July 31, 2008

Family Fun

So, today is the Underbelly's opening day. Our press launch went off well last night, including, most notably, a brief excerpt from the "Jim Rose Circus" during which a woman painted a portrait using her rectum and then signed it with a Sharpie gripped in her vagina. Lovely.

This is actually pretty out there, even by Fringe theatre standards, but every year there are a number of shows who do share something in common with Jim Rose Circus: their alarmingly misleading name. I often wonder if Fringe artists are in secret competition with each other to try and make box office staff's lives as unpleasant as possible, by giving their decidedly unsuitable-for-children shows titles that sound like a good-natured family romp:

FATHER: Oh, look honey! A circus! Let's take the kids!
MOTHER: What a splendid idea! I'll buy some tickets right now without reading the blurb!
FATHER: Pass me that Sharpie, will you?

The other show we have this year that treads the line is "Little Red (A Fairy Tale)". A fairy tale! Wonderful, right? Except that actually the show is an adult exploration of loss and family life that will terrify and upset children to their very core (although, to their credit, the company do describe the show as not suitable for children).

In other news, Winnie the Pooh has died.

July 25, 2008

July 23, 2008

And So It Begins...

Today was my first day back at the Underbelly for the year, and I was privileged enough, within my first five minutes in the office, to overhear this snippet of a phone conversation between the venue director and an act:

"No, no, no, no, no. You can perform a simulated sex act onstage — not a real one."

To which nobody, of course, batted an eyelid. Ah, the Fringe.

Speaking of which, no show reviews this year, I've decided, unless I feel particularly wowed/moved/disgusted. I will instead be reporting on Fringe and venue gossip as I see fit — like the fact that the Fringe Office is in the throes of moving to a new ticketing system called Liquid Box Office, and, in the software's inevitable teething stage, has been unable to actually print any of the 150,000 pre-sales they've taken. Oops.

Grauniad has the official story; in the meantime, my advice to anyone travelling to Edinburgh and wanting to buy tickets in advance is to hit up edcomfest.com: here you can buy for shows at any of the big four venues (Underbelly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance, Assembly Rooms), on a tried and tested ticketing platform; once the Fringe officially starts, though, the Fringe office should (barring a major disaster) be up and running smoothly.

July 22, 2008

Biraq Obama

FINALLY! Hope and change come to Baghdad!

From Newsvine: Obama in Iraq

Visiting Baghdad over the last two days, presidential candidate Barack Obama met with high-ranking Iraqi officials and received a military briefing from General David "Yes, Surge!" Petraeus. Then, once business matters were out of the way, he took a helicopter tour of the city's major sights, and played a spirited game of hide and seek with the Iraqi police force.

Although Obama said little to the members of the press during his visit, he promised "fuller impressions" after he's left the country.

"I've been working on a mean Talabani," remarked the senator, donning a pair of spectacles and holding his finger under his nose to represent a moustache. "Wah-wah-wah, I'm Jalal Talabani!" he said, before removing the glasses, winking at the press, and saying, "And there's plenty more where that came from, just you wait! My Maliki is pure gold!"

The tour continues.

July 19, 2008

Segue of the Year Award

Seen on Asylum.com (which, startlingly, has very little to do with political exiles):

July 18, 2008

July 16, 2008

And the Peabody Goes to...

I was watching the BBC lunchtime news yesterday, and in particular the segment about this local council dispute over speed camera funding. The Conservatives want to take speed cameras out; Labour wants to keep them in. The reporter concluded his coverage with this hard-hitting, in-depth analysis:
"I suspect what might happen is that they'll reach some sort of compromise."
POW! WHAM! INCISIVE!

Speaking of excellent use of our license fees, this story needs another pass by a copyeditor with brains:
He even had a fertility test, but he felt confident about the outcome.

"I know I've got no problems," he said.

"I've got a daughter all ready. I know everything is working properly."
I'm sorry, she's all ready for what, exactly? To help him pass his fertility test? To go skydiving?

Oh, what the hell, here's one more:
The man was white, 5ft 7in (1.70m), of stocky build and with spiky hair. He was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, the police spokesman added.
Ahem. Unless you put a comma after t-shirt, I believe you are describing Don Johnson.

So tell me: is the Beeb getting worse, or am I just noticing it more?

July 15, 2008

Plane Nonsense

From Newsvine: FAA re-evaluates JFK runway procedures
The runway safety system announced Monday involves lighting systems to be installed at 19 more airports over the next three years. The lights change color to signal when a runway is safe to enter or cross.
That's it? The new, high-tech runway safety system to prevent collisions is traffic lights? Oh, brave new world!

The FAA also released this picture of another planned innovation:



I feel safe.

July 14, 2008

Obama Hates Satire

From BBC NEWS | Americas: Obama team decry satirical image
Barack Obama's team has decried The New Yorker magazine for a cartoon cover depicting him in traditional Muslim garb and his wife as a terrorist. . . .

The image, drawn by Barry Blitt and featured on the front cover of this week's New Yorker, shows Mr Obama wearing traditional Muslim dress, while his wife, Michelle, is dressed in combat trousers and carrying a machine-gun.

The couple are shown standing in the Oval Office, greeting one another with a "fist bump", with an American flag burning in the fireplace, and a portrait of Osama Bin Laden on the wall.
Yes, clearly meant to be taken seriously, then.

Okay, I can understand how Obama's press team probably cringe at anything depicting him as a Muslim/terrorist, because I'm sure they see that as one of the biggest image problems they need to combat.

What I can't understand is why they're worried about the freaking New Yorker. I mean, talk about a slam-dunk, 100% absolutely definitely going-to-vote-for-Obama-regardless-of-anything demographic. In fact, probably the only thing you can do to get New Yorker readers not to vote Democrat is to slam New Yorker satire. Oops.

And anyway, do we really think that anybody who sees this and takes it at face value isn't already a frothing-at-the-mouth right-wing nutbag who wouldn't vote for Obama even if the other guy were in the midst of eating a baby?

Pick your battles, people. Pick your battles.

July 13, 2008

At Least They're Taking a Stab At It...

From BBC NEWS | UK: Shock tactics for knife carriers
Young people who carry knives will be made to visit hospitals where stabbing victims are treated, in a bid to shock them into changing their behaviour.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said seeing "gruesome" injuries would be a tougher deterrent than [jail].
Right, but how do we think stabbing victims are going to feel about a constant stream of STABBERS passing through their hospital ward?

"Oh, don't worry, chaps! In fact, take a jolly good look! I'll get close to as many stabbers as necessary to keep from getting stabbed again!"

"Hello, Rodney! Fancy meeting you here! Say, no hard feelings about that brawl the other night, eh?"

...

Why not just STOP SELLING KNIVES TO PEOPLE?

On an unrelated topic, did you know that there is a town in Alaska called "Unalaska"?

July 11, 2008

Zing!

From Newsvine: Cheney to have routine checkup on Saturday

As is customary in such situations, Bush will temporarily assume control of the country while Cheney receives his medical attention.

Conversations With Greatness CLXXXIX

July 10, 2008

Old Habits Die Hard

From Newsvine: Obama: Iranian missile tests call for more talks

The AP ran this story early yesterday morning about Iran's missile tests:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says that Iran's missile tests highlight the need for tougher threats of economic sanctions as well as strong incentives to persuade Tehran to change its behavior.
Except that the original version broadcast by the AP had a subtle but important difference in the first sentence. See if you can spot it:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says that Iran's missile tests highlight the need for tougher threats of economic sanctions as well as strong incentives to persuade Baghdad to change its behavior.
Oops.

July 07, 2008

Please Go Quietly Into the Night

The other day, in what can only be described as a misguided, alcohol-induced state of mind, I went and saw M. Night Shyamalan's latest attempt at something that could be loosely described as a movie, The Happening. It's best summed up, I think, by the following editorialised version of its poster:

Essentially, the plot is that the all the trees in the northeastern United States decide that they have had about enough of human beings, and so start releasing a chemical that turns off the "don't kill yourself neuron" in the brain (I am paraphrasing, but only just). This causes all the unfortunate souls who happen to walk by a tree during the movie to kill themselves in an ever-escalating series of dramatic and artfully photographed ways: a woman stabs herself in the neck with a barrette; a man steers his car into a sixty-mile-per-hour crash; a gardening crew set down their harmless chainsaws and hang themselves from trees using nooses made from hose.

Meanwhile, protagonist Mark Wahlberg takes a trip through increasingly smalltown and stereotyped Pennsylvania, spouting wooden dialogue to whoever will listen, eventually ending up with his estranged wife and his co-worker's daughter in the house of a gratuitous crazy lady who has no contact with the outside world and yet a dinner set instantly recognisable as Ikea houseware. And just when it seems like there's no way for them to escape tree-induced suicide, and you're gasping at what little tension Shyamalan has managed to build, he deflates the entire movie with his lamest surprise twist yet: there is no surprise twist. Instead, the trees just decide — for reasons that are never explained — to stop producing the deadly chemical, and life goes back to normal, except for the tacked on epilogue where the trees in Paris start doing roughly the same thing to a gaggle of typecast Frenchmen ("I have to remember to pick up my bicycle after work": "Mon Dieu!"). The movie then ends, mercifully, and we are left to ponder its message. Fear the trees? Treat the trees better? Fear Pennsylvanians?

It's bewildering, risible, awful, and worth seeing only for the hilarity of all the shots of trees rustling menacingly, and, of course, the tree-mendous potential for puns it provides (e.g. "Gosh, the plants are getting quite a-grass-ive!"; "Their bite is worse than their bark!"; "I hope things work out oak-ay!"; etc.). My rating: one half pundigrion.

July 04, 2008

July 03, 2008

Lincoln Blogs

I have been remiss in posting this week, and for that I apologise; I have been busy with moving (among other things).

However, I was moved to scribble a little something here today by this week's particularly inane Newsweek cover story: Who Was More Important: Lincoln or Darwin? (which is presumably what the "(mostly)" refers to along the top there).

The article starts off with the startling observation that both Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day (so were George W. Bush and Sylvester Stallone, but you don't see anyone clamouring to stop the presses there, do you?); it then meanders through several thousand words of watery, biographical generalisations (eg. "Both men had restless, hungry minds"), a paint-by-numbers summary of each man's greatest rhetorical accomplishments (natch, The Origin of Species and the Gettysburg Address), and finally, after admitting it's kind of a stupid question, asks: who was the greater man?

The answer, perhaps not surprisingly coming from an American magazine in the week of July 4, is Lincoln — because, the reasoning goes, someone would have worked out evolution eventually, but Lincoln's contribution to world (ahem) history relied more or less entirely on his inspirationally great fantastic amazingess as a person. Indeed, the author notes sagely, more books have been written about Lincoln than about any other person except Jesus — so basically, Lincoln is Jesus, and we're hardly going to argue that Darwin could trump the son of God, are we? It's just lazy rhetorical back-patting all around, and I hope that the two joint Lincoln-Darwin biographies forthcoming are not quite as paltry.

Um... Happy Fourth of July.