Tuesday, December 29, 2009

tweets of the year

This has been the year of twitter for me. I joined in January and rapidly succumbed to a severe addiction. Twitter informed me of breaking news faster than anything else, made me more politically aware and involved, made all my hobbies and interests much more interesting, turbo-charged the entertainment factor of television a thousand-fold, and helped me meet some great people. Here is a selection of my favourite tweets from 2009 - the good, bad, ugly, witty, profound, frivolous, and controversial: *

diamondgeezer RT @ElizabethRex2 : Dearest Charles, could you pop into the drawing room and explain how Twittering works? One needs to network...

jkottke How many innocent blogs have died so that Twitter may live?

jkottke I am now a locavore. I will only eat food located within an arm's reach of my mouth.

susanorlean No matter how many books you've written, if you're a writer your parents will always wonder when you're going to get a job.

susanorlean Mother's Day gift from 4 yr old son: I got to choose whether to watch Jurrasic Park 1 or 3 during breakfast. It's the thought that counts.

miketd It's my time. It's my time. My moah-ment. I'm not gonna let go of it

rolytaylor RT@DarkPianoIt took the universe billions of years to produce the moment you call "now." Strive to see the perfection in it! :)

edwardclarke It's heartbreaking in this day and age that at the funeral of a gay man there is zero acknowledgement of that fact.

thoroughlygood Is Patricia's dress "under construction" ? #eurovision

Wossy #eurovision I am with Peter Tatchell. Figuratively. Go on Graham, say it ! They are backward fascists. Dumb ass russians.

kvinnesland #eurovision UK has entered the wrong contest. Beautiful song, but do they expect to win without a stupid show and silly pants?

style_therapy The UK putting in a halfway decent showing at Eurovision? That's just not on. I feel kind of cheated.

davidschneider: The Norwegian boy might lose his virginity tonight. The Albanian dwarves have their eyes on him

owenblacker OMG Sookie. You have eight kittens upstairs, still blind. No, I am not gonna let you out so you can find more cock!

adventuresofboz Up in your spot like a tasty pastry treat, world!

edwardclarke Horrifying ENO surtitle fail - used 'discrete' when meant 'discreet'. We are truly living in decadent times.

frala_fontaine really need to stop opening Twitter and Facebook first thing. Though I did get distracted by some work..

AndrewOrange New life-as-a-writer progress report: Haven't actually written anything yet but at least I now have a printer in case I ever do. Baby steps.

AlextheFly @YHBW The 456 want our children. Are we sure it's not Madonna in there? #Torchwood

edwardclarke@sarahbrown10 RT @RedMummy: @edwardclarke Am bad person - I like veal. Ask SB to save her unwanted portions for me.

robfahey Every bit of pent-up nastiness from years of writing a show that's forced to pander to a kiddy audience came pouring out. #torchwood

dzhimbo Emphasis on medium draws attention to the structure of the piece, however, creating metadiagetic commentary on its meaning(s). #artchat

RedMummy@edwardclarke To Flybe I promised I'd always be true, but Virgin don't charge me for using the loo.

Shoq: We need public media; a BBC or CBC, or you can kiss the American experiment goodbye. Nice concept but the rat died. Sorry!

samuelpepys Sir W. Pen and I did dig another pit, and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.

stigblog Weather outside too horrible. Weather in bed too lovely.

mrjohnwilkes: My warm Congratulations to Mr. Van RUMPOY. I can't recall voting for you, Sir, but I may have been PISSED.

jenblower hurrah! You're all void of class, baileys coffee from the tester bottle it is then! :D

karmachord The world is so painfully beautiful. Every single atom is poised on the edge...ready to implode or explode with blissful agony.

stigblog@JamesMW78 hmm. Chocolate + alcohol are only two of your 3 food groups. Takeaway is 3rd. You need all 3 to survive and thrive properly!

jonreed #frankieboylecrackermottos we're all highly evolved monkeys clinging to a piece of rock falling through space, and the rock itself is dying

edwardclarke Well, according to wikipedia Portillo is still up to his neck in oil http://is.gd/5iPi2 Come clean, #thisweek?

zefrog: am with @Hampstead_Heath (who should know!): Vote George at #xfactor! (or have we got it wrong?)

AJ_Scroxton: How can this final be two hours long? Even accounting for 72 minutes of commercials it just doesn't add up. #xfactor

CherylKerl Joa's takin te bein a stah leika duck te woata! Ah cudden get inte his dressin room te congratalate im coza aall his mindaz.

tomsimnett: A sperm has 37.5MB of DNA information in it. That means that a normal ejaculation represents a data transfer of 1,587.5TB

jonreed actually, I am panicking slightly. one week to go and I still haven't gilded my pears (what would @KirstieMAllsopp say?)

jonreed oh the weather outside is frightful/& the planet so igniteful/but since #cop15 won't learn/let it burn let it burn let it burn!

EvilKimau "All those moments lost like tears in the rain... time.. to die" SO sad but so true... I love that moment #bladerunner

jonreed and Hamlet on Boxing Day? BBC, you are spoiling us with the Twelve Days of Tennant!

edwardclarke BBC headline: "Eurostar train leaves Paris"

edwardclarke RT @themanwhofell: I'm very pleased that Lady Gaga was Chanukah No.1

adamfishpoet@edwardclarke I too am pleased for Milady GAGA, Master CLARKE; but reserve my strongest sympathy for Mr MORELLO's band of BRIGANDS.

themanwhofell The worst thing about yesterday was that it struck another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of heterosexual marriages.

owenblacker:D RT @homotweets: When it comes to exploring the sea of love, I prefer buoys.

jonreed one can only hope that I shall be visited by three spirits in the night (gin, vodka and tequila pliz)

jonreed experiencing Tennant fatigue. God I hope he's not in the Celebrity Big Brother house...

* Tweets of the year © and ™ boz

Sunday, December 27, 2009

photos of the year

A selection of my best pics of 2009, mostly taken from my flickr stream.



eat and drink



Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas


Salt dough goodness inspired by Kirsty Allsopp's homemade Christmas! I used satin finish white spray paint from Paperchase to coat them. Was going to finish them off with silver doodlings, but felt they look quite good as they are!

More homemade Christmas - Nigella's iced Christmas tree decoration biscuits and a festive batch of Christmas fudge!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Carols

I went with my twitter friend @banerji1 to the GLA’s Christmas Carol service at Southwark cathedral last night. The guest choir was the London Gay Men’s Choir, and our friend @zefrog was singing.

I’m not religious at all but I still like church ceremonial and choir services are such happy occasions. I realised that this one was actually the first I’ve attended since coming to London over 20 years ago!

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson was attending the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen so we didn’t see him. However, there were lots of London worthies, especially from the emergency services. In fact, the theme of the event was 'Service to Londoners', in recognition of the work of the police, the fire service, ambulance and nursing staff, as well as the armed forces – all of whom were represented at the service.

Those Gothic builders really knew their acoustics - the choir was on great form and sounded and looked absolutely fantastic in the space.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last Day of the Anish Kapoor Exhibition, RA


Anish Kapoor at the RA has been quite the autumn sensation - I've been three times myself and each time the RA has been more crowded. I think they were very wise to end it on a Friday rather than the more usual Sunday - it would have been a riot! Photography was not allowed, but the rule was being comprehensively flouted so I joined in. I'm rather pleased with this mobile cam shot.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Carnaby Street Lights

Goodness I knew I'd left my blog around here somewhere!

And now Christmas is very much speeding towards us. This year, and indeed this decade, end in a few weeks' time.

Boz reminds me I saw the Carnaby Christmas lights get switched on:

The decorations wittily reference the Swinging London decade of the 1960s when the street achieved world fashion domination. It's coming up for Swinging London's 50th Anniversary. I was so excited by these lights I reported on them for Londonist. More photos on my flickr stream.

Carnaby celebrated with some groovy 60s style dancing:

In the National Portrait Gallery's current exhibition Beatles to Bowie there are early fashion photos of David Bowie (before he was David Bowie) shot on Carnaby Street (before it was Carnaby Street). Here is a video of Carnaby Street in its late 60s heyday:

(Thanks to Jan at Race of Style for the links to the videos)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bonfire Night on Clapham Common

Find more photos like this on Clapham

Above slide show courtesy of Jack Wallington from Love Clapham blog. Jack is calling for more contributions to his fireworks gallery, so if you have any, he’d be delighted to have them. My photographic skills unfortunately don’t survive into the dark.

After last year’s shock and awe display word must have spread through London town, as Clapham Old Town was hopping with firework frenzy last night. I have never seen larger crowds for a display here, and every year we have enormous crowds. Good news for all our lovely pubs, bars and restaurants.

After a few wet days the common was a bit muddy, but the rain held off for a lovely evening of fireworks. Just superb.

The finale was captured on video by the Mayor of Lambeth, no less.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

The decorative pumpkins above were part of a Holborn florist's display, caught when I visited Chord.

These scary critters are from the halloween window display of our local Clapham burcher's, M. Moens & Sons. They always have the most imaginative jack-o-lanterns in these parts!

My attempt at carving this year!

Trick or Treat!

A New Life at the Globe

A New Life is about the life of Thomas Paine and is by  politically radical English playwright Trevor Griffiths, whose stage work peaked in the 70s but who has since been working as a screenwriter. His biopic of Thomas Paine fell through, so the Globe offered him the chance of reworking it for the stage. (2009 is the 200th anniversary of Paine's death.)

John, Caroline and I went on the last night when the Globe offered groundling places for £5 each. It was my first time at the Globe as a groundling! - Exhausting! - standing was hard on my hips - one really has to fight to keep one's sightline free, and the actors jostle you frequently (this production used the pit to the fullest extent for crowd scenes)

The playwright and a few celebrity actor guests were there, also politicos and lefties, school groups and tourists. An interesting audience. We thoroughly enjoyed the play, despite its faults.  Knowing next to nothing about Thomas Paine, it was interesting to learn more (Griffiths wove in many quotes from Paine's works).

The structure though was exhausting. Three hours on your feet is quite tiring - the first half told the whole story of the American Revolution, so it had a self-contained story arc - at the break one could assume the play was finished. But no - the second half took us to France for the French Revolution (another virtually completely self-contained story arc, with different characters). John seriously suggested leaving at the interval, but Caro and I were keen to stay to the end.

It was all fascinating, and the production and acting were wonderful (Dominic Dromgoole directed), and the audience was terrifically engaged, but the structure of the play let it down as a drama. It was very 'biopic' - just so much raw chronology on display. For me, not really a major problem as it was interesting to learn about the character but this certainly was no A Man for All Seasons or even Amadeus, let alone Shakespearian history. However, individual scenes and the dialogue were highly entertaining, and the production was energetic, imaginative and flowing. The entire cast deserves high praise (the majority play several characters each) but special mentions have to go to Keith Bartlett as the narrator (Benjamin Franklin) and John Light as Thomas Paine himself - in the thick of the action for a full three hours.

The play proposed Paine as a naive idealist whose radicalism was betrayed by both revolutions he helped inspire - the American Revolution compromised by wealthy individuals and corporations (Paine was very anti-slavery and a total egalitarian) and the French ignored his message of non-violence (he voted against the execution of Louis XVI). Finally he returned to America, where he was completely sidelined by puritanical society (he was an aggressive atheist). His funeral was attended by only 6 people, two of whom were freed slaves.

Candle lit vigil

more candles
Originally uploaded by Matt Eason

Last night a candle lit vigil was held in memory of Ian Baynham and other victims of homophobic hate crimes.

The vigil was well attended, and a moving and uniting experience. I think it was particulalry shocking that Ian Baynham was murdered in Trafalgar Square - the very centre of London - and in a relatively gay-friendly area too.

After a two-minute's silence the comedienne Sue Perkins read a list of names of people lost to hate violence. It was shockingly long.

More photos of the vigil

Sarah Brown at the vigil - photo from the organiser, Mark Healey's, Facebook album of the event.

Friday, October 30, 2009



“British artist Conrad Shawcross has constructed a giant, site specific, mechanical installation in the Kingsway Tram Subway, Holborn. This vast underground tunnel is a remarkable and fascinating survivor of London’s tramway heritage which has been closed for public use since 1952.

Chord is Conrad Shawcross’ most ambitious and complex work to date. Conceived specifically for the long subway, the artist has built two identical rope machines that weave a thick hawser from 324 spools of coloured string. These vast machines will begin back to back in the centre of the space and then gradually move away from each other slowly down the subway following the old tram tracks. Like two huge spiders, they slowly travel through the space over the course of the exhibition.”
- from the Chord pamphlet

I finally visited Conrad Shawcross’es brilliant installation in the Kingsway Tram Subway in Holborn yesterday. The location itself if wonderfully atmospheric - the subway has been out of commission since 1953, and obviously not accessible to the public since then, although it has been used as a location in films.

The exhibition is free, although one has to book in advance and arrive ten minutes before at a marshaling point - a guide then takes your group down the atmospheric tunnels to the artwork.

The huge weaving machines twist in the darkness, creating a multi-coloured hawser between them. Over the course of the exhibition, the rope grows longer as the spinning machines move down the tram tracks.

They make the most amazing sounds - mechanical but organic. Comparisons to huge spiders are powerfully evoked. Weaving and spinning are fundamental manufacturing processes which we tend to undervalue these days, but weaving and spinning for the ancient Greeks were symbols of destiny and fate. Las Hilanderas by Velázquez is a meditation on the myth of Minerva, goddess of Wisdom, turning Arachne into a spider for her pride in her weaving skills. Conrad Shawcross’es Chord is a very modern approach to human solutions to the inevitability of the passage of time.

Conrad Shawcross
Kingsway Tram Subway,
Southampton Row, Holborn,
London, WC1B 4AP

8 October - 8 November 2009
For tickets - www.measure.org

More photos of this installation and the subway are on my flickr stream.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Media homophobia on the rise?

It’s been a good week for twitter, with two major victories for UK tweeters, over the oil company Trafigura and the columnist Jan Moir of the Daily Mail.

Jan Moir’s vile column on the tragic death of Stephen Gately was deeply shocking and rightly aroused a huge reaction across the UK and Ireland. Special credit must be paid to the Mail’s own readers, who overwhelmingly rejected Moir’s sentiments in the comments section. The twitter reaction was such that “Jan Moir” topped the trending topics chart throughout Friday, but #janmoir and “Daily Mail” also trended in the top ten yesterday and “Daily Mail” remains trending this morning.

The PCC received an unprecedented number of complaints - so many their website crashed on Friday afternoon. Celebrity tweeters such as Stephen Fry joined in the condemnation, and M&S and Nestle demanded their adverts be pulled from appearing on the article page. Eventually, the Daily Mail pulled all advertising from the page.

With Charlie Brooker in the Guardian accusing her of gay bashing, Jan Moir released through her paper’s PR officers a self-serving “apology” which really just compounded her original homophobic rant.

Why did she do it? In the wake of last weekend’s furore over Danii Minogue’s (quite tame) comments on XFactor, why did the Daily Mail think they could get away with it? Were they deliberately courting controversy and sales?

Or is it something more sinister? Many have considered Jan Moir’s article the worst case of blatant media homophobia in years. The Daily Mail is a right-wing newspaper and if the polls are to be believed we may be only months away from a Conservative government. The Tories’ gay-friendliness has been exposed in the last few weeks as a tissue thin veneer: they are more than happy to partner up in Europe with extremely homophobic eastern European political parties. Moreover, apart from apologizing for Section 28 they lack any real gay equality policies and have opposed Labour on this issue - Cameron himself voted against the repeal of Section 28 in 2003.

So, is Tory ambiguity on LBGT matters encouraging the re-emergence of rabid homophobes in the right-wing press? Of course, with only one article it may be too early to say, but we should maintain vigilance. It is most gratifying and grounds for optimism that Jan Moir’s rant was so comprehensively rejected.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trafigura again

My third post in a row about this; sorry. I have got really worked up by a company which allegedly caused 15 deaths and injured thousands of innocent people in the Ivory Coast; then attempted to subvert the reporting of parliamentary proceedings in the UK. Check out their Wikipedia entry - apparently they have also gamed the legal establishment in The Netherlands, preventing relevant evidence reaching the victims in their London suit for compensation (an agreement in this case was reached last month).

Trafigura are suing the BBC news programme Newsnight for libel.

I quote directly from Carter-Ruck's (Trafigura's lawyers) press release announcing this lawsuit, dated 15th May 2009 and currently available on Carter-Ruck's website:

"Speaking today, a Trafigura spokesman said:

“Trafigura has today brought libel proceedings against the BBC over its Newsnight broadcast. This decision was not taken lightly.

Trafigura has always accepted that the Probo Koala ‘incident’ is a matter of public interest and has never objected to the media reporting on it responsibly. However, the BBC’s one-sided reports on 13 May were wildly inaccurate and libellous, leaving us with no choice but to take legal action. There was no justification or public interest in the BBC misleading its viewers in this way.

Trafigura has always denied that the slops caused the deaths and serious health consequences presented by the BBC – a position fully supported by independent expert evidence which will be presented to the Court in due course. As the BBC is well aware, these matters are already the subject of a personal injury action currently taking place in London. It is deeply regrettable that the BBC felt it appropriate to prejudge those proceedings in this sensationalist and inaccurate way.”

The trouble is, this statement appears to be in conflict with the Minton Report. The Minton Report was commissioned by Waterson & Hicks, another law firm acting on behalf of Trafigura, in the aftermath of the Ivory Coast disaster. Basically, the company was attempting to ascertain privately whether the human tragedy in Abidjan could possibly have been attributed to the dumping of slops from Trafigura's ship MT Probo Koala. And the short answer appears to be yes (check out the link above, it's a very interesting document).

The thing is, the Minton report is dated 14th September 2006. In large part it contradicts the press release quoted above, issued 15th May 2009.

Newsnight's 13 May 2009 report

defence of democracy in Britain

The legal gagging of the Guardian reporting on Parliament is such an outrageous attack on our right of free speech I have written to my MP Kate Hoey, through the They Work for You website:

Dear Kate Hoey,

I was alarmed and concerned to hear that the Guardian is being legally prevented from reporting on MP's Parliamentary questions.

My understanding was that the public's right to know what is happening in Parliament was established in the 18th century by John Wilkes. It is a savage indictment on the state of our democracy today that this public right can be so casually overturned by what appear to be narrow commercial interests (The Guardian is also prevented from identifying them) who have instructed the legal firm of Carter-Ruck.

Is it possible for Parliament to prevent such legal abuses happening in the future? I look forward to hearing your views.

Yours sincerely,

Edward Clarke

From the Minton report on the toxic waste from Trafigura's ship Probo Koala dumped in landfill on the outskirts of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 2006 (Abidjan's metropolitan population is in excess of 5,000,000 people):

"Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a corrosive gas. It is highly toxic. At low concentrations the gas has a strong unpleasant odour. UK Occupational Health guidelines allow exposure to 5ppm for 8 hours or 10ppm for 15 minutes. Between 20 and 100ppm the ability to smell the gas is lost. Negative health effects, such as eye irritation may be observed as low as 20ppm. Prolonged exposure at these low levels may result in pharyngitis and bronchitis. Between 250 and 500ppm, pulmonary oedema may occur. Above these levels, other effects may occur such as vomiting, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness and death. A single breath of 1000ppm concentration in air may be sufficient to induce a coma and death"

[UPDATE] Carter-Ruck abandoned their injunction at 13:08 today, in response to the social media firestorm reaction to their attempt to gag the British Parliament (twitter trend map above). The Guardian reports that the gag on them has been lifted. Hopefully, this episode will awaken our MPs to the need to reform libel law in Britain.

Guardian ordered not to report on Parliament

Democracy is entirely dependent on a well-informed citizenry. Free speech and a free press is vital to democracy's continued healthy functioning.

Therefore, the legal gagging order against the Guardian reporting on an MP's question in Parliament is absolutely deplorable. The Spectator speculates what the gag could be about - of course, we have no idea until the gag is lifted. Here is the key part of The Spectator's report:

"Remarkable, even by the appalling standards of our libel laws and addled judiciary. This appears to be the question in, er, question:

From Parliament.uk, “Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009″

N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura."

The Guardian reported last month on how Trafigura attempted to cover up the dumping of toxic waste in one of the worst pollution disasters in recent history

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stephen Fry on Channel 4 News

Absolutely blowing the Tory spokesman away:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

speaking in tongues - review

“A missing person. A mysterious stiletto. Relationships in crisis. In SPEAKING IN TONGUES, the seemingly random confessions of a group of strangers are pieced together into a powerful study of infidelity and interwoven lives, as Detective Leon Zat (John Simm) investigates the disappearance of a leading psychiatrist (Lucy Cohu).” 

One of the most exciting (and to me unexpected) features of blogging/twittering/flickring/general web 2.0-ing is actually meeting cyber friends in person. So I was thrilled when the charming and talented Zefrog of (newly renamed) blog Pink Sauce invited me to a preview of Speaking in Tongues. It was a great evening out. His review appears in Londonist. This is my take.

The production features some beautiful, supple ensemble acting from the cast of 4 (John Simm, Lucy Cohu, Ian Hart and Kerry Fox), who play 9 different characters in total. I can see why this text (by Andrew Bovell) would appeal to actors and directors - although the individual lines are simple and naturalistic, the writer patterns them largely in intercutting, almost mosaicized soliloquies, creating steep technical challenges. Meaning emerges haltingly through cross-jumps, cuts, and temporal distortions. The effect is frequently astonishing, really quite jaw-dropping - and it depends critically on perfect timing and interaction between the actors and the production team, which they pull off magnificently well.

At other times, however, Bovell’s technique can tend to slow things down and things get tangled up in lengthy, repetitious backstory. Concentration is critical. As the audience attempts to piece the story together clues can emerge from anywhere. If your concentration momentarily fails, you’ve lost it as the plot moves on.

The sombre, slightly seedy set works powerfully in the first act (largely bars and bedrooms) and opens out in the second, where back projection of a forest helps to create an ominous atmosphere. Lighting and music create flashes of beauty throughout.

Speaking in Tongues is playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 12 December 2009.

bad apple

My poor powerbook is having problems. Luckily, the lovely Rachel at Apple Kingston store patched it up for me last Sunday (I first tried Apple Regent Street, who were stunningly unhelpful).

I have to go back today - hoping very much the poor mac doesn't have to go in for repairs :-(

This video can only have been written by someone with intimate knowledge of Apple's aftercare system:

District 9

For a Johannesburger by upbringing, I loved the sly in-joke of calling the aliens "prawns". For indeed, there actually are alien prawns in Johannesburg. Any Jo'burger will have a fund of stories about the mysterious and frightening "Parktown Prawn".

These awesome creatures - of terrifying size and menace - suddenly appeared as if from another galaxy in Johannesburg's lush northern suburbs in the 1960s. The eponymous Parktown was then an inner-city garden suburb, established originally by Edwardian gold-mining plutocrats. As the suburbs and their heavily irrigated and exotically stocked gardens spread northwards, so the prawn followed.

They reached our suburb as I reached my late teens. They arrived literally in an infestation - suddenly they were everywhere (sometimes even in your bed, or underwear drawer - a friend's sister found one in her swimsuit crotch as she put it on).

This is what they look like:

Vaguely prawn-like in appearance (and size - this in an era when Mocambiquan prawns regularly reached 9" - not like the tiddlers one gets in M&S today). They do have an attraction to swimming pools (hence I suppose their nickname). They jump quite high, and usually jump towards you when surprised, violently hissing. Frequently they land on your shirt or shoulder, where their barbed legs hook, making them impossible to brush off. Attempting to do so causes them to discharge a foul stinking dark liquid all over you.

They also tend to be more active at night. There are stories of people spending the night in their cars rather than their bedrooms in order to avoid late night interruptions.

They are apparently intelligent beings - in their own strange insect way they seem to interact with other species and each other. As I said, when jumping they have a tendency to come towards you. My friend Mark once heard his boxer Honey (usually quite a ferocious, alpha female dog) whimpering outside. When he went to check on her, she was cowering in a corner, surrounded by three Prawns pinning her down. Our Jack Russell did go after them, but he was very careful to hold them in his mouth with their spraying end pointing outwards. His 'attack' was also notably quite tentative for a terrier of his class.

Urban legend had it that these creatures were the result of a biology experiment at the University of the Witwatersrand which went wrong (the University being just over the hill from Parktown). Alas, the truth is more prosaic.

King Crickets are a distinctive insect species of southern africa, and the Parktown Prawn's biologically correct name is Libanasidus vittatus. Specimens were collected in the subtropical lowland town of Barberton in the Transvaal over 100 years ago by the Natural History Museum's William Forsell Kirkby. The current theory is that the suburban gardens of Johannesburg created optimal environmental conditions for the cricket to flourish on the highveld - the suburbs are generally regarded (by Johannesburgers) as forming the largest man-made forest on the planet, in a region which would naturally be savannah.

Anyhoo, this all takes me a long way from the film, which is generally excellently exciting. The exotic location and re-imagining of the aliens as shipwrecked outcasts rather than hostile invaders is original and works well. The film has its faults (it doesn't develop or even sustain the racial theme it posits), and harsher souls than I would argue that while it's heart is in the right place its racial attitudes do not stand close analysis (Nigeria has already banned it). Although taking place in contemporary South Africa, the government has clearly delegated dealing with the alien problem to a white dominated evil multinational. The government itself remains entirely absent from the movie.

However, the story's set up is so imaginative and original, the performances are so good, and the story rattles along at such an engaging pace one has to applaud. It's definitely a very different and very successful take on the alien blockbuster genre.