Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

2009 not the decayed

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Seeing as everyone else is at it I thought I’d try and do a list of my bestest movies, music etc from the last ten years. However, I cast my mind back to the shiny post-grad student with nothing but hopes and great things ahead I was at the turn of the millennium. And, TBH, by the time I’d got to how all of that had turned to shit by the end of 2001 I decided it would be inadvisable to continue wandering down that memory lane.

So, instead, in alphabetical order, here are my things of 2009:

Brew Dog beers
Brew Dog brewery up in coldest Aberdeenshire are currently by far the most interesting beer producer in the country.

After initially dismissing the stuff as Aspecto-shopper chic bottles, it was when the local supermarket began stocking the excellent Imperial Stout Rip Tide. This became the beer of choice when we hit the supermarket.

Back in August we went to a food fair and were introbduced to Paradox definitely the taste of 2009 for me. Brilliantly over the year we’ve manged to taste the Arran, Springbank and (like Sy Bernard as part of an awful 3 hour journey home) Smokehead. I must try these malts now…

The summer tasted quite substantially of icy cold Punk IPA, just a fine everyday tasty beer. There was a brilliant blip where Asda got a box of the Hardcore variation by mistake. I reckon we mananged to get about 2/3 of the lot that was there (assuming one box). It’s crazy hoppt and just awesome.

We were pleased to find Trashy Blond on draught during the Edinburgh Festival. And have dabbled in a few of their other products, especially The Physics and splendid dark lager Zeitgeist. (In a drunken moment of weakness I even bought a share in the company.) Brilliantly we’ve merely scratched the surface.

Unfortunately the Tactical Nuclear Penguin I ordered didn’t manage to get bottled and delivered in time for Xmas. So, I’ll be in Colorado before it turns up and it’ll be next year before I get to drink it. Shame, it would’ve been a good ending to the Brew Dog part of the year.

The Coen Brothers
In a year I largely missed the film I wanted to catch A Serious Man was at least I fine example of what I hoped I was missing. Reminiscent of Ethan’s short story book, it’s a film that largely said nothing but all-is-shit. But, made me howl with laughter and keeps coming back for consideration.

No, I have no answers about it, but that’s whay it was so genius.

Richard Herring (& Andrew Collings)
It must have been last year I started listening to The Collings & Herrin Podcast, I can’t be sure. There was such an intense catching up period. Alongside Smodcast it’s become he one I look forward to the most.

As a result, I’ve started to enjoy Herring’s daily blog Warming Up. I enjoyed the description of the process of getting a comedy show together so much I had to go see Hitler Moustache at the Festival. And, seeing as I was doing that I caught the live podcast. All brill.

Then he did As It Occurs To Me, a live show written in the few hours before performance and performed as such. It was then podcast. It made me laugh out loud on the bus a few times – surely the benchmark for all audio comedy. I’m hoping to make the next series live show; despite the fact sending the money I would spend getting there would probably benefit the production more. I now have a serious crush on TV’s Emma Kennedy.

Also looking forward to see how the ‘tache show’s changed at the Glasgow Comedy Festival.

Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School Of Medicine
I got to see Jello Biafra sing Holiday In Cambodia live in the all-too ample flesh. The gig in Bristol was worth the angst and extra expense it took to get there several time over. The ‘original’ stuff was, at points, almost better. Subsequent album The Audacity Of Hype gets mentioned for being essential to keep us on our toes. And, it has the cover of the year by a mile.

Law & Order
We got Law & Order UK and I really liked it. This got me thinking about the original series, which – to me – was something that turned up late at night and you caught one or two episodes. So, I decided to start watching the original and all it’s subsequent offshoots, in order. I’m currently at 2001 (eleven years in) with three flavours running in parallel.

I love a cop show. If you want to buy me enough beer I’ll explain to you how The Bill jumped the shark when it lost the half hour format, and killed itself with Don Beech – no matter how thrilling that was.

David Peace
I read barely anything this year. This makes me sad.

I wanted to read Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace.

Thankfully this seemed to be his year. The Red Riding Trilogy on TV was being advertised in cinemas. The Damned United was storming the critics and filmgoers. I’ve still not seen the latter. The former, was fantastic. Despite the fact it suffered a bit heavily from us being told it was dead good, and the who’s who cast, was very good TV. It could’ve been the best telly of this year. It was never up with the best ever, however.

Took me 6 months to read thart book. But, if I’m honest, I opened it at most six times. So when I was reading it I was feverish with it. I just avoided doing this very often.

I need to read more. Including more of his stuff.

The Phantom Band
Ah, here lies the beast. I first saw The Phantom Band couple of years back at a estival. Despite having thoroughly enjoyed them, they kinda fell off my register. This year they releases their debut album Checkmate Savage. I heard good things and decided to investigate.

I liked it very much, but found nothing exceptionable about it. I found myself returning time and time again, getting more, feeling depths and generally being subsumed by it. By the time I was going to see them at the Festival, I was convinced this was one of the most important (and best) albums I’d ever heard. It’s a record that could only come out of Glasgow. Romantic, but rooted in the industrial. Yet, still so heavily redolent of the west-coast it’s scary. Stunning stuff.

The gig in Edinburgh was cramped but great. The following Glasgow gig blew me away. The one a couple of weeks back, as xmas celebration, was near devotional. Wow.

As an aside, the caught the lead singer doing his solo Rick Redbeard thing. Was baffled by the ‘completely different from the Phantoms’ comments I got. It’s not it’s totally symbiotic to what I’m trying not to get too flowery conveying.

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club european tour
What can I say? some friends came over from the states. Within 48 hours one had a broken arm, we’d been to Edinburgh and Argyll & Bute. I was sat in Sleazys talking to one of Trail Of The Dead and feeling the happiest I have done for christ knows how long. This was before the continantal leg involving absinthe in Brussells, the warmth or ‘parisienne arabes’ to americans and my first surreal visit to Switzerland and it’s beautiful people (and a couple of Austrians).

Memories. Ones I should’ve detailed at the time, but I’m keeeping just now.

Oh, and all soundtracked by the TOO AMERICAN TOO LOUD Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Who I spent New Year with and shall do again in a couple of days.

The Thick of It
So early in the year In The Loop turned up. Basically Armando Iannucci‘s calling card to HBO. It’s very funny, and quite disturbing. But, there’s something not quite right about it. Which is basically the crowbar technique of moving the action to the States. It has one joke that made me laugh so loud I was nearly embarassed, if you’ve seen it I might tell you which. Also, it made the entire Scots contingent in the Curzon, soho cheer very loudly. Again…

Where was the telly series that spawned it going to go from there? (Let’s not mention the loss of the excellent Chris Langham.) What they did….OMG!

Not only did they have they make the astounding choice of Rebecca Front as the new minister, but they sneaked one of the most heartstopping storylines about Malcolm Tucker.

I do not have a TV. If there has been any finer this year than this I’ve missed it. However, I am quite willing to put this series among the best telly ever.

Thank fuck they dropped that Jamie character.

Twitter
As part of my job I had to look into Twitter. I looked, I didn’t like and I very much didn’t understand.

Nope, still not getting it.

Nope, still not getting it.

Oh, right!

Got it now.

The fact I can send a drunken text to no-one is the best thing ever. My friends agree.

I love it now.

Don’t make me ‘investigate’ Facebook, please.

I suppose malt whisky should be in there too, as this year I developed an appreciation that may well be ruinous.

Here’s to the new year; lord knows it can’t be any worse than the last one. Just a shame I can say that about the decade to. See, I am just an optimist.

Anyone that gets back to me on genuine typos, I’ll despise (but possibly amend them). Words that should’ve been picked up by spellckeck, but are actual words, have their own circle in hell for the pedants.

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Release you’re inner fogey!

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Nice piece by David Mitchell in today’s Observer:

One of the fastest growing areas in our economy in the years leading up to the crunch was the selling of crap to twats.

Jeez, this man’s younger than me :-/

Also, am I the only one that keeps getting him confused with the author of Cloud Atlas? Obviously, not when actually reading/listening/watching him but when I hear reference to him turning up on something or (as here) writing a column.

Written by Tony Kiernan

08 March 2009 at 10:15 am

“Still got the hairy arse?”

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Courtesy of Graham Linehan‘s quite interesting blog, a link to a Q&A session at this years Tedfest.

And, if even the mention of Dermot Morgan doesn’t reduce you to a sniveling wreck, you have no soul.

Written by Tony Kiernan

04 March 2008 at 1:05 pm

2007

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The last two years, I’ve gone for a top ten things of the year type summing up. This year, I’m not going to. There are two reasons for this: I would really end up just repeating a lot of what I said those two years and, tbh, it was a strange year for stuff as I’ll hopefully explain. Let’s start with:

Books

As ever, I didn’t really read many ‘new’ books. I don’t mean that in any oh, I only read the classics type way, but that I’m not one for rushing out to pick up the hardback of something. With a few exceptions and this year it’s been old faithfuls Rankin and Brookmyre, both of whom turned out works of the standard you would expect without trumping some of their earlier works. The best thing I read that was published (over here at least) this year was Joseph Wambaugh‘s Hollywood Station. A series of police procedural vignettes that snowball into one of the tensest edge of the seat finales ever. Structural gold.

A special mention, though, for Cormac McCarthy‘s No Country For Old Men. Although two years old, I only got to it earlier this year. Largely this was due to recommendations on the back of my raving about The Road, but when I found out it was the new Coen Brothers movie (more of which later) I was right in there. Sheer genius. I can’t work out where I lost touch with McCarthy’s work, but feel I really must go back and redo it. I remember All The Pretty Horses being a great big slap in the face at the time.

Film

Look at any list of the movies of the year and you’ll more than likely be looking at a list of films I really wanted to see but somehow, despite my unlimited pass and walking past the cinema every day, managed to completely fail to catch (hello The Lives Of Others, Michael Clayton, Control, 3:10 To Yuma, both Grindhouse parts…). I did manage to catch some fairly decent stuff. But, among the usual more ‘interesting’ selection, it’s three relatively major films that have stuck in the memory the most. First up, of course, the Bourne ultimatum, a flat-out object lesson in how to make a thriller. After all the praise heaped on Casino Royale, director Paul Greengrass didn’t even break a sweat as he insisted no, this is how to do it. Simon Pegg and chums did it again (better, IMO) with the very funny Hot Fuzz. Nice to know proper comedies can still get made. And, french thriller Tell No One made me feel like an real adult moviegoer. (As did the rather excellent Zodiac, actually.)

So, lot’s of good stuff, but nothing that completely blew me away. Although, while in Colorado the other week I did go catch No Country For Old Men. But, when I saw it my body thought it was 7am and I’d been awake for around 23 hours. As a result, I kept nodding off and missed about a third of it (in patches). So, can I really class it as a film I saw last year? I don’t think so. But, I will say that I still intend to be stood outside the cinema on the 18th with my nose pressed up against the door waiting for it to open. Oh yeah…

Music

Which brings me to the real repetition bit I’m trying to avoid. Cathal Coughlan had two monumental performances and a pair of reissues this year. I once more made the trip to the US for New Year with Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. The three gigs were awesome, and the new album will be along in March. The
Spookey girls gave us three kick ass (as usual) gigs (one Brighton, two Glasgow – didn’t get round to blogging that, been so remiss this year) and the new and great Cheeky Girl ep. So, by sheer dint of giving us a new record, they’d have got the number one spot under the ‘old’ system. honourable mention goes to The Supersuckers for finally being back in the country. The venue killed them in Glasgow, but they were ginormous in Brum.

I finally get to see Electrelane and am very much enjoying their No Shouts, No Calls album when they announce they are splitting. Bummer. I completely failed to see The Future Of The Left but love the album Curses. And, The Just Joans slipped their second release out towards the end of the year. More brilliance, any fears I may have had about them keeping it up are completely unfounded.

It was also a year of festivals for me. Ranging from the camping in mud and latrine spirit type all the way to the very effete All Tomorrow’s Parties where you have walls and a shower ‘n’ ting.

And, Julian Cope wasn’t playing at all of them. But, how was his year. Well, the metal trio are getting tighter and beginning to seem like a proper band instead of a grossly misdirected conceit. He put out an album where the production quality seemed inversely proportional to the songwriting quality (it sounds like turd). He continued to dress like a fascist, and a lot of his political ranting seemed to suit that. The usual frustrations, then.

Whither my forays into the classical? This year that amounted to the wonderful Proms In The Park, again, and my first opera. It was a big brash (the posters boasted “live horses!”) populist version of Carmen. And, I loved it! There’ll definitely be more of that next year.

There were other gigs, and other records. Some were/are excellent. But, it was still a very meh year all in.

Some other stuff

Podcasts have still been floating my boat. Two top ones for this year would be Mark Kermode’s Film Reviews from 5Live. Although, sometimes dangerous while sat at work as I do have a tendency to snarl and shout “moron” throughout. And, Smodcast which is basically everything you ever wanted to know about the sex life of movie director Kevin Smith and then some. Childish and puerile but often hilarious, and better than anything you’ll see with Judd Apatow‘s name on it.

Another highlight for me would have to be discovering that Mark Steel‘s columns are no longer pay-to-view at the Indy.

For the first time ever I felt like going to a Catholic Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Because it would have been worth it to yell during the sermon: “It’s one thing tolerating the Inquisition and the Mafia and an assortment of paedophiles, but surely even YOU draw the line at Blair.”

Also, 2007 will have to go down in (my personal) history as the first time I did not vote. I realised that there was no party I had any faith in for the Holyrood elections and the independent I was going to vote for on the council didn’t reply to my email asking for clarification on a point of policy. So, no-one. The irony is I was berated for this and told I should have at least gone down and spoilt my paper. (For future reference, if any political party wants my vote, come up with a policy (smug git tax?) that’ll have John Sessions promising to leave the country if you get in.)

Written by Tony Kiernan

07 January 2008 at 10:48 pm

“We just ain’t a gonna pay no toll”

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Remember this news story? In 1992, 29,000 bath toys fell of the back of a ship in the Pacific ocean. And, from the off, the boffins were climbing over each other to get the funding bids in to study just what the ebb and flow of the little plastic bobbins could tell us about the way the oceans work. When I first heard that Christopher Brookmyre‘s new novel was going to be called Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks, I was intrigued as to how he was going to use this.

Transpires that he’s actually alluding to a term used by The Amazing Randi to describe the way in which those that believe or deal in the paranormal will continually bob back with another argument as each of theirs is blown out the water. So to speak.

Basically, Jack’s back (Parlabane that is) and through a really convoluted (and possibly massaged) set of circumstances he finds himself rector of a university not unlike Glasgow. A further set of convoluted (and definitely manufactured) circumstances leaves him the official sceptic observer at a scientific study into paranormal activity and psychic power. This of course leads to a tale of deceit, murder and sleakit wee jobbies.

Brookmyre is angry about the creep of religion as a pseudo-science into our lives. From the flatnoses refusing blood transfusions for their kids through to the insidious creep of the neo-con case for teaching intelligent design in schools. But, most of all, he’s bloody livid at the rat-bastard psychics feeding off others misery and loss. And, rightly so. He’s done his research, and boy does he want you to know about it. I’ve always maintained that Brookmyre’s style is (to be kind) deeply inelegant. But, you don’t really read him for his prose. As time has gone on, his style has improved, but inversely proportional to the level of satire in his books. As I’ve said, he’s angry with this one. So, all technical advances go out the window. Worst of all are the Dan Brown-esque tracts of leaden I-read-it-in-a-book exposition. I realise that it needs to be driven home to the rubber ducks just how devious these folk are, but c’mon, how many of them are likely to be reading? I know there are morons the world over convinced that the Da Vinci Code is true, but I don’t really see anyone reading this hand having an internal dialogue about whether his points about cold reading may be true in some cases but… Personally, I can’t help thinking that if your interested in just how crap this twaddle is, you would actually do better to find a torrent of the podcasts from Penn Radio. James Randi (to whom this book is co-dedicated) was a regular guest, along with many other sceptics, atheist and just plain old conjurers.

Of course, it’s all great fun. With the odd stumble it’s still a bit of a rollicking read with some genuine moments of hilarity and many more of hearty chortling. There’s even a passage about Gabriel Lafayette, the central psychic, plying his trade to a meeting of students, where it is genuinely moving the way in which the events appear to play out. I just think he let the idea of presenting an un-unsinkable-able argument and took his eye of the actual writing for longer than before.

Talking of Penn & Teller, they used to do a bit of a séance act. Throughout the radio show Jillette always told of how they had to stop becasue they felt so crummy about messing with people’s emotions that way – despite making it clear it was all trickery at the start. He’s tell of people coming up to them after watrds and saying “I know you have to say it’s not real, but you can tell me…” On this side of the pond, we have Derren Brown doing similar. Not just with his, scare-some-students, Séance show, but considerably more alarmingly with the cold reading spiritualist section of his Messiah
programme: Wherein he went to the states and converted atheists, duped new age numpties and all by sleight of hand (erm…) with the caveat that if any of the witch-doctors verifying his powers had asked him was it fake he’d have answered in the affirmative. To be honest, Penn & Teller’s ‘crummy’ really doesn’t do justice to the way this stuff messes with peoples minds and emotions. And, evil though we know Brown is, it’s impossible to stop watching (and he assures us that everyone’s deprogrammed or debriefed or something).

Derren Brown actually turned up the other week on Enemies Of Reason; Richard Dawkins‘ (the other dedicatee of the book, and a guerst on Penn Radio – I’m telling you it’s a one stop resource, shame it’s not on anymore) latest TV outing. In which he basically argued that the refusal of faith healers, dowsers and spiritualists to accept scientific evidence (or the need for it on their part) is not just harmless fun, but downright dangerous. The creeping of faith schools and intelligent design… Ah, full circle. What I found most remarkable about he show was the fact that he cracked a smile on two (count ’em) occasions throughout it. Halle-bloody-lujah! This man is married to Romana. He hangs/hung out with Stephen Fry and Douglas Adams. He uses a Mac. Ted Haggard chased him out a car park shouting “he called my children monkeys”. Which, if not funny enough in itself, becomes hilarious in light of the methamphetamine. and massage parlour story that led to him being defrocked. Not even on snigger. He might be the smartest Darwinist around, but he isn’t half one dour-faced git.

In fact when that show aired Mark Steel wrote a column about there being a modern brand of militant atheist that can appear horribly smug and superior and makes a very good point that we should really look to the underlying rasons behind supposedly religious schisms.

For example, the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland was evidently about more than that. When Loyalists chucked stones into a Catholic estate they weren’t thinking, “Transubstantiation my arse.”

Something the militant atheists should bare in mind.

If you start from the point of view that all religion is nutty, you’ve got nothing more to say to a Muslim than, “How can a mountain move, you idiot?”

Unfortunately I think he’s talking about me. I’ve no problem with people having religion. It’s the tax exemption, segregated schools and political leaders seeking guidance from their imaginary friend that bother me.

In a just and fair world, these ideas would be no more harmful than the irrational following people have for football teams. Maybe they’d even be more relaxed about people taking the piss, with other religions allowed into the away end of the temple, where they could chant, “Who ate all the wafers?”; “You’re damned – and you know you are”; and “Can you hear the Trappists sing – I can’t hear a thing.”

Anyhoo, don’t suppose anyone’s got a copy of this?

Written by Tony Kiernan

05 September 2007 at 4:11 pm

Planet Earth

Now, here’s a thing. I don’t usually post about television*. Largely, this is because I see very little of it. (Mainly due to not owning one of the contraptions.) However, I feel compelled to no longer hold my tongue on the issue of the BBC‘s “highly acclaimed” and “popular with the viewers” series Planet Earth.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been catching much hyperbolic praise for the series. It seemed to be shaping up as the televisual even of the year, so I thought it was worth checking out. On Tuesday, there, the Grauniad topped just about everything else I’ve seen with it’s leader.

For once superlatives are justified. The BBC’s Planet Earth, the first series of which finished at the weekend, was a big critical as well as popular success, attracting 8.8m viewers (9.2m at peak) on Sunday or 34% of all people watching television…

…it provided mesmerising television, as educational as it was compulsive. The final 10 minutes, providing a diary of how the shots were taken, was almost as gripping as the rest of the show…all happening against the reassuring tone of David Attenborough’s narrative.

At a time when we are having to cope with shortening media horizons in a world of instantaneous internet reactions it was almost reassuring that (together with a sequel in the autumn) it took four years to film. Hopefully, the cost (undisclosed) will be offset by big overseas sales. Just as the programme showed the lion still had claims to be king of animals, so content is still king of the entertainment world. And it does not come much better than this.

That last paragraph is in it’s entirety. And, is the one that really riled me.

Don’t get me wrong here, the ‘groundbreaking’ footage is spectacular. That is a given. I’m looking forward to the edited version of this hitting the cinema (like the one about the sea – the name of which escapes me at the moment, but is most likely The Big Blue). All in, though, it seems a celebration of the ‘intrepid’ cameramen than the spheroid that it takes it’s name from. Something highlighted with the addition of the so called ‘diaries’. Where previously there may have been a making of show for those that were only interested in the furry stuff, this time round we were given an instant little DVD extra that just happened to be the right length to be cut out leaving the show fitting the US market. And, when did anyone commission a five-part series? When they had to be able to sell the first half of a series on DVD before showing the second?

Ultimately, all surface. It is a supposedly edumacational series distinctly lacking in content. Like some two minute BBC Bitesize indent on the theory or relativity. Do you remember the times when Attenborough would spend an hour on one animal. When you actually learnt something. For all it’s fireworks and flash was there anything in those five hours of television that will be as legendary as the Gorilla (or even the Meerkats for that matter, who’d heard of them before that?), There were more animals in each episode than deserved to be in a whole series. If you’re gonna spend four months getting some film of the purple jumping camel of Upper Volta, why not get enough to actually tell us something about the damn thing?

It’s like the McDonald’s of natural history. Shiny baubles, buy your shiny baubles here…Never mind the quality feel the length…

*Which of course begs the question what exactly do I ‘usually’ do on here.

Written by Tony Kiernan

08 April 2006 at 10:13 am

Posted in Television