31 May, 2012

The world's shit; read some books.

I'll be doing some proper reviews soon, but for now...

With the whole world in a ridiculous state of affairs, with the news reading like a dystopian horror flick, the weather returning to murky Mayvember days and with the socio-economic climate in decline (see, I can be serious), it's about time we all just shut ourselves inside with a book. Here are four things you could read - fuck everything else.

The Thursday Next Books - Jasper Fforde. This is a series about Thursday Next, a literary detective of sorts, in a world in which books are real, and there are all sorts of rules keeping characters in books doing as they should. For example, Hamlet sees a therapist and Heathcliff has anger management lessons. Very cleverly plotted, this series is great and a perfect relaxed summer read.

This Is Not The End of the Book - Umberto Eco + Jean-Claude Carriere. This is a conversation between the two great men on the future of 'the book', which incorporates the past of the written word, and things such as preservation of human achievement, the written word and the effect of literacy. It's very clever and a bit high-brow (don't expect to get the references unless you're some type of Classics scholar) but the conversational aspect makes it an easy, cheeky read.

Fitzgerald's Short Stories (Available as Flappers and Philosophers, by Penguin). F. Scott Fitzgerald, of Gatsby and Tender Is The Night fame, was the master of short story - whether for newspapers or collections, they are arguably his craft proper, and the sheer beauty of every single one is a sight to behold. Clever, perceptive and funny, every single story I always go back to old Fitzy because he is literature at its best

A Child In Time - Ian McEwan. I love McEwan so I won't go on about it but he's one of the best contemporary novelists about, with an eye for detail and for both the scientific and the emotive in our existence. 'The Child In Time', based on a parent's nightmare, the abduction of a child, McEwan creates a story about the science of time (cleverly incorporating a Physics scholar into the mix) but also about the psychological effects of time on our relationships. I read this in a drunken summer haze at the weekend so it might have just been me, but McEwan slips very capably between time periods, in a very lucid and connected view of his story on time, parenthood and reconciliation.

If we could all just sort out the world, that'd be fab. Either that or let's have more bookshops and free tea and bakewells.
Happy reading chumz.

22 May, 2012

Things That Are Still Wrong With The Voice #thevoiceuk (Danny Cohen listen to me I'm trying to help you)

The Voice continued this week. Jessie J's microphone 'wasn't on' during a live performance and she had to restart. In a live-TV pub somewhere in Soho, Danny Cohen, BBC One Controller, hit the table and yelled 'I WISH I COULD RESTART THIS ENTIRE FORMAT'. He then destroyed 'Man Who Can't be Moved' at a karaoke bar and slipped into a pieceful dream about working at ITV. But anyway - what is still wrong with The Voice? Is it Holly Willoughby's inappropriate hooker outfits? William's limited vocabulary? The stage that they nicked from Fame Academy and painted red? HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS:

The Format So the first week we had the ridiculous chair auditions so they could pretend it was about 'the voice', then those weeks where we all sat and watched fat people scream at each other in a faux-boxing ring, in some sort of contest where the first to get a vocal hernia was the winner. Now, we're on some weird system whereby alternate groups sing on alternate weeks so we forget all about some acts for a fortnight. But no wait, they've thought this through - they get Tyler James to pop up every other week and warble his way through a Florence and the Machine track and have ridiculous group numbers that noone likes. That's solved the problem right?

Jessie J Being a Fucking Moron Now this twat is pretty thick but surpassed herself on Sunday when she, before the results show was aired in the evening, posted on Twitter a picture of the two contestants who were through to the next week. I'd assume there was something against this in the contract, oh and also I presumed that no adult would be this stupid. I was wrong.

Danny 'My name's Danny From-The-Script and I wear double denim and I sing and stand and wave my arms during everyone's track and say outlandish things about acts like 'I can't wait to duet with you' and think standing ovations are the norm in all of life and also all my song selections are chosen from the Magic FM compilation album Fearne Cotton gave me in 2009' SOD OFF JIMMY

The Opening Titles, Theme Song and Editing They're shit.


The Lack Of Talent Now I'm not kidding but everyone's quite bad and even when they are good, the judges (I shan't call them coaches because their entire role is bullcrap) and producers make them look bad:

  • One example is the guy that used the loop pedal, which everyone treated like a deity. Jessie: 'so much could have gone wrong and it didn't so well done'. That is commensurate to saying 'well you played a guitar and the guitar could have spontaneously combusted or you could have forgotten how to play it mid-song but you didn't so well done'.
  • Another example is Aleks Josh who was actually pretty good but got told to sing one of the most boring 'singer-songwriter anthems' of all-time. Basically either the producers are setting these songs and getting it all wrong, or the judges and contestants have no idea how to showcase talent or perform properly and actually think they are doing a good job. Let me tell you now, Will.I.Am, YOU'RE NOT.


21 May, 2012

The Big C is back on fucking TOP form. (Season 3, Ep 7)

'The Big C' continues on Showtime in the US this week, with the seventh episode of its almost-finished third series. This run has taken a while (half of its ten episodes) to get going, but the sixth installment was a great improvement, and the seventh returned us to the dizzy heights of 'The Big C' at its best. Well done team.

This episode returned 'The Big C' to what it does best - a family-centric story about Cathy and her cancer, Sean having a crazy time in the background and Adam rebelling like any other teenager, but just a teensy bit more extreme. Despite it presumably being an unpopular narrative step, the writers seem to be putting a wedge between Cathy and Paul, through his relationship with Joy and Cathy's with the British Pub. To me, it seems like this could be edging towards a divorce, or a departure for Platt (Paul) at the end of the series.

I do this on a practically daily basis on Twitter, but once again massive commendations and 'wow! you can really ACT' exclamations to Linney, Platt, Basso and Benjamin Hickey for their respective portrayals of Cathy, Paul, Adam and Sean. Despite the poor writing a the beginning of the season, the cast carried the show, and I feel that even with a shorter episode run or reduced budget for Season 4, the cast could still carry it.

In that the plot returned to classic 'The Big C' territory this week, the programme also recovered some of its focus it had lost at the beginning of this run. What was most poignant about this episode was Cathy's line which showed yet another edge to her ongoing attitude to life, death and community: 'I help who I wanna help'. This attitude to charity might not be for everyone, but it's an interesting way to express the ideas and reservations about charity we all have. And with Cathy aware she is on borrowed time, all her perceptions feel, it seems to me, a little bit sharper than those of the average joe.

The final scenes of the episode were at once joyful and harrowing. Cathy rejects the wrongs of others, and does as she intends, without reservation the crippling consciousness of social norms. Her line 'God be with you' was absolutely fantastic, and I think we knew at that moment what had been missing from Season 3 of 'The Big C' - big, dramatic gestures of emotion and decisiveness. 'The Big C' shows the importance of taking a stance, and acting on it.

And in the final scene, as Cathy prepares to give a car to the couple who are giving away their child to her, we see that the baby mama is not in fact pregnant. I think we all expected something to go awry with the baby plot, and we're back on familiar 'Cathy doing nice things for bad people' mode, but in the way that 'The Big C' asserts fairness and justice, it is clear that Cathy will be getting her own back on the pair in a grand way. And whilst this may seem repetitive, it is the way in which Cathy deals with setbacks and learns from them that makes the programme what it is.

So whilst we wait on tenderhooks for an announcement about Season 4 (please Showtime, even if you reduce the budget PLEASE give The Big C a proper send-off), there are three episodes left this season, starting in two weeks' time with 'Killjoy'. I can't bloody wait - 'The Big C' gets bloody good in the run up to a series finale, and I'll be watching - I'll probably be crying too.

The Late Hector Kipling - Thewlis' first foray into fiction

David Thewlis, actor of stage and screen (but to you and me, Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter series) has written a book! 'The Late Hector Kipling' is a concerted effort into the realms of Literature with a capital 'L', and, considering the wealth of dirge fiction by celebrities in our bookstores, it's actually pretty good.

'Kipling' follows Hector, a talented and fairly successful artist, as he undertakes a new gallery exhibition and the illness of his loved ones. The book is a chronicle of that archetypal 'troubled artist' and is at turns dark, serious, funny and profound. In setting the novel in the art world, Thewlis enters a world of competitiveness and a world open to scandal, humour and satire. Thewlis has a knowledgeable playfulness about his subject, and a real sense of mockery about the art scene, and by extension, the portrayal of the arts scene in 'the arts': 'I'm having a fag on the beach, humming 'Mother', looking out to sea, cos that's what artists do when they need to think'. The self awareness, not just of the art scene but of Thewlis' own place amongst the literary and film environments, is palpable but light-hearted.

The book has a wide and varied set of characters, the majority of which are mere representations of social groups - the older parents who don't 'get' the art world, the crazy fetishist women with whom he enters into an affair and the friend in the same field of work, who seems to just pip Hector to the post every time.

And yet that isn't to say the novel isn't profound or literary. The novel concerns itself with the troubling effects of success within a friendship, and of the legacy of an artist, their work and their name. Through a consistent and funny first-person narrative, Thewlis, probably also concerned for his own life and work, seems to confront the question: 'just what exactly do we pass on, if anything?'

The book is dark and funny, but never rises too high above the high-concept efforts of an ambitious actor. But Thewlis is a good writer - and I think his best work is ahead of him. But for now, try 'Kipling' - it's dark, funny and interesting, and whilst the narrator's attitudes great after a while, it's along the same vein as the greatest hedonistic troubled men - think John Self in 'Money' or anyone in a Bret Easton Ellis novel.

Probably the finest moment of the novel is this: a friend finds Hector sitting in a cupboard and says 'Is this part of the show?' Hector looks up, and insists 'this is just me hiding in a cupboard. It's not art - it's my life'.

09 May, 2012

The Apprentice Corner - 9/5/12

I'm going to do this semi-live but without the technical support of The Guardian online making it an official live-blog. Feel free to iPlayer alongside 'The Apprentice Corner' this week TO FEEL PART OF IT.

This week on 'The Apprentice', the dickwads candidates have to convince up-and-coming artists that they have the ability to sell their 'urban art'. These candidates being Ricky Martin, the most manicured guy going and Adam, who is less 'street', and more '80s house party'. This should be fun. Sssshhh it's starting!

Watching the 'previously on the Apprentice' segment just makes it abundantly clear how fucking thick this lot are. Honestly the mistakes they have made are just ludicrous. I could write a script about the thickest people on the planet and they would behave more intelligently than these 'fucktards' IN A FICTIONARY TALE.

Okay, I've already realised I can't type fast enough to keep up with this and livetweet at the same time. I will now be switching to the past tense - bear with me.

The candidates were made to meet some kind of projection of Sugar in some kind of cave. They were surrounded by some kind of graffiti. Alan said some stuff. It was all a bit dull. Basically, the point is that the candidates must meet 'up-and-coming urban artists' - in other words, they must rendez-vous with hippy twats in Olly Murs hats.

The PM discussion went pretty quickly this week, with just a few mumblings from Stephen, and we were left with Gabby (not Logan, the other one) and Tom (Mark Ronson reincarnate).

As the task began, the candidates showed just how fucking stupid they are. Tom doesn't know anything about anything, Gabby's schmoozing was laughable and Adam said, of Banksy, 'It's like the stig innit'. Sack the fucker.

The teams had to send half their team to Bristol and keep half in London. Frankly, why stop there - send half the teams to Russia and be done with it - book one-way tickets. Get one for Alan too - hopefully they won't let him tweet in Russia.

Nick and Ricky (Nicky, in bromance terms) were sent to Bristol, and pounded the pavements (walked down one small stretch of a street with the camera). Ricky said 'we look quite corporate'. No lads, you actually look like Bob The Builder on steroids and a child character from the first Harry Potter. Give over.

After seeing an artist with the funniest voice of all time, it was decision time. It was time to face the music. Let the cheese meet the burger etc. Both teams chose the same artist so Tom got all sad for a moment, went a bit hyperbolic 'its a no-win situation for us' and then decided to drown his sorrows by representing some of the shittest and biggest art in existence. You might have thought he threw the task, but then you saw that Scottish one trying to sell stuff and you realised THEY'RE ALL BAD.

Overall, Tom deserved to go because he said, and I QUOTE, 'I had good a knowledge of this scene'. Tosser.

I have come to the conclusion that the boardroom is quite boring. Its been so similar for so many years that I find myself switching off and dreaming of Katie Hopkins whenever we go in there. We either need a new, orange boardroom or the action needs to take place on a plane or a boat or something.

As Laura was predictably fired, she left the boardroom with the phrase 'take care'. Take care? Take CARE? You're not fucking Drake love, now get on out of it.

Next week, its the alcohol task of the season and all the candidates will get fucked and will fuck up the task with their fucking personalities.

Who Should Win? Katie

06 May, 2012

Things That Are Wrong With The Voice (Everything) #thevoiceuk

So The Voice battles on this week, consistently smug with its ratings, but still as shit as ever. It's not even 'shit and we love it' it's just shit. The reason we're watching is because there's not much else on and noone can resist the comedy of live-tweeting a Jessie J TV appearance, but if any of the BBC's Press Office actually checked Twitter they'd realise we all pretty much hate the show and here's why:

Note: I call the judges 'judges' and not ''coaches'' because they are ''judges''.

The Battle Rounds We had two absolute losers singing at/to each other in a faux-boxing ring as if this were some kind of tacky themed karaoke bar costing the public twenty-two million pounds. As each raced to get a vocal hernia, burst a vein in their eye or pop a lung before their competitor, we were treated subjected to some of the worst ear-splitting notes ever. It was like a catfight during chucking out time at a Newcastle Wetherspoons.

Holly Willoughby 'Holly Willoughbooby' was trending within the first five minutes of yesterday's show due to Holly's inability to wear actual clothes. You'd think that after thirty one years of living as a human, she'd have mastered the concept, but no. In the first week, she wore actual lingerie during a primetime family show on the BBC, and last night was in some sort of competition to prove herself as the yummiest mummy, in the most inappropriate format ever. She also talks like an 80-year old smoker and is not able to yell people's names dramatically. This is quite important on a TV talent show.

Despite these promo shots, the two are never seen together.
 Reggie Yates and the V Room Somewhere in an office at the BBC in late 2011, someone said 'we need to use social networking wisely when we premiere The Voice' and someone else said 'Reggie Yates is a shit presenter but we've already booked him and paid his deposit'. Then, the leader of The Voice (possibly Holly herself) said 'well let's just put him in a room with boring generic tweets from pre-teens on a screen behind him and he can pretend to be a comforting presence but actually just be quite leery. The public like that. Right? RIGHT.'
Note: my tweets never get read out and I don't know why. Mine would liven up the V Room a treat.

Jessie J Quite literally the worst person ever. Whilst simultaneously telling us how 'cut-throat' the music industry is, how much she has grafted for success and how talented she is, she proceeds to be unfailingly positive about every performance (even the truly dire ones - I'm looking at you Sam Buttery). She also puts on ridiculous faces whenever anyone does anything with noise. She's also a massive hypocrite and quite unlikeable and a bit smug.

William I'm not calling him Will.I.Am because frankly that's ridiculous and he should just have a normal name that doesn't format itself to a hyperlink whenever you type it. This guy is not just ineloquent or 'bad with words' - he's a fucking tool. He cannot formulate words, dresses like a hipster power ranger and says things that actually don't make sense. He also livetweets DURING the show for the following reason:

RT @IAMWILL Thank you everyone who watched #thevoiceuk tonight...if you saw me on my phone I wasn't being rude...I was connecting to people watching

Connecting to people watching? How new-age of you. You were actually just tweeting shit like 'let's go', 'knock em out' and 'im proud of my team' [these are actual quotes]. SHOVE OFF WILLIAM AND TAKE YOUR CLOTHES FROM THE FUTURE WITH YOU.

Tom Jones He sits there like a mute who doesn't know what's going on and can just name famous people in his sultry tones. I'm not complaining but I'd rather he was Lady Gaga.

Danny from the fucking Script Now this rosary-clad demin criminal has said publicly that after the first show of The Voice UK, he 'woke up to a better uk music scene'. This is ludicrous for so many reasons. I'll leave that with you because frankly there are so many things wrong with the statement that when I start writing about them I end up smashing my head into the keyboard.

All That Praise Now, over on #xfactor, criticism is usually said to create drama or is strategically said by the judges. On The Voice, criticism simply doesn't exist. Jessie said on yesterday's show that the programme is so great because they don't bring people at their full potential and have 'yes men' around them, but that they nurture and hone talent. This is bollocks because even constructive criticism ('you were slightly pitchy' is the most they will say to a contestant who can't sing in tune) is book-ended by huge amounts of ifs, buts and praise. BE MORE NEGATIVE. WE'RE POSTMODERN - WE CAN'T COPE WITH ALL THIS FRIVOLITYAND JOY.

The Contestants & Songs The contestants are all mediocre cruise performers, save about three, and the song choices are always generic and a bit dull. But I have a big problem with three of the performers.
  1. Bo Bruce Last night she sang a Kate Bush song and continued her campaign to shift Ellie Goulding from her position of 'being Ellie Goulding and singing like her'. She's already knocked Dido and Diana Vickers off their stools but she's going in for a triple kill. She thought about 'singing in my actual voice' but realise it wasn't for her.
  2. Matt Cardle I don't know this guy's actual name. I think it's something like Steve but I don't really care. He sang 'Sweet Disposition' and aside from the fact that none of the judges knew the song (HELLO! THE TEMPER TRAP! HELLO?) he also sang it all out of key in a crappy falsetto but somehow got a GREAT FAT STANDING O FROM ALL JUDGES. He also single-handedly murdered music.
  3. Tyler James Yes you were Amy Winehouse's friend and I think maybe you should open up about that because you don't really mention it at all. Anyway. Last week he sang 'Higher Love' and I just want to alert everyone to the video below this paragraph. Now Tyler said that he'd wanted to do a higher version of this song for a while. No. What actually happened is he heard the McMorrow version and thought he could sing it. He sang it as close to this version as he could. What he did here guys is MUSIC PLAGIARISM. On a show that's all about 'musical integrity' and 'art', you'd think James might give a nod to the person who created the version of the song he is singing and thus kept him in the competition. But no he didn't - he attempted to pass off the idea as his own to come across as an 'artiste'. He actually came across as a 'ballbag'.

The Editing Over on the other side, editing is slick, clever and exciting. Over on the Beeb, its as if goats are being manually made to drag giant screens over other screens because everything is SO SLOW. And they also need to introduce a 'IT'S TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC' tagline because something in the show needs to be more then mediocre. Also, the 'rehearsal in a brick room with Jessie J' VTs are apalling.

The Standing Ovations These have lost all meaning. Holly Willoughby could fart and Danny would rise up in his double-denim combo and clap like a seal. If there was a prize for 'giving unnecessary standing ovations', Danny would win it. And then I'd knock him over the head with it. Every time the judges stand for some inconsequential karaoke ballad I feel like writing a strongly-worded letter of complaint but instead, have this blogged paragraph you fuckerz.

The 'Live Shows' On Sundays, the show is NOT LIVE. Despite a confusing mix of 'today' and 'tonight' and 'last night' being bandied about the programme's communal lexis, everyone on the show wears the same fucking clothes. We all KNOW it's not live so just TELL US we've all read THE GUARDIAN'S TV SECTION.

Basically it's all crap and we only watch it to make funnies and get retweets. Scrap the whole concept and start over, and for the last time, Danny Cohen*, don't use Jessie J in something how many times do I have to tell you that this is NOT OK. Long live double denim though.

03 May, 2012

Glee - 3.18 - Choke

This episode was a hot mess of three different plots, only one of which anybody gave a toss about. Here's my other thoughts:

The Puck Storyline: Now this was all very funny and the first question on the exam paper was LOLtastic but really, can we not just cut Puck some slack? Glee is supposed to be about 'opening yourself up to joy' but in every sense of the word, this episode was a heartbreaker. We had all that drama with Rachel, did we really need everyone else's life to get fucked about with aswell?

Bieste: Which leads us on to our favourite female football coach. I don't know if this is a response to the Chris Brown/Rihanna drama, or they just didn't have much to say this episode, but really this domestic violence plot was overwrought and a bit pointless. At first the episode was just a general comment about domestic violence (and more screentime for that bloody Roz 'Black Sue' Washington) but then it turned into Bieste's second storyline ever, which didn't really end because she went back to him. It also didn't make sense because Cooter (ha! cooter!) was with Sue before and now Sue's being all nice! The Florence cover was a bit dull and the storyline hasn't ended even though it was crap and rushed - with all the graduation stuff coming up, do we really need more Bieste on screen!?

Roz Washington: This was boring because it must be the sixth time she's made the 'your baby will be an old man' joke and it's stopped being funny and it's actually now quite offensive what with Sue's baby situ.

The Kurt Thing: Rachel's initial scenes with Kurt seemed to set it up either that she was intentionally sabotaging him, or that she meant well but he'd end up not getting in and blame her. However, his last minute turn-of-decision was brilliant and frankly shocking. He pulled out an excellent performance, and I liked that the song played into his whole story arc of being individual/special. But then, shock horror! Rachel's audition...

The Rachel Thing: Her first scenes at the beginning of the episode are some of the tensest in Glee ever: 'you know when your time is... and it's now'. Her audition was so difficult to watch and I was quite literally on the edge of my seat. The f*ck-up was well-executed and the entire scene was well-put together. I think it was so realistic for someone for whom it means so much, and in the same way was such a shock that this would happen to her. I'm hoping she gets a reprieve or works tooth-and-nail for the judge to listen to her again. What will probably happen is that she'll sing in front of Goldberg at Nationals and then get a space. However...

SEASON FOUR: I STILL don't know how this is going to work so I'm just super-confused and yet another episode has passed without putting us any closer to an answer. Either Kurt and Rachel have to get in, and we have S4 in New York, or even if they don't, they'll try again and we'll be in this same situation in Season 5. I spend about 50% of my day, every day, wondering how this will work. Only three weeks left!

The Ending: Everything was just really shit so I stayed under my duvet all day listening to 'Don't Rain on my Parade' and watching the rain pour.

The Apprentice Corner

So last week Katie was booted off and frankly I haven't got out of bed for a week and I'm still wearing black in mourning. Jenna should have been hired for her voice alone, and Adam/Azhar are tiring very quickly. I have just forced myself up, eaten some alphabet spaghetti which I spelt into 'KATIE SHOULD HAVE BEEN HIRED' and now I'm ready for this week. I hope Katie gets a reprieve. And now for past tense.

This week's task was to buy some old junk from a massive warehouse and the contestants gained extra points for making lazy cultural stereotypes of the people of Essex. Frankly we should have just left all the candidates in the warehouse and let Katie claim the title because the candidates this series are boring the life out of me.

One team decided to go for small, mechanical bugs that whizz round the floor, which sold for THREE QUID. We used to have these at work and we quite literally sold none in three weeks and sent them back. How the team managed to flog these I have no idea.

In a market somewhere in Romford, Adam and Stephen decided to form some kind of Delboy and Russell Kane double-act, using an actual broom to literally scratch each others' backs, as if thats the purpose of brooms. There are no words. We were then welcomed to the stupidest woman in Essex, who when Ricky said she could pick her favourite broom, replied 'oh but they're all the same'. YES WE KNOW. THANK YOU FOR REINFORCING NATIONAL STEREOTYPES.

Adam's name is Adam Corbally but I have taken to calling him 'Twat Coat' and also sometimes 'Twat Quote' when he says something twatty, LIKE VERY WEEK. This episode, he listed normal places that people shop - a market, a shop, a retail park - and used this as proof that he 'can sell anywhere in the world'. I'd like to see him in an abandoned quarry in North Wales selling motorised bugs and fake tan and then see how bloody good he is. Also Ricky Martin The Bitch reared her head again but quickly was shut down by the fact that nobody cares until he does Livin La Vida Loca in karaoke after a task.

As we leave 'the warehouse full of crap' and enter 'the boardroom that's actually a tv set', Sugar says 'I like this task because it replicates how I started in business'. More graphic ego-rubbing from Alan here - something I feel we all want more of. Oh no wait what's that you say? We DON'T want to see Sugar verbally masturbate on primetime BBC1? OH OKAY.

As Nick and Margaret Karren read out two numbers each - the cash AND the assets, noone knew who had won until they read out the final total. Honestly, if the candidates haven't done GCSE Maths we really shouldn't let them into business. Adding 600 to 200 and getting 800 is hardly a tall ask, even if you are 11 like Nick.

Now in the boardroom Azhar was a twat and rightfully was fired. He seemed to have learnt the word 'strategy' that week, and Jade put it perfectly when she said 'you say strategy and it makes you look like you know what you're talking about'. What's great is that for this bunch of morons and thickwits, 'strategy' is a long and complicated word. I can't wait till someone brings out the big guns like 'accountability' or 'balance sheet' and Jenna's head explodes.

It all got a bit serious when Sugar asked 'why should I not terminate your existence?' as if he finally got that laser cannon delivered and is looking for his first victims in a real-life Hunger Games. But Azhar got off having to take a black cab back to the gym he clearly lives in and all the candidates went home. Next week: the candidates pitch for and sell urban art. I think they could just put Adam's weird head on a platform and we'd be done.

Who Should Win? Katie

01 May, 2012

Steps: On The Road Again - Fucking Hilarious

Steps have reformed and it's quite possibly one of the best things to happen to 2011 and 2012. There's been tears (Lisa's), there's been laughter (mostly mine) and there's been lots of talking about food (Claire). It's clear that all five members of Steps hate one another, but when the outcome's this good, who cares? Here's some things I'm loving about the series:

Lisa Scott-Lee's Existence This. Lisa is the most fame-hungry member of the band, and the one with the most to lose. She knows (and we all know after that failed MTV documentary) that she has no hope of cracking the music industry, without the other four. That's even why she pretends to be friends with Claire at the races even though her eyes say something different. Something very different.

Claire Not Helping Herself Post-dance rehearsal she said 'Oh I just want a pizza' and after an interview on Lorraine she said 'Can we get a bacon sandwich now?' She also throws strops in dance classes and everyone politely pretends they haven't noticed that 'she's got a bit bigger since the first time'. Magnificent television. In episode one she 'revealed' that she'd had a bit of trouble with her weight. Oh really Claire? Seriously though? I wouldn't have known from the 345 magazine covers, fitness DVD and 'Slave to Food' TV show. I really wouldn't.

Them Hating Each Other Magazine interviews, television appearances, touring, chatting - throughout every single feature, the hatred in the group is palpable. H thinks Claire's too fat and noone forgives them two for leaving the band and Lisa's angry with H for not attending her wedding and Faye thinks Lisa should be at rehearsals and Claire wishes she could be a solo artist and everyone's angry at Lisa for being a twat and Lee just wishes he could go back to Personal Training with his friend once a week. I can't wait till their bare-knuckle fights.
This frivolity is all fake.
 Lisa's Family Living Inconveniently in Dubai Lisa's narrative this series surrounding her love for her children and their new life in Dubai doesn't ring true. 'I'm a family girl but really I'd kill my husband and his gran to record a new album' is more like it. Last week she said 'I'm doing it for them [my kids]' - no, Lisa, you're doing it for you. Because you're a fame-hungry bellend. Also Lisa has it 'so much worse' than everyone else, because she chose to live in Dubai (it's not like she had a job to think about guys so world travel was easy) and for some unfathomable reason, can't move her small children back to the UK for a month with her while she tours. Cue outrage from the rest of group but really Lisa's loving this attention. And once the cameras stop rolling, she'll be the first one to sign on the dotted line for the new album.

Them Pretending They're 'Working Parents' Lisa's a twat but I expected more of Faye Tozer. She told Claire that she 'had to be a working mother' - frankly, she didn't, and it's not as if she's been working non-stop because panto season is only one month a year. Also, all the girls have live-at-home husbands that live off the back of Steps' success so really let's not pretend your husband won't look after them. Oh and let's none of us pretend that Lisa Scott-Lee has worked at all in seven years since 'Totally Scott-Lee' because she literally hasn't.
I for one can't wait for the tour to be shown on TV (I would have bought a ticket but really that's just getting ridiculous past the point of 'having a laugh') and for hopefully a new album. Frankly, they could turn Steps into a 24-hour livestream of their lives and I would watch. I LOVE IT.

The Hunger Games - Book One

The Hunger Games. Three books, one film and a whole lot of fans. But is there anything there for adults, and is the hype justified? I read the first book and found out.

The first book in the trilogy focuses on Katniss' inclusion in the Hunger Games - a televised fight-to-the-death amongst twenty-four teenagers in a dystopic future. Bit different to 'he stared at me in biology class' dilemmas facing other teen fiction protagonists. Katniss must leave behind her hometown - District 12 - to train, before being thrust into the world's spotlight in a hellish arena until she either dies or wins the competition.

What makes the book is Katniss. She is a great, strong and fiercely practical protagonist, without being unlikeable or cold. Her nature is also what is appealing to both boy and girl readers. Her ability to cope with situations without being self-indulgent is a refreshing change to YA writing, and the inclusion of romance between herself and Peeta comes across very naturally and is one side to the novels, rather than the entire plot.

What is most interesting about the book is Collins' tackling of the media. In the same way that Katniss must survive physically in the arena, she must also play and manipulate the media and the world's perceptions of her to survive. This binary between the physical, the human, and the media-centric modern world is very interestingly played, and says something quite interesting about the modern world in what is often put down as 'just a children's book'.

So is 'The Hunger Games' worth its status as 'the next big franchise'? Yes. In the same way that the Harry Potter books fly forward in a tense and gripping narrative, Katniss' adventure is one you cannot put down. It's more than the typical teen dystopic novel, and in this way, is appealing to adults. The book features a positive role model for teen girls after a few years of Bella fucking Swan, and if anything was going to be 'the next big thing after Potter', I don't mind if it's this - the first novel is excellent youth fiction. I can't wait to read the others.