exciting drama on TV, Maddow was the go-to pundit for liberals looking for a voice of reason. Yes, she's snarky and sarcastic. She's also smart, sharp and funny and helps make the world a little less agonising.
Cute boys. Evil monsters. Increasingly smart scripts. The only show I can name that gets better every season, and the show I most look forward to watching every week. This is the sort of entertainment that TV was made for.
Favourite Albums of the Year
5. Let It Go, Will Young
With 2005's excellent Keep On, our Will demonstrated that Friday's Child was not a fluke. With Let It Go he officially has an oeuvre, a body of smooth, soulful, easy listening pop songs of ever increasing gayness. There are now enough Will Young songs for an entire dinner party!
4. I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, Martha Wainwright
Folk princess Martha is turning into a bit of a siren temptress judging by the title and cover of this year's album, but she's still more Joni than Marlene with this collection of mature, weighty folk torch songs.
3. Alive and Screaming, Jake Walden
Walden is about as unknown as they come; I heard of him because Out magazine promoted him and two other artists as part of a gay music tour. Of the three, he's the one that stuck. Walden has a voice you really wouldn't expect from a skinny gay boy; a yearning emotional growl that delivers raw, heartfelt, romantic folk. He deserves to be much better known.
2. Acid Tongue, Jenny Lewis
I spent most of this year listening over and over to Lewis' excellent Rabbit Fur Coat, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a follow-up in the same American gothic vein. The nine minute Next Messiah is as good a short story as you'll hear, and anthemic rapture See Fernando is one of my favourite songs of the year.
1. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
I don't even remember how or why I ended up downloading this album, I just know that it found its way onto my iTunes shuffle, and every time one of the tracks came up I had to pause and let it wash over me. Gorgeous, glorious, soft and sweeping harmonies that give balladry a good name.