Friday, December 22, 2006

The all clear

What a week it has been. But who has time to sift through the foggy haze? There is Christmas shopping to start. Oh, do be quiet all you organazis out there. I know what you think of us last-minute shoppers - the disorganized, inconsiderate buffoons who don't think far enough ahead to see that Christmas is scheduled for December again this year. But in reality, we are thrill-seekers, addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with panic.

Don't mistake this approach to life as procrastination or indolence. I laugh at procrastination; that's for amateurs. And "indolence?" Ha! I don't know the meaning of the word "indolence." This is a lifestyle choice, made by me and others like me who are too lazy to look up "indolence" in the dictionary. We refuse to let ordinary boundaries define us. When we go shopping for important gifts, we want to feel the pressure, feel the electric charge of anxiety and dread, so we know we're really alive.

And on that note watch out Oxford Street here I come. But not before I celebrate the 20th (but 1st Christmas) edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Did you miss out on the experience of the season that was The Reindeer (despite it being mentioned here)? Not to worry. React by heading to their 'Everything Must Go' sale. All of the restaurant's fixtures are up for sale including antler chandeliers. Starts 10am. Truman Brewery, off Hanbury Street, E1. Today.

2) Are you the Mad Max of the mall - a last-minute shopper out there flirting with disaster? React by enjoying the benefits of living life to the edge: the sales, the maddening crowd, the cashiers pushed to their breaking point. But first check out Time Out's handy Christmas shopping guide. And who said we can't forward plan?

3) Dreading New Year's Eve again? Determined not to end up in some overpriced restaurant, followed by an overpriced bar, to be left hailing an overpriced taxi? React by sorting it now for once with the cheap and cheerful option: All Star Lanes Bowling, 2 courses in the diner a glass of champagne and performances by Alabama 3 and guest DJ’s. Retro looks required. 6pm-3am £50pp Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place, WC1 020 7025 2676 -

And that's all folks. From me to you, Happy Christmas, and until 2007, I bid you farewell. I am back on January 3!

Thank you for reading City Slicker!

CS xx

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Question time

In a vain attempt to escape the Guardian's Best of 2006 lists this morning, I turned to another trusted source, the New York Times website. And what did I find but yet another list:"Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying." Relieved at a topic far removed from Christmas, I jumped on it to only be reminded why everybody in New York turns to a shrink and why everybody in London turns to a drink: in the former they can't stop analysing and in the latter they won't start. To think such a survey has been top of the New York Times most read list all week must shed light on the state of sex in the City.

But healthy scepticism aside, how could a purported 'relationship expert's' report on marital compatibility cite"Will there be a television in the bedroom?" as one of the critical questions couples should discuss before marrying? Certainly that is not as fundamental as "Did you vote for George Bush?", "Are you a scientologist sympathiser?" and "Do you read the Daily Mail?" Or in Brangelina's case "Will you carry my blood (I mean flesh and blood)?" And while on the topic, I still think it is such a shame they opted against naming their child Jendayi (pronounced Jen-Die, beat that!). Its African origin means "give thanks" and from Angelina's recent press pimping it sounds as though she is blood thirsty to tell Jen "Thanks so much for letting us stray."

But enough celebrity tripe. And back to questions couples should ask before marriage. I have listed ones important to me - what are yours?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

December reflections

Stop pretending you are diligently working or internet shopping because the reality is you are reading this blog. And while I don't typically revert to links abuse, I can't help but think today we all deserve it. Because as anybody stuck in an office will know; eating mince pies whilst arranging Christmas cards on your desk is hard work.

So for a few of my favourite London links this week:

This YouTube from the driver's cab on a London Underground train. And you thought you suffered from tunnel vision?

This website to encourage Americans to visit historic England in 2007. Happy 400th Birthday America!

This map of the London 2012 marathon course. Because everybody needs a New Year's fitness goal.

This photographic portrait dedicated to derelict buildings of London. No doubt a few places ripe for the next Banksy.

This example of just how helpful Londoners can be to one another.

If all of this linking has distracted you even further (life is one big excuse) from your last-minute chores, fret not - tonight is late night Christmas shopping at the Design Museum. A great chance to find unusual, quirky presents, design cards and wrapping paper. The Cafe will be open serving mince pies and mulled wine. Tonight until 9PM.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Away with the manger

The Nativity narratives satisfy pretty much everyone: from haute bourgeois art lovers to homeless souls, unwed mothers, anxious dads, lovers of animals, even astrologers. They don't satisfy me, however, because I find they sweeten and sugar-coat the true message.

And I am not talking about the embarrassing moment a few years back when Madame Tussaud's decided to render Posh and Becks as Mary and Joseph alongside Bush and Blair as two of the 'Wisemen'. No, my issue lies in its lies. Because isn't the 'away in a manger' story the biblical equivalent of modern day spin? Does it not conveniently focus on Jesus' birth to obviate the later years of his bloody, mortal conflict? No, I can't help but be a bit cynical. A sentiment not helped by the fact that I still don't know what myrrh is, or a manger for that matter. Nor have I got over the injustice of the fat kid in class always getting stuck playing the donkey.

But if the thought of all those cotton wool costumes hasn't compromised your longing for that warm and fuzzy seasonal feeling then you are in luck. Because tomorrow is the start of The London Nativity, a much herald return of The Steam Industry's 2004 production in the Scoop, the amphitheatre space outside City Hall next to Tower Bridge. It's free, outdoors, and an hour long, so wrap up - or better yet, stay warm with mulled wine and mince pies. No need to book.

The London Nativity at The Scoop, Wednesday 20 to Saturday 23 December, 6.30pm each night, Sunday 24 December 2.30pm.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Who me? Couldn't be

Congratulations, readers of this esteemed blog. The venerable Time magazine has deemed its Person of the Year to be You. Well, this blog isn't named specifically, but no doubt they had us in mind when discussing 'user-generated content' - the smug cultural buzz phrase for self expression. That's right - the most significant contribution to the world this year by anyone was, in part, your comments right here on City Slicker. By commenting, adding your unique and special voice to the collection of e-chatter that Time thinks is so awesome you are part of the future. So users who generate content I, like Time, salute your globe beating excellence.

Until I ask, is this not just another lame attempt by an old media publication to show that it's hip with the Digital Revolution? Is it not a deliberate sales effort, a move to put 'You' (and me) over the edge? Well, Mr. Time Editor, you may have thought you were so smart, now able to sell the issue to everyone. But there is one person who is not buying your marketing mush or magazine. Me.

Because if we abide by your definition then we would be included alongside everyone. Anyone who was anyone and everyone who wasn't: Time's Person of the Year. If only you weren't so shamelessly desperate, you wouldn't have failed to mention that 99% of user-generated content is rubbish. Everyone who has ever trawled through YouTube knows that the only good stuff is ripped off broadcast TV. And then there's MySpace. Sure, it's big. But is giving teenagers the ability to send inane messages to each other really the greatest achievement of 2006?

What you missed was that "recognition" is not only in the naming but in the instance where everyone is named, in the unnaming. Because as Groucho said, who wants to be a member of a group that would have you?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Celebrate me

Today is City Slicker's six month birthday. And whilst not being one prone to big 'celebrate me' birthday bashes, I do enjoy a certain sense of entitlement as a marker of the day: a breaking of routine if nothing else. Like inserting a random YouTube of Bush drunk for no reason. Or a favourite plaque from deep in the heart of St. James to shame Londoners into admitting their historic compliance in the special relationship.

Because after this week Britain needs all the friends it can keep. By anyone's standards Blair has had a tough few days. Just yesterday he was blackmailed by the Saudi's and questionned by the police. But at least the Stevens Report was reassuringly non suspicious (insert a Borat-style NOT! here). Well, at least we have some certainty because after all it's Friday and that means time for the 19th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Aware that the Piccadilly Line is 100 years old today, but have no reason to use it except for Harrods or Heathrow? React by celebrating perhaps the most refined of the Underground's routes via a splash of culture with Platform for Art's 18 specially commissioned artworks in station platforms and entry halls. From Heathrow to Cockfosters. Today to 30 April, 2007.

2) Find yourself growling at the prospect of another weekend of desperation Crimbo shopping? Pick up a cheerful drawing @ Dray Walk Gallery's Smiling-Is-Free fair by Last Lemon. Brick Lane, E1. Until 23 Dec

3) Are all the just-in-time-for-Christmas greatest hits albums making you long for something more expermental? react by heading to the Festival of Experimental Music at ICA. The Mall, SW1. Tonight to Sunday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Because I am worth it

I have been keen to talk about Damien Hirst since recently visiting his buggerme, I mean murderme, collection at the Serpentine Gallery. And I was reminded of him this morning with news of a £50m Goldman Sucks bonus. To put such a figure into context, it is equivalent to half of Hirst's estimated personal worth and is equal to the expected asking price on his current work in progress - a life-size platinum cast of a skull covered entirely in diamonds (8,500 of them to be exact) entitled 'For the love of God.' The cost of the raw materials, including a 50-karat diamond in the center of the skull, will be £10m which puts Hirst's personal contribution at a value of £40m. Then there will be the small problem of security.

Since when did both a banker and a (living) artist command the same unassailable market value? Hirst's diamond skull presumably represents wealth and death in a stand-off. But is it just an act of self-mockery suggesting that nothing is worth such extortionate value alive? Or, rather is he saying he just wants to celebrate life and say to hell with death by covering it in the ultimate symbol of luxury, desire and decadence? Because if so, wouldn't a more befitting name be "Because I am worth it"?

'For the love of God' will be the centrepiece of a forthcoming Hirst show, Beyond Belief, which will inaugurate Jay Jopling's new White Cube gallery, in London's West End in June 2007.

'In the darkest hour there may be light' - a selection of works from Damien Hirst's private collection is on now until Jan 28 2007. Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Romantic Era

The phrase 'just 12 shopping days until Christmas' is sending me flying over the cuckoo's nest today. I can't bear it anymore. Moments of odd, awkward silences in lifts and loos are now unapologetically filled with tripe from relative strangers about Crimbo parties, present dilemmas and holiday drive time competitions. As if anybody cares how drunk Roger from accounts got last night, whether a scented candle is too impersonal a gift, or how jammed the M3 gets on Christmas Eve.

All of which inspired me to post today's photo taken recently in London's Soho: the black-clad villain look being a rather appropriate symbol of festive renunciation. Doesn't he look the part of a Truman Capote and Winston Churchill love child? No? Okay, maybe Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Leonardo DiCaprio? Cynicism still undeterred? Well, for those of us who think it would take hell to freeze over before a seasonal romantic goth could restore our festive spirits, our day of reckoning has come.

Centuries ago - back when this chap's clothes would have been Topman trendy - the Thames used to freeze over and Londoners would take to the river to skate, eat, drink and make merry. And whilst this worryingly balmy December it is more likely that hell will freeze over before the river, London is not bovvered and the Frost Fair is back - albeit this time on the riverbank. Enjoy live bands, a husky sled ride, a Neal's Yard aromatherapy workshop, or just tuck into some winter food and present shopping at the 40 traders on hand.

That should help defrost us.

Frost Fair
When: Fri 15-Sun 17 Dec
(Fri 4pm-9pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-6pm)
Where: Bankside (SE1), near Globe Theatre/Tate Modern

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Don (Juan/Mar) effect

While the domesticated country bumpkins are getting swept up by the 'Nigella effect', London's city slickers are out in force at the Donmar Warehouse for Patrick Marber's, Don Juan in Soho, a contemporary makeover of Moliere's 17th century classic. But, rather than attempt to eclipse the professional reviews in the Torygraph, Indie, Evening Standard, and Guardian with my own carrot dangling Christmas appeal to get you racing to the box office, I am going to use a different approach today: the guilt trip.

For those of you too inebriated with all of the 'Holiday Season joy'- excessive drink, debt and dysfunction - to bother with a night of inspired, cultural escapism, I will provide you with sufficient chat to make you the cultured belle of the Crimbo ball. Because who can't win friends and influence people when flush with direct lines from the hottest play in town after Love & Money (which closes this week, and should you miss it would be a sin greater than voting Tory)?

Rhys Ifans (the Welsh guy from Notting Hill) plays Don Juan and looks a cross between Mick Jagger and Russell Brand. Rhys is a tour de force (correct usage?) as the hedonistic rake, with the best part of the play being the savagely funny one-liners that you hope you never will forget. So in an attempt to immortalise them I have listed a few of the best here. Because if you can't walk the walk you can at least talk the talk. Of course, a true Don Juan would do both.

Quotes from Don Juan in Soho:

DJ: "The world has two types of people: the fuckable and the unfuckable."
DJ: "Down with selfishness up with me"
DJ: "I am the Kofi Annan of copulation!"
DJ's sidekick: "Ever seen a dictator with blood on his hands? Never. First the manicure, than the massacre."
DJ: "The most frightening word in the dictionary is 'wife'."
DJ: "Nude as a spoon" - (referring to one of his conquests)
DJ: "We live in an age of apology, don't confuse it with authenticity"

Don Juan in Soho, Donmar Warehouse
41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden
Until 10 Feb
020 7854 7000 (returns available)

Monday, December 11, 2006


I doubt many of you will have noticed but despite a momentary weakness induced by Fashion Week, I have pointedly refused to get swept up by the size zero hysteria. Well, until yesterday when I heard Kate Winslet tell the BBC's television "Sunday AM" program how she is gripped with fear that her six year old daughter will soon fall into the evil super skinny trap. Now, without launching into a celebrity bashing tirade, does anybody else see the gag-worthy hypocrisy in all of this?

Who is really 'betraying' who by bigging up the super skinny backlash? Is it not just as unrealistic and image damaging to tell naturally skinny girls that they need to change to be attractive, as it is the other way around? And if you believe Winslet's 'proud-to-be-me' spoutings, you would think her extra flesh brings insulation from the insecurities and tribulations of modern womanhood. But then the reality bites of her alleged nose job; her entirely, digitally altered image on the cover of GQ; and this month's air-brushed into oblivion photo shoot for Vogue. So why is England's Rose still trying to convince us she is Hollywood's everywoman? And if she is so confident and image-free, why would she worry that her daughter wouldn't turn out to be the same? Or could it be she is really just afraid vanity will be passed down the genes?

And for more on Kate and eating habits:

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Y Factor

What a media week for women this has been. It started off with Yoko Ono (who must use the same face cream as Madonna) awarding the Turner Prize to a (gasp!) woman. Then Mary J. Blige reconfirmed her place in music royalty after being showered with eight Grammy nominations. But the show stopping moment came with the announcement that Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary, is pregnant. With one of the more delicious ironies of her impending motherhood being that her father's administration helped ban gay marriage, leaving her partner with no legal relation to their child.

All of which made me think twice about my half sceptical reaction to Madonna's adoption. Is sperm-to-go from a catalogue less morally decent than adopting a child? With all the privilege Ms. Cheney enjoys, she could have easily skipped the long waiting lists, the humiliating interviews, and the interminable waiting in foreign countries for the chance to bring home an at-risk baby. This is not to suggest that artificial insemination is inherently indecent. Unless, of course, it produces another Dick.

And with that drum roll, let's celebrate the 18th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Has today's talk about Cheney's lack of compassionate conservatism got you in the mood for running around London 'killing' people with random acts of kindness? React by heading to Soho tomorrow to take part in the latest public participation game to hit town Cruel 2 B Kind. Sign-in starts at 3pm, game starts at 3:30pm, ends at 5pm. 9th Dec

2) Has news of Will Self's deliberate slow walk from JFK into Manhattan got you inspired for footage of NYC? React by heading to the ICA for a rare big screen showing of Manhattan. A bit of Gershwin and some monumental city-scape photography never disappoints. Until 2 Jan.

3) Does the thought of Christmas shopping along the King's Road drive you to drink? React by heading to the forecourt of Chelsea's Bluebird which has been turned into a German-style market. With goulash, steins of German beer and mulled wine you will forget what you came for in no time. Until 24 Dec.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


If there ever was a daddy's girl, Jenna Bush looks the part. Poor, poor thing. But, I am not here to bushwhack the Great Decider today. Rather, I was going to talk about climate change - a topic very far from daddy Dubya's tin heart. The environment. What Brown referred to in yesterday's pre-budget report as the "greatest challenge that has ever faced humanity"? Now, I don't know about you, but is the green crusade not turning into a march of middle-class miserabilists?

In 200 years, when people have seen the climate change lobby for what it is - alarmists and frustrated politicians seeking publicity through fear - will they not look back on this level of western hysteria and laugh? If you listen to the green lobby rhetoric apparently disease, floods, and famines in the developing world are a direct consequence of 4x4s on British motorwars and the scramble for seats on EasyJet. The climate change lobby has a case for arguing that the earth's temperature will be affected by the activities of its occupants, but why do they insist on demanding that everyone in the UK live in total abstinence, riding on bikes and prohibitively expensive trains, rather than winning the argument a different way?

But, that's enough spit-fire for today. Especially as there is "And While London Burns" to listen to - the awesome, new soundtrack for the era of climate change set amongst the skyscrapers of the most powerful financial district on Earth, London’s Square Mile. An opera for one, it takes the listener, equipped with an mp3 player on a walking audio adventure through the streets and alleyways of our city. The makers describe it as "bathed in fire, flood, love and turmoil" and a "collision of thriller, opera and guided walk". And I have to agree, it's pretty hard-hitting.

Download it for free here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Consuming with confidence

Walking along the Columbia Road Flower Market this past Sunday, signals abounded that Britain was facing its worst Christmas in twenty-five years. Where were all the fresh-faced, nappy valley couples towing the latest Maclarens looking down nose at the pallid, hung-over Shoreditch hipsters shouldering Muji's 'no label' label canvas man bags? Could the slump have hit London's blazoned gentrifiers? Surely not. After all, John Lewis is up 6% on last year thanks to proud middle-class homeowners lapping up plasma tellies for their sitting rooms.

Yet another statistic that fails to account for my demographic: the single white female with a flair for buying impractical shoes that never get worn and forking out £38 for the high street's answer to botox - even if it means not eating for a week. Where is the CPI that adjusts for late-night TopShop rampages and Thresher coupon abuse? Economists that undertake a so-called 'rigorous' analysis of the retail market underplay the real variable: irrational behaviour. Some stodgy, middle-aged, brown-suited academic heralds phenomenon such as the "internet" and "unseasonable weather" for why we are not inspired by this season's ankle boots and tartan mini-skirt trend (when maybe just a subconscious revulsion to resembling Paris Hilton is the reality).

So, thankfully for us credit empowered, statistic skewing Christmas shoppers not deterred by soaring energy prices and inflationary pressures, there are two late-night shopping nights on East End trend-central, Columbia Road, this week. The stores usually only open on market Sundays are offering up two weekday nights of shopping, mulled wine, mince pies, carolling and loads of non-GDP bearing festive cheer.

When: 6 and 7 December, 5 – 9pm.
Where: Columbia Road, E2.

Favourite shops:
Perfume: Angela Flanders
Lights: Columbia Lights
Tea & cakes: Treacle World
Hats: Fred Bare
Recycled glassware:Milagros
Tapas: Laxeiro

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Foot in mouth disease

It's a shame Gwynnie. But, if there was an instance of someone less worth giving a toss about than you, it could only be Posh Spice. So I did my best to ignore yesterday's media hype about the Portuguese translation service mixing up your Spanglish and reporting that you said "The British are much more intelligent and civilised than the Americans" when you really said "Europe is older than America". Because somehow that is more inspired and less smacking of cultural reductionism. And I really was going to dismiss your inane babble, until you called yourself a 'New Yorker' (move over Woody Allen, Gwynnie represents the 'real' Manhattan) and thought that would go unchallenged (because most New Yorkers I know were actually raised in Santa Monica).

Look, it's not as if I know you or anything, but somehow I can't forget that just last year you called the UK rubbish. And the year before that you condemned America as too American. If only you weren't such a boring, macrobiotic teetotaler this could have been your career saving mea culpa. You could have reduced the inconsistencies to drunk talk and been welcomed on both shores. Because Britain loves a drinker and America loves a repenter. But nobody loves a back peddling do-gooder.

Never mind Gwynnie, at least your husband is a hot play:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ghetto fabulous

Banksy - sinner or winner? This was the question racing through my mind this past weekend as I escaped the hordes on Oxford Street who were suckered into town by the Gap, Selfridges, and Threshers "secret" email sale vouchers. Secret, that is, if you ignore everybody and their MySpace guestbook who received the same forwarded attachment.

Which is why I decided to escape the voucher shackles and head to 15 Oxford Street to Banksy's annual anti-holiday art show/fair, "Santa’s Ghetto," where the star attraction was Sir Banks’ freshly-created send-up of Michael Jackson in a Hansel & Gretel-style tableau. Not a Hoxton hipster elite and only recently aware that Nathan Barley ever existed, I couldn't help but want to dismiss the whole charade as pretentious arty farty fanfare. But despite every gritty toothed intention, I came away without too much enamel grinding.

And surprisingly not because of Banksy's billing. Disappointingly, his Jacko-fied rendition of Tom Ormond's fantasy piece is less than a thriller. But, rather, the most memorable (and viewable from the shop window) was this mocked-up photo by Peter Kennard of Tony Blair taking pictures on his mobile phone against a backdrop of burning oil fields. Not only because it might as well be a real photograph, but because it showed art's power to satirise those things we are left powerless to change. And these days, what is more valuable than a laugh?

For more pictures from Santa's Ghetto click here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Special Relationship

Sorry, I did intend to have a picture of the week's media love-in, Britney and Paris, here today. But this recent picture of Courtney Love in London was too tempting. Especially on the back of our new relationship with a 'No Smoking' Britain. So I hope you weren't after a high-brow debate about the terms of the real "special relationship."

No, we finally made it to Friday and after a week of conscious Brilton (c'mon, that's good) abstinence I am hungry for mind-free indulgence. Because don't you just love when two great franchises come together to form an even more powerful shallow entity? Sort of like Time Warner merging with AOL - the synergies and economies of scale are just so compelling for Brilton. Just look out for the radioactive cocktails girls.

And what about us ever stoic Londoners defying radioactivity on planes via impulse Christmas shopping flights to New York as the dollar plummets towards 50p? Too bad that $100 Nano costs $800 in airfare. But never mind those fuzzy maths. Let's set the record straight with the 17th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction":

1) Unimpressed by another year of Banksy's supposedly "non commercial" Santa's Ghetto? React by decidedly escaping mass produced trash and head to the East London Design Show in the restored Shoreditch Town Hall. Fri-Sun

2) Curious about all the crazed hype surrounding the temporary Reindeer Theatre at the Truman Brewery? React by joining in the mayhem of the funny, scary, pornographic, accordion-driven Belgian street opera trio, the Tiger Lillies. You have to love a criminal castrati. Sat, Sun performances

3) Hoping that this weekend's trial run of traffic-free Oxford and Regent Streets is a cracking success? React by retreating from the hordes of GDP-boosting shoppers by enjoying "Fashion Tea for Two" at the nearby Marylebone, trendy Mandeville Hotel.