Two days with Sarda and Kari

Not having seen Sarda and Kari since the day after their wedding last October, in Grand Rapids, it was a real treat to get to see them two days running this weekend. Friday night we met up at the commuter jazz at the RFH, and from there walked to Brick Lane to meet The Cheat and The Producer Formerly Known As Showbiz Jude for a curry. Much fun was had, especially with The Cheat surruptitiously turning off the TVs in the restaurant with his new toy – a remote control that will turn off just about any brand of TV in the world!

Saturday was S and K’s official big party, at Sarda’s parents’ place in Tunbridge Wells. Again, much fun, especially discovering that James is in fact the son Ned Flanders, or at least was til his dad went grey and shaved off his moustache! A startling likeness.

The most obvious thing from the visit is just how uninterrupted my friendship with Sarda has been by him moving overseas – we chat just as often now as we did before on MSN or AIM, so it’s not like some big emotional reunion, just a chance to talk face to face instead of typing or the occasional video conference.

Gawd Bless Morgan Spurlock

I’d seen it before, but last night was the UK TV premier of SuperSize Me – Morgan Spurlock’s documentary that follows his challenge to live for a month on nothing but McDonalds.

He did it in response to the legal cases in america where obese kids were sueing fast-food companies for making them fat. Now, apart from the initial reaction of incredulity that people couldn’t know that a McDiet would mess up your health, the challenge to the psuedo health nonsense put out by the burger giants makes pretty compelling viewing. Spurlock is fantastic on camera, and his range of interviewees is superb and enlightening.

The failure of anyone from McDonalds PR to get back to him speaks volumes, as does this supremely bogus site that comes up tops if you do a google search on Morgan Spurlock a psuedo-debate site, claiming to debunk the film, run, of course, by McDonalds themselves.

Fried, GM, reheated, reconstituted meat products should not constitute any part of a healthy balanced diet. If they don’t make you ill, it’s just a fantastic testimony to the ability of our bodies to recover from invasion. Just don’t do it – that crap is addictive, unhealthy and won’t actually sort out your hunger.

If you must eat fast food, get a salad sandwich from Subway or something!

I’ve also just found that Morgan Spurlock has a blog – yippee! Top man, three cheers for Morgan Spurlock – bring on the closure of every McDonalds in the land.

Soundtrack – the rough mixes from yesterday’s recording session with Cleveland Watkiss – some fantastic stuff, some overly-long sprawling stuff ripe for editing. But over-all, a very promising first session!

Greatest albums, my arse!

Was watching Channel 4 the other evening – they were doing yet another of these greatest top 100 type shows. This time it was albums – here’s the results – a bit of a motley bunch, and some that certainly don’t deserve to be there, and clearly won’t be in a few years time. The Libertines? OutKast? huh?

The problem, I guess is that the great unwashed voted for them, but from a list of 125 chosen by ‘experts’… that’s rubbish – who decides who’s an expert. I’m not, I wouldn’t dream of trying to choose 125 albums that the public could then pick their favourites from. If it had been a free vote, I’m thinking a few more random things would have ended up in there. The ‘winner’ was ‘OK Computer’ by Radiohead, and while I really don’t get the whole radiohead thing, I do know lots of people who really really love that record, so fair play. I guess I’m just galled that stuff like The Libertines and ‘Play’ by Moby end up higher up the list than Coltrane or Curtis Mayfield… that’s clearly bollocks.

I own 31 of the top 100 – is that good?

Soundtrack – George Cunningham, ‘Stumblingham’ (features one of the dudepit guys on bass – very good Frisell-ish stuff); Dum Dums, ‘It Goes Without Saying’; Prefab Sprout, ‘Steve McQueen’; M83, Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts’.

Hooked on the Marathon

I still remember the first London Marathon. At least, I remember the fuss around it – I don’t remember much about the actual race, I just remember getting up early to watch it on TV when I was about 8 years old, living in Wimbledon. Can’t remember what I thought at the time, probably was thinking of running it one day.

Still haven’t ever run it. Since that day, I’ve kind of lost interest in it. Each year, I listen to a bit of the radio broadcast in the car on the way to church, but ’til yesterday had never been to see any of it.

So when after church yesterday morning, a few people were heading down to cheer on Natasha who was running, it seemed like a fun thing to do.

The atmosphere was amazing – we were watching (we being me and Lizzie) from by Embankment tube, so the runners had already done twenty-odd miles by then and were in varying degrees of a state of total disarray. By this point, I’m sure the people who were running in costume were planning to kill whoever the bastard was who suggested dressing as Hong Kong Phoey, or a pirate, or a rhino, or a caveman, or a pasty or whatever other weirdness people were dressed as. some of the runners were in some quite major discomfort.. well, discomfort that appeared to have crossed into the ‘excruciating pain’ category. But most were soldiering on determinedly, walking a bit, running when they got a cheer or saw their mates.

We almost missed Natasha coming by, due to a guy a few runners in front of her having the worst case of joggers nipple we’d ever seen – two large blood-stains on the front of his shirt… makes me wince just thinking of it. Lizzie’s bit of conversation there went something like ‘look at that bloke’s nipples! (half second pause) Natasha!! WOOOO HOOOOO!!!!’ ETC. much whooping and cheering ensued, from us and from harry, karen and juliet who were on the other side of the road.

The end of the race for Natasha was fab – lots of friends there congratulating her, a picnic in St James’ park, and a medal that none of the rest of us had. Makes it all worth while. And she raised a lot of money for MIND.

It definitely made me think about possibly doing it next year. I would have to start trying to get in some sort of shape now, given that I’m a bit of a sedentary slob most of the time (hey, I don’t even stand up for gigs!)

So I’ll give it some thought, and try not to think about Paula Radcliffe’s ‘unplanned pit-stop’. That’s dedication to your sport!

SoundtrackScottish Guitar Quartet, ‘Landmarks’ (beautiful album – more about this later when I’ve heard it a few more times); Andrew Cronshaw, ‘Ochre’ (my most listened to album of the last few weeks – full review on the way)

The Crepe'd Crusader

certainly brings out mixed emotions in most people. Firstly he’s the loveable cheeky cockney chap, naked chef, bringing new life to TV cooking. Then he became the overexposed Sainsbury’s poster boy, in all the ads, doing voice overs and generally overstaying his welcome. So he reinvents himself as the crowned king of worthwhile reality TV.

What did he get right? He picks things he cares about. Unlike, say, Gordon Ramsay, who just came across as a miserable bag of turd, belittling B-list celebs live on TV (all the ones with any backbone walked out – respect to the late great Tommy Vance for that!), Jamie picked subjects that would change the lives of ordinary people for the better. In , he took a bunch of relative no-hopers from rough backgrounds and gave them the chance to train to be top chefs. They’ve still got jobs. Their lives are on a different path. Magic.

His next project was in a whole different league. Jamie took on Britain’s school dinners in . It took months to film, and started in one school, with Jamie trying to get the kids to eat properly. What they were eating was truly shocking. The worst kind of junk food, the same crap every day, zero nutritional content. Just rubbish, rubbish that will eventually kill them. And Jamie cared. Really, not for a moment did even the most cynical of hacks question his motives. Watching the programme, it’s inconceiveable how parents have let it get to this stage. The kids couldn’t recognise vegetables!

So he goes on a crusade, getting 55 schools in Greenwich to move over to his new menu. He works within the insane food budget that he’s set, he convinces dinner ladies to work unpaid overtime, he wrecks his homelife in order to make this happen.

Suddenly pain-in-the-arse Jamie is transformed into we-need-more-people-like-you-on-TV Jamie. A hero, fighting the beaurocrats who will sell the kids of the nation’s health for 15p a day.

It’s riveting viewing, and I really really hope things change. Things already are changing. The teachers report back a total turn-around in the kids’ concentration levels, attentiveness and behaviour patterns, just through the change of diet.

Come on, Ruth Kelly, get it together!! As Education Secretary, she’s responsible for the decisions, the one with the purse strings. Jamie’s done the work, written the handbook, drawn up the recipes. All you need to do is ban the junk, and pay for the training.

It’ll reap HUGE rewards in the future when these kids aren’t all rotting in hospital from preventable diseases.

So, let’s get behind Jamie, sign petitions, campaign, make a fuss. The future of the kids’ health depends on it. Go to the campaign homepage, and start kicking up a fuss.

Soundtrack – David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ (Evil Harv is generally a malicious and sinister presence in the world, but all is forgiven for introducing me to this album a couple of years ago).

Another radio great gone…

So another one of my boy-hood radio heroes has died – Tommy Vance died this morning after a stroke.

His Friday Rock Show on Radio 1 was required listening when I was at school – you had Peel Monday to Wednesday, Andy Kershaw on a Thursday and Tommy Vance on a Friday. I’ve still got tapes of live gigs I recorded off the radio that he’d broadcast. I never met him, but I remember just how please I was when even years after I stopped listening to his show, I saw him in the audience at a gig – it felt like Tommy being there was a validation of my taste in liking Bruce.

So after Peel, goes TV, to the great Rock Show in the sky. Sad news.

Soundtrack – right now it’s John Scofield, ‘Up All Night’; but I think I’ll be listening to more Bruce Cockburn later and remembering many years of listening to Tommy.

Cautious Optimism about the future of the Beeb…

As y’all know, I’m a big fan of the – Britian’s finest export, top media entity in the world etc. etc. yup, I love it. So was a little disturbed when all the reports came out a while ago that said that there was a shake up about to happen in the BBC funding and programming stragegy…

Well, today the news has broken that the BBC will keep the licence fee for at least 10 years – one of the threats to the BBC was to start to redistribute the funding from the licence to the independent stations to assist them in Public Service Broadcasting. A dreadful idea, given that we’d then be paying for it, and putting up with adverts. Not good.

So the news is welcome. There’s a bit of a shuffle going on at the top level, and the board of govenors is to be scrapped, which I’m hoping is a good idea. There’s also a very welcome call for the Beeb to stop chasing ratings and focus on quality. Hurrah!!

If you want to get caught up on all this stuff, there’s no finer place to start than David Attenborough’s Book, Life On Air – he was there almost from the start, and was controller of programmes for BBC TV, and interviewed for the position of Director General. An amazing book, full of great stories.

The New Commandments.

Most of the time, I’m glad I don’t watch much TV. However, missing Channel 4s The New Ten Commandments was a bit annoying. I found out about it on Paul’s marvellous blog, and now really wish I’d seen it.

Shifts in what is perceived as ‘moral’ are fascinating, particularly in relation to Britain now having made the shift into being a ‘post-christian’ pluralist culture.

There are a couple of noteable quotes on the website, some really good, some nonsense.

Into the latter category comes this gem from Janet Street Porter –

‘The commandments can’t be very relevant,’ she says. ‘Otherwise people would repeat them every morning as a kind of mantra to live their lives by.’

Riiight – so everything that’s relevant becomes a mantra? OK…

Here’s the full list –

  • Be honest
  • Don’t kill
  • Look after the vulnerable
  • Respect your mother and father
  • Enjoy life
  • Nothing in excess
  • Be true to your own God
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated
  • Be true to yourself
  • Protect your family
  • Try your best at all times
  • Look after your health.
  • Don’t commit adultery
  • Live within your means
  • Appreciate what you have
  • Never be violent
  • Protect the environment
  • Protect and nurture children
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
  • Don’t steal

An interesting list, fairly predictable, and also clearly not a list that most people live by – Live within your means is obviously being ignored big time given the debt levels in the UK, parental respect is pretty low on the priority list, so is taking responsibility for our actions…

The one I’ve bolded up there (my emphasis, not C4’s) is the interesting one, given the ramifications of carrying it out – Treat others as you would like to be treated is such a huge thing to take on. To the point where Jesus reduced the whole of ‘The Law and The Prophets’ to two commandments – love God, love eachother – that’s what the second half of that means. We all want to be treated fairly, to be shown mercy, to be appreciated, protected, have time to enjoy ourselves, to feel safe… How much of our time is spent either trying to bring that about, or avoiding practices that cause the opposite? It’s interesting that most of them are very parochial – lots of things to do with the small stuff of life – family, personal responsibility etc. Very little to do with the big stuff of life – government, global issues, God/spirituality…

Anyway, the campaign is a chance to do just that – to give to other people the kind of fair deal that we expect for ourselves. None of us would wish the situation that much of the continent of Africa finds itself in now on our worst enemies, so why do we support a system which is making the poverty worse…?

Laziness, inertia, ignorance – I’m guilty of all three when it comes to the problems of people ‘over there’. But we need to make some changes. All of us.

Soundtrack – Zakir Hussain, ‘Making Music’; Carl Herring, ‘Azure’.

Things to Do In London When You're… In London

A couple of events that deserve a heads up, not involving me (more of those coming in the next day or so…)

Firstly, Jenny Eclair is doing a one-woman show at The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, called The Andy Warhol Syndrome. It’s a play in which Jenny plays a former reality TV star, and it’s fab. I’ve seen it twice. It’s great, funny, moving etc. Go see it.

Click here for the details. There a couple of cheap ticket offers that look good value…

The second one is that one of my favourite singer/songwriters is finally coming to London! has a whole run of gigs coming up in London in tiny venues. If there’s any justice in the world, she’ll be playing the Brixton Academy in 6 months, so go and see her now while you can – the dates are on the tour dates page on her website – she’s playing the Bedford in Balham, The Betsy Trotwood in Farringdon and the 12 bar in the west end. I’ll be going to as many of the gigs as I possibly can. She’s a genius, up there with Joni Mitchell, , etc. in my list of faves. Truly marvellous. Take friends with you – you’ll thank me, and they’ll thank you.

Both of these shows are not to be missed. Great stuff. Go on, go and book tickets now, I dare you.

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