Archive for October, 2008

New Ten(n)ant Required For Best Role on TV

Posted in Grave News, TV on October 31, 2008 by Johnnie

It was inevitable really but it doesn’t make it any easier to bear.  David Tennant is to leave Doctor Who after the last of 2009’s four special editions of the programme.  The versatile Scots actor, who has played the tenth incarnation of The Doctor since 2005, has decided enough is enough, saying, “I think it’s better to go when there’s a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome.”  Although we still have a year, and five new adventures, of his Doctor remaining, Tennant will be much missed.  For children only just starting school, he has been the only Doctor they’ve ever known, their Doctor, and a true hero he has been too; people reared on a diet (and the language) of disposable 80s and 90s American TV won’t appreciate the importance of every generation having its Doctor, but this has been a hugely comforting, enduring and culturally vital element of British television since the 1960s.  Tennant’s tenure and portrayal has been distinguished by some of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever made (in particular The Impossible Planet and Blink), as well as firmly re-establishing classic Doctor Who villains like the Cybermen, the Sontarans and The Master in the public consciousness, and returning the beloved Sarah Jane Smith to our screens. Still, like every other actor who has played the part, David Tennant is entirely replaceable; the new incumbent of the role will bring with them elements of their own personality we can only guess at, and ensure a new, exciting future for the programme.  We hope.  All the same, to the man who brought the smart suit back to the high street (albeit it with tragically disappointing shoes), IHGN looks forward to your remaining episodes with sadness-tinged anticipation.

Orange Juice Back Together!

Posted in Music on October 28, 2008 by Johnnie

Christmas has come early to I Have Grave News.  The original line-up of the best Scottish group ever are to regroup to receive an award.  Orange Juice, whose later line-up split up following a benefit gig for the miners at London’s Brixton Academy in January 1985, are set to be honoured by Nordoff-Robbins Scotland, after frontman Edwyn Collins’ astonishing recovery from a brain haemorrhage.  Collins will appear with Steven Daly (drums), David McClymont (bass) and James Kirk (guitar) for the first time since 1982, the year they released the finest debut album of all time, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever – which must surely now be set for a long overdue reissue.

When they emerged, Orange Juice were a fresh breath of pure-pop air, not only to someone like me who was keen to escape the trappings of teenybop hell, but to the whole Scots music scene and beyond.  Signed to would-be svengali Alan Horne’s label, Postcard (The Sound Of Young Scotland, also home to Aztec Camera, Josef K and The Go-Betweens), OJ were four young lads with raccoon hats, checked shirts and hearts full of soul.  Collins was described as the Scottish Cole Porter, a man whose iconic hairstyles and witty, ironic, self-deprecating lyrics about doomed romances would inspire devotion amongst an army of young men – preceding the “Morrissey effect” by some three years.

Orange Juice’s four, utterly treasurable, Postcard singles, ‘Falling And Laughing’, ‘Blue Boy’, ‘Simply Thrilled Honey’ and ‘Poor Old Soul’ sounded like nothing else around – and still don’t: scratchy punk with soulful vocals and disco basslines; they were all in the garage but looking at the stars.

Talking about the reformation, Edwyn said, “It’s all part of the renaissance of Orange Juice. I have fond memories of the band and am looking forward to seeing them all again.”

David said: “We really needed a level-headed manager but, if anything, Postcard founder Alan Horne was even crazier than we were. It took years for me to realise I’d been part of something so important musically. Now with the endorsement of Franz Ferdinand it’s almost come full circle.  It’s the end of a journey in a way. It’s amazing what he’s [Edwyn’s] achieved since his illness. That’s why it’s important for us to get together.”

Steven said: “Orange Juice set rolling a multi-million pound industry and completely reshaped Glasgow’s self image.  That wasn’t easy.  We were self aware enough to realise our records were making history.”

All roads lead to Glasgow next month, with a hope that a tour may be forthcoming.  Earlier this year, Edwyn Collins’ scheduled gig at The Village in Dublin was cancelled due to criminally poor ticket sales.

Make Irony History

Posted in Grave News on October 27, 2008 by Johnnie

Brian Cowen calling for a global response to the “scandal” of world hunger; Bono to write a column about poverty in the New York Times; what’s next, I wonder?  Morrissey to give a lecture on sex addiction?  Gordon Ramsay to publish a book of his favourite vegetarian recipes?  Robert Mugabe to write and present a TV series on democracy?  The Vatican to sponsor a Gay Icon of the Year award?  Hot Press to bring out a special edition entitled Ireland’s 100 Shittest Bands? The future is suddenly full of extraordinary possibilities.

Book Review: The Complete Book of Mothers-In-Law – A Celebration by Luisa Dillner

Posted in Books on October 27, 2008 by Johnnie

The Sunday Business Post, October 26, 2008

A witty and overdue celebration of the uncelebrated

‘There was a knock at the door; I knew it was the wife’s mother, because the mice were throwing themselves on the traps.”

So said the late, great Les Dawson, a man whose name was practically synonymous with the mother-in-law joke, which was ubiquitous among comedians during the politically incorrect 1970s.

This was, of course, the humorous extension of an age-old tradition – the fear and vilification of one’s spouse’s mother. Through the ages, men have lived in terror, and often loathing, of what they saw as a future projection of their wives; their contempt for their in-law acted as a misguided warning to their betrothed on how not to grow old.

However, in writing The Complete Book of Mothers-In-Law, the Guardian columnist and former doctor Luisa Dillner has largely, and cleverly, spoken up for a group who have, for too long, been living in relative silence – the daughters-in-law.

To them, their husband’s mother is a much more complicated character than simply the ogre who runs a disapproving finger over unpolished surfaces or makes judgments on how her grandchildren are being mothered. This book is a subtle, painstaking and anecdotal instruction manual on how two women from different generations can smooth over their differences and celebrate their similarities.

Dillner has gathered together a mind-boggling array of stories from history, fiction, personal experience and celebrity culture, on this mythological figure of womanhood, in an attempt to eradicate stereotypes and put its modern incumbents into context.

She introduces the book with a fond ‘‘celebration’’ of her own mother-in-law, Maggie, an actress, magician’s assistant and Pearly Queen, who has gone some way to breaking down stereotypes. All the same, Dillner makes the salient point that, despite her mother-in-law’s pride in Dillner’s career as a writer and newspaper columnist, she still refuses to buy the Guardian.

The potted history and cultural round-up of relationships between mothers and daughters-in-law is brilliantly researched; from the servile daughters-in-law of old China and Japan, to the Indian tradition of meting out beatings, ridicule and hard labour to girls who got too close to their husband, and therefore threatened his mother’s position.

On the other hand, in Italy, where men who aren’t mammoni (mummy’s boys) are practically social pariahs, jealous mothers-in-law are being blamed for the rise in divorce rates. A Milanese psychologist warns that, ‘‘when a mother is crying at the wedding of her son. . . it is from the sorrow of losing him rather than the joy of seeing him happy with another woman’’.

To that end, Dillner makes a point of celebrating famous mothers-in-law who went beyond the call of duty; like Mrs Clemm, who somehow managed to adore her tortured, drunken son-in-law, Edgar Allan Poe, and Queen Victoria, who never underestimated how hard life was for Alix, who had married her ‘‘weak-willed’’ son, Bertie.

There’s even a recipe for ‘‘Mother-In-Law’s Chicken Soup’’ – it would be a brave daughter-in-law who’d attempt to better it.

Faber clearly has an eye on the Christmas gift market with this book, but I’d sound a note of caution; if daughters-in-law are to present this from under the tree, will there be an implication that all is not rosy? This is a marvellously entertaining book – but it could well lead to some uncomfortable moments.

Something Global in Glasgow

Posted in Calcio, Grave News on October 22, 2008 by Johnnie

Cherry-picking Irish fans of top UK football teams would no doubt have been in a glory-seeking lather last night as Man Yah-Noy-Reh took on Celtic at Ye Olde Trafforde, in what they probably weren’t calling ‘The Battle of Britain’. I’m sure there was much coin-flipping as to which way around the reversible jersey would be worn just before the first English team to win the European Cup kicked off against the first Irish team to win the European Cup. There would have been mixed feelings aplenty at the final whistle, as United comprehensively trounced the Celts 3-0, and few complaints from Glasgow diehards, give or take a marginal offside decision or two.

Still, whatever about lifelong, paying supporters from Manchester or Glasgow, Ireland simply couldn’t really lose either way last night – pretty much par for the course in the Champions League these days, as an astonishing quantity of people here put their considerable weight (and money) behind Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and even the butchest of old British bulldogs, Chelsea; and sure, we can even say we’ve “always” supported Juventus, Inter, Real or Barcelona should our choice of English team “crash out”. The fact that “foreign billionaire” ownership is practically de rigueur in England, and makes these teams more of a globalised brand than a local sporting concern, no doubt gives the cherry-pickers, wherever they happen to be from, a degree of self-justification. We all like to be part of a winning team, after all. Why would so many of our citizens go around wearing Converse trainers, supping Starbucks and Coca-Cola, munching at MacDonald’s and supporting Ya-Noy-Reh if they were interested in expressing their individuality?

Of course, it’s far easier for the top English clubs to bask in such luxurious international fandom and financial glory; it’s a country of over 50 million citizens, TV rights and sponsorships come as the result of furious bidding wars, and anyway, vastly rich people from all over the world are queuing up to own these clubs just so they can play Fantasy Football with real, live players. It’s not so easy for Scotland who, with two rival sides both attracting more or less 50,000 supporters to each home game, aren’t doing half badly by themselves. The problem they have always had is that their brands just aren’t as attractive to people in China, Japan and South Yemen, unless there’s been a streak of Scots or Irish ex-pats who took the lion rampant or green clover with them on their long holiday and spread the word. Of course, 40-odd years of rising sectarian bitterness across the city of Glasgow can’t really help as a selling point. With Rangers and Celtic in persistent hot water over the idiotic songs of hatred being sung from their respective stands, it’s hard to know what business person or group would welcome or withstand such an association.

Rangers’ Ayrshire-born chairman David Murray, a die-hard, blue-nosed, blue-rinsed Tory, would have few qualms about selling the club to whomever came up with the money, especially if he thought it was in the best interests of the club he undoubtedly loves and supports. However, his opposite number at Celtic, John Reid, was this week adamant, during an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, that his club would not be allowed to fall into the hands of what he described as “foreign billionaires”. Presumably he was talking only about Thais, Russians or Arabs, because the former British Home Secretary and Labour Party Chairman then praised the support of Celtic’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond – a man who is from Cork, People’s Republic Of, Republic of Ireland and therefore must be, to a club based in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, a “foreign billionaire”. Perhaps Desmond’s recent £50,000 donation to David Cameron’s Conservative and Unionist Party makes him a bit more British, although quite how that squares with the traditionally socialist, one-time Communist John Reid or, indeed, the Celtic support, who have a long-standing tiff with the very notion of Unionism, is anyone’s guess.

Harry Hill’s TV Burp is back…

Posted in TV on October 20, 2008 by Johnnie

Finally, the funniest man in the world is back on a Saturday night.  I love Harry Hill, so I’m posting my favourite Harry Hill gags here just so that I can log on and laugh at them all over again…

“I knew I was going bald when it was taking longer and longer to wash my face.”

“Want to know where your post has come from? Run after your postman shouting ‘1-4-7-1!'”

“Apparently you can tell a lot about people from what they’re like.”

“I have a really nice stepladder. Sadly, I never knew my real ladder.”

“Not just jockeys, I think all small men should have to wear a number.”

“If you drop a Bible on a field mouse, it’ll kill it. So maybe the Bible’s not all good?”

“Is it just me, or does anyone else get the amount you’re allowed to drink when you’re driving mixed up with the amount you’re allowed to take through customs?”

“Why do they put the little holes in the top of the biscuits? (Points to random audience member) YOU, go and find out!”

“What is it about people that repair shoes that makes them so good at cutting keys? Try going in there with a shoe shaped like a key and see how confused they get.”

“My dad used to say – Always fight fire with fire. Which is probably why he was thrown out of the fire brigade.”

“My nan has a picture of the United Kingdom tattooed all over her body. You can say what you like about my nan, but at least you know where you are with her.”

“Apparently the main problem with heroin is…. it’s very moreish…”

“I found out this week that my Mum’s got false teeth. So how can I believe a single word that she tells me?”

“You know what I blame the increase in crime on? The rise of mobile phones. There’s fewer phone boxes. Fewer places for Superman to get changed in. He’s having to get changed in Portaloos. Is that what we want? Is that the sort of society that we want? A world where Superman has to stand on his shoes to get changed?”

“Tim Rice? Tim Curry? What is it about the name Tim that suggests Indian food?”

“Vegetarians tend to be the same touchy-feely bunch that go on about the environment. Well, maybe there’d be more environment about, if you lot weren’t eating all the plants.”

“You know the white plastic doll’s house garden furniture that you get free with the home delivery pizzas? I keep getting the table. What’s that about? They’re not making enough chairs are they? The ratio of tables to chairs should be at least four to one!”

“What is it with chimpanzees and that middle parting? It’s so 1920s.”

“I remember the shouts of “SCAB!” as my father went to work. “SCAB!” they would shout during the great dermatologists strike…”

“Last night I had a lovely quattro formaggi pizza. Bit cheesy.”

“My auntie used to say ‘What you can’t see can’t hurt you.’  She died of radiation poisoning a few months back.”

“I don’t wear a watch. I want my arms to weigh the same.”

“Hitler was a bad man. Winston Churchill was a good man. But if you were in a balloon with Hitler and Churchill, and you were losing altitude…”

“Isn’t it embarrassing when you cough up a hairball and it isn’t your colour?”

“My mum used to work in an abattoir, stunning cows. Some of the sheep weren’t bad looking either.”

“Apparently if you find an osprey egg and you give it the right temperature, the right conditions, that egg will turn into a beautiful… omelette.”

“I went to an Indian restaurant called A Taste Of The Raj. The waiter hit me with a big stick and got me to build a complicated railway system.”

“It’s only when you look at an ant through a magnifying glass on a sunny day that you realise how often they burst into flames”

My 91-year-old Granny…

Posted in Calcio, Grave News on October 14, 2008 by Johnnie

…in her recliner armchair, mid-sup of a cup of tea, while watching Loose Women on STV could still have poked this in.

Hail Caledonia! A 0-0 draw with Norway, grasped from the very jaws of victory. World Cup 2014, here we come.