On this particular DD/MM/YYYY, I love this track

I don’t know if you’re the same way but with music I tend to hear a track, fall in love with it, play it a million times a day, get sick of it, leave it alone for a few weeks, fall in love with another track…. etc etc. At the moment I utterly, completely, all-encompassing-ly (that can’t actually be a word, surely) worship a track by a band called DD/MM/YYYY.

I know I have a hard sell on my hands here because, number one, you won’t have heard of this band; number two, you won’t know how to pronounce their name (you’re supposed to say “Day, Month, Year”); number three, the title of the track I love is even more obscure than the name of the band ‘Teenageartfagcancerfanclub’

To make matters worse this track has a really off-putting start; it basically sounds like some annoying young people shouting ‘one, two, three, four, five…‘ over and over again. And again. And again. But it’s the instrumental bit afterwards that I completely love. I don’t know why. It’s just sublime. If you listen to this track, listen to that part before you decide if you like it. Also, the lyric ‘the only thing we are is what we are‘ doesn’t do any harm. Don’t ask me why, it just gets me.

I blame Spotify for all this. I’ve started listening to Spotify each night and it gives suggestions along the lines of  ‘if you like this, you might like….’ So you begin by listening to the same stuff you always listen to but then you get curious and you try a couple of the suggested tracks (knowing that it costs you nothing helps nurture your spirit of adventure I suppose). And you end up loving stuff by obscure bands from Toronto. Sorry.

Anyway, back to my current dream track. I know next to nothing about DD/MM/YYYY except that they are from Toronto. I don’t even like many of their other tracks that much. But ‘Teenageartfagcancerfanclub’ is simply superb. I’ve embedded a version of it from YouTube below if you want to try it.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back on Elvis Costello next week.





Live from Libya (on a mobile phone)

Muammar al-Gaddafi caught in a hot spot



First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Libya… And of course there’s unrest in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco. Every day I read in the papers that there’s a new hot spot! As time goes on Gadaffi (above) looks increasingly crazed with his rambling accusations of foreigners and journalist ‘dogs’. He and his hair-do seem wilder than ever!

Actually, though, unlike with Ali and Mubarak who allowed (reluctantly) international journalists into their respective countries, Gadaffi has kept a tight grip on foreign reporting. It’s not done him much good though because what he seems not to have grasped is that, even in Libya, these days everyone has a mobile phone with a video camera built in. And the poor old-timer (he’s 68 and hardly a grey hair in sight!) hasn’t understood that videos can be uploaded to YouTube in a matter of seconds.

I was reading that new ‘i’ newspaper today (it’s pretty good) and Robert Fisk wrote ‘The hand-held immediacy of the mobile phone, the intimacy of sound and the crack of gunfire are, in some ways, more compelling than the edited, digital film of the networks’. Seems the Colonel hasn’t moved with the times. Having said that, he was an early adopter of Grecian 2000.

Illustration from Channel 4 News

Peter Jackson throws the kitchen sink at ‘The Lovely Bones’

Somehow I’d got it into my head that the film The Lovely Bones was some kind of schmaltzy chick flick, maybe because it has the word ‘lovely’ in the title, I don’t know. Actually the main character gets raped and killed by a predatory paedophile whilst imprisoned in a hellish underground dungeon; you don’t see that kind of stuff so much on the Hallmark Channel.

On the whole it’s a good film, although it’s not a great film. It’s harrowing in parts (especially if you’re a parent) although there is very little violence or abuse shown on screen. I always think it’s clever if a film maker can unnerve the viewer simply by suggestion rather than showing the nasty stuff in graphic detail. The performance of Saoirse Ronan who plays Susie Salmon is great; she plays everything down beautifully and does that thing where she seems to be doing very little but actually she’s doing some really impressive acting  type stuff.

That’s the good bit. The not so good bit is as follows. The direction is flashy; the camera never stops moving so that you start to get dizzy. We’ll have dramatic panning shots and panoramic sweeps as though we are watching the final climactic battle between Gandalf and Sauron instead of two people sitting at a table eating beans on toast. The acting is mostly either wooden (Mark Wahlberg would be great if he ever had to play the part of a work bench) or over the top (Susan Sarandon looks like she looked up how to play an drunken old  bitch on Wikipedia). Stanley Tucci as the creepy George Harvey is actually pretty good but Peter Jackson gives him the usual cliché paedophile outfit of aviator specs and comb-over.

In short, I’d say there’s things about this film that are very good. Unfortunately one of the things that is not so good is the director and the director is quite an important factor in a movie (I think I read that somewhere). I can’t understand why people think Peter Jackson is so brilliant. Yes, Lord of the Rings was an amazing achievement but Jackson directs everything the same way. If he did a biopic of a packet of bacon he’d have 32 battle scenes and aerial shots from the arse of a passing seagull. I saw King Kong and actually fell asleep. The only other film I ever fell asleep in was Avatar! Someone should have told Jackson that this is an intimate human story; you don’t need to chuck the kitchen sink at it.

Anyway, The Lovely Bones turned out to be much better than the chick flick I’d somehow come to expect. But it wasn’t good enough to convince me that Peter Jackson should ever be let loose with a budget of more than £2.50. This was a good film but in someone else’s hands it could have been superb.


Everyone, even three-year-old divas, has a right to privacy. Here, Alice wants to be alone with her thoughts in the middle of  Toys-R-Us.

‘The King’s Speech’ (without Nachos)

Colin Firth during the filming of ‘The King’s Speech’ shown near to a portrait of the real life George VI, the man whose part he plays in the film.


When you go in to see a film with the prior knowledge that it has won all kinds of awards and got critical acclaim it can sometimes make it seem a bit of a let down. The King’s Speech has won the awards and got the acclaim but it’s no let down. I suppose if you only like films with 13 car chases in the first half hour, masses of 3D CGI and someone who used to be a rapper then you might be disappointed.

We went to see it last night at Runcorn Cineworld and got off to a terrible start when the trailers and adverts played with sound only and without anything appearing on screen (or maybe that was actually a better start!). No-one in the auditorium seemed to want to go and tell the staff about the fault so I had to go and do it (if I hadn’t would we all have sat and listened to a 2-hour film without any actual image on screen?! Us Brits really don’t like to make a fuss, you know). A nervous young Cineworld employee came in and had his own King’s Speech moment when he had to anounce to us all that there was a problem with the new projectors and that they were trying to sort it out. A couple of minutes later images appeared on screen and the new projectors proved to be worth the wait because the picture was the clearest I’ve ever seen. Nobody cares about that kind of technical stuff, I know, but I do so there (if I watch a film it has to be in exactly the right screen ratio, focussed to perfection and without even a hair off the head of the person in front getting in the way. That’s without even mentioning the issue of Nacho eaters!! Anyway… I digress).

The film tells the story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of that position. The subject matter has the potential to result in a dry, creaky old period drama but that isn’t what I saw. I think this may be one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The script by David Seidler is touching and funny, the direction by Tom Hooper is subtle but emotional, and the quality of the acting is overwhelming.

I’ve never been a big fan of Colin Firth but his performance in this film has made me change my mind completely. He is absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of the King and makes us feel the agony the character is going through. Geoffrey Rush as Logue, the speech therapist, is also breathtaking. The whole story is really a two-hander between these two fascinating characters. The most effective parts of the movie are when these two are on screen culminating in a superb climax when Logue supports Bertie through the ordeal of the speech to the nation at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The story held a lot of poignancy for me because I’ve had a similar problem with public speaking my whole life. I don’t have a stammer but I’ve always found it nearly impossible to speak in front of more than three or four people without feeling like the breath has left my lungs and going into a panic attack. I think part of why I write this blog is because its a way of communicating without having to actually speak in front of people. Seeing the scene in the film where Bertie walks towards the room where he will have to give the big speech I found harrowing. But also brilliant, touching and uplifting.

Some people say that stage plays (this film was adapted from the stage) don’t often make good cinema. They’re wrong in this case at least. Yes, the scenes are long and mostly consist of people talking in interiors. But the strength of feeling created by the acting, writing and direction was more than enough to keep me totally gripped for every second. I love films but I rarely come out of the cinema feeling as touched, as inspired and as impressed as I did after this one. I didn’t even notice the Nachos.

The real King George VI, played by Colin Firth in the film, just after he gave the speech of his life at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Stormy Weather

We went to Crosby Beach near Liverpool in the hope of seeing Anthony Gormley’s Another Place figures but the weather was just too stormy and the tide was fully in. The wind was really strong and was lashing waves up onto the walkways. It turned out to be the perfect time to be near the coast because it was actually spectacular. I was more irritated than ever to have no decent camera with which to take pictures. I took a couple of crummy ones with my phone which I’ve altered to try and make half decent but they couldn’t come close to capturing how amazing the stormy sea looked. Then my phone decided to run out of power. I wanted to skim it across the water!

In spite of the strong winds coming straight off the sea we got out of the car to go for a walk across the sand dunes. It would have been great except that I had no hat and had forgotten my scarf so that within ten minutes my ears had turned bright red and my head was throbbing with pain. So we turned back and went to the World Museum in the centre of Liverpool instead. Which I also did not get any photos of.

Super hero not super but not bad

Watched Hancock on dvd last night. That’s the one where Will Smith is half super hero half homeless person. It’s lighter than Diet Coke but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Most CGI loaded films have rubbish story and characters  but the effects in this one don’t dominate the whole thing. A pretty good and easy watch.