Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Check Out The Library

What would you say if I were to tell you that the hottest thing on the hip hop/reggae UK music scene right now is headed by a white guy who doffs a trilby hat and tweed waistcoat and whose band, Mr. Hudson and the Library, was last seen playing at the Swiss Cottage Library (yes that kind of library, you know, the places where old people go to warm up in the winter)? Okay, stop snickering. Because what if I also told you that Mr.Hudson's band snagged a coveted spot on Jools Holland late last year; their February gig at Brick Lane's super trendy, 93 Feet East, is long sold out; and they are opening for Amy Winehouse's upcoming, sold-out tour? Oh, and I can't get enough (but who am I anyway?)

Listen to their upcoming single, "Too Late, Too Late," here:

Mr Hudson And The Library's debut album, A Tale Of Two Cities, is due out on general release, 5th March 2007. My advice: catch them now, in small venues, where the music feels fresh and before you'll have to look through binoculars to catch a glimpse of Mr H's eye catching stage fashion. His hat certainly beats Doherty's (oops, sorry buddy, when I said check out I meant the library, not life). Never mind.

For Mr.Hudson's MySpace page, click here

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sleepwalking in the City

Today's title refers less to my physical state after a six hour red eye turbulence fuelled flight across the Atlantic and more about what could be the most-seen show in MOMA's history, Doug Aitken's "Sleepwalkers" (and the highlight of NYC's current public art offering). "Sleepwalkers" is a nighttime installation comprised of continuous sequences of film scenes projected onto facades that transform the streets surrounding the MOMA into a vast outdoor multiplex.

Filmed in New York City, "Sleepwalkers" comprises five, 13 minute, interweaving vignettes which follow five different characters—a bicycle messenger, an electrician who fixes neon signs in Times Square, a postal worker, a businessman, and an office worker through a night in the City. As they move from the solitude of their personal lives (waking up, drinking coffee or juice, leaving their apartments) to their workplace and unexpected encounters, the interconnected narratives emerge. It’s bleak illustration of the day in a life of a New Yorker makes you wonder if Aitkens should have cut to LCD Sound System’s "New York I Love You" (…but you're bringing me down).

With the pervasive nature and immediacy of the current interactive culture, "Sleepwalkers" won’t be the height of the digital art age, but is it the blueprint for the future?

For a 60 second trailer clip, click here.

MOMA, every evening from 5-10 pm for 28 consecutive days, from 16 January-12 February 2007. Outdoors. Free.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

The best test of a New Yorker's street cred is how many generations they can go back in any given establishment's history. With bars and nightclubs changing hands with the frequency of a speed dating rotation, it can be disorienting. What is now called Z used to be called Y after it was X. And so I headed to The Box, the latest venue to hit the Lower East Side (NYC's Shoreditch). Both to hear a friend DJ and to get my alphabet straight.

Oh, but did I mention it’s 'dinner theatre'? “Please don’t call it a nightclub. It’s dinner theatre for a younger generation,” begs the London-born, New York-bred theater director, Simon Hammerstein (of one of Amerca's most famous theatre-owning families) who I chatted to over a neuteured purple squirrel the other night. The idea for The Box was born, Hammerstein said, when he was directing late-night theater and “got tired of going across the street to get drunk with the audience." He calls it “submersion theater" (take that Hoxton hipsters).

The space is located in a 70-year-old, two-story, 5,000-square-foot converted sign factory. Most of the materials including the lighting, bars, wallpaper, and marble fireplaces are salvaged antiques from the 1920s, which create a wacky patchwork that feels part theater, part brothel, and part speakeasy.

The actors Jude Law and Rachel Weisz sit on the board of the opera house-cum-concert saloon. The entertainment line-up for the coming weeks is eccentric: Thai fighters one night and opera singers in Mexican wrestling masks the next. The signs of success could hardly be clearer.

Go there:
The Box
189 Chrystie Street, NYC
(212) 674-7113

Back in London tomorrow, BA permitting.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A New York minute

City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction" will resume next week. For today, a few of the top headlines affecting NYLONers today -brought to you in a New York minute.

New York temperatures have hit below zero thanks to a wave of Arctic air.

U.S. Scientists have found that a spot in your brain may cure smoking addiction. One for those Londoners fretting about this summer's ban.

NY Japanese creme pastry puff sensation, Bread Papa has landed on London's Oxford Street - move over Krispy Kreme.

Who need be single in the city when you can get sex advice from subway performers?

Banksy might have met his New York match with the Splasher.

New Yorkers think London's habit of mixing drink with culture is revolutionary. Ah, bless.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Have a nice day!

There is something audible about New York City that distinguishes its buzz from London: the conversation of strangers. New Yorkers seem to think the best thing two people can do is talk. It is their self evident way of showing they are friendly and more fundamentaly, that they are alive. And that’s why they talk to strangers—especially if they won’t be with them long, such as in an elevator or in a queue at the bank: to affirm life.

As such, it took me no time from landing at JFK yesterday evening to be reminded me of Samuel Beckett's play, Happy Days, which I endured (with as much enjoyment as an enema) earlier this week at the National Theatre. In contrast to the verbal diarrhoea of New York, it portrays life ridden with emotional constipation. Winnie, as played by Fiona Shaw, spends the entire 90 minutes of the play encased in a mound of earth - first to her waist and then to her neck. Her companion, Willie, appears infrequently, but Winnie never stops talking to herself and him throughout her predicament. He rarely answers or acknowledges her, but with a monosyllabic grunt. In many ways it is a portrayal familiar to many marriages, of paradise long lost, with the inhabitants holding on through the years for basic survival. Today's press reviews are here: The Guardian liked it (click here), and the Torygraph loved it (click here).

The basic plot revolves around the distance between loneliness and solitude. The age old of question of is somebody better than nobody, even if the somebody is in fact a nobody? Is a bad relationship better than no relationship because at least someone is there to witness, to confirm that you are alive? If so, wouldn't Winnie, and by extension us, be saved by a life where strangers utter the meaningless "Have a Nice Day" to strangers not because it matters, but because its absence does? The answer lies within each of us.

That's all from NYC for today. But until tomorrow, may I bid you to"Have a Nice Day."

Happy Days
National Theatre, South Bank
Until 1 March, Book tickets from £10 here

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


It is not everyday that I revel in wreaking chaos and destruction upon the planet. Unless, of course, my actions involve a cheap flight to New York for the weekend and a chance to snub my nose at what is fast becoming my latest pet peeve: Carb counting. Yes, that is right today is carbon judgement day (does anybody else think today's snow is mockery from on High?) and I will be flying the friendly BA sale season skies because it's cheap and therefore I can. Precisely the inverse reasons that I don't buy organic food - because it is expensive and I can't. Until Tesco lowers their prices to force me to choose organic sirloin over ground beef, I don't see my shopping habits changing. Surely the solution is that simple?

I know you eco-geeks are out there waving your green thumbs at me. Dare I say you are the new breed of middle-class WAGS, but shall we call you BOOBS (Buy Organic or Bust Shoppers?). And don't deny your pulling power. The U.S. political system is chasing the Oprah voter, and the U.K. the Waitrose voter. Who is standing for the Thresher voter is what I want to know?

But even I can admit that sometimes an eco-friendly concept comes along that doesn't smell of a drab, musty health food shop. And so I will aim to offset my conscience (sorry consumption, cause and effect are so easily confused) by sharing with you news of an exciting way to buy stylish reuse furniture and household items. Inspired from Europe, where recycling is big business - Morph adapts second hand furniture into new, unique items. Helping young people back into work by employing them to collect unwanted sofas, tables and chairs - one man's trash another man's treasure, sort of thing - they refurbish and sell them on offering edgier interior design and a new patch of 'green' in London's urban scene.

To read a BBC report on Morph click here.

North London: 19-23 Kingsland Rd, E2 - 020 7168 2531
South London: 93 Camberwell St Rd, SE5 - 020 7737 7475

Speak tomorrow from New York City.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Need to know basis

Last night I found myself battling the hair gel mocking winds at Trafalgar Square en route to a talk at the ICA by Zadie Smith and Philip Gourevitch, as you do. Or rather, as you do when at week 3 into your cultural detox, you start to dream yourself a born-again scholar. That is, until you get into a room of 200 Kafka lovers to celebrate the book launch of the Paris Review Interviews (a collection of interviews with the world's great contemporary authors) and realise that your writings are tragically closer to this than that.

And without getting into any feverish displays of jealousy and pseudo-academic posturings, I will say the most interesting part of the evening was hearing about all the writer's little obsessions and jokes, rather than their more prescriptive or portentous moments. Like how Dorothy Parker writes two-fingered on a typewriter. Capote writes prone on a sofa or bed, smoking and drinking coffee, mint tea, then sherry and martinis. Joan Didion goes back to page one and re-types everything ("It gets me into a rhythm"). Hemingway, pompous and fetishistic, writes in the bedroom of his Havana house standing "on the worn skin of the lesser kudu", on onion-skin paper, noting his daily progress on charts.

Thankfully sanity is restored by Bellow, who refuses to discuss his work habits because "for the artist to give such loving attention to his own shoelaces [is] dangerous, even immoral". Which is precisely why you don't need to know exactly how much wine I am drinking right now, or ever. That would be dangerous, even immoral.

Paris Review Interviews, 1.
£9.89 on Amazon

Monday, January 22, 2007


So it has been scientifically calculated that today is the most depressing day of the year. Thanks to a combination of weather, debt, time since Christmas, time until pay day, low motivation and failure to keep new years resolutions we are all wallowing in buckets of self pity. And it was no doubt with the best of intentions that the Samaritans organised a Beat Blue Monday campaign with ideas on how to combat the depression. It's just a shame that they included inane suggestions such as 'go to the beach'and 'help the planet' instead of; oh I don't know, watch a YouTube on the latest over hyped phenomenon to come out of the U.S., known as Barack Hussein Obama (and they say this guy comes without baggage?!). It's hilarious, and it includes some Hillary. Let the schadenfreude begin:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thought police

I am not sure who I distrust more Evil Tesco or the government. The evil giant who attracts one in every £8 spent by the British public (no not him, we dealt with Gordo yesterday) is stopping at nothing to take over the minds and hearts of Daily Hate Mail readers. The week started with Tesco wanting to build homes and ended with Tesco promising to save the world. I don't know what other Big Brother sponsor they are worried about, but George Orwell is certainly behind this one.

I know what you are thinking- does this mean Tesco houses will be painted blue and white, Sainsbury's Stelios orange, and Waitrose middle-class magnolia? And then there is M&S - will they be packaged to look great but lack taste? But should we not rejoice at this Orwellian answer to the housing crisis? Or is that just doublethink? And as this is starting to disturb, let’s find distraction in the 23nd edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Fed up with looking at your IKEA reproduction of The Scream but can't face the annual London Art Fair, again this year? React by heading to see artists from Saatchi's online Your Gallery on show at the Brick Lane Gallery's Lost & Found exhibition. Today to 30 Jan. 196 Brick Lane, E1. Free.

2) Excited that the opening kilometres of the Tour de France are coming to London from July 6th - 8th this year? React by celebrating with wine and cheese early and head to the Viva la France three-day event at Olympia. Hammersmith Road. £8 if book on-line, £12 on the day. Today to Sunday.

3) Refusing to give up on your ski trip despite reports that the Alps are melting? React by checking out Matalan's new cut-price line of skiwear. With jackets from £35 you can afford to hedge your bet.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


The Blairites have long hinted that Gordon Brown is not quite the full public sector borrowing requirement. Hence Alastair Campbell's famous reference to the chancellor as 'psychologically flawed'. As accepted, until yesterday when Campbell's former spin doctor claimed on internet TV, 18 Doughty Street, that it was actually Tony himself who made the remarks.

You can see the clip HERE. The full programme is HERE.

Just when GB (ah, 'GB for GB' - now that is stuff campaigns are won on, surely?) thought a reality-TV race row over a Bollywood actress was enough to threaten his high-profile visit to India, it got worse. Forget the real issues our Chancellor was set to address in Bangalore; like, oh I don't know, hi-tech miracles and world trade; instead let's force him to voice his criticism on a programme he is unlikely ever to have watched and then fend off petty cliquey office politics; burnishing his credentials as an international statesman and prime minister in-waiting. And you thought you were having a bad week?

But, c'mon Gordo, let's forget but never forgive. That is the hallmark of the truly great feud. Never forgive or reconcile. Never back down. Land the first blow and extract the last laugh. Above all, take the fight to the enemy. I know, the rules of modern politics dictate you must conduct your quarrel in venomous whispers. But once, just once, I would love to see you square up to Tony, poke him in the chest, and declare: “So, you think you’re Tony Blair?”

But, enough of that. All of this hatred has got my pump primed for a night of pleasure hating at insanely popular, Mark Watson's "I'm Worried I'm Starting to Hate Almost Everyone in the World" comedy show at the Soho Theatre. Tonight to Sat. Returns only. 0207 429 6883

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Starz in his eyes

With yesterday's announcement of the Brit Award nominations, the presence of Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Corinne Bailey Rae made this feel like the first year that the Best Female list hasn't been compiled by scrabbling around for any woman who qualified. (To be considered, an artist needs to have had a Top 75 record within the eligibility period.) And the three women were instantly familiar to me for the same reason: at some point during the year I played their single to exhaustion.

In the same way that us, non food obsessives, can eat the same thing everyday for months and feel satiated; us, non vinyl owners, can listen to the same song and feel satisfied. But with an impending Brit Award (Ladbrokes 5-1), Winehouse (my favourite of the short-list) is widely recognised as a winner. And what a relief - I was starting to worry that my addiction to playing her song 'Rehab' after a glass too many was a sad cry for help.

But never mind, as this week's Big Brother circus has led me to my latest favourite song (and next year's Brit Award Best Male, as stated here first), 'Starz in Their Eyes' by the artist, Just Jack, about the downside of our celebrity obsessed culture. Jack, my new troubadour of daily life, was hailed by The Big Issue before Elton John got him signed to Mercury. A 27 year old street savvy bloke from North London, Jack is already being touted as the male Lily Allen, innit?

Find out more at Jack's MySpace page here.

Or watch the 'Starz in Their Eyes' video here.

The single 'Starz in Their Eyes' was released 15 January 2007. Just Jack's new album, Overtones, will be released 29 January 2007.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Egos of scale

Ken Livingstone is the marmite of British politics - you either love him or hate him. But whatever you may think of Mayor Ken (can you believe they invited him to Davos?), most of us skyscraper geeks have a soft spot for him. Did you know that in 1974, one of London's most hated buildings, Centrepoint, was occupied by a London School of Economics lecturer and his students who were protesting at bad architecture in London? The lecturer was Ken Livingstone.

And without London's most ____ (fill in your adjective) politician being an expert in architecture and having ultimate say in the planning decisions, we would still be stuck in Christopher Wren's London. But thankfully, London has come a long way since the late 80s when British architecture was still reeling from Prince Charles' attacks on it, a time unlike today when his opinions on the subject were more welcome than a police raid on a brothel. No, London has certainly benefited from Ken who has been like a bottle of HP sauce to the London landscape, a means of adding a bit of piquancy to the menu. Sorry, I know, enough with the metaphors already.

But if there are any other high-rise enthusiasts out there:

Watch this video for London's future Bishopsgate Tower (or the Helter-skelter as it is more commonly known). The tallest building in the rendering pictured above.

Check out the ever-popular Architecture Foundation Winter Nights programme which was established in order to provide "a platform for smaller, independent practices to inspire and provoke," and as a result they don't just focus on the Lord Rogers of this world, but on emerging architects whose works don't necessarily live in the shadow of their names. Wednesday evenings from Jan 17. 16 Brewhouse Yard, EC1. £3 on door. Talks start at 7pm, doors open at 6.30pm.

Monday, January 15, 2007

State Britain

It is rare that a dreary Monday in January inspires hope. But if you are one who believes that Tony Blair's betrayal of principles; or lack thereof, has contributed to your general malaise, there are 3 reasons to be cheerful today:

1) Tonight's TV, The Trial of Tony Blair, sees Robert Lindsey return as the PM in a satire that examines Tony Blair's life after Downing Street, where he is handed over to a tribunal in the Hague that accuses him of responsibility for atrocities in Iraq. A Big Brother conviction for Guardian readers.

And the best bit about tonight's script? Blair's buddy Bush does not join him in court - they have written him into rehab, suffering from liver failure. They obviously think there was quite a bit of secret drinking during his time in the White House. I'll drink to that! Tonight, More4 10PM; 18 Jan, CH4 10PM

2) Today marks the opening of State Britain at Tate Britain. In a move that will no doubt grate the tabloid press; artist, Mark Wallinger, has re-created Brian Haw's peaceful Parliament Square protest for an indoor exhibition (as pictured here). Until 27 Aug.

3) Blair will seriously go on trial in April. Well, sort of. The Tricycle theatre is set to follow its stagings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the Bloody Sunday hearings and the Hutton inquiry with a staged indictment of Tony Blair for a crime of aggression against Iraq. Get your tickets here now. 19 April-19 May.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Real Deal

Just when the paparazzi thought they couldn't have a better year than 2006, this week brings news of an imminent Royal engagement and a U.S. transfer for Mr. Posh Spice. I see Brand Beckham akin to Brand Clinton: man disgraced, woman embraced. Who knows, maybe it will be Posh for governor of California. Arnie proved that you don't have to be American or a great politician to do it - and Posh has admirably become the queen of the career change, with very few qualifications. But why are we talking about this and not using the excuse to bring up the hilarious Ali G interview of Posh and Becks. Now that is worth millions.

Do you see what has happened here? One slip off the cultural detox plan and we have already forgot about yesterday's disastrous rate rise or that incursion into Somalia. I would have called it invasion, but then you may have been alarmed. And I wouldn't want to distract you from the real ever present worry over Kate Potter Middleton's security. Because then you may forget about this week's MI5 terror alert service. And with that level of spitfire, let's get ready to rumble with the 22nd edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Looking forward to seeing Leo DiCaprio in his latest film, Blood Diamond? React by learning more about the illicit diamond trade from award-winning photojournalist Kadir van Lohuizen at the Host Gallery. Much more real than Hollywood could ever look. 1 Honduras Street, EC1. Until 27 Jan. Free.

2) Determined to not let a quarter percent rate rise affect your consumer spending? React by heading to the shops at Oxo Tower Wharf where there will be discounts of up to 70 percent. Sat until 28 Jan.

3) Slightly disturbed that temperatures in January are warmer than July? React by heading to the Russian Winter Festival taking place on the eve of the Russian 'Old New Year.' The great atmosphere will make you forget that ice is melting. Trafalgar Square. Sat 11-6:30PM.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

You make me feel like dancing

Today's title is in no way a reference to Leo Sayer's song or his stint on Big Brother. I am on a cultural detox, remember? Which is why I spent last night mesmerised by the English National Ballet's production of Giselle at the London Coliseum.

Yesterday marked the start of Get Into London Theatre and the chance to buy theatre tickets to over 60 London shows starting from as little as £10. And don't be dismissive - this isn't a tourist trap to sell tickets to Mousetrap matinees. Shows participating include smash hit musicals Monty Python’s Spamalot, Mary Poppins, Evita; plays include The History Boys, Amy’s View and productions by the RSC and National Theatre; Giselle by English National Ballet and English National Opera’s newly launched The Marriage of Figaro.

Who knew detox came at such a small price?

Visit to book tickets, check for latest availability and offers, or call the 24 hour hotline on 0870 040 0039. Until 17 March.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sins of emission

In today's Guardian there is news from the Blair camp that he will 'offset' his recent carbon burning jolly in Miami by paying a neat sum of £89.82. Is anybody else offended? Not that I have a problem with rich people getting more of what they want; but carbon credits to plant trees on an individual level is so ridiculous, surely it's one for the Tories?

And where does it end once you believe sins can be bought? Could you, for instance, get away with robbing Peter to pay Paul? Now don't get me wrong, I am all in favour of environmental reform and certainly don't need convincing that the current situation is one that will have us all eating soylent green by the year 2050, I just didn't realise we could buy our way out.

All of this guilt assuagement reminds me of an article in the FT (which I 'offset' with a read of Hello) a few months back about the sale of indulgences by the Catholic church in the early 16th century, whereby people could, in effect, purchase forgiveness of past sins by handing over enough money. Needless to say Martin Luther was not impressed, so why are we? Since when did we accept that the ability to buy retrospective forgiveness for sins of emission is a substitute for not sinning in the first place? Or put another way: the amount of sinning in Catholic Europe did not diminish with the invention of indulgences.

Sorry, Tony Blair, your Miami vice guilt is irrelevant: surely the only thing that should matter in offset schemes is that emissions are cut. By making the issue political you are allowing people to discredit an approach that deserves to be taken seriously. Now that really is a sin.

To check your carbon footprint click here. For cheap deals on designer holidays click here. Which will you choose?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I get a unique satisfaction from knowing about something from day one. And the level of satisfaction is usually correlated to how much other people lose out by not having the same information. Not because I want anyone to suffer, but because I want to fully exploit my privileged information by sharing it with you here. So we all win in the end.

And today's news centres on last night's exciting opening of Barrafina, the hottest restaurant to hit London so far this year. Barrafina is serving up tapas on Frith Street and can best be described as a smaller and more affordable version of Charlotte Street's much-loved Fino, which is little wonder as they are owned by the same people.

The focus of Barrafina's menu is on sourcing great ingredients and cooking them simply. From grilled seafood and chorizo to tortillas and tarts everything is seasonal, fresh and delicious. The wine was obviously carefully chosen and all available by the glass. The interior is reminiscent of an intimate Barcelona tapas bar, with a no reservations policy and seats for only 23 customers at its counter. As a customer there is constant theatre as you sit overlooking the kitchen area - a restorative birds-eye view for anyone traumatised by Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. The staff are friendly and refreshingly don't subscribe to the London practice of hurrying you out.

It was buzzy and full of life on a Monday in January. That has to be more than you can say about most places. Is it too early to call it Newcomer of the Year?

54 Frith Street
020 7813 8016

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Chinese are coming

Next month London will be at the centre of the world. Okay, maybe that is the centre of the art world but who likes a stickler? The event is Sotheby's Annual Contemporary Art Sale at Olympia where key international art is for sale at affordable prices (estimates start at £1,000). Alongside the usual suspects: Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Keith Haring; there are also cutting edge, younger artists included with this year's headline act featuring three works (Bombing Middle England, Balloon Girl and Bomb Hugger) by Banksy.

I know what you are thinking: just when the allegedly non profit driven urban artist couldn't get any slicker he tricks us once again. But before you decry Banksy's fall from guerrilla grace, does all selling have to be selling out? Or is not the real issue instead whether the art retains any integrity? If Banksy made images for money that would have disgusted him to make for free, that would be selling out. Anything else is just making a living off his art, isn't it?

And, anyway, Banksy is so 2006. Everyone but Will Hutton knows that China is the future. And if the Chinese art scene can be likened to a booming stock market, Zhang Xiaogang, age 48, is its Google. As such, Xiaogang will no doubt attract much attention at Sotheby's with two prints (including the Graduate pictured here) estimated at £1,500-£2,000. The astonishing fact is there is not a single museum in the West that has committed itself to buying Chinese art. It's just starting to happen. Guggenheim, the Tate Modern, MoMA, they're all looking. Watch this space.

Sotheby's Contemporary Art Sale
Hammersmith Road, London W14 8UX
020 7293 5555

On View: February 2 and 4-6
Sale: February 7

Friday, January 05, 2007

Forbidden fruits

I know what you're thinking - please don't ask how with just 1% of 2007 passed you have already succumbed to the apple in the garden (or in secular terms the pint in the pub). Not to worry because you are not alone; this week London has been ripe with transgression, symbolised here by this bandit Banksy at the top of Hatton Garden. From Mayor Ken chatting up terrorists to the Royal WAG getting a parking ticket, the first week of 007 has not suffered fools gladly. And neither should we. So put those foolish resolutions about a 'new you' aside for the next 340 days.

Because after all, only fools suffer for suffering's sake. As a wise man once said: "the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool". I for one am not going to fool myself anymore: I am hereby ditching my New Year's resolution to refuse phone calls from Brad Pitt. From today, if he rings I will answer the phone. And with that level of gumption, let's embrace the 21st edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Guilt-ridden that you have let sales greed supersede attending any pagan Christmas festivities this season? React by heading to Bankside by Shakespeare's Globe this Saturday where the drama troupe Lions Part will be presenting their annual Twelfth Night performance, featuring song, fabulous costumes, and probably one of your last jots (I mean jugs) of mulled wine. Unless, of course, you are still fooling yourself. Sat from 2:45PM. Free.

2) Excited about Babel, The Last King of Scotland, Infamous and other Hollywood blockbusters landing in London cinemas later this month? React by getting your fill of edgier cinema now at the exceedingly popular 4th annual Halloween Short Film Festival. Nothing to do with October, costumes, or candy but much ado about film artist Matt Hulse, adult collective Destricted and the aptly named Club Motherfu*ker. Today to 14 Jan. Various cinemas.

3) Anxious that you still haven't made it inside the National Portrait Gallery for the Hockney exhibit? React by giving yourself a reason to go this Sunday with the screening of his life story in A Bigger Splash. A must for any art lover or fan of gay cinema. Sunday 1PM. Free.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Must the show go on?

There are things in life that ironically take on greater import when ignored. Generally, they are things that deep down you have some level of feeling about but are either too embarrassed or too cowardly to make known. When these issues arise in personal relationships, their avoidance can spell ruin. No doubt most of us know the kind. Those niggling suspicions about some aspect of our partner's behaviour that never gets confronted; but instead swells like one of those 'Grow a Lover' toys that you immerse in water and 72 hours later they are 10X their original size.

My relationship with Big Brother, 'celebrity' or plebeian, has the same effect on me. Except rather than me growing 10X in size, it is my baseline of contempt that magnifies. I know they say familiarity breeds contempt, but certainly that is not the case here? Out of all the contestants listed in this morning's paper, I recognised two (which I am guessing is average for a Yank confronted with Z-list Brit celebs). So if the familiarity is not with the contestants, who is it with? Could it be with me? Shamefully, yes.

The one thing that BB brings to my life each season is an automatic criterion for discrimination. It becomes my weapon of mass character assassination (WMCA) and nobody is safe. Long-term partners, friends, colleagues are all cut to pieces at the first admittance of BB viewing. Never mind years of loyalty, devotion and love; in the face of such dubious fascination with fame nothing matters. Now any BB luvvies out there; please don't go hating me, cursing me, or worse deleting me. It is only a temporary separation.

Besides, something tells me it must be a foreigner's fate. Because if it were an American Celebrity Big Brother I, too, might find it hard to resist. Out with Leo Sayer and in with John Davidson. Move over H from Steps and let in Vanilla Ice. Ah, the fun I could have. But this is Britain and I am on cultural detox so this is the end (of BB talk on CS), my friend.

Are there any other BB snobs out there?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rebel with a cause

I have made a New Year's resolution, which is to detox. But not the kind of detox that the tabloids conjure up; you know the ones - banish your mince pie muffin top and your mulled wine waist in three easy steps of denial, abstinence and torture. Or the even more inane quit smoking resolution. As anybody who has ever smoked knows there is no greater rebel with a cause moment than staunchly refusing to join the New Year's quitter's bandwagon (hence, today's 007 hero pictured here).

No, the detox I am talking about has nothing to do with abstinence and everything to do with indulgence - of the mind, that is. Oh, come on stick with me; it is not like me to go all Marquis de Sade, is it? No, what I mean is everybody knows that the only resolutions that last are about giving not giving up. And while sure I, and I boldly assume you, have indulged a bit too much of late, our minds have been starving a silent hunger. Barring an hour's light reading about Why Penguins Feet Don't Freeze and a bout of concentration watching Steve McQueen's ever spectacular motorcycle leap in The Great Escape, the Christmas period has done little else but fill our minds with glib superficiality.

So along with the empty bottles of pink Cava I ask you to join me in chucking out all that empty calorie brain food. Out with Grazia and in with the New Scientist. Instead of reading chick-lit-"dumbed-down" versions of Dangerous Liaisons give your cultural pulse a spark at the National Theatre with Emile Zola's classic tale of adultery's revenge in Thérèse Raquin. Rather than watch YouTubes of talentless strangers, give blood to your artistic vein with this brilliant vodcast (video podcast, c'mon keep up) of the Velázquez exhibit at the National Gallery.

Don't think you are alone. I, too, am expecting some pretty nasty symptoms in the first few days of my cultural detox: a banging head, dry mouth and decimated attention span. But I am hoping through sheer determination (see I can still talk the New Year's lingo) I soon won't care if the Moss-Doherty wedding was really a hoax. And for those who witnessed my Kate addiction last year, you understand that would show true resolve.

Is anybody else up for a cultural detox?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy 007!

Surely it is not passé yet to call this one 007, is it? And while I am not due back in full form until tomorrow, my blog itch got the best of me. Well, that, and my streak of empathy for any other poor souls who trudged back to work this morning too apathetic to take a sickie; only to find a skeletal office of brassed off and disgruntled (more so than usual) colleagues, some possibly still drunk.

So in an effort to keep us all awake, here is a bit of gossip from the Big Smoke:

TFL's annual above-inflation rise in fares took place this morning. The minimum single fare on the London Underground for a customer paying cash is now £4. Speaking of the criminally priced tube system, Camden Town and Brixton stations were covered in graffiti on Boxing Day: a day of system-wide closure as part of the annual Christmas shutdown. Anybody smell a Banksy?

London now has a BBC acclaimed pigeon with a blog. Who knows maybe he was on location yesterday at Trafalgar Square's annual New Year's Day Parade which was replete with bright eyed and bushy tailed American cheerleaders sporting Tom Cruise mouth wide open smiles showing Cool Britannia how it's done.

And for those who missed one of London's finest moments since the Blitz, minus the death and destruction, you can catch the New Year's fireworks display here. And for once the weather was a help not a hindrance. Just goes to show Sydney need not come first.

Back in full form tomorrow.