TV Review: The Boy Who Can’t Forget – Channel 4, 9pm 25/09/12

British student Aurelian claims to be able to remember everything that’s ever happened to him. He can remember what he watched on TV on April 15 1997, as well as what he had for breakfast on October 27 2004, etc. With the inability to forget things that happen to him, Aurelian’s life is the complete opposite of Guy Pearce’s in Memento. His condition qualifies as the sort of freakish concept that Hollywood producers build $150 million sci-fi blockbusters around. The Boy Who Can’t Forget explores the lives of people living with superior autobiographic memory.

The idea of having a superior autobiographic memory is fascinating. You wouldn’t need to bother keeping a diary, and you’d never forget your mum’s birthday. It’s perfectly understandable that people would shell out for an automemory app if it was available to download directly to your brain from Apple’s iMemory store. Continue reading

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TV Review: One Born: Plus Size Mums – Channel 4, 10pm 20/09/12

Channel 4’s prying birthathon One Born Every Minute ventured into the realms of fatsploitation when it returned last night with a weightier edition. One Born: Plus Size Mums confounds the viewer into a paralytic state of morbid curiosity, rubbernecking three obese mothers as they prepare to give birth.

Pregnant women often crave types of food during pregnancy but even so, alarming figures show that almost a fifth of British mothers-to-be are clinically obese. As well as the threat of their baby dying, these women face increased risks of haemorrhages, high blood pressure and deep vein thrombosis.

Not that police switchboard operator Jenna seems too fussed. “You go on about it and it makes you want to eat!” she laughs, inexplicably. “Go and get me a bar of chocolate!” Jenna, it turns out, weighs 21 stone and lives in Middlesbrough, so it’s no wonder she’s so blasé about the harrowing threat of deep vein thrombosis. Continue reading

The Great British Bake Off… How Hard Can It Be?

The Great British Bake Off continues to mesmerise us with its gastric delights later tonight, with this week’s episode seeing the bakers rustle up pies and beef wellingtons for the judges. But is this bakery malarkey really that difficult? I decided to find out, spending Sunday afternoon baking a Wellington to eat with my parents, who kindly offered to purchase the ingredients. I’d never baked anything before in my life, let alone a beef wellington, but how hard could it be?

I set about searching online for a recipe but my mum insisted I use one found in Delia Smith’s 1978 tome, Complete Cookery Course. Dubious about the relevance of a dusty 34-year-old cookbook in the contemporary digital world, I was soon on YouTube watching videos of American chefs demonstrating how to cook “restaurant-worthy” beef wellingtons. But whereas they were using ready-made puff pastry from Wal-Mart, I made my own pastry from margarine and flour. Continue reading

The London 2012 Olympics is Over. Shame About the Closing Ceremony…

As the 30th Olympiad of the Modern Era, or The Olympics, drew to a close on Sunday night, a nation wept. This may have had more to do with the paucity of talent on display and the omnipresence of Lord Coe than the fact that London 2012 had reached its conclusion, though.

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games is officially titled the Games of the XXX Olympiad, which makes it sound like it is associated in some way with hardcore pornography. One can only imagine what qualifies as an Olympic sport in those Games. Continue reading

Stand-Up Review: Simon Amstell, Numb – Brighton Dome 2 June 2012

Simon Amstell’s star is shining brightly at the moment.

After a few years in the comedy wilderness following 2010’s Do Nothing tour, Amstell returned to our television screens with the second series of the superbly bleak Grandma’s House in April. He is currently touring the country with his third standup show, Numb.

Last night Amstell brought his brand of anxious philosophically-inclined standup to a packed-out Brighton Dome. The main motif is his social-awkwardness, as he details a number of scenarios in his life that have left him feeling “numb” –speaking to strangers at parties, living alone with his cat, and making conversation with the trendy but humourless Shoreditch crowd – one of whom is actually called Merlin. Continue reading

The Diamond Jubilee: Why I Won’t Be Celebrating This Carnival of Crassness

Bunting hangs from the thatched rooftops. Local councils are frantically rubberstamping street party requests. Graphic designers commissioned by the Daily Mail are frantically photoshopping a Union Jack emblem onto the paper’s masthead for the weekend edition. All this can mean only one thing: the BNP has won over hoards of floating voters. No? It must be the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

It’s inescapable. Whether it’s a daily two-hour documentary on ITV1 “celebrating” the Queen’s reign, or news coverage voxpopping whooping twats draped in GB flags, punctuated with talking heads banging on about the event “bringing people together”, republicans like me feel completely alienated by this carnival of crassness.

It’s bad enough advertisers trying to sell you crap you don’t need throughout the year without embroidering their products with pictures of a smiling, becrowned QEII, as if to give it the royal seal of approval. Even the decadence lovers’ supermarket Waitrose has held the acceptable face of the anarchic food revolution, Heston Blumenthal, to contract with his own mad take on strawberries and cream.

Some people get offended by tutting, or swearing, or gay marriage. I personally am offended by unearned hereditary privilege. I’m told this makes me irksome, a killjoy. I can’t help it if the mass fawning over the royal family bemuses me. In a country with over £1 trillion of debt, record levels of unemployment, and the continued employment of Adrian Chiles as a television personality, I just think we’ve got other things we should be worrying about.

It will cost around £1.2bn of public money for an extra public holiday to stage this circus show, but the financial cost aside, this is a day that more than any other celebrates and perpetuates a class system of inequality. We supposedly live in a country of social-mobility, achieved through hard work and equal opportunity, though the government is seemingly on a mission to put an end to this. (Obligatory attack on the coalition, tick.) An unelected, undemocratic head of state is antithetic to progress and equality.

Last year’s wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton seemed hellbent on pushing the feminist movement back 40 years; its iconic image being that of a man fully clad in military regalia kissing his new ‘normal’ bride, the privately-educated daughter of a multi-millionaire, who crucially doesn’t appear to have a job.

It’s on occasions like these that the tabloids and breakfast television programmes bask in the so-called “feel-good factor”, blatantly ignoring the general apathy of many Brits, and the amusement of our (republican) neighbours on the continent.

The BBC makes a mockery of claims of left-liberal bias by the royalist right-wing press, pulling out all the stops to cover the event. Huw Edwards will be overseeing the day’s events, flanked by royal experts, a celebrity with tenuous links to the royals, and undoubtedly Nick Bloody Robinson. They’ve even got Fearne Cotton on roving reporter duty. Fearne Cotton.

Presumably Fearne will be racing round the crowds, asking 30-something women what they thought of Pippa Middleton’s outfit while their husbands nod along a little too sagely, so as to deny any accusation that they were too busy leering at her bottom to notice the dress.

Royal sycophants, sorry, “correspondents”, largely exist to oil the wheels of the monarchy’s PR machine.  The Beeb wouldn’t dream of upsetting Her Majesty by placing the finances or tax arrangements of the Royal family under scrutiny for example.

The Republic movement will be protesting against the monarchy at the Thames Diamond Jubliee Pageant on Sunday, for what organisers have dubbed the “biggest republican protest in living memory”, in full view of the royal barge. Don’t expect this to feature in the televised broadcast though.

The royalist celebration won’t stop after the pageant as the jubilee is a four-day event after all. On Monday there’s a jubilee picnic and concert, organised by the BBC and the labyrinthine Take That singer Gary Barlow. So baroque is the Barlow-penned charidee single tie-in, it features Prince Harry banging on a tambourine. It’s like New Wave never happened.

The third most-talented Beatle Sir Paul McCartney is among the performers at the gig, so viewers can expect it to culminate in a fifteen minute chorus of Hey Jude with the Queen and Prince Phillip enthusiastically singing along. I’m loathe to label a publicly-funded charity concert for the Queen screened live on television a “gig”, though.

I’m a 23-year-old republican man with no real commitments. I don’t have a public image to maintain like more important people. This weekend I’ll be marking the jubilee by doing a bit of protesting against it; I might refuse to enter a pub decorated in bunting on principle, for example. I’ll definitely go to watch Prometheus at the cinema, though not in 3D, obviously.

My mum and dad, on the other hand, do plan to celebrate. Not in a big way though. They’re not making the two-hour train journey all the way up to big London to wave Union Jack flags in the Queen’s general direction while chowing down on overpriced, ironic Danish pastries from an opportunist street vendor. They’ll watch the jubilee events on television, briefly reminisce about the silver jubilee and bemoan the lack of a street party, then switch over and watch a repeat edition of Midsomer Murders.

This article was published on the Sabotage Times 03/06/12

Stand-Up Preview: Simon Amstell, Numb – Brighton Dome 2 June 2012

Award-winning comedian Simon Amstell brings his Numb tour to the Brighton Dome on June 2.

It’s been four years since Simon Amstell shocked irreverence fans when he quit as presenter of Never Mind the Buzzcocks to concentrate on his stand-up tours and writing projects. A more playful, but no less acerbic successor to the NMTB chair’s first incumbent, the spiky ‘50s throwback Mark Lamarr, for three years Amstell’s sardonic put downs reinvigorated an oversaturated field of stale panel shows.

Amstell’s time on Buzzcocks is fondly remembered for the multitude of infamous incidents that occurred involving the guests: Amstell causing the Celebrity Big Brother star Preston to storm off set while reading out extracts of his then-wife Chantelle Houghton’s autobiography – “the photoshoot was for the Daily Mail, which made me feel really posh and upmarket”; clichéd punk Donny Tourette showing two fingers to the system by sparking up a fag; and the time an inebriated Amy Winehouse – in a particularly chaotic appearance – spat onto the studio floor. Continue reading