Saturday, 7 February 2015

gone fishing

I'm off and about. See you in a bit.

But how can I buy old Mighty Fin shows like you periodically talk about? Er. For reasons not unconnected with future plans and comments from our various agents, it is deemed sensible not to rush things into the public domain.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

the earl of qatar

Just a snippet of dead earl news, because it's been a while:

She was known as Irene - pronounced Irenee - and was an extremely vivacious woman.  She is also the subject of one of the family legends.  The legend has it that she married the 6th Earl of Craven on an impulse.  He, having been in a drunken stupour at the time, woke up the next day realising what he had done and promptly left, although he left her pregnant.  There is a modicum of truth to the story as this item in Time Magazine’s events page shows:   “Marriage Revealed. William Robert Bradley, 21, orange-haired Sixth Earl of Craven; and Irene Meyrick, daughter of the late in-and-out-of-jail Mrs. Kate ("Queen of the London Night Clubs") Meyrick. The Earl's gallant, one-legged father caused a newspaper uproar in 1926 by eloping with another earl's wife, Countess ("Moral Turpitude") Cathcart.” 


If you read one thing about how the horrible Qataris bought the handball world cup, naturalised a load of players for money, do read this. Villainous Qataris and greedy sportocrats - hard to see what could go wrong. My favourite bit, for what it's worth:

It was conspicuous that all the referee couples who have a reputation for being particularly capable of standing up to pressure were kept away from the games of Qatar in the ‘round of 16’, the quarterfinal and the semifinal. And in all cases, ‘less resistant’ referees were seen by neutral observers as having had a lot to do with the Qatari wins in very narrow games. In turn, Austria, Germany and Poland left the court fuming about mysterious decisions in critical moments, and also totally neutral observers found it to be a bit too much.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

is your girlfriend a trained assassin?

I very strongly urge you to read this ESPN story. It's about a sports star* who believes his ex-girlfriend is a trained assassin dispatched on covert missions around the world who once returned to him in a blood-splattered gown.

'Really?' asked his attorney (HIS attorney), Rusty Hardin. Busch replied, Everybody on the outside can tell me I'm crazy, but I lived on the inside and saw it firsthand.

Busch says that Driscoll talked about her assassining a lot, and said this involved a lot of travel. Also, she took down foreign governments and owned Washington. Driscoll said this was the plot of a screenplay that she let Busch proofread.

It's all your standard messy break-up stuff, basically.


* Kurt Busch is a NASCAR driver. I've heard of him because I like sport and NASCAR is insanely popular in America, even if I don't follow it.

Monday, 12 January 2015

shocking map


One of the things I know about Africa is that most people have no idea about how big it is. It turns out that I was one of those people. Africa is really, really, really big. This map is stunning.

Periodically I find myself reading a book or going to an art exhibition where the loose cast of extraordinary characters who were the background for parts of The Dazzle and some possibly even more famous works like The Childrens Book. Every time, I meet some people I had forgotten about or missed. Like, for instance, Selwyn Image, which is such a brilliant name that I can't believe I didn't know it. He was a priest, left holy orders, founded art magazines and made stained glass.

Thomas Okey is woefully underserved by Wikipedia, and you can't say that often. I have to do more research and I don't have time right now, but what I remember from the biographical note about him at the National Portrait Gallery was that he apprenticed to a basket weaver at 17, was ferociously committed to self-betterment, got a scholarship to read Italian at Cambridge where he became an in Italian professor. He went back to baskets when he retired from Italian. Once the baskets have you, they never let go.

On the great names front, I am currently loving Fozzy Whittaker of the Indianapolis Colts. It's a good name, in and of itself, but what makes it art is that it is shortened from Foswhitt.

For a play I wrote before Christmas, I had to come up with an amusing schoolboy name. I went with Nut-Pitcairn Minor. If you type Nut Pitcairn into Google, you come up with a sort of sponsored gyrocopter piloted by Amelia Earhart. I am close to certain I had never even unconsciously heard this, but I enjoyed finding it.



Wednesday, 31 December 2014

editorial


I had forgotten about my favourite piece of editing. In [many years ago] I sent a piece to the Sunday Times which included the paragraph:

Archbishop Foley’s point is that the Catholic confession depends on feedback. Many secular confessionals, to their infinitesimal credit, do give this; Daily Confession asks for comments on the revelations people make.

The edited version read:

Archbishop Foley’s point is that the Catholic confession depends on feedback. Many secular confessionals, to their infinite credit, do give this; Daily Confession asks for comments on the revelations people make.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

rise, kill and eat

Have you ever thought about the typography of Alien? Not enough, you haven't. 

I'll go out on a biblical limb and claim right off the bat that you cannot show me, through the balance of the Bible, that the God of the Scripture is against the responsible killing and the grilling of the animals He created, says Doug Giles.

Much less nutty is Ralph Myers, who wrote a really excellent thing about the effects of arts management (in Australia) being in the hands of business people rather than artists. Here's a long messy portmanteau quotation.

There are a raft of reasons why this is the case, and some of them are broader cultural trends ... However, this itself does not explain their almost total dominance. The real reason is that businesspeople are on boards is very practical – they’re there to raise money.

It has been noted often that government support for the major performing arts companies and festivals has been declining, in real terms, for decades. The companies have adapted to this by attempting to increase revenue from elsewhere – at the box office where they can – but primarily through cadging money from the private sector ... This has lead to overwhelming pressure to appoint well-connected and/or wealthy people to the boards of our companies ... [G]overnments have been encouraging, measuring and facilitating private and corporate giving to the arts as a way to deflect pressure on the public purse. Nugent rightly forced companies to be more accountable and financially responsible, but the consequence is that they rapidly became more corporate too ... I want to focus on its effect on that other key role of the board, the appointment of the artistic director ...

We like people with similar mindsets to us. People who think like us. This is natural thing. We understand them and thus we like people like us better than those who are not. We speak the same language, we can empathise with them, and we instinctively trust them. So, it should come as no surprise to us that boards, when charged with the task of finding a new AD, are appointing people who they instinctively trust and understand. People like them.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

there is a glimmer of hope for us all


I tore something out of a copy of either Metro or The Evening Standard one day last week. It opened:

For proof there's a glimmer of hope for us all, look at the unbelievable transformation Hugh Laurie has had in his career.

Who would ever have imagined, when Hugh Laurie was a mere rowing blue and star of the Cambridge Footlights that there was ever a glimmer of hope for him? Almost unimaginably he went on to be a comic actor and then made the extraordinary leap into being serious actor. It must give everyone the same glimmer of hope that we too could somehow emerge from his humble circumstances to be stars of American prime time dramas like his fellow old Etonians Dominic West and Damian Lewis.

For clarity, I love Hugh Laurie (The Gun Seller is my favourite novel by a comedian), and I think Dominic West and Damian Lewis are also excellent. I am just being mean about a cliche knocked out by some overworked guy who has to produce twenty 200 word pieces a day.

(Unlucky if you were not quick enough to get a Mighty Fin ticket. I said you had to be quick.)
 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mighty Fun 2014

A bit later than advertised, but tickets for this year's Mighty Fin Christmas Show are finally on sale (we had some issues getting the matinee permit). It runs 17-20 December at the Network Theatre under Waterloo Station, with a matinee on Saturday.

As I hope you already know, The Diary of a Provincial Lady is one of the most joyful novels ever written. We're really pleased with the show. If you need persuading, and you definitely should not, it features a friend of mine called Ellis singing a song called The Aria of Enormous Trauma.

Tickets available here. History suggests it is best to be quick. They've been on sale for about a day and well over half have gone.

Network Theatre details available here. Do watch the video about how to get to it. It is right under the station. The problem you will face is your own disbelief.

Friday, 21 November 2014

yikes

[Time passes.]

You will mainly be terrified that tickets for this year's Mighty Fin Xmas Show are on sale and you somehow missed the news. Nil desperandum - we are dealing with a matinee licensing issue.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady, one of the most joyful books ever written, is getting Susannah Pearse songs, which are some of the most joyful things ever written, and the tickets will be on sale next week. Be ready to be quick. The dates for your diary are 17-20 December.

In other news, the new version of Listen & Often will go live and fortnightly in December. We've recorded three. It's been educational and Marie and I do now know what we want them to be.

Tall Tales is next Weds at The Good Ship, as per usual - Burdess, Chalmers, Davies, Finnemore, Kane, Parker, Pearse, 7.30 for an 8.00 start.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

posh girls, cheerleaders, fantastic samurai

This article about Sumo and Japan by Brian Phillips is long and absolutely magnificent. It's also beautifully produced by Grantland. The description of a tragic failed coup is astonishing, and it is only the set-up.

In The Daily Beast is a crazy story about a frightening 38 year old socialite NFL cheerleader.

I hate the knee-jerk tv trope that posh people are ipso facto evil. That's all the throat-clearing I'm going to do.

I love the fact that Game of Thrones is full of girls who sound like they've walked out of an art history seminar at Exeter University saying things like, 'I'll lick your balls and then I will cut them off and serve them to your whore.' Then there's the red-headed one who doesn't sound posh and says 'You know nothing, Jon Snuh'.

She's played by Rose Leslie: Leslie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and raised at Lickleyhead Castle in Aberdeenshire, her family's 15th-century ancestral seat. Her father is Sebastian Arbuthnot-Leslie, the Aberdeenshire Chieftain of Clan Leslie, and her mother is Candida Mary Sibyl "Candy" Leslie (née Weld), great-granddaughter of Simon Fraser, 13th Lord Lovat (a descendant of Charles II).  Her parents own the 12th-century Warthill Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Taylor Swift (I like her) is well posh. I might have said this on here before, but I think it was on twitter. Anyway, here are some highlights from her Wikipedia page:

Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a Merrill Lynch financial adviser. Scott was raised in Pennsylvania and is the descendant of three generations of bank presidents ... She spent the early years of her life on an eleven-acre Christmas tree farm in Cumru Township, Pennsylvania ... When Swift was fourteen, her father transferred to the Nashville office of Merrill Lynch and the family relocated to a lakefront house in Hendersonville, Tennessee.


Friday, 31 October 2014

i'm behind you

Nearly done with this year's Xmas Show. Details to follow. Also, Marie and I are re-editing our podcast. We won't take them live till we've worked out how to replicate regularly. We're nearly there, I promise...

The labour-intensive world of moderating facebook.

Plant crime of the century. One of the scientists in the story sounds like the hero of an enviro-Indiana-Jones-style action series: The thermal water lily was only successfully grown from seed in 2009, after the last living specimen, which had been in Germany, had died. Its survival was down to Kew’s plant “codebreaker”, a charismatic Spanish horticultural scientist called Carlos Magdalena.

Also: “Personally I have no worries about what has happened,” one British collector said. “I feel there is an arrogance about Kew. They deserved what they got.” Carlos Magdalena told me that he had even been accused of staging the theft to increase publicity for his work.

I've said it before, but Brian Phillips is fantastic. He even feels fresh about the aeons-long rivalry between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: If it weren’t for Brady, we’d have to think of Manning as a celebrity, but if it weren’t for Manning, we’d have to think of Brady as a guy doing a job — or worse: as a guy who signs paperwork, who wakes up worried in the middle of the night, who gets stuck in traffic, who waits on hold, who wonders where time is going, who feels unexplained pain in his tooth. Instead, we get to imagine Brady as the free citizen of a world of tuxedos, fine wine, lingering eye contact, and beautiful understated cars. We get to do this because there is never a moment, we imagine, when Manning is not signing paperwork, in traffic, while worried, with a toothache. That is how Peyton Manning contributes to our fantasies. That’s the sacrifice he makes for us.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

amazon steals from war hero

Have I written about the Amazon scam where dodgy publishers take books they claim are out of copyright and offer them for (expensive) sale on a print-on-demand basis. Probably. And probably someone else has written about them.

Anyway, my favourite current example is a book called Van Meegeren, Master Forger, which various imprints with curious four letter names (Nabu Press, Ulan Press) are selling, out of the goodness of their scholarly hearts, because it was originally published prior to 1923, and represents a reproduction of an important historical work, maintaining the same format as the original work. While some publishers have opted to apply OCR (optical character recognition) technology to the process, we believe this leads to sub-optimal results (frequent typographical errors, strange characters and confusing formatting) and does not adequately preserve the historical character of the original artifact. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form.

How marvellous of them! This is the long tail at work! Our records will never die.

Except I suppose that the diligent old moles at Nabu and Ulan must have missed the title page, since the forgery which the book is about wasn't uncovered until the end of WW2, so the date, in a book about fakes no less, is pretty wild of the mark.

In fact, the book was written in 1967 by John Godley, Lord Kilbracken. You may know him as the author of The Easy Way of Bird Recognition or as a racing correspondent. Or the chap who gatecrashed the Great Red Square parade in Moscow on the 40th anniversary of the October uprising, wearing a pink Leander tie and with his trousers turned inside out. Or as a Fleet Air Arm pilot who won a DSC flying Fairey Swordfish, a Liberal peer who switch to Labour in 1966 and renounced his British citizenship and medals in 1972 over Britain's policy in Northern Ireland. He sat in the Lord's and was a big speaker for the Kurds.

Also, he sold square yards of Irish bog to Americans, hunted Rommel's treasure, squired Jayne Mansfield to buy cows (he christened his best milker Jayne) and married a much younger Australian spy. His Telegraph obit is great, as you would imagine.

Friday, 24 October 2014

mike read loves chocolate



UKIP news 1: I was at a big party to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the birth of Oscar Wilde, mainly, and so Calypsist Mike Read. He was wearing a poppy long before anyone else, to show how patriotic he is, presumably. You are probably wondering why he was at an Oscar Wilde party? It's because he wrote a musical called Oscar that closed after one performance in 2004 in a hail on non-acclaim. The Guardian wrote: When Mike Read's Oscar Wilde musical closed within hours of its opening night in the West End, five theatregoers suffered more than most: the people who had bought tickets to its second performance.

He's also written musicals about Cliff and Rupert Brooks, and set Betjeman to music. Almost certainly terrible in all cases. Also, as a modern artist, he has worked in the field of confectionary.

 UKIP news 2: I didn't know anything about William Dartmouth, 10th Earl of Dartmouth, who sits as a UKIP MEP for South West England. His grandma was Barbara Cartland, and is married to an Australian ex-model. He has a son whose mother is a 'socialite', or was, and who can't inherit the title for legitimacy reasons.

Short film of joggers in Victoria Park.

Addams Family audition pics. It seems from number ten that Nicholas Lyndhurst was up for Lurch. Lisa Loring played Wednesday. She was born in Hawaii, married her childhood sweetheart and had a baby when she was sixteen. Later, she married a porn star (she met him on a set when she was working as a make-up artist) but she didn't like his work and although he pretended, he couldn't give it up. Drugs, drink, and People magazine wrote a feature on her brilliantly entitled Addams Child Wednesday Has Been Fully of Woe, but she's started acting again. I hope it goes well for her.

Sneakernomics is crazy.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

million sellers

J_F_cover_US_1 


Cover scan of Jacob's Folly





I loved Jacob's Folly. The top cover above gives you a decent sense of it. I think it's the American one. The second cover is the British one I saw, and it's made me think it was a book not aimed at me. Over time, I got over the judging by cover, but it was over time. If I had seen the top cover I'd have read it ages ago. It is by no means anything within a million miles of what looks like the slightly pappy book of the second cover, and I wonder if lots of readers have found that surprising. I should check, maybe. Not now, I have other fish to fry.

I am periodically riveted by huge bestsellers no one today has heard of. My friend Matthew told me about the incredible Peter Cheyney the other day, who grew up in the East End, fought in the Great War, dictated dozens of thrilling tales, shot, golfed, jiu-jitsued and etc., etc.

Among other things, assuming Wikipedia to be correct: Cheyney wrote his first novel, the Lemmy Caution thriller This Man Is Dangerous in 1936 and followed it with the first Slim Callaghan novel, The Urgent Hangman in 1938. The immediate success of these two novels assured a flourishing new career, and Cheyney abandoned his work as a freelance investigator. Sales were brisk; in 1946 alone, 1,524,785 copies of Cheyney books were sold worldwide ... Cheyney dictated his work. Typically Cheyney would "act out" his stories for his secretary, Miss Sprauge, who would copy them down in shorthand and type them up later.

Ernie Hudson played Winston in Ghostbusters and wasn't that well treated in sequels and didn't voice the cartoon. Was race a reason? Well, in this interview, he seems like more or less the gracefullest man on earth. I think of him as Cousin Ernie, increasingly.

What happens when you find a way to beat Vegas because Vegas has screwed up the programming of its machines? Well, among other things, Vegas doesn't like it one little bit, and Vegas is bigger than you, so it takes you to court. Vegas, basically, is the baddies. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

yikes

I hadn't heard of Gamergate until last night and the story of a gamer saying he'd massacre people if a woman spoke about tropes games perpetuate against women.

Of course, it's just the usual load of hate-filled bile, and to say this is representative of gamers is like saying ISIS is representative of muslims and so on. But I'm glad to know about it, all the same. And I was already going to link to this great story by Naomi Alderman about British women who were early computer coders because when they started doing it, it was seen as women's work. They started businesses made a lot of money, which totally is and should be part of the story.