Sunday, 27 February 2011

Place your bets...

OK, night of the Oscars, last chance to make foolish specualations an predictions. If I'm right, it will prove my incredible grasp of the industry and I will be crowned King of Clever Bananas. If I am wrong, then the industry is composed of fools and charlatans and who cares anyway?

Best Film

The King's Speech. Seems obvious, and it's what everyone is saying, but I think everyone is probably right. Small possibility The Social Network will surprise us, maybe even Black Swan, but I'm going to go with King's Speech all the same.

"Hello everyone. Cock-donkey!"

Actor in a Leading Role

Looks like it's Colin Firth's year, doesn't it? And he's doing all the right things - historical character, repressed, struggling with a disability etc. And he lost last year, so it feels like his turn (and the industry really does seem to take into account whose 'turn' it is). People are saying good things about James Franco, and I still haven't seen 127 Hours so I can't comment, but I don't think that feels right. And while Jeff Bridges is great in True Grit, I think the fact that he won last year - and beat Colin Firth last year - militates against him. Colin Firth.

"Hello everyone. Jizz muppets!"

Actor in a supporting role

If Firth wins best actor, this should really go to Geoffrey Rush. His presence in The King's Speech is what allows Firth's performance to work, and he is really good. I could imagine a spin off series with the two of them fighting crime together in a time travelling Rolls Royce. That'd be good.

More likely, though, is Christian Bale for his equally brilliant turn in The Fighter, so I'm going to go with that. His gangly, wired performance is funny, tragic and wonderfully without vanity. Let's have him, please.

Actress in a leading role

Of the roles on offer here, I've only seen Natalie Portman in Black Swan, so I kind of have to go for that. She's very good, though, and I think she deserves it. She's had a patchy career since her amazing turn in Leon - yes, Attack of the Clones, I'm thinking of you - but in this she's on fire.

Actress in a supporting role

I'd like it to be Amy Adams please, because I love her. And she's very different in the stuff I've seen her in, so I think she's got the range. I'm not sure if she'll get it though. They might give it to Helen Bonham Carter in a fit of King's Speech Award Tourettes, but I hope they don't. Bonham Carter is a perfectly fine actress and I'm glad she's not doing another Depp-esqe Burton-dance, but this isn't her finest hour.

I'd like it to be Hailee Steinfeld, for True Grit. She certainly deserves it, and there's been much grumbling about her seemingly arbitrary demotion to supporting actress. She's in every scene of the film, and she motivates the primary action of the entire narrative, so why isn't she a lead?

Ooh - I don't know. There could also be a chance of Melissa Leo, the terrifying matriarch in The Fighter. Sod it - I'm going with Amy Adams. Maybe my support for her will count for something if she ever comes to Wakefield and tries to fall in love with me.

Animated Feature

Toy Story 3. Should be best film overall, really.

Art Direction

I'm not really sure what this means. I suppose the otherwise rubbish Alice in Wonderland looks nice. Let's say that.


True Grit. I think I'm right in saying that Roger Deakins has never won, and he certainly deserves to, so: him.

Costume Design

I'm never sure why period pieces always seem to do so well here. I mean, the costumes in The King's Speech are nice, but they didn't design them. They looked at old pictures and went 'I'll do that'. Again, I think Alice in Wonderland deserves this, though I say this without having seen The Tempest.


Unsure. Since Inception isn't even nominated, there is no point going by merit, as the category is clearly being run by cretins. I think it'll be Fincher for The Social Network, though I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe Tom Hooper, if Speech clears the board, and just possibly Aronsofsky. But I think Fincher.

Music (original score)

Inception. Surely! Best soundtrack for years! The Social Network is a close second, as would be Tron Legacy if the idiots had nominated it. But then, King's Speech won at the BAFTAs, for no apparent reason beyond an archaic desire to like posh things. Well piss off, King's Speech. You've won everything else. Let Inception win this. Inception! Inception!

Visual Effects

Again, I'd like it to be Inception, please. Great effects, many achieved without a lazy reliance on computers, all of which are crucial to theme and narrative. The bit where Ariadne reshapes the city around her is casually brilliant, and tells us volumes about the world of the film. And the zero gravity corridor fight is so great you come out thinking it took up most of the final act, rather than the 90 seconds it actually occupies. Inception!

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

I think Aaron Sorkin for Social Network is a definite here. Great, pacy script that makes a potentially dull subject sparkle. In another year Social Network would clean up.

Writing (original screenplay)


Just saying.

And that's most of the nominations I care about. The others I've either not seen enough films or I don't really understand the category. Sound mixing? I mean, I know what that is, but I don't think I've ever come out of a film saying 'The acting was wank, but man, that sound mixing!'

See you soon for either self satisfied gloating or a furious rampage of destruction.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Death of a teddy bear

I've been doing some sorting in my office and lucky you, I've found some bits of video I want to share.

This first one is a little promotion I made some years ago for a company that sold muffins. They wanted to do a thing where, if you were a big company and ordered lots of muffins for your staff, then they'd try to get you to order even more by offering a free teddy bear. Except the angle of the promotion was that they'd kidnapped a teddy bear, and would only release it if you ordered a big box of yummies from them. I guess they thought this would make corporate desk-jockeys feel a little bit more like Bruce Willis, what with them rescuing hostages, and less like Dilbert, what with them being fat.

Anyway, I got lent a teddy by the guy who asked me to make the video, so I could film it being all tortured and threatened and stuff. What he didn't tell me was that it was his wife's teddy bear, and worth hundreds of pounts. Now I never figured this, because a) I assumed it was one of the freebie teddies, and thus I could do what I wanted to it and b) what kind of teddy costs hundreds of pounds anyway? Did it have a soul?

So I made the video and returned the teddy and the wife was horrified and he was in big trouble.

Here it is. Enjoy.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Boys don't cry

When's the last time you cried? This morning, as you lay shivering in bed, realising that beyond your duvet lay an increasingly hostile and hypocritical world, and that the duvet itself was starting to smell of wee? A few weeks ago while trying to get your PC to recognise your printer for the nineteenth time, the stupid plastic twat? Or years ago, when your childhood self witnessed the death of Bambi's mum?

For me, it was last Sunday, and it was because I fell down a few stairs. I banged my hip and shoulder quite hard on the way down, before adopting the approved 'starfish' position an halting my descent. I didn't rip the world apart with unceasing tears, but I did have to sit there bewildered for a few seconds, feeling my eyes prickle like I was six years old.

This battle with the stairs (or, as I'm now calling them, 'My nemesis, the evil Dr Stairs') is by no means the only cause of tears in recent times. In fact, it seems that I'm becoming quite prone to a certain weepiness. Not in a bad way - I'm pretty happy most of the time, when not hurtling down treacherous staircases - but more in the sense that I'm finding myself increasingly moved by certain experiences, especially those in films, books and music.

Just recently, for example, I made the mistake of reading the end of Winnie the Pooh. Have you read it? I hadn't, and wasn't really expecting to be so overcome by the subtlety and beauty of what happens there. I mean, it's Winnie the Pooh. How moving could that be? Oh, I see. Very. Drattit.

(In case you're worried, the end isn't terribly violent or disturbing. He doesn't get kneecapped by the IRA, or hunted through a nightmarish dreamscape by monsters that are like demented giggling children, except that their faces are like dogs' faces and they have no eyes. Or anything. It's just a bit sad.)

Anyway, I think being moved in such a way is no bad thing. In fact, I think it's quite a healthy response to the world. It's certainly one I'm trying to allow into my life rather than repressing it in a 'Man not cry! Man only kill dinosaurs and drive cars!' kind of way.

Anyway, that's all, really. Crying at stuff is OK. And to play us out, here's a bit of music that often makes me well up. I don't know why. There's just something about the build of voices at the end that really gets me. I don't even know what they're saying. But it's very beautiful.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Gloomy day

I decided yesterday that it will be a bad day if we are ever to legalise the possession of firearms in England. It's not that I think we'd be as bad as the US. It's that I think we'd be worse. At least the Americans shoot each other in fits of nihilistic rage. We'd do it with a sense of smug self satisfaction, utterly convinced that we'd done the right thing. "Of course I shot her officer - she failed to indicate at the previous roundabout, making me most vexed".

If I had a gun, I doubt I'd make it through 24 hours before opening fire. The amount of tiny, irritating things that might set me off is incalculable. And there is a special place in my brain that spends all day visualising arguments with the tossers and fools who might dare cross me. Should I ever find myself surrounded by the twitching corpses of shoppers who didn't move fast enough, for example, that part of my brain would have already worked out why I had to shoot them and why they deserved it.

So, don't give me a gun, basically. And, just in case I somehow get hold of one anyway, how about we deal with some of the things that make me furious in the first place?

Let's start with this: The signs in Asda that say 'Happy to Help'. Clearly there was some meeting on Asda's Orbital Space Platform, where the mechanoid heads of the corporation decided they needed some snappy new slogans to make people buy more stuff.

"How about 'Please buy more stuff'?" suggested Vasor Killboy the Third, toying idly with his laser pistol.

"Too needy!" rasped Darth Salesburger, spinning round in his massive chair."We need to make them WANT to be in Asda."

"Maybe we could say 'Morrisons is shit'", hissed Snakey Faced Jim, the reptilian head of sales. "Or 'Sainsbury's is run by ugly paedos?'"

"That might work," nodded Killboy, "I've been in Morrisons and it really is shit."

"No..." muttered Salesburger, who had stopped spinning and now looked a bit dizzy. "We need to be positive... to be cheery... to be... happy."

And thus was born 'Happy to Help', Asda's wanky slogan that festoons every part of their shopping experience. Why do I hate it? I'll tell you why. Because of this. The other day I was in Asda, clutching the weekly shop of wine, toys and biscuits, and I was looking for a place to pay.

Most of the aisles were packed with idiots and fools who wrongly believed their shopping to be more important than mine and were thus selfishly getting in my way. But then I spied a till with no-one waiting - a gloriously free aisle with an idle till person sitting, happily doing nothing. Or possibly covertly masturbating. Either way - brilliant! Towards it I scampered.

Of course, like so much in this world, it was a filthy depressing lie. The till person wasn't prepared to serve anyone, not even me. And to prove it they had put a sign at the end of their converyor-belt-thing, and it said this:

'Happy to help... you at another till'.

Reader, words cannot describe the cold fury that filled my soul. Happy to help.. somewhere else? Isn't that just... not happy to help? Isn't that just... go away? Isn't that... a huge evil, stinking lie designed to make me feel better about the fact that you can't be bothered to serve me? You lazy, covertly masturbating bastard?

I'm not sure why, but something about that pointless sign really brought home to me the gap between actuality and reality that characterises almost every encounter I have with a corporate entity. Why couldn't the sign just say 'Sorry - this till is closed'? What's up with that? Or do we have to paint everything with some deceitful venir, to pretend that there is no such thing as a bad experience once you are shopping? I don't mind that you have to cash up occasionally. I do mind you pretending it's just another brilliant experience in your brilliant bloody store.

So I'd like you, reader, to help me. Next time you are in a store and see a sign that says 'Happy to help', I'd like you to pick it up and hold it above your head. And then I'd like you to shout, as loud as you can, "ARE YOU? ARE YOU? ARE YOU? ARE YOU? ARE YOU? ARE YOU? ARE YOU? " Until such a time as the police arrive. Happy to help you to a cell.

What was I saying?

I thnk I need some tea.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Rob's Oscar Predictions

Those Oscar nominations in full, with my confident and informed predictions about who's going to win. Except I haven't seen all of them. But let's not let that deter us. Here are the nominations for best film.

127 Hours

In a nutshell:     Boy gets arm stuck; saws it off.

I haven't seen this, despite it being by Danny Boyle, whom I enjoy and admire, and despite it being reportedly excellent. Part of this is due to time constraints, but I must also admit to be a bit nervous about the whole arm-choppy-off bit. What if I puke, pass out, scream or - worse - pass out while puking and screaming?

So this opinion is based not on actually seeing the thing, but on gauging how these awards tend to go. It's a true story, which Oscar seems to like, though this tends to lead to a best actor award rather than best film:

2004 - Ray (true story) gets best actor,
            Million Dollar Baby gets best film.
2005 - Capote (true story) gets best actor,
            Crash gets best film,
2006 - Last King of Scotland (true story) gets best actor,
           The Departed gets best film,
2008 - Milk (true story) gets best actor,
           Slumdog Millionaire gets best film.

So I think... not best film. Best actor, maybe. But not best film.

Black Swan

In a nutshell:     Girl wants to do ballet dance. Can't.
                          Goes weird. Can.

This is an impressive film, and Aronofsky has got his critical acclaim from The Wrestler. I think it's a serious contender. It deals with art and psychological pain and dark themes, which Oscar rewards more often than it does happiness and joy (despite good comedy being at least as difficult to achieve in film as misery and drama).

It's brilliantly made and surprisingly effective. Plus: psycho girl on girl action. Maybe that's what they should have called the film. 'Psycho Girl on Girl Dance Fever'

The Fighter

In a nutshell:      Boy wants to hit people for a living. Can't.
                           Tries harder. Can.

This is a good, solid story, well told and enjoyable. In another year it would have more of a chance, but not this year. It's a good cast, which is probably what got it the nod.

Actually, as I write this I'm realising how many of these nominations are driven by their central performances. The Fighter has a great cast and everyone puts in a strong performance, not least Christian Bale (nominated), Amy Adams (nominated) and Mark Walhberg (poo on head). Some awards for them, maybe. But it's not best film, by a long way.


In a nutshell:       Various boys and girls go into various dreams to
                            steal stuff.

As you probably know, I consider this to be the best film of last year, and this holds true even when bringing in the films which have only reached our shores in the last few weeks. I think it's clever, cinematic, beautifully scored and well acted. I love everything about it and in a just universe it would win best film.

But it won't, of course, because Oscar doesn't do genre, or action, or anything without a big, obvious central performance. In fact, I'm just going to go look and see if I can find a best film winner that comes close...

/sounds of clattering and banging/

The Departed? Sort of, but that's really a belated apology for not giving it to Goodfellas. Return of the King, I guess, but that was literary (another Oscar fave)  and the award was kind of for the achievment of making all three films. Silence of the Lambs is a thriller with overtones of horror, but that was, again, driven by two astonishing performances.

No, sorry Inception. You are fabulous, but you don't tick the right boxes. No Oscar for you. But if you don't get best original score, I will rent the heavens asunder.

 The Kids are all Right

In a nutshell:        Something to do with lesbians.

The King's Speech

In a nutshell:         King wants to say stuff. Can't.
                              Best friend helps.  Can.

This is the one everyone thinks is going to win, and I think they are right. It's a very good film, which pleases me, though it could have been better. Here's my revised synopsis.

The King (Academy Award Nominee Colin Firth) has a stammer. A speech therapist (Academy Award Winner Geoffrey Rush) decides that the only way to help him is to go into the King's dreams, find the part of his mind that makes him stammer, and shoot it with guns. Together with a crack team of dream-warriors, he navigates a labyrinth of rainy cityscapes, zero gravity corridors and icy fortresses to combat subconscious manifestations of the King's stammering problem. With music by Hans Zimmer!

"Hello everyone. Poo!"

Winter's Bone

In a nutshell:        No idea. Something about a girl going looking for
                             her... father? Brother? Not sure.

True Grit

In a nutshell:       Ah, now maybe this is the one about the girl going
                            looking for her father. Maybe. I know there's
                            definitely a horse in it.

The Social Network

In a nutshell:       Boy invents Facebook. Ironically, loses all friends.

Aha. I've seen this one. It's good, and I think, along with Black Swan, it's the film that poses a threat to the King's Speech. It's a smart, witty script, filmed well by Fincher (who resists, for the most part, the CGI excesses of earlier films) and featuring a really good pair of performances from Jesse Eisenberg (Academy Award Nominee) and Andrew Garfield (Spiderman!!!).

Can we all just forget about Benjamin Button and declare Fincher one fo the best directors ever?

Toy Story 3

In a nutshell:       Toys do heroic things and make you cry even
                             though you are a grown up now.

Well, obviously this won't win best film. Best animation, yes. But it would take a leap of courage and imagination that I suspect is beyond the Academy to see past the toy-centric subject matter and primary target audience of Toy Story and recognise that this is one of the best films ever. It has more invention, joy and creativity than most of the other films here combined and it deals with themes as profound as you'll find in any other movie this year.

Maybe we'll be surprised. It is the last of the trilogy, so there's the tiniest chance that Oscar will reward the whole series. But I doubt it. The Academy is deeply conservative, and tends to equate value with serious actors emoting gravely in dark rooms. A toy cowboy waving goodbye to his best friend forever... somehow doesn't move them like it moves me.

Anyway. That's what I think. Should be Inception or Toy Story, will be King's Speech, with a small chance of Black Swan or Social Network. I may have a think about the other categories. In the meantime, having just thought about the end of Toy Story 3, I find I have something in my eye and have to go find a tissue.

Monday, 7 February 2011

I've come for my award

As we all know, there is only one thing more important than watching movies and that is talking about movies and deciding which ones are most worthy of awards. Without awards, watching movies would be a worthless waste of our time and money. "I guess I enjoyed that," we would think as we stared blankly at the closing credits, "But how do I know if it was really any good without some external system of evaluation, symbolised through statuettes?"

Luckily for us we do not live in this terrible alternative universe where people enjoy things simply on their own merits. No. We are fortunate to have a plethora of guilds, academies and organisations who will tell us what is good. Hurrah. With that in mind, I thought I'd share some thoughts about the upcoming 2011 Oscar Ceremony.

Firstly, this tendency to scribble Oscar credits all over filmtrailers, in a bid to make us go 'Ooh! That must be good then'. I don't like it. Firstly, it makes me feel bad for the actors who don't have any credits.

'Academy Award winner Robert DeNiro'

'Academy Award winner Meryl Streep'

'Academy Award winner Kate Winslet'

' .... Ewan McGregor'

Kind of makes you feel bad for Ewan, doesn't it? There's a tacit pause before his name, a space where his accolade should be; a space that my mind silently fills with the word 'Loooooser'. And I like Ewan. He's no loser. He'd slice Winslet's face right off if it came to light-sabres.

I thougt of a solution for this yesterday when watching the trailer for Never Let Me Go. Here we have the same trick - Carey Mulligan appears and the words 'Academy Award Nominee' float across her lovely face. Kiera Knightley follows and there, again, appears the elegant script, 'Academy Award Nominee'. And then up comes splendid Mr Andrew Garfield. And... nothing. No award for you. Empty space for you. Poo on your head for you. But then I thought, in the absence of something Oscar related, why don't they just use that space for something else? How cool would it be if, as Garfield appeared, they had simply faded up the words 'Spider Man!!!' With the exclamation marks and everything. Look everyone! It's Spider Man! Woo! You may have a nomination, Mulligan, but can you shoot webs from your wrists and traverse the night skies fighting crime? No, you bloody can't.

This would have remedied one of the great Oscar-related injustices of modern times - the constant refusal of the Academy to give the award for Best Director to the man who most deserved it - Martin Scorsese. Ok, they got round to it eventually, but he had to endure years of being '............ Martin Scorsese' despite making Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and many other wonderful films. How much better would it have been if, every time his name came up, it had been legally compulsory to accompany it with the phrase      '...I made bloody Goodfellas. That's right - Goodfellas. Good. Fellas. All your films are worthless by comparison. Worthless! Goodfellas! Ha ha ha ha ha!'

The other issue I have is that this list of accolades is kind of meaningless in the first place, isn't it? The clear implication of showing off all these awards and nominations is to make us think 'Wow! This film contains some serious talent!' Directed by Academy Award Winner Ang Lee? Surely this will be as sensitive and beautiful as Brokeback Mountain! Starring Reese Witherspoone and Nicolas Cage? Wow! This will combine the emotional journey of Walk the Line with the psychological truthfulness of Leaving Las Vegas! This is going to be the greatest movie in the history of the world!

But is it? What if Ang Lee does the kind of ham fisted job he did with Hulk? What if Nic Cage brings his Ghost Rider form and Reese Witherspoonse thinks she's in Legally Blonde 3? What if this is Legally Blonde 3? Ang Lee's Legally Blonde 3, starring Nic Cage as a crazy OCD lawyer with straggly hair?

It's like saying "You like Wispas! You love Carlsberg! You're very fond of hamsters! Well, good news! We mixed them all up in a blender to make new WispyLagerFluff! What do you mean you don't like it? Why are you crying and being sick? You ingrate! These are your favourite things!"

Googling pictures of hamsters delayed this blog by 2.5 hours.

(Does anyone know who owns this excellent picture? If it's
you, please get in touch. I like using it.)

Finally, a small point I noticed yesterday in the trailer for True Grit - another film festooned with Academy Award winners and nominees. Among them is Matt Damon, who is flagged up as an Academy Award Winner. Hmm.

Now I like Damon, and I think he's a top actor, but this is a bit disingenuous. Damon may well have won an Oscar, but it's not for acting. He won it, along with Ben Affleck, for Best Screenplay, for Good Will Hunting in 1998. So, yes, technically he's an Oscar winner and yes, he's in this film, but is it really relevant? He didn't write True Grit (that would be Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen), he's acting in it.

It's a bit like me making a bid to be the next Pope and claiming that I'm very well qualified. While technically true - I've got all sorts of degrees and certificates - it's not at all relevant to the job in question (all my qualifications are in Language, Media and Culture, rather than, say, Theology or Advanced Hat Wearing).

Anyway, that's enough for now. Soon I will confidently make my powerful and wise predictions on who will win what Academy Award. And that will be worth waiting for.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Speech impediment

Did you see the King's Speech? Good isn't it? Think it will get some Oscars? Me too! Don't think it will get the Big Five - I suspect The Social Network for screenplay and Natalie Portman for actress - but best actor is surely in the bag, as is - if there's any justice - best supporting actor for Rush.

One award it probably won't get is the Oscar for Film Most Needlessly Vandalised by Avaricious Philistine Lowest Common Denominator Dickwads. It won't get it because the Oscar doesn't exist, but it's starting to look like we need such an award, and fast. Why? Glad you asked.

The Weinstein Company, the producers of the film, are toying with the possibility of re-releasing the film on the back of all the Oscar buzz, only with one crucial difference. They want to edit out the swearing. They want to re-release The King's Speech with all the swearing either cut or bleeped out, so they can lower the age rating and make more money.

"Hello everyone. Arsecheeks!"

Even if you haven't seen the film, you may be aware of the part swearing plays in the film. The King, Bertie (Colin 'Oscar' Firth) has enlisted the help of speech therapist Logue (Geoffrey 'Oscar' Rush) in a bid to overcome his stammer. The film follows the relationship between the two men as Bertie endeavours to deal with the expectations and torments of his unwanted position, a mental straightjacket which forbids him to speak freely.

One of the limitations Bertie overcomes, and one which gives him at least temporary victory over his stammer, is the unspoken rule that kings don't shout "Fuck fuckety buggering bollocks" at the tops of their voices, for quite a long time. It's a glorious moment, showing a man overcoming not just a disability but also a lifetime of repression. It is a moment of liberation and joy, and - better - it resonates beyond the story of a King living decades ago.

This is about lives and minds crippled by social pressures, by the constant fear of transgressing invisible boundaries drawn up by arbitrary rulemakers to hold us in place. It is about the way voices can bring down prison walls. And it is about the joy of friendship that gets beyond surfaces and expectations, and allows us to be vulnerable, and naughty, and alive.

What this film does not need, in my opinion, is to have the swearing cut out so it can grab a bit more of a post-Oscar bounce.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Maiden Voyage

January is gone! We can have fun again. Gloomy, miserable January, with its perpetual cold and eternal grey skies, has wandered off to irritate people in the next dimension and we can start to live again.

I'm not saying there weren't some good things about the month. I had my birthday, and saw a lot of friends, and that was good. And got many wonderful gifts for said birthday. I am reassured that the presents I received for my 40th birthday included an awful lot of toys, films and T-shirts. Clearly maturity is still some way off.

In fact, I seem to be regressing. Thanks to an excellent documentary on BBC4, I have rediscovered my love of heavy metal guitar wranglers Iron Maiden and have bought myself a couple of albums I last possessed in the 80s - namely Powerslave and Piece of Mind, as well as the DVD of the live concert Live After Death. Really, really enjoyable. Clever, daft and thrilling all at the same time.

I'd like to say that my teenage interest in Maiden passed in a fit of growing up, but it is not the case. Sadly, my large collection of vinyl LPs and singles, as well as some very exciting T-shirts,  went onto a big bonfire in the name of over-zealous Christianity. It seems ridiculous now, but back then I was seriously convinced that owning merchandise made by these fun loving, tongue-in-cheek rockers might open up a portal to hell. I blame my church - a bit on the right wing side - and my own rather naive approach to faith. And maybe, just a little bit, Iron Maiden for calling one of their albums 'The Number of the Beast'.

Anyway, I'm better now. I'm sure there is plenty of music that might be unhealthy, in a spiritual sense, but it's more likley to be condoning the staus quo and encouraging an isolationist, consumerist hegemony rather than dressing in a scary mask and shouting 'Yaarg'. Chew on that, idiot-panicky Christians. Except you can't, because you already read the words 'Iron Maiden' and have run away to scrub out your ears, in case they get possessed.

Suffice to say, after a January full of being ill, feeling down and not really wanting to blog, I live again. Maybe it was listening to Maiden that helped. Maybe I just needed to get through the month, in which case thank you to those who helped. You are lovely.

Various things have vexed me recently, but I will come to them in due course. For now, here are two things which cause me inexplicable worry:

i) The suspicion that, even though I know it's OK to close the DVD tray by pushing it in physically, rather than using the button, I am somehow being cruel to it.

ii) An ungovernable fear, when looking at the recommendations on my Amazon site, that I must not lie about which albums I do and do not own. Yes, I own some Bob Dylan albums. But I know that if I say 'I own it', you will take this as a sign to recommend every album he has ever made. Which is loads, and I don't want any. So why don't I say 'Not interested'? I don't know. I feel like I'm being dishonest, and that somehow Amazon will know. And it will feel betrayed. And I've already upset the DVD player.

Sigh. Maybe when I'm 50 this will all make more sense.

See you soon.