Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Soho alleys

For almost one year now I have been tramping the streets of Soho to and from my offices as part of my daily commute, about as far removed from my original walk out of Pimlico tube station as possible.

I’ve seen celebrities, arty, media idiots dressed like a hurricane in a clothing store, all manner of drunkenness and was once even stunned to be offered “live show darlin?” by a woman behind a glass counter in a Soho alley as I walked back to the office before midday.

This week, three walks to the tube have led to three incidents that sum up this mad collection of side streets in central London. Firstly, I saw three men leaving a side door on a street, where they were immediately approached by two men in plain clothes, who then flashed police ID at them and proceeded to ask them what items they had on their persons. I lingered for as long as I could but didn’t get to find out what happened. It was a surreal moment, though, given how much of just this sort of thing I have been watching on DVD as I finally watch The Wire (see below).

Then, yesterday, two drunk guys were shouting at each other over the cost of some bar / strip joint they’d been in, clearly one was not as prepared as the other to pay “this f**king money” any more.

Today, I saw an elderly gentlemen leave a bar on one side of a road and saunter, a touch wobbly, over toward The Great Windmill Club where he proceed to casually study the menu/information board thing outside, as busy meeja types strolled by, somewhat amused by this.

Great stuff.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Wire

I am finally watching The Wire.

I know, I know, I am only five years behind the curve, but, in my defence your honours, I was always wary of watching such a well received show on the variously poor TVs I have owned. I now live with a good friend who has an excellent TV and together we have made a pact to watch the show, and we are now just embarking on season two.

There isn't much I can say, I think, from what has probably been written about the show already but 100 journalists and more, mostly from The Guardian (har har) but it is one of the most engrossing shows I've ever seen in the way it slowly, subtly, pulls out threads and strands of plotlines over sprawling, hour long episodes.

Also, some of the scenes are so much like a cut-scene in Grand Theft Auto it's uncanny; the music, the camera angles, the dialogue all match up perfectly.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Diary keeping

I read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole recently, something of an oversight from childhood not to have read it, or if I have read it, I don't remember reading it.

It's a funny book, and one that is probably enjoyed equally as an adult or a child due to some of the subtle jokes and throw away lines that exist within in. I particularly liked the line where Moley holds of buying a wedding present for an elderly couple set to get married given their extreme ages.

I also particularly like his poetry in the diary and it's quite a feat by Townsend to be able to write poetry that is bad, yet funny, while sort of good in a perverse way, and yet make it utterly believable as a 13-year-old boys work:

I adore ya.
I implore ye.
Don't ignore me


There are some bits that don't make sense, unless I really missed something along the way, but Mole reads War and Peace in two days and many other complex, long novels in equally short spaces of time. He also seems to be able to update his diary almost in real-time sometimes, which is an impressive feat.

Blogging is a bit like diary keeping, but also, not at all like it.

Worse luck. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Stand up comedians

I finished Stewart Lee's new book this week, How I Escaped my Certain Fate, and it was a very interesting, informative read from the 41st best standup comedian ever, 3!

Following his progress from up-and-coming star on TV and stage, to despair with the profession, back to his triumphant return to comedy (said in best Krusty the Clown voice), the book contained the three transcripts from each of Lee's three most recent stand up shows, with footnotes littered throughout explaining the origins of certains jokes, references being made, or asides to other comedians.

This was the most interesting aspect of the book, hearing Lee explain in detail, often over a page in small, footnotey font (why is footnote font so small?), about his time working with Harry Hill and Robin Day, or explaining that he bought a certain joke from another comedian to help lighten the mood of his otherwise often long-winded affairs.

Reading his scripts without knowing the delivery would give you no clue as to how funny Lee can be, the way he repeats jokes over and over again, with changes throughout perhaps, to build laughter from what could be awkward repetition. Or that, as Lee admits, sometimes is just awkwardness and the audience fails to get the delivery and therefore the jokes.

A final point on the book I found interesting, was Lee's choice of introduction music for his shows.
For each one he used piece of jazz to help him identify, or even turnaway, potential troublemakers: "If they can't handle the music, they probably won't like the show" is Lee's (paraphrased) rationale behind this and certainly one that seems to make a lot of sense.

Overall then, if you're a fan of the man and want to know more about the thought processes behind his shows and the world of interesting, clever, thought-provoking comedy, this book is one for you.

I give it 41/100.

Friday, September 03, 2010


This clip of Neville Chamberlain announcing war between Germany and the United Kingdom in 1939, some 71 years ago, is very moving, profound and interesting. Worth a long listen to for such lines as, "Hitler would not have it" "I know you will all play your part with calmness and courage", and of course, "this country is at war with Germany".