Thursday, November 30, 2006


Twilight. That transitory moment on the border between lightness and dark. The French refer to it as the time entre chien et loup - the time when the domestic dog settles down inside us and its ancestor the savage wolf goes on the prowl. How decidedly French, but I like it nonetheless.

It is my favourite time of day as it marks the transition from the utilitarian hours of daylight to something else - to something of infinite possibility (i.e. guilt-free pints). Time to turn off the computer, socialise, enjoy a drink, see a film, play, eat, meet a friend, relax, pour another drink. After a busy day it feels like a reward for success. Some days it comes too soon, and it makes me fret over the day's failures. But either way, twilight is the one part of the day that seems to give more than it takes. Like Vegas in reverse.

As such my thoughts are carried back to my most recent Vegas-meets-twilight experience at the V&A show, Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour. Upon walking in you are immediately enveloped by the enchanting world of manufactured twilight that all sense of reality is shed (like slots for a gallery geek). The show depicts eight top-notch contemporary photographers' works, showing scenes from the hour of twilight - including some stand-outs from Gregory Crewdson (shown here) which satisfyingly feel like Twin Peaks crossed with Edward Hopper.

I know much of the art intelligentsia considers photography too popular and easily digestible. They say there is too little of a filter between our lives and the moments on view. But why does popular have to be bad? Making the sublime identifiable - where's the travesty? The V&A should introduce the Twilight show with an MGM lion. Life's a movie. We're the script. Enjoy the show.

Oh, and the new V&A cafe recently re-opened and serves up top-notch nosh including a full roast (and live pianist) on Sunday. The style is somewhere between Carluccio's and William Morris. Worth a trip on its own.

Twilight Until Dec 17
V&A, Cromwell Road, London, SW7

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Femme mentale

Like most women I am unpredictable. There are moments I feel the jagged edge of the glass ceiling, and others where I embrace a mini and stilettos. Sometimes I convince myself that men are the chosen people, until I remember that they have to shave daily. So, it was this week that I opened the Guardian with unfettered excitement over a feature article entitled "Do women really talk more?" There is something about scientific studies into gender differences that I find irresistible.

That is, unless they turn out to be predictable, sexist claptrap. Which was sadly the upshot of the Guardian's challenge of the media hyped myth from the U.S. bestseller, The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine. Namely that women talk more - 20,000 words a day compared with 7,000 for the average man - and they talk twice as fast. And no drumroll needed: the claim remains unsubstantiated (which is spin for untrue).

Which we could have guessed all along. A bit of Googling easily turns up at least nine different versions of this claim, ranging from 50,000 vs. 25,000 down to 5,000 vs. 2,500. A few minutes of "deeper" research reveals that none of the authors of these claims actually seems to have counted, and none cites anyone who seems to have counted either. Because when it comes to the sexes you only need to compare George Michael with George Bush, Kate Moss with Kate Middleton, or your partner with your ex to provide a useful reminder that both sexes are complex and, indeed, that similarities (as well as differences) abound.

So next time if all they can offer up is 1950s sexist propaganda, let's ask they at least make sure it's the real deal:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Explosive stuff

I have received a few e-mails of late from sarcy NY pals asking when I am going to do a review of the radioactive sushi bar in Piccadilly. Black comedy is welcome but regretfully the media informs us that was last week's news. Now the Alexander Litvinenko polonium hazardous zone is no longer confined to Itsu's sushi bar; but has spread to the wider boundaries of Piccadilly and Mayfair, even reaching parts of North London near the former spy's home.

All of which got me thinking that in London's desperate desire to fulfill a timely James Bond fantasy over the death of the former spy, are we not obviating the one obvious question for Scotland Yard? Namely is there not now a pressing and urgent need for military intervention in the Piccadilly/Mayfair area (for a start)? Given that appreciably more nuclear material has been found in local restaurants, office buildings and sushi bars than has been uncovered in the whole of Iraq, shouldn't somebody be bovvered?

And in these combustible times it is hard not to worry about the relative safety of Number Ten (sorry, I mean number one). So, thankfully, I had the experience of a lifetime last night at Wayne McGregor's new smash-hit, Chroma, at The Royal Ballet. So much so that if I died by nuclear rain shower or umbrella poisoning today I would go a happy woman.

You can take your pick of five-star reviews with even a whopping six-star in this week's edition of Time Out. I have never seen anything like it: tough, flowing, extreme, stunning, with a special music (from the rock band, White Stripes) that explodes in your heart. It is part of a trio (including Balanchine's 4 Temperaments + Wheeldon's DGV) that is mind blowing. After the show I sat perched at the downstairs bar of the local Cafe des Amis gawking at the dancers who fluttered in post-show to swill alcohol and chew fags. Their genius restored my faith in humanity. As did their vodka intake. But in these nuclear times who wants to live by half measures?

Tomorrow night (29 Nov) is the only remaining performance. Tickets are sold-out, but the Royal Opera House releases 67 tickets on the day of each performance for sale at 10am. Tickets from £3 to £37.50. Ring 020 7304 4000 for more info.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Loosen up

Today is going to be a feeble (I mean female's) attempt to write about men's fashion. Well, about men's scarves in particular. About how at this crucial point in London's temperature transition from autumn to winter men seem to cast reason into the prevailing wind and take to voluntarily tying pieces of fabric around their neck. The very same men who find wearing a tie akin to self strangulation. While this practice doesn't faze me in the cold weather when covering up is a necessity, there is something about a coatless man with a scarf that screams, "Hello, I am pretentious." If it is warm enough to not warrant a coat, then it can't be cold enough to warrant a scarf. Surely that makes (fashion) sense?

Unconvinced? Consider the skinny scarf (or neckerchief) pictured here and haloed by the king of arrogant pomposity, Russell Brand. What purpose is it serving? He doesn't look of Boy Scout age so it is unlikely to be enforced couture. It was taken on London's Savile Row so we can't dismiss it as misguided Parisian flair. And as he looks the fashion conscious side of metrosexual, one may assume such an accessory could be used to add a bit of colour to an outfit without committing too much. But wait - his is black. So, that's not it. Nope, as suspected, it is purely for show. So let's call the show over here and start a 'Just Say No' campaign: "Need coat, need scarf, no coat, no need! "

Any resisters?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Designation denied

Not only did we make it through this week without drinking to extinction, but we made it through this year. All in spite of today being the 1-year anniversary of legalised 24-hour drinking. And while we have failed to embrace a sophisticated cafe culture as the government had hoped, we also failed to embark on an epic binge that could only end in the collapse of civilisation as we know it (barring a few Hilton-esque moments).

So why is the government still insisting on playing Supernanny with its parenting classes tripe? And even more worrying was this week's report of backhanders between the Scientologists and London's police. What could they possibly have in common? Could it be they are hatching plots to scheme even greater force? This is all sounding too TomKat spooky for comfort. So, let's reject such encroachment with the 16th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction".

1) Shocked by the 327,466 "problem drug users" in the UK putting us top of the European tables? React by getting tanked instead (after all, it's bad form not to celebrate an anniversary) at Tamarai, London's latest Pan-Asian extravaganza. The impressive drinks list warrants a liquid diet. 167 Drury Lane, WC2

2) Unimpressed by Britain's lag in the worldwide galleries race to buy art? React by owning your own Hirst or Emin for £36 at the Royal College of Art Secret exhibition and sale. The catch? They are postcard size and the artist remains anonymous until purchased. But if you do pick that one-off Hockney, how cool will you feel? Sale on Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 10am-4pm

3) Already annoyed by all the Christmas best gift ideas lists? React by planning ahead for once and head to the Shoreditch Photographic Print Sale. An early chance to pick up something more original than a Body Shop gift set. Today to Sun.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks

Waking up in London on Thanksgiving morning is enough to make even the most brazenly cool (editorial license at play) New Yorker a wee wistful. No standing in the cold to barely catch a glimpse of Garfield's whiskers in the Macy's parade; no being brought to tears about the turkey being dry, the carrots cold or the potatoes lumpy; no one intentionally mentioning things over dinner that they know will upset you, things that stopped being important to you years ago.

No, enough indulgent self-pity for today. Instead I am going to start us off on a list of things to be thankful for today. Because that is what the day is about after all. Or, at least I will convince myself of such whilst I sit at my desk tucking into a limp 'Thanksgiving Special' on granary from Pret. (Incidentally, I prefer harps to violins).

Today we give thanks for...drum(stick) roll please:

1. The Democrats control Congress again and Rumsy is gone.

2. There are no more 'hungry' people in the U.S. No, that's not a typo. By government decree, the 35 million Americans who aren't always sure where their next meal is coming from will now be referred to as people experiencing "very low food security." Eat that load of turkey, George Orwell. So with spin aside, I am most thankful 2008 is one day closer.

3. Amy Winehouse The Billie Holiday of the 21st century. Amy's new album Back to Black is raw, genius material about life in contemporary London. And the rousing, churchy 'Rehab', in which Winehouse describes how her father tries to wean her off alcohol ('Try to make me go to rehab/ I say no, no, no'), shows Lily Allen who's the boss.

4. Posh and Becks. That in this year of calamitous celebrity break-ups, England's favourite couple are holding it together. Stop snickering.

5. This Fox News Video

6. New blogger buddies. And last, but never least, I am thankful for all of my loyal readers. So without further ado, over to you...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Love and Money

Today's title was not chosen to induce thoughts of the Mills-Macca saga (although her latest PR stunt makes OJ's almost seem reserved). Instead it is the ticket to one of the best nights out in London right now: Dennis Kelly's new play at the Young Vic. Watching it was as close to a Meg Ryan "Yes, Yes, Yes!" moment as I have had in a while (at the theatre, that is, please don't sign me up for any cuddle parties).

Fresh, modern and of today it has all the hallmarks of a hipster cult following. The script is riveting with the characters delivering skin-deep performances that make so much other theatre seem stilted in retrospect. The plot revolves around the point to which capitalism can drive us in our bid to 'keep up with the Joneses.' And with credit spending on the up and the UK boasting the highest levels of personal debt in Europe it couldn't be more topical.

The writing is superb and propels the short 90-minute play at such a frenzied speed, perfectly evoking today's 'buy, buy, buy' world. From the opening scene featuring the play's everyman, David, conducting an e-mail romance with a French colleague, you are hooked. He is knee-deep in debt and dissastified with his job. His wife, Jess, is stressed beyond sanity because of the debt from her shopping addiction. They have a massive row after she sees a man stabbed on Oxford Street. She begins to fall apart. And you can't help but be glued to every move.

The Young Vic reopened in October after a re-build (and under David Lan's direction is ripe to rival the National Theatre). It boasts the new Cut Bar and Restaurant which was buzzing with both theatre goers and regular punters alike. There is also a cocktail bar and roof terrace upstairs where I found the friendly and largely Mancunian cast. The studio space itself is Ikea-stark befitting the depicted impersonal and clinical world.

This jigsaw puzzle of modern urban life had me laughing out for more. It often felt like a cross between The Office, Friends, and the Royle Family. But be forewarned if you are sensitive about profane language: cu*t is used so freely you start wondering if it is the new fu*k. Either way, the script offers little protection.

The Young Vic
020 7922 2922
Until 16 Dec (not yet reviewed in mainstream media)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

London's Lonely Hearts

I am often surprised by the musings a ride home on the Tube can spawn: last night being a case in point. Amidst the system-wide delays, I had time to troll through the FT Weekend which I nicked from work's reception. The best part being the FT magazine, or 'The Economist Lite' as it should be rebranded.

And this week's cover, I was surprised to see, is devoted to the U.S. export, Second Life, "an on-line society within a 3D world, where users can explore, build, socialize, and participate in their own economy." In Second Life you can buy and sell things, sleep around, start a business, walk, fly; and most peculiar of all - it has its own official currency. Not to mention that there are over 1 million inhabitants. I will refrain from a tempting 'Bowling Alone' tirade about how modern society must have denied these people a first life, because I am sufficiently ignorant and may decide to be the next member. But suffice it to say, suspicions are cast.

Suitably unnerved, I next cast my eye to an article discussing a different craze, the West Hampstead-based 'Cuddle Party.' Another illustrious U.S. creation maintained as 'structured, safe non-sexual workshops" which have attracted 10,000 people. The FT journo revealed them to involve Twister-style romps where you end up on a pile in the floor, while massaging each other, holding hands and eating grapes. I don't know about you, but if I want to simulate Ancient Rome I watch Russell Crowe in Gladiator. And for the other bits there is always Eyes Wide Shut.

Sufficiently disturbed by the time I got home; I took to The New York Times, hoping that maybe 2,000 miles away life was more familiar. And sure enough was yet another article about London's emotional deprivation as evidenced by the personal columns in the London Review of Books. The article reveals how the ads present applicants' warts and all; from drug addiction to incontinence. My favourite starts,"a self destructive, jacked up on Viagra." I suppose the motto being that nested in the peculiarly English tradition of ironic sentiment we may find that elusive 'someone for everyone'. And that, to me, is a better rush of Oxytocin than any stranger's cuddle on-line or in-person.

For a compilation of some of the best ads check out, "They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books." Perfect for that passing-time-in-the-loo book present at Christmas.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Branded to kill

So, yes, I saw Casino Royale at the weekend along with millions of others in sold-out cinemas across London. And, to quench your water-cooler gossip thirst, Daniel Craig more than lives up to the fawning critics: he is the man. Craig adds grit and gone-postal anger to the post-bouffant Brosnan, metrosexual Bond. That coupled with a (here declared) uncanny resemblance to the notorious Hollywood bad boy, Christian Slater, seals his fate as 007 for years to come (Amen, sister!).

And the tills are alive with the sound of money. Feverish hordes at the local Odeon last night over-burdened the ticket machines wreaking queue chaos and affording me time to survey the crowd of giddy, Bond enthusiasts. And from Northwest London's Yamaka touting teenagers to middle-class couples from the local Afro-Caribbean community, there was no obvious demographic denominator. Surely, that is the ultimate kiss of death for any brand. That is, unless, you are British and the product is 007.

Bond the brand deals in the most potent of currencies: sex, money, power, and death. Yet, I can't help but look at the brand from an outsider's perspective: an American-raised female more interested in Topshop than Top Gear. And from such a distance, I see Bond fulfilling an underlying consumer need that is partly about Britain's place in today's world. Bond leads you to believe that Britain has the best cars in the world (nevermind that the country lacks a car industry), leads the globe in technology (who rates Asia, really?) is equipped with unparalled secret intelligence (shame Bin Laden is still at play), and has the best looking man the world over with foreign women falling at his feet.

Now I love London, and by extension Britain; but, I can't help but feel that as Britain becomes weaker, Britons demand for what Bond represents becomes stronger. As the world stage continues to move on from Britain (and the West); the need for Bond's symbolism is growing, not diminishing. Now that really is a brand to kill for.

And for those more after buff than huff, you can find a Bond themed experience at: The Spa at Chancery Court which has recently launched a 'Moonraker Massage' and '007 Manicure', perfect for putting your inner Bond girl in the lime light. The ‘Moonraker’ lasts 1 hour and 25 minutes and costs £115. The ‘007 Manicure’ lasts 55 minutes and costs £55.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hell's Kitchen

Has anybody noticed the common theme across this week's media? From George Clooney being voted the sexiest man alive again (sorry Brad but we'll still have you) to OJ's revival of shame and Jacko's ever disturbing child serenation there has been a frenzy of interest in 40-plus American men.

So, here in London we were excited by the news that our famously fiery chef, Gordon Ramsey, decided to react with precision timing by launching his first US restaurant last night in New York City, where the food critics were anxiously circling and diners had booked the place solid for two months. But this time, the stakes were much greater than the ones on his popular US reality competition, Hell's Kitchen, on Fox television. Called Gordon Ramsay at The London, the elegant restaurant with a French-influenced menu is located inside the London NYC Hotel in midtown and is Ramsey's most expensive gamble to date.

So with reactionary inspiration from our favourite potty--mouthed cook setting up in the best amalgam named hotel anywhere, it's time for the 15th edition of City Slicker's "Week Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Revolted by the news that Tony Blair's favourite Villiers Street branch of Starbucks was fined £12,000 after being found to be infested with mice? React by getting a different type of dirty kink with your coffee at the part sex shop and part coffee shop, Covent Garden-based Coffee, Cake and Kink. The only place in the capital that manages to combine all the leisurely pleasures of drinking coffee and eating cake with teasing and tempting kinky treats.

2) Disgusted by the above suggestion and the fact that this weekend London is hosting the Erotica Convention at Olympia? React by indulging your thoughts of pearl necklaces at the Dazzle Jewellery exhibition in the Olivier foyer of the National Theatre, South Bank. A huge variety of young designers on show with prices from £10. Mon-Sat 10am-10pm. Starts Monday - 13 Jan.

3) In the mood for a token celeb spot after all the hype surrounding Tom and Katie's big bash tomorrow? React by heading to the recently revitalised Odette's for a weekend treat of top-rated British food in celeb-infested Primrose Hill.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mao vs. Monroe

No, I am not talking about the name of the latest reality TV show. Thankfully, producers are going to have to wait for science to deliver on that one. I am referring instead to the battle that took place yesterday. The stage: Christie's, New York- where some of Andy Warhol's most famous paintings went under the hammer on what turned out to be a record breaking day. A clash of the titans if you are one to hanker for the days when icons were real icons and not something you clicked on to check your mail.

But the auction results were disappointing for those of us who hoped an image that is the embodiment of unparalleled glamour would be valued higher than a picture of a tyrant who came top of the twentieth century mass-murder league tables. Mao, $17.3m – Marilyn Monroe a paltry $16.3m. Surely not? But, then again China is the future. Could the Christie's sale be a proxy for the realigned world pecking order? A symbol of the quickly fading value in all things Western?

One must wonder how values are assigned. But still the demonic despot was given a good run for his money. But if Marilyn is devalued, who will be this generation's female glamour icon? Madonna? Please age gracefully, Madge . Kate Moss? Perhaps, but a marriage to Doherty could polish her off. Posh 'stick insect' Spice? Sorry I didn't mean to insult us. Scarlet Jo? Certainly not with her talent for box office bombs.

Such future defining conundrums combined with today’s grey skies, has left me in need of total escapism. Fortunately, that comes in no better form than the cult-classic Little Shop of Horrors which is previewing from tomorrow at Southwark's Menier Chocolate Factory. Early signs are promising and, done well, there is not much better fun to be had on stage. And in this well-loved venue with just 150 seats, act now and let the reviewers get it wrong later.

Menier Chocolate Factory
020 7907 7060

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

London 101

In newstands across London today you will find the capital's weekly culture and style Bible, Time Out, with a cover mocking the 101 Thing You Must Do Before You Die bestseller with their own, hit-list version entitled '101 Things to do Before You Leave London.' And despite taking umbrage with the title's suggestion that London is not forever, the list is comprehensive and worth a once over. Unless of course you already knew there was a Shoreditch Golf Open every May? Yet, as a competitive blogmaiden at heart, I can't help but feel we need to mark our territory (like a dog needs to pee on a tree).

So I will humbly start us off. After that please pitch in. I am too distracted by whether Dubya is back on the bottle, what the rumoured Rudy Giuliani presidency means for Hillary, and by David Frost's potential interview with Osama Bin Laden to manage anything successfully on my own today.

And without further ado:

102. Turn into a real London luvvie (I mean lover). Enjoy an evening performance at the National Theatre, followed by a drink at the Oxo Tower, and then a walk back across Waterloo Bridge taking in Westminster, the South Bank and London Eye to the west and the City and Canary Wharf to the east.

Because somehow after that experience, paying £800/month for a bedsit in Zone 2 to live with three squatting Aussies starts to make sense.

103. ?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A sobering affair

Is not one of life's greatest cruelties that things rarely live up to expectations? Eager anticipation for the office Christmas party, the romantic birthday dinner, or the World Cup more often than not leaves you crestfallen, if not hung-over and resentful. But thankfully, there are also moments that are surprisingly exceptional (Tim Henman's career notwithstanding) that allow us to keep the dream alive.

As such, I won't allow my disappointing recent evening at the Royal Court to see the World Premiere (how expectation building can you get?) of Caryl Churchill's latest play, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You, cloud my judgement of new English theatre. Nor will I wax lyrical about all that was wrong with the 50 minute (and too long at that) show except to give you enough fodder pre-press night to keep you ahead of the season's gossip.

Amidst all the hype and secrecy Drunk Enough has commanded, the only information to come forth about the play's subject matter was a two-liner (as printed on the flyer): "Jack would do anything for Sam. Sam would do anything." Now, is it just me, or does that tagline in conjunction with the play's admittedly genius title, leave you hoping for a morally probing love story crossed with the answer to that never answered Meatloaf question of what that is in the song, "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)?

Well, cast hopes aside all ye who read here. What Churchill delivers instead is two characters - who you come to assume personify the US (Sam for Uncle Sam) & UK (Jack for Union Jack) who fall in love, and participate in a long list of nefarious political acts that the US and UK have committed over the years. And without criticism, the theatrical conceit of a homosexual relationship as a metaphor for the US & UK entente is absorbing to start; but, fairly quickly the long list of committed atrocities becomes tedious. There is no context apart from the surreal frame of the two men cuddling on a suspended sofa. The dialogue is choppy and the actors' voices are too subdued to maintain attention. And if that still leaves you in the balance, what if I admitted that people started walking out after ten minutes of the World Premiere?

My expectations were huge for a play that covered everything (the UK, the US, politics, relationships) that I love. But, sadly, sometimes love (drunk or not) just ain't enough.

Drunk Enough To Say I Love You
Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
London, SW3
020 7565 5000, to 22 Dec

Monday, November 13, 2006

Intervention Day

You know a certain something is missing from a film when you leave hankering for real entertainment in a session of YouTubing. Such was my Sunday evening trip to see the The Page Turner (aka La Tourneuse de Pages), that I am vowing to abstain from French films. It is not that I only enjoy French characters when they are either jolly peasants or chic Parisians; it is just that, well, why do French films always have to be so impossibly French?

This is not to suggest that Gallic films should intermix their Hitchcockian set-pieces interlaced with Godardian post-modern jokes with no-brain fodder like Big Momma's House 2. But is there any reason not to stage an intervention on French films with presumptuous double entendres for titles (think The Beat that My Heart Skipped, Hidden and now The Page Turner)? Either way, let's kickstart today's campaigning spirit by first joining YouTube's latest cult sensation, the smiley intervention - a campaign to stop the abuse of emotion symbols, such as smiley faces, in public communication. Unless, of course, if used in effusive excitment over a favoured blog :-)

Any other proposed interventions this Monday?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Coming up roses

All things considered this has been a good week for women. And not just because Vanity Fair has generously given us Brad Pitt on the cover of their inaugural December art issue. Whilst Brad is apparently contesting the photo as 'unauthorised', there are few of us who could think of a better reason to undertake a threat of legal action than Brad Pitt, some water, Brad Pitt's knickers, a gun, the colour blue, right ladies? Especially if the 'authorised' one involved him covered in sand and cuddling a brown baby while inspirationally looking off into the middle-distance while a choir of angels weep with gratitude or something.

But there is more to be thankful for. With the help of Dubya's 'thumping', for the first time ever a woman is third in line to be US president. And whilst over in Britain this week, women received more news of the latest glass ceiling heights, we are too inspired by the prospect of Hillary as CEO of the 'free-world' in two years to give it much thought. So with smug delight and the world at our feet (c'mon, for today, join in the dream that democracy matters), let's indulge our rose-tinted view with the 14th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Aghast at today's headline that the cost of raising a child has jumped to £180, 137? React by promoting singleton status and head to London's newest nightclub, Kitts , where the spirit of the Caribbean is brought to Chelsea. The new Boujis?

2) Assume tomorrow's Lord Mayor's Show is a trap for Thames-bound tourists? React by enjoying the South Bank a night early, and head to the Hayward Gallery's 'A Space Where Music Resonates' evening for high-brow, late-night boozing. Tonight 7-11 PM.

3) Overly excited by the hype surrounding Chester-born, (move-over-Hugh-Grant-Now-We-Finally-Have-A-Real-British-Icon), Daniel Craig as the best Bond since Sean Connery? React by delaying the pleasure and getting your heated action from the one-off chances at the Latin American Film Festival. Top picks include Broken Sky (11 & 19 Nov) and Loving Maradona (12 Nov). Curzon Soho.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Somehow the world seems a much better place today. And who would have thought that one person could have so much influence? No, I am not harping on about Kate Moss again, today we are celebrating the sacrifice of the Don. The man who Tricky Dick said before promoting him to his junta, "He's a ruthless little sh*t, he'll do well." Ah, to be proud (okay, let's just settle for not tragically mortified) to be an American again.

Filled with years of pent-up Democrat exuberance, I trotted off to the Donmar Warehouse last night where I joined throngs of London's upper-echelon theatre goers including Tony Bennett, by crashing (via a last minute £7.50 standing ticket) the Directors' Forum (read: stonking rich theatre funders) special evening production of David Mamet's 65-minute play The Cryptogram starring Kim 'SITC Samantha' Cattrall. In attendance was a large population of the Sloane Rangerfied Americans replete with pearl necklaces and quilted Chanel purses filled with admonition over the day's 'Bush bashing.' It was then I realised how the Dems pulled it off: all of the Republicans have moved to London!

But cocktail hour tongue biting aside, the evening was a resplendent, if cryptic, affair which is a tall compliment for Mamet who can be challenging at the best of times. Set in Chicago, 1959 the main characters are 10-year old John, his mother played by Cattrall, and a gay, male family friend. The drama centres on the corruption of John's innocence (and by implication sanity) after being thrust into the world of adult betrayal and evasion. While at first it was hard to believe Cattrall the 1990s Manhattan temptress as a 1950s Midwestern housewife, she merges the two by carrying off the scorned female with excellence. But the show-stopper was undoubtedly young John who plays a traumatised, Macaulay Culkin-like character with astonishing composure.

At just over an hour the evening was hard to fault and should emblazon even the repressed theatre lovers heart. And if you take nothing else away just remember that you never need to pay full-price at the Donmar. The standing seats are £7.50 and the theatre is so intimate (aka cramped) that you often get a better (unobstructed by a random, giant-sized, Dutch tourist) view from the back.

The Cryptogram, Donmar Warehouse
41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden
0870 060 6622

Until 25 Nov

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Slow food, fast

It is a funny phenomenon, but Americans in London (and, of course, Americans in America) eat. And of this I was reminded last night when I joined a group of yank-minded friends in the Prince Bonaparte to stave off Election Day jitters (c'mon Montana and Virginia). And whilst the conversation flitted over vote robbers and Britney Spears' divorce, the one consistent theme was food - the eating of it not the talking about it. To Americans a good night out still revolves around food first, drink second (the real UK-US divide). And because hearty food serves as a useful mop-up for upcoming holiday season drink excess, it is timely that Britain's first risotto bar, Ooze, just opened on Goodge Street, W1.

Affordable fare in London being such a rarity, I was willing to ditch my carb-free (well, except for pizza, pasta, chocolate and red wine) diet and see what this sticky, slow-cooking rice can do when set pride of place. And so I arrived at Ooze, their tag line being "slow food, cooked fast," this past Monday evening with the expectation of an Italian Wagamama experience (not to sound like a Dragons' Den pitch).

But, rather than give the typical restaurant review telling you how my scottish salmon with braised fennel and parsley risotto was tasty, but definitely not for size zero contenders. Or, how the house wine is an easy-drinking red from Montepulciano, and the season crumble was spot-on if quite heavy after a heap of Arborio rice. I will leave the foodie talk to the gurus at Time Out and the Indy. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it (pastel walls withstanding) and would go back; and certainly rate it above Ping Pong which is, either savvily or tragically, located directly across on Goodge Street.

Now let's take on the bigger issue facing London. Can Ooze do for risotto what Wagamama's did for the noodle? Let those opinions ooze here...

Ooze, 62 Goodge Street, London
020 7436 9444
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Freedom by Anonymous

Today was not going to be about Dubya, the midterm elections, or how the Saddam verdict and sentencing was so deliberately timed it makes the Bush Administration actually look competent. No, today was going to be about how rubbish the Turner Prize is (again) this year, and how the only way I could think to retaliate was to write on the comment board at the end, "Thanks Tate Britain for the best and first art show I have ever seen. Your friend, George W. Bush."

But all the years of personal and global Dubya bashing is nothing compared to the just released (and spreading like blogfire) legendary campaign ad:

See Georgie, if you want to play the timing game the democratic (a word you still haven't looked up) blogosphere does too. Let's just hope this spreads fast enough to get America's conscience voting. Twice. Just like the Republicans.

And for those still pining after the Clinton years, you can catch Bubba's former advisor, Sidney Blumenthal, at The Guardian Newsroom, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1 on 15th November for a discussion and book signing of his latest title, How Bush Rules. To reserve a place, email: Starts 7PM.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Word of the Day

Melacoholic. noun. A person inclined to drink alcohol to suppress feelings of melancholy.

Overheard (last night) on Marylebone High Street:
Female #1: Just saw Borat. Self-satisfied crap.
Female #2: Really? But the reviews were so good?
Female #1: I should have gone to the French one about the piano teacher. What is it with the French and pianos by the way?
Female #2: Not sure. But, what I have always wondered is, how French women can wear scarves without them falling off one shoulder?
Female #1: Dunno. Hey, are there any Spanish wines on sale in Tesco's this week?
Female #2: No, think it's a cheap Chardonnay left over from summer.
Female #1: I always take to drinking more after the 15th of October. I call it my melacoholic season. A Croatian guy told me that once and it has stuck with me. Melancholic and alcoholic, get it?
Female #2: Yeah, I am drinking more too. Think it is because you feel entitled with Christmas on the way?
Female #1: Na. For me, it's the realisation that I live on a small island that is going to be covered with greyness for six months.
Female #2: I agree. Why is everybody calling grey the 'new black' this year? The fashion world is so conspiratorial.

Friday, November 03, 2006

In Blighty we trust

It has hardly been a good PR week for Britain (Madge baby snatching aside). In the span of a few days we have been condemned as a "surveillance society" populated with teens from hell who are treasonably too fat to be soldiers. Ouch. So, I guess sometimes there are upsides to being American and closer to forty than fourteen.

But, with age also comes the wisdom to never underestimate the Brits, Empire dissolution days notwithstanding. And if the Today programme and John Humphrys aren't enough to keep you generally inspired by the voice of Britain, pick up a copy of today's Guardian. Splashed across the front page is the most enlightened poll ever printed (as voted here) : "British believe Bush is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il." Sheer genius. In one fell swoop the British people have come to redefine the "axis of evil." And I knew there was a reason I was living in Blighty.

So with love in our hearts and hope for world peace (aka Election Day 2008) in our minds let's celebrate the 13th (and lucky) edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Nauseated by Tom Cruise, the wedding rumours, his now apparent comeback as head of Universal Studios? React by using his name in vain and head to the opening of Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea. Informal and affordable finally comes to Chelsea. And no, Tom, that is not science fiction. Opens today.

2) In sticker shock over the record $140 million paid out for a Jackson Pollock? React by enjoying art for free at Late at Tate Britain where the focus is on disappearing London, complete with Routemaster talks by Will Self. Tonight. 6-10 PM

3) Agree that the high street is no longer the cheap retail thrill it used to be? React by staying indoors and shopping on-line for the American streetwear brand, Urban Outfitters, who have just launched their UK buying website. Just a shame the price signs can't be in dollars.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

In acknowledgement

Acknowledgement feels good. Whether it be from your partner, your boss, the local barman, or TimeOut we all need to feel recognised every now and again. And I realised this on my delayed tube journey this morning. In what came across as an inaudible muttering about a signal failure at Finchley (never mind that we were heading south from London Bridge), I was comforted by the driver's acknowledgement.

No longer were the panic inducing worries of being Bridget Jones-style late to work with a mild case of dry heaves unanswered for and peculiar to me. No, now I was sharing them with a packed Jubilee Line full of Canary Wharf bound suits in polished leather-soled brogues, cuff link requiring starched shirts, and poppy decorated lapels. Not exactly kindred spirits, but atomised souls united briefly by a shared tube driver's acknowledgement.

All of which got me thinking about the blurb in today's Metro highlighting the international writing community phenomenon, NaNoWriMo, or National November Writing Month: "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

A novel in thirty days? Now that is worth true acknowledgement. But could it happen to a semi-chronically (not a word but it should be) discontented professional (is a word but it shouldn't be) with an acute blogging addiction and a vague story idea about a homicidal plot on the part of the Google Earth people to provide a roadmap to Al Qaeda so that they find Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush (and maybe even Mrs. Rumsfeld) and murder them? Oh wait, does it say anywhere NaNoWriMo entries can't be non-fiction?

Oh, and for those who prefer the sideline to the frontline, tomorrow is the start of the Chelsea Book Fair.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The red cups return

Shock, horror - today marks the return of the red cups to Starbucks. And before you right-on, anti-Starbucks, fair trade hooligans start attacking me, I too hate Starbucks. Not so much because they exploit third world labour, sell fake corporate responsibility, or spread like a global virus destroying host cultures. No, I hate Starbucks simply because their product stinks. Their coffee is always bitter. But, that doesn't stop me extracting pleasure from the seasonal marketing campaign some sucker's £4/day double mint mocha decaf skim latté addiction is subsidising.

Blue skies, a crisp breeze, temperatures cold enough to warrant covering up any 'dinner-lady arms' (the only new phrase worth bovvering to remember from last week's Catherine Tate Show) with big woolly jumpers. What is there not to like about the Smoke in November? So, rather than wallow in the gloom of impending egg nog latté (which, incidentally, has more calories than a Big Mac) season, let's indulge in three reasons to be cheerful it's autumn in London. Because who needs Christmas in New York or springtime in Paris, when you can:

1) Celebrate whiskey season in style at Bumpkin: Westbourne Grove's latest culinary trailblazer that is part country brasserie, part restaurant, part whiskey room. Officially launches today.

2) Dress like a sleb (not a typo and better than A-lister) in Roland Mouret's hotly anticipated collection of dresses for Gap. Shouldn't be too surprising as we have been bigging up Gap for ages now. The most expensive one costs £78. On sale from 7 November.

3) Absorb the exuberance behind the paintings of young, LA-based, international art world sensation Laura Owens at the Camden Arts Centre. Well-known fans include David Hockney. Until 26 Nov.