Thursday, November 30, 2006

From Russia with . . . ?

Boz first alerted us to the genius that is the M&S Christmas ad.

Now Londonist is campaigning for the divine Bassey to be the Chrstmas Number 1.

And in a desperate atempt to find a new angle on the story, The Grauniad has a rant about the evils of drugs. This is amusing enough to quote at some length:

"Still, perhaps we should acknowledge the drug reference and salute a perfect portrait of the mixed-up, shaken-and-stirred mores of Britain circa late 2006: a 69-year-old grandmother - dressed, say M&S, in a £150 "Magicwear" hold-it-all-in dress - doing a Bond-themed gig in Superman's house and singing about being on E. Fingerfood and sensibly priced partywear all round!"

Works for me.

Meanwhile, over at You Tube (4 stars, 59,213 views, 31 comments and 136 times favourited as I write) the big debate seems to be why didn't Pink get the gig? Some people have no poety in their souls.

BUT - a sudden thought chills me - as we are all aware, real-life Russian ex-spies are suddenly all over our news broadcasts, especially ones dying in James Bondian bizarreness. Is M&S going to suffer blow back from the polonium 210 issue?

While I deplore the callous murder of innocent Russian ex-spies living in our midst, I have to say the British police are giving good investigation. While Vladimir vehemently denies all responsibility, PC Plod keeps on the trail of that polonium 210 and its 130 day half-life. Now, didn't I tell you this whole operation was FUBAR? How brilliant is it that the poison actually leaves traces everywhere it's been, and it appears to have come from Russia? No doubt Vladimir will soon feel the long arm of Britsh law fingering his collar. Or at least testing it for polonium.

Although, I'm also finding it just a tad convenient from the PR angle that one of BA's planes was held at Moscow airport. Almost as if physically making a point. Come on, given airline turnaround times surely all three could have been caught in London?

[update] - from Wipipedia: "A cube of pure polonium-210 about the size of a written period (0.35 mm wide, or 400 micrograms) would still be 3400 times the lethal dose."

Oh - and also:

Deadly Polonium-210 only $69!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ta Dah - Marie Antoinette

Late reviews - but what the hell -

Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola is more enjoyable than is reasonable for such a self-indulgent film; the cinematography and soundtrack, as well as Ms Dunst, are ravishing.

The movie it reminded me of most is Bertolucci's The Last Emperor - both films convincingly depict the effects on the captives of their gilded cages, and both are somewhat tableau-esque in construction. Bertolucci's story is aided by the extreme stylistic changes operating in his history - Imperial China to Art Deco to Mao. Alas, although Sofia does track the development of fashion at Versailles in the period from the stiff and formal panniered dresses of Marie's arrival in France, through the towering wig phase, and onwards to the deceptively simple 'natural' yet equally ruinously expensive flowing muslin gowns of the pre-revolutionary years, this transition is I fear too subtle for a modern audience to comprehend and certainly not enough to carry the plot.

Copolla's triumph is her exquisite, intimate perceptions of a life enmeshed in public royal ritual. I think her choice of near-contemporary music enhances this dimension.

Of course, if she wanted to be truly contemporary, she would have chosen tracks off Scissor Sisters latest CD, Ta-Dah. I think the most flattering thing I can say about it is that I bought it; I must have been the only person in the UK disappointed by their debut. Although some tracks were promising, and Jake Shears's voice was amazing, for me nothing reached the heights of their cover of Comfortably Numb.

I bought Ta-Dah after listening the thing on the band's Myspace page. It's really rather superb - a massive jump up from no.1 and also shows signs their musical development is just beginning. The first track, I don't feel like dancin' has justifiably been hailed as a dance classic, but I think Ooh is even better - in fact everything on the second half is just marvellous.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

polonium 210

The unfortunate Mr Litvenenko has now passed away, after a dramatic deathbed accusation of Putin. The British authorities have announced radioactive polonium 210 was found in his urine, at Itsu and the bar of the Mayfair Millennium Hotel - the places he visited on the 1st November.

At this point, poor 'ol Itsu is probably so over. Legend has it there's no such thing as bad publicity, but hell, radioactivity in a fast food joint? I don't think so. Also please note this radioactivity has lasted in the place for a full 3 weeks.

I have to say the media are being very blase about this. The Guardian leader comment seems to imply this is absolutely nomal and only to be expected for spies. Harsh.

There appears to be a backlash against the idea that the Russians did it. The rationale is that the Russians would have been far more discreet and clever than to murder someone in such a painfully public manner. Well, this could be a Russian FUBAR project. FUBAR projects can happen to anyone - ask Tony and W.

We have to expect that we are not being told everything the authorities know, and also that this clearly impacts on Anglo-Russian dilpomatic relations, so the whole thing is going to be managed. I think it is very interesting the Russian ambassador was called into the foreign office for what was described as a "routine meeting" yesterday.

Anyway, a gruesome murder mystery in central London. Can't decide whether it's more like an Agatha Christie or an Ian Fleming novel.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sushi - Yikes!

I'm going to have to rethink my attachment to sushi.

I can distinctly remember my wonderment when at the age of around 5 I first heard the Japanese ate raw fish. At that stage in my development, the formidable Catholic nuns at my nursery school had extreme difficulty getting me to eat cooked fish on Fridays.

However, time and taste marches on and certainly by the time of the Japan festival in the early 90s I was keen to try the stuff. And rapidly became hooked.

But now - oops. Firstly, a knowledgeable friend absolutely hated my choice of Japanese restaurant (a quite highly rated one, according to all the reviewers, here in South London).

And secondly, my most favourite snack joint is now the notorious scene of an (allegedly) KGB poisoning. Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident, exile and strong critic of Putin's goverment fell ill - of thallium poisoning - after lunch at Itsu in Picadilly.

I love the sushi at Itsu. Yes, its mass-market but the sushi is prepared on the premises and they don't overchill the rice. It's actually really nice and I love going there after a cultural session at the Royal Academy. I liked it so much I wrote a fan letter to Julian Metcalfe, its owner. (He sent a very sweet reply.)

But this is the sort of incident a restaurant can't live down. Sort of like Boris Becker bonking in a broom cupboad at Nobu, only much much much more negative. Much. It's one thing if the food makes you so frisky you can't keep zipped up. Quite another if you are poisoned. Yikes!

Friday, November 17, 2006

You know you're spending too much time on the internet when . . .

You first see the new M&S Christmas ad on someone else's blog.

Thanks, Boz.

Truly fantabulous advert - makes me want to rush to M&S (even though I only buy their food). Oh - and also - the new James Bond is out! Yippee!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Wisdom of Yorkies

I really like Yorkshire Terriers. The first I met and came to love was my Aunt's - Ozzie.

He looked very ratty compared to our Jack Russell, but was a total charmer to live with: complete terrier mischief and fun but with an 'off-switch', unlike the Jack Russells who just never stop. And also Yorkies do have a sense of their own safety, unlike the Jacks.

His coat used to get filthy every time we went outside, so bathing him became an almost daily event. I trained him to like the blow drier - he thought it was a wonderful game.

Ozzie was named for the rock star and was a pedigree bought at Harrod's. My aunt went in one Chistmas to buy a sewing machine and came out with a dog, of course much to my cousins' delight.

I once gave Oz his evening constitutional along the sea front in Hastings. There was a massive storm that night - the waves reared up out of the darkness and hit the sea wall with awesome force, shaking the walkway and sending foam 20-30 ft into he air. It was a fantastic sight, and being outside and so close to it was exhilarating.

Suddenly I looked down and there was no dog on the leash. He had slipped it. I freaked. I just knew the animal was in the water, and spent minutes tryng to spot the unfortunate creature out there in the savage inky blackness before another monster wave could crush him against the wall.

Nothing. Other late-night dog walkers hadn't seen him either. I ran up and down, calling his name; dreading having to go back to my aunt empty-handed.

And then above the roar of the sea I heard the howling. Behind me and above. I ran up the steps to see Oz cowered in the middle of the road, head between paws, howling his heart out. He barked at me reproachfully when I put his leash back on. As if to say: "You flipping idiot. What are you thinking??!"

And then he dragged me back home as fast his legs would carry him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Hooray for elections! Quite a positive result in the US mid-term elections. Due to the President’s rather scary approach to international relations, the rest of the world has taken far more of an interest in these elections than usual, and possibly more so in the UK than elsewhere.

Therefore I found it fascinating that an article on ‘International Reactions’ on the US edition of the CNN website covered France and Germany but did not so much as mention the UK.

Hello? People? – We’re meant to be your biggest allies? Remember us? ~ we’re the ones stuck with you in the quagmire in Iraq.

And we’ll be stuck there until the Americans decide to cut and run, or whatever they end up calling it.

In fact, it was suggested on the BBC’s Newsnight last night that the UK government (as distinct from our military or the public) might be the only body left arguing for “staying the course” if the Democrats manage to change US policy.

So so humiliating.

It was the 50th anniversary of the Suez Crisis this year. For a storm in a teacup it had powerful consequences – apparently, the Europeans started the European Union partly as a result (the French and Germans wanting to create a body that could counterbalance America), and the French kept the UK out for as long as possible (we were seen as too close to the USA).

The UK went through a period of introspection and avoided any military action at all until the Falklands. Since then, we’ve been pretty gung-ho again, BUT always with American approval or partnership.

And now we come to this. I wonder how the end-game in Iraq will affect the ‘Special Relationship’? At the very least, we won’t be so quick to jump on board each and every American project, no matter how mad and ill-prepared, as a matter of course. But will we finally commit to Europe? Oh, the identity issues of a small island!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fireworks over Clapham

The Council did a good job of the fireworks this year - although they sarted half-an-hour later than advertised. A crisp, clear, and chilly evening. Huge crowds dispersed after a great display off the Common to Clapham South or North: the Common tube was closed by order of the police, presumably to the delight of the many bars and restaurants lining Clapham High Street on the way to Clapham North station.