Friday, 24 July 2009

Summer Hatin'

We might have but a small readership, I think they like to call it 'niche' in marketing, and as much as I don't want to lose the few readers we have, I have little doubt that this post is going to be very, very unpopular, yes even less popular than my other ones.

As you might have guessed from the title, summer and I don't exactly see eye to eye. While the majority of people complain that British summers are patchy and short-lived, I couldn't be happier with the situation. Nothing makes me smile like the sight of a storm cloud blighting an otherwise empty blue sky in the middle of July sending waves of panic across the scantily clad denizens of London.

But, before you accuse me of being a 'miserable fucking shit', let me explain.

I am, by all accounts, shockingly pale. On a recent holiday I was referred to by a friend as 'Count Dracula', I also managed to immolate my leg despite spending most of my time hiding beneath one of those flimsy looking umbrella things. Nevertheless, I ended the holiday looking slightly less undead, with a healthy glow to my cheeks and about seventy new freckles on my arms, so if there was a lesson to be learned from this it's that the sun can make even me look a tad jollier and healthier as long as I avoid third degree burns. So my stupid fair skin is not the reason I hate summer.

Another reason why I could hate summer would be public transport, particularly the mobile furnace better known as the Tube. For many people a typical morning begins by waiting on a platform for ten minutes because someone pulled the emergency alarm because they were on the verge of passing out through heat exhaustion. This means that by the time the next tube actually arrives, the platform is so busy that there is a three deep row in front of the yellow line and even though there’s clearly not enough room for a small hamster to squeeze on, some ovetly aggressive commuter will hurl themselves into the impenetrable wall of bodies using weight, momentum and stupidity alone to secure a place in the now completely airless carriage increasing the chance that somebody else will pull the emergency alarm by 50000000%. But sweating out half my body weight on the way to work is not the real reason I hate summer.

It’s no coincidence that the genuine villains of summertime public transport abuse are people, they’re the ones pulling emergency alarms, pushing their way onto the tube and generally pissing me off. Yes, the real reason I hate summer is the people.

The minute the sun pokes its unfamiliar face from behind our comfortably cloudy skies people turn into moronic drones incapable of demonstrating anything resembling free will. First up, why does everybody, and I mean literally everybody, go to the park? Parks were designed as little bits of nature in the city, places people could go to escape all the ills of urban life, including the millions of people they would inevitably encounter on a daily basis.

How is it possible to relax in an approximation of bucolic splendour when there are so many people you can’t see the grass and somebody is blasting ragga out from their shitty car stereo? On days like this I advise going to Oxford Street to take the air, it’s much fucking quieter for a start.

On sunny days what we need is a ticket system that every household has to abide by. So if you’re given a blue ticket you can go out on sunny days on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday and if you have a red ticket you can go out on sunny days on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Nobody is allowed out on Monday.

Secondly, and this is particularly galling, is the whole inner city sunbathing thing. I’ll freely admit that during summer I become the worst kind of British prude, but dear god people, put some fucking clothes on. The other day in the cute little park next to the Museum of fricking Childhood, there was a topless, yes TOPLESS, girl sunbathing and next to her a girl in a bikini that barely covered the most intimate elements of her private parts. Then there was the usual sea of flabby white men in khaki shorts who are invariably going to spend the night writhing in pink-fleshed agony when their sunburn kicks in.

If parks are no longer the urbanites retreat they once were they should at least be the kinds of places where kids can throw things at each other, homeless people can quietly drink themselves into oblivion and nice middle class people can pretend they’re doing something wholesome, not hotbeds of soft porn.

Basically if you want me to enjoy summer, you’re going to have to stay in and keep your clothes on.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Gay for Cedric Bixler-Zavala (or: De-clothed in the Homo-torium)

OK, so rock has always flirted with the homoerotic, with prog the biggest sausage-fest of the lot. All that self-gratification - wanking off your instrument for no one's pleasure but your own, while a sweaty, writhing mass of men look on longingly...

Well, even with all the latent gayness at the Mars Volta gig at Somerset House this week, my subconscious managed to take things too far. About four minutes into a seven minute instrumental psyche-out, I shut my eyes for a moment. And what should pop into my mind but an image of - what's that? Lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala... doing... me?

Never mind that he looked like Gary Sinise with Anita Dobson's hair, or that he was wearing a shirt that a dart player would be proud off - but probably couldn't fit an arm into - or that my idea of sex with him was face to face (were we just rubbing our bits together?) and looked a bit like jazz dancing; that split-second between me and the Texican troubadour was totally freakaay. Man. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Mike Tyson: The Saddest Man on the Planet. Part 3
Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.

The other documentary I came across was Fox’s Beyond the Glory – Mike Tyson.  Narrated by Ice T, the programme opens with Tyson’s loss to Lennox Lewis (a fight that broke the box-office record, grossing $104m), claiming that this was the moment Tyson “hit rock bottom”.   It includes footage from throughout his career and interviews with Tyson.  It doesn’t take long to realise that the Lennox Lewis fight was not the moment Tyson hit “rock bottom” he was already there. 

Teddy Atlas, one of Tyson’s original trainers describes Tyson as a young man who had amazing talent, but was emotionally unstable.  This is illustrated by footage of a young Tyson crying before his first bout at the Olympic games, seeking reassurance from Atlas who has to console him.  Tyson went on to win the fight in eight seconds, recording the fastest ever knockout at the Olympic games. 

The interview with Atlas goes on to describe a darker truth, that Tyson was accused of numerous allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards females when at school.  Atlas claimed that Cus D ’Amato used the promise that Tyson would one day make the area famous as a way to get the school governors not to take action.   With the allegations brushed under the carpet, Mike was taken out of school with the promise of home tutoring, something that never happened.  Atlas could see that Mike needed more discipline in his life, but Cus was getting old and wanted one last chance at training a world champion, so neglected this in pursuit of his dream.  Atlas didn’t remain in the Tyson camp long after an incident in which Tyson groped Atlas’ 11-year-old niece’s bum.  Atlas confronted Cus about the incident, but no action was taken and the two parted company.  

The man once called Iron Mike, no longer seemed indestructible.  Overweight and forlorn Tyson tells the interviewer that he has no friends, that people only want to use him, “they don’t love me, it’s all this [gestures to his house], it’s easy to fall in love with all this money”.  He claims that he’s a monster as that is how people view him that boxing had made him and consumed him. 

Whilst Tyson admits that his prison sentence broke him as a man, he contradicts this by saying he never wanted to leave, that he felt comfortable in prison.  Tyson is so angry at the world; the bullies from his youth; his ex-wife, Robin Givens; Don King and of course Denise Washington.  As the title of the documentary, “Beyond the Glory” suggests, this one hour and thirty minute documentary does exactly just that, placing the spotlight on his violent verbal outbursts, dirty tactics in the ring (including the ear biting incident), vulgar views on women, drug abuse and mental health.  It’s hard to see why Tyson agreed to this being made, I can only assume for the money. 

At the end of the documentary I’m left feeling uneasy by how blindly I had followed and supported him throughout and after his career, but equally sad for the Tyson that was put in front of me.  A Tyson who has no love in his life, “I have no chance to love anyone or care for anybody because I was so stuck in the past. The past is a glorious moment, isn’t it?”

I still believe that Tyson was a great fighter who should have had it all.  Despite all the evidence presented to me, it’s hard to see where it all went wrong.  This perplexes me as much as it does Tyson himself, as revealed in an emotional closing address to camera: “Why can’t I have what I want? I worked hard for it.  I sweated for it.  I didn’t steal it.  I bled in the gym for it.  I beat my body up and allowed people to beat me up. Why shouldn’t I have it all?”

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Who's Sad?

Why am I crying at Michael Jackson's memorial service?

I mean, apart from the obvious - the death of an extraordinary man, a family's loss, the fact that one of my cats just scratched me...

I thought I was above - opposed to - these public outpourings of grief. When Princess Diana died, I was the guy reminding people that she was actually a bit of a slut who needed her hair sorting out. When Our Jade died, I was the guy pointing out that she was at best a moron, at worst a racist (but I didn't mention her hair). Yes, I was that guy.

But this is different. For one thing, Michael Jackson actually did something. There's no point me adding to the column inches/bandwidth by going over that again... but one of my earliest memories is of sitting in the dining room with my family and listening to Thriller and Off The Wall. Again and again and again.

Wrap up a lifetime of moments like that in a funeral service with a song from Stevie Wonder and a eulogy from Magic Johnson and you get me right now - a wreck. And no amount of Mariah Carey or on-screen messages telling me the Great British Foreign Holiday will be on some other time, or Paul Gambaccini saying things like "Usher has caressed the mother", can change that.

I hope you get to read this post before one of the hard, unsentimental bastards who also make up Manflet delete it (or me, when I come to my senses).

RIP MJ xoxo