Friday, March 30, 2007
Now that I am able to walk to and from work again, I have gained 40 minutes of valuable thinking time twice a day. And, when you think about it, it's amazing (or terrifying) the utter rubbish the human brain is capable of processing.
Which is how I found myself walking along the Embankment, and suddenly wondering how on earth I was doing it. I looked down, and my legs were busily marching on their way - one in front of the other, in the traditional fashion. But I wasn't consciously doing anything about this. I wasn't thinking "move left leg, stop, move right leg, stop, repeat to fade" etc. Nor was I actively picking one leg up, moving it, picking the other leg up, etc. So how was this happening?
When I arrived at work, I went to Wikipedia and looked up 'human leg'. This is what Wikipedia had to say on the matter: "Legs are often used for standing, walking, jumping, running, kicking and similar activities." Since "walking" was highlighted, I clicked on it and was directed to a link that told me: "Walking is the main form of animal locomotion on land, distinguished from running and crawling. When executed in shallow water, it is usually described as wading and when executed vertically it becomes scrambling or climbing."
Fascinating as this was, it hadn't answered my original question. But by this point, I was now so horrified at all the other things my body does without me consciously doing anything about it (the biggest worry for me - as someone who has seen "ET: The Extra Terrestrial" - is quite how the body repairs itself after you cut yourself, now that's just freaky), that I had to admit defeat and go back to living in blissful ignorance.
I am terrified about what I'm going to end up thinking about this evening. Last night, I spent 40 minutes mentally recalling the various men I have 'known' in my life... and that was rather frightening, too.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 4:55 pm
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Last night, AB and I were drinking in The American Bar at The Savoy, belatedly celebrating her birthday. But as I emerged from the ladies', I found a new friend.
Making my way back through the foyer, a rather suave older man stepped in line beside me. "Are you going straight ahead or turning right?" he asked.
I looked at him, and rather boredly said, "Turning right, I suppose." So he did, too.
As we went up the steps towards The American Bar, we were met by the tinkle of the piano player and his singing. So my new friend asked, full of confidence and ignoring my cold shoulder, "Do you sing or do you play the piano?"
"Well, I got my grade one in piano when I was 12. How about that?"
Clearly impressed by my ivory skills (ahem), he said, "You're much more talented than me, I never even got that."
Disappointed, I stopped, looked at him and asked, witheringly, "So you don't even know where middle C is?". And left.
Dirty old sod.
My top tip to any male readers who are on the look out for a lady: never proposition a girl when she's just come out of the ladies' (which has happened twice in the last few months) – it really gives off the wrong impression.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 12:15 pm
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Last night, I went to see “Someone Else’s Shoes” at The Soho Theatre with Dave, Paul and Tom. The Soho Theatre is always a treat – it feels like a proper experience to go there, much more so than the faceless and over-priced tat-fests in Theatreland.
Set in a society where everything can be bought and sold – and even creativity and love are commodities – “Someone Else’s Shoes” asks how far capitalism can go and if there’s anything that can’t be owned.
The Amedeo brothers’ business, Mercury Shoes (basically, Nike), has been sold to a multi-national corporation. And Adam Amedeo has gone to Canada to become an art collector, where he finds Nadine, an artist whose work he buys – but, when he starts shagging her, is he really buying her soul? Meanwhile, Nadine’s ex-boyfriend Jed (sexy Jonjo O’Neill) is working his way up Mercury’s shop floor, until militant left-wing activist Mary embroils him in her terrorist mission to bring Mercury (and capitalism) crashing down, by replacing the soles of the shoes with bombs. It’s all very, erm, subtle.
Relentlessly performed in an hour and 40 minutes solid, the five cast members were all impressive, especially Jonjo O’Neill. It was something of a flaw that the character of Nadine was hugely unpleasant, meaning you didn’t care what happened to her or her precious art, but the result of that was it made you root for Jed even more.
Make time to go to the Soho Theatre – decent fringe theatre in the heart of the West End… and it’s cheap, too!
Posted by Velvet Empire at 12:44 pm
Friday, March 23, 2007
Exciting news - I've just become a Lady. After hankering after being an aristocrat since I was a young girl, I have finally given up waiting for a toff to whisk me off my feet, and shelled out £29.99 for a peerage off the internet. It's been on my mind for a while.
It's all legal and above board. I can update my passport, driving licence, bank details etc accordingly and - naturally - I expect everyone to refer to me by my new title (or, at the very least, m'lady). I own one square foot of land in Scotland, I have legal rights to go fishing on my estate AND I have a little card to prove my worth... as well as a plush certificate. How about that then?
It seemed pointless waiting around to become a lady through the traditional channels. And since P gave me a diamond ring for my birthday, I think it's a bit unfair to start shopping around for a proper Lord (not that I'd find one who would compare to P anyway, sigh).
Posted by Velvet Empire at 5:12 pm
I went to see my tutor on Wednesday for a tete-a-tete re the essay and, as I arrived and unravelled myself from my iPod wires, this prompted him to ask what I was listening to. "Scritti Politti?" he asked, with a knowing smile - since the last time I went for a tutorial, we spent over an hour discussing the merits of post-punk Green Gartside. "Erm, no," I said - making a quick decision in my mind about whether to be honest about what I really had been listening to, or whether to make up something more sophisticated and suitable for a mind of great academia.
I went for the former choice.
"No," I said, "Howard Jones." My tutor blinked at me, looked surprised, and said, "It's been quite a few years since anyone admitted to listening to Howard Jones." So I assured him I could go one worse, and told him I'd previously posed to have my photo taken with Nik Kershaw - who came up to my shoulder, by the way.
The tutorial degenerated into a discussion about the merits of Musical Youth and The Rock Steady Crew (I firmly believe that "Pass The Dutchie" and "Hey You (The Rock Steady Crew)" are two of the most significant records of the 1980s - and I am fully prepared to argue this case with anyone who cares to question me), versus whether or not that has anything to do with Thatcherism and society (debatable).
I'm going to get a crappy mark, aren't I?
Posted by Velvet Empire at 1:24 pm
Lately, I have become aware of a strange new phenomenon in my head. I think it’s got something to do with the MA and never reading for pleasure any more, rather reading with a desperate intent to try and find a deep meaning in a book so that I can construct an essay around it. So I lie in The Bed every evening, clutching Martin Amis in one hand and a pen in the other, and reading feverishly as I graffiti the book in the desperate hope that at least some of my notes will actually mean something.
But what all this – coupled with the fact I am unable to think about anything but my impending essay during my entire day – has led to, is me ‘reading’ imaginary passages of Martin Amis, or whoever, in my sleep. In a half-awake, half-asleep state, half my mind is making up the next pages of the book, while the other half of my mind is lambasting me for not making notes on it… while a tiny bit of common sense tries to remind me that it’s not a real book. I tried explaining this to P this morning, but he looked at me like I was talking, erm, rubbish. Ahem.
At this rate, I shall be writing my essay on an entirely fictional version of “Money”. Does that count towards the original thinking they’re always telling us to conjure up?
Posted by Velvet Empire at 11:16 am
Friday, March 16, 2007
A quick word on Comic Relief. I was going to write about how much it set my teeth on edge seeing the likes of Ant and Dec, Ricky Gervais and Davina McCall sobbing in the name of charity. But I've decided the moment has passed and it's too much of a touchy subject. And Ian Hyland did it perfectly in the Screws yesterday.
So, instead, equally inappropriate, I shall say that I've just seen "Hollyoaks" for the first time in aeons - and I STILL really fancy Tony. I know many people think that's wrong, but too bad. I think it's got something to do with that scar on his forehead. Phwoar! Not 'arf, etc etc...
Posted by Velvet Empire at 2:40 pm
Well... who knew Justin Timberlake could act? Caroline and I went to a press screening of "Alpha Dog" last night, and were quite impressed by the Trousersnake and his incredibly honed body (a shame about all the tats though).
Neither of us was convinced the film would be great, and neither of us was convinced it was, but director Nick Cassavettes's attempt at recreating the true events surrounding a bunch of Californian petty drug barons who kidnap the younger brother of a debter was still quite gripping, if a little long. Coming in at two hours, Cassavettes could easily have shaved 30 minutes off because if you boiled the story down, there wasn't much there.
But Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone put in entertaining efforts, and it's always splendid to see the wonderful Harry Dean Stanton on the big screen. And Shawn Hatsoy (as the fawning mule for dealer Johnny Truelove) put in an exceptionally good effort. The biggest surprise was JT, who I'd presumed was going to be a minor character, but his sympathetic Frankie (who hides the hostage) turns out to be quite a feat.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 9:57 am
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I've just read that there is a film adaptation of "Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day" (Written by Winifred Watson and published by Persephone) in the pipeline for 2008. This is a good and a bad thing.
It's a good thing as it will generate publicity for Persephone, thereby boosting their sales, raising more awareness of them and helping them to exist and publish even more marvellous books.
But it's a bad thing as the book will doubtles be bastardised by the Americans. I hear that Frances McDormand is in line for the title role. Now, I'm a fan of Frances McDormand - she's a grand actress. But she's also an American actress. And Miss Pettigrew is a 100% English gentlewoman. Sure, McDormand is more of a global cinematic draw than an English actress (and let's face it, Helen Mirren can't be in everything, neither can Judi Dench), but I'm sick of Americans portraying English legends (Zellweger as Beatrix Potter and Bridget Jones; Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen; to name but two).
It's always iffy when one of your favourite books is mauled by Hollywood... but let's wait and see what happens. Oscar-nominated Brit Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty") and Oscar-nomiated American David Magee ("Finding Neverland") have done the script, and British TV director Bharat Nalluri ("Life On Mars", "Hustle", "Spoooks" etcl) is directing, when shooting starts in April.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 4:35 pm
I'm going to see the Justin Timberlake film "Alpha Dog" tonight. It's not out in the UK until April 20 but I've read some American reviews, which are quite mixed. Will reserve judgement, but two hours of Trousersnake fills me with trepidation. In my mind, he wouldn't look out of place in a souped up Cortina in a council estate car park in Essex. Apparently his acting is better than his 'singing' though.
I only mention this BEFORE I see the film, as my blog opportunities have been slashed what with the current employment situation and I may not get a chance to mention it again AFTER seeing the film. And tomorrow I fully hope (fingers crosed) to submit a 100% scathing attack on the loathsome habit of office employees attempting to have personalities for one day of the year in the name of Comic Relief.
But while I'm here, I'd like to say how violently opposed I am to the proposed Take That musical (a la Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You). Why would right-minded fans pay £50 for a ticket to see some immitation boybanders perform the classics, when they could cough up £10,000 for a touted ticket from a thief on eBay? Oh yes...
AND... good news, P and I are going to see the sumptuous George Michael when he opens the new Wembley Stadium. We're very excited. Less so at paying £200+£20 booking fee+£5 postage for the tickets but at least they're genuine. On which note, the BBC 'Have Your Say' section of the website had a ridiculous argument this week about the Take That eBay rip-off. It made me very angry. As lots of people who couldn't care less about seeing bands bothered to write in and say that they thought the touts were in the right for wanting to make money, and the fans were in the wrong for wanting to go and see these bands in the first place (rather than something more cultured, such as, ooh, opera, prsumably). But the REAL twats smugly sniffed, "Well, I had no problem booking tickets to my son's nativity play, I don't know what the eBay fuss is about". That made me want to smack them around the head with a wet Ronan Keating. Repeatedly.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 3:13 pm
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
“26a” – Diana Evans
Diana Evans’ debut is so sad, it had me sobbing on the sofa as I compulsively read and read it for hours at the weekend. When P came home he assumed something terrible had happened.
Evans, a former journalist, uses her natural talent for writing and a life-altering event in her past to construct a thinly veiled autobiographical book about twin sisters growing up in Neasden, with a homesick Nigerian mother, a drunken Yorkshire father and two feisty sisters.
“26a” covers a huge time span, from the early ‘80s to the late ‘90s, but at no point do you feel lost or like anything has been glossed over. And the intensity of the writing really helps you get inside the heads of twins Bessie and Georgia and catches you up in the ferocity of their emotions.
But please don’t think this is a hideous chick lit book (a phrase nearly as offensive as yummy mummy, argh), as this is far too intelligent. It may be along the same lines as Monica Ali, Zadie Smith, Meera Syal et al in that it covers problems of ethnicity in London, but Evans brings something new to the equation. The addition of twins makes “26a” a book with a split personality about two characters who are essentially the same person.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 4:05 pm
Monday, March 05, 2007
Last night, on a whim,VE ended up at the Mermaid Theatre in Puddle Dock for the Laughter For Life charity event… and met Richard Madeley (who has surpassed Fern Britton as the nicest daytime TV presenter I’ve ever met, and totally eclipsed Phillip Schofield). Comedians included Dara O’Brain and Bill Bailey, who were both very good, but the highlight for me was Rob Rouse, who had a great line in Goth gags.
After sharing that his favourite summer activity was watching Goths struggling in the heat, Rob told a very funny anecdote about how he likes to hang around the bus stop outside Tesco in summer and see sweaty Goths waiting for the bus, while laden with their groceries… how mundane. And an equally amusing one about how he went to the zoo in Kent and saw a mummy and daddy Goth pushing a pram, and his desperation to see what a baby Goth looked like… and what it did look like. To backtrack – Goths in a zoo!
Posted by Velvet Empire at 10:39 am
Sunday, March 04, 2007
This weekend (with P away at his ex's 60th birthday party - yup, 60! That's 31 full years older than me... tee hee) has been devoted to my next essay, which is to do with Thatcher's 1987 comment about there being no such thing as society, and does the writing of Amis and Bracewell reflect this.
So yesterday was divided between the British Library and the university library and I felt quite pleased with myself. Although less so today, as my attempts to make sense of all my notes and photocopies has resulted in me 1) having a bath, 2) doing the washing up, 3) putting the washing on, 4) taking the recycling out and 5) ringing my Australian brother for a chat (he's well, by the way). Oh... and writing this.
But I did catch up with Caroline last night, and we enjoyed copious eating and drinking (mojitos and chips at Ballan's Cafe, and white wine and margheritas at Pizza Express) sandwiched around a trip to the cinema to see the dreadfully self-indulgent "A Guide To Recognising Your Saints". It was painfully self-conscious and agonisingly turgid in the director's attempts (I can't be bothered to look up his name) to immortalise on celluloid his true tale of tumultuous teenage years in downtown New York. The whole thing was predictable and painful, and the 'twist' was recognisable from the off. Yawn.
This morning, I watched "Enduring Love" on DVD in The Bed. Daire lent it to me on Thursday, assuring me it was "identical to the book" (which I haven't read) and telling me that by watching it I would qualify to come to the McEwan reading group tomorrow night. I'm not convinced. A quite enjoyable film though. Not sure about Daniel Craig but always nice to see Helen McCrory.
Oh, and Take That ticket latest: the eBay rush has inevitably died down and tickets are now going for a more, cough, reasonable £500 a pair. If push comes to shove, I haven't ruled out swallowing my pride and buying a more fairly priced pair nearer the time. But for now I've left a message with my second brother's former flatmate's ex-girlfriend (who's pretty significant with the largest tour promoter in the world) to see if she can help. And P has left a message with his friend in Dubai who was one of TT's backing dancers the first time around and, apparently, "still talks to Mark sometimes". We'll see... but I haven't given up hope.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 12:51 pm
Friday, March 02, 2007
Still seething over my Take That loss. Apparently there was some loop in the online buying system that meant that even though tickets didn't officially go on sale until 9am, some touts had been buying them earlier. Meaning that genuine fans had zero chance.
There are now (I've just looked) 949 (NINE HUNDRED AND FORTY-NINE) bastard rip-off fuckers on eBay taking the joy out of genuine Take That fans' lives for £620 a pair and upwards. What galls me, is that some desperate idiots are paying for this.
Presumably the lovely boys themselves - Gary, Mark, Jason and Howard - are seething at this injustice. But why does eBay allow it to happen? And why does Ticketmaster let people get ripped off so badly.
Posted by Velvet Empire at 1:35 pm
I'm fucking fed up with eBay ticket touts. As a genuine Take That fan I marked today in my diary last week... as the new tour tickets went on sale at 9am. I even persuaded my joyless, despot current employers to let me come in at 10 (instead of 9.30) so that I'd be by the computer, ready to buy my two tickets (for personal use, not to sell on for an outrageous profit) the second they went on sale.
Instead, I have sat here for 45 minutes, tearing my hair out as the computer keeps telling me the system is overloaded, there has been an error, there is too great a demand, there are no tickets left etc etc etc.
But guess what I saw on eBay at 9.05 - two Take That tickets on sale for £350. AND PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY BIDDING ON THEM. What kind of fools are they?
Posted by Velvet Empire at 9:42 am