Monthly Archives: February 2008

Vast media conspiracy, etc

So the US military shot down the satellite (apparently). But why is nobody talking about the real reason?

It’s not because of worries about contamination, that’s just standard military cover story #27.

It’s not a cover for testing anti-satellite technology either, as the Russians are claiming.

It’s because the satellite contains/contained tech the US military doesn’t want China or Russia to recover from any bits that make it through the atmosphere.

I can understand why the US aren’t giving the real reason (muslims under the beds etc), and why Russia and China are making fake claims (better to express outrage at an administration the world generally despises than to stoke more fears about an arms race).

But why aren’t the media talking about it? I know they generally just reflect the spin the various parties put on any story, but surely someone understands what’s actually going on. I’ve seen a couple of Newsnight stories on this and was expecting a full-on Paxman blast at various sweaty officials, but nothing.

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Culture and stuff

To London yesterday, in a chill February wind, to meet a friend. The plan was to meet at Baker Street but dozens of police officers and a couple of fire engines put paid to that: some kind of alert meant a mumbled apology from the tube driver and we trundled past Baker Street to Edgeware Road.

Tannoy man at that station told us to walk back down Marylebone Road to Baker Street. All very well if you could find Marylebone Road and then know which way to walk. Humorously the iPhone Maps application had the hump and wouldn’t even find London let alone Edgeware Road. I followed my instincts; reading signs helped.

Friend located and bags dumped, we went to the Dinosaurs and Pushchairs ConventionNatural History Museum for the Wildlife Photography of the Year Exhibition. Some stunning photos. Inspiring stuff.

From there, via a cup of peppermint tea, to Mildred’s in Lexington Street. An all-veggie cafe/restaurant, packed out. We were warned it might take 30 minutes for a table but were seated in five: very lucky. The food was outstandingly good and the service quick and cheerful. I had the chargrilled artichoke crostini with lemon aioli to start: artichokes on toast, in other words. To follow, sundried tomato, bean and tarragon sausages served with grain mustard mash, green beans and a red wine and onion gravy. Absolutely delicious.

Avaragado’s rating: garlic on toast

We chose a pub-based dessert, in a place whose name I forget but which is apparently a haunt for post-performance actors etc. It turns into a members-only establishment at some point in the evening, but we arrived early enough to get in for free. Celebs spotted: zero. Another pub followed before we walked back along rapidly icing streets to the hotel.

This morning we went to see The Wallace Collection, full of those fiddly bits of furniture adorned with cherubim and seraphim and slathered in gold leaf that were all the rage in pre-revolutionary France. First stop was the posh cafe for breakfast – mint tea and an omelette – to steel ourselves for the onslaught of ostentation.

The museum included only one example of the Loud American, thankfully. Highlights included an infinite number of portraits of women with rosy cheeks and big hair, a job lot of Canalettos of Venice, and yer actual Laughing Cavalier. Very little tat, and not a patch on the Vatican Museum for sheer greed.

Avaragado’s rating: one bowl of fruit with a gratuitous monkey

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I want a brown baby!

A British film about teenage pregnancy would feature the following:

  • Bleak, run-down council estates sprinkled with Sky dishes.
  • Chain-smoking from all cast members, including the unborn child.
  • Kathy Burke.

The “gymslip mum” (© Fleet Street) would grunt monosyllables at the father, a half-tracksuit, half-trainer oik prone to casual violence. A hopelessly miscast Lee Evans would play a well-to-do city type, wrongly named in standard mistaken-identity plot #94 as the baby’s father – with hilarious consequences. The ham-fisted resolution would include a guest appearance by Richard Branson and a pile of used tenners.

Juno, on the other hand, is a Canadian/American film about teenage pregnancy. Made for tuppence, it’s nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture. There’s a Best Actress nomination for Ellen Page’s excellent portrayal of the title up-the-duff character.

I think the film’s operative words are “sweet” and “sassy”. It’s written by someone called Diablo Cody, which is surely all the incentive you need to go and see it. If that’s not enough, two of the cast were in Arrested Development.

Three films in three weeks, all of them crackers. It can’t last!

Avaragado’s rating: four things of orange tic-tacs

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What, no Godzooky?

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the original King Kong film, the 50th anniversary of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and the 25th anniversary of Jaws 3-D. Mix them together and stir in a camcorder and you’ve got the first draft of Cloverfield.

King Kong is, of course, a love story; and so is Cloverfield. The creature wreaking havoc in New York is but a monstrous and very expensive macguffin providing the framework for the storyline, a traditional boy meets/loses girl. A very effective macguffin, it has to be said.

Attack of etc concerns a large, unhappy creature; as does Cloverfield. The film contains a great deal of attacking, and I’m sure you’ve seen the clip in which the head of the Statue of Liberty – a tall glum female – splats various residents as it bounces to a halt in a city street.

Jaws 3-D gave people nausea from 3D glasses; Cloverfield does ditto from authentic handheld camerawork.

There are naturally many differences. Cloverfield contains none of King Kong’s biplanes on strings. The large creature is always big, unlike Attack of etc or indeed the kitten from The Goodies or the sheepdog in Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. And unlike Jaws 3-D, Cloverfield is not rubbish.

It’s exceedingly well-made. The camcorder viewpoint is maintained from the first frame until the start of the closing credits; there’s no film score, lots of odd jump cuts, poor framing, etc. And the effects fit seamlessly – I’d really like to see some of the original footage just to see how they mangled it.

Apparently some critics proclaimed that using unknown actors was a big mistake. Idiots. It was essential to keep the truthiness of the film. And, really, the only effects of casting Tom Cruise or some other loon would be to double the budget and ruin the film.

On the down side, there were a couple of dodgy product NOKIA placements and a general implausibility of certain events (leaving aside the whole creature thing).

But overall, recommended. J. J. Abrams wisely chose Kong, Woman and D as his 25-year influences for Cloverfield: 1933 also brought us Duck Soup, 1958 South Pacific and 1983 National Lampoon’s Vacation. I dread to think what his mash-up of those three would be like. The new Star Trek film, probably.

Avaragado’s rating: four tubs of St Ivel Gold

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