Bampa 

Farmer Giles looked up in the sky, just as a bird pooed in his eye, said Farmer Giles “Thank goodness cows can’t fly”

My grandad died the other week, after a short spell in hospital. He was 86, and when he was admitted it was clear that his time was coming to an end.

The poem at the start is something my Bampa told us when we were kids and in the days after his passing popped into my sister’s head.

Memories are what we are left with when a loved one passes on. Memories which define how we carry on the person inside us.

My grandad and I didn’t always get on. As I grew into a lazy, geeky teen he must have felt that we had little in common. Bampa had worked since he was 14, and was a traditional man in many ways, he could make things, he could fix things, and I suspect he saw me as soft. My long hair annoyed him and he’s often tell me that “two years in the army” would sort me out.

But I know he loved me. And all of his family. He didn’t say it, I don’t think he knew how. He came from a time when men didn’t talk about their feelings, or even admit they had them.

But we knew. It was there in the fact he always asked how we were doing, in the small kind moments and the way he was with us. The pride he had in the achievements of his kids and grandkids. He was never soft, but there was warmth and gentleness there.

He and my Nan were married for over 50 years, and they seem to have spent most of that time bickering. If there is an afterlife they’ve probably started back up again.

I choose to remember Bampa in his house with my Nan. Winking at us as he deliberately wound her up or teased her. Of telling us the same jokes over and over, but his delight in them and the delivery always raising a smile even if you groaned first. 

I remember him telling stories, either of his childhood mischief, no doubt exaggerated, or made up yarns which kept us hooked and begging for a few more minutes before bed. Stories of magic and ghosts, which we lapped up.

I’ll remember him whenever I watch football. 

Remember the wooden goal he built in the garden so we could play, of his coaching in how to pass and head. Of his criticism of divers and talk of how it had been “in his day”, when the ball was heavy and the rules more relaxed. 

His patience when I bounced around on the sofa jabbering away, trying to copy the players I loved. I’ll remember sitting next to him and my Dad at the Vetch when they took me to my first Swansea game. It rained, but I didn’t care. We won and I loved the noise and feeling grown up.

I’ll remember him and it won’t matter that he’d believe and jump on every health far the paper told him. Or that he gave me grief about my long hair.

I’ll remember him for the hero he was to me as a kid, and the man I understood better as an adult. I’ll love him for being my Bampa, and a central figure in countless happy memories.

RIP Bampa.


Would You Rather? Part 2: Ghosts, Ego and Killing Animals

Another batch of would you rather questions

Would you rather live as a regular person in a utopia or live in dystopia but you are the supreme ruler?

In a utopia I imagine that living as a regular person is probably alright, maybe a bit dull, but no major worries. I would have to pick that.

While I can imagine that being supreme ruler would be pretty cool, if it’s a dystopia that means that there are unhappy people out there and you’d have to deal with them trying to kill you. That would suck, and also could you really enjoy knowing that you’d made the majority of people suffer for your power and comfort?

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I don’t want Katniss gunning for me

I don’t think I’d do it, so yeah, I’d be a regular guy in a perfect world.

Would you rather be forced to kill a kitten or a puppy?

Damn, this is a dark one. Do I have to answer?

Are we talking forced as in one of those “unless you kill this animal the world ends” kinda deals? Because in that case I guess it would have to be, and don’t hate me for this, a puppy. What can I say, I’m a cat person,

Would you rather live in a haunted house where the ghosts ignored you and did their own thing or be a ghost in a house living out a pleasant and uneventful week of your life again and again?

Have the ghosts ignore me. I find it hard to imagine anyone picking the other option. Can you imagine having to go over the same week again and again. Having a house with some ghosts would definitely be the better option.

You would have proved that ghosts exist and could charge people to come see them. It has that going for it, while being a ghost yourself means that (a) you’d be stuck in a loop and (b) you would have to die!

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Would you rather be famous for inventing a deadly new weapon or invent something that helps the world but which someone else gets credit for?

You’d have to be a serious egomaniac to go for the weapon option, wouldn’t you? I’d hope that the satisfaction of helping millions of people would be enough without the glory and I’d be happy to.watch the good without getting the credit.

 I’d rather do that than have a name cursed for inventing something that kills people.

Would you rather move to a new city/town every week or never leave the city/town you were born in?

Moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, so sod that. Especially as I’d be moving where I didn’t know anyone. Nope, as flawed as Swansea is, I would much rather live there than have to pack my stuff up every week. And it has perks- a lot of my friends are local, I could go see the Swans and Ospreys and I know the city quite well.

Would you rather get £5 for every song you sing in public or £50 for every stranger you kiss?

As terrible as my voice is and as much as I hate performing, I would have to become a busker or karaoke regular to make that cash. I’m a happily engaged man so have no desire to kiss strangers anymore, so I’d take the singing as I’d earn more money that way.

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Would you rather live under a sky with no stars at night or under a sky with no clouds during the day?

This is probably the easiest one this time around. I would pick to have no stars. While they’re pretty to look at I just think that clouds are more useful, because of rain and also the British public aren’t ready to live in constant sunshine. We’d live in a constant state of barbecues and lobster coloured workmen.

Would you rather wake up as a new random person every year and be in control of them for a year, or one day a week go into a stranger’s body but have no control?

As appealing as living as someone else might seem, I think constantly shifting every year would be a drag. So, I guess I’d rather just go into someone else for one day a week as an observer. It might be frustrating if they were making bad choices or doing things you disagree with, but it might be interesting to see the world from a fresh angle.

Disagree with my choices? You know what to do. BETEO.


Why I Don’t Care if I Have a Poor Work Ethic

I read an article recently about why people shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving work on time. My reaction was surprise that someone would feel bad about that.

For me I always want to finish on time, if not early, and if possible I like to walk out on the dot without a backward glance.

Me at the end of a shift

Leaving late provokes nothing but rage. I give 37.5 hours a week to my employers as agreed, every single second over that is mine and therefore precious.

The only time I would happily leave late is if I worked flexitime, and so knew that half an hour every day Monday-Thursday would mean I could start my weekend two hours earlier on Friday. Or if I worked where you had a decent clocking in system which would add all the extra minutes over a month and pay you for them.
But most jobs don’t work that way. I’ve always for an hourly wage, and in some cases unless you go way over you don’t get paid extra. Five, ten minutes over and you’re working for free. 

So, why should I feel guilty? I’ve done what I’m paid to do, and I don’t owe my employer anything beyond that. 

And if I did work a salaried job 9-5 I’d expect and hope to be out by 5:01. I have a friend who was in at 7pm one evening, still at the office. Bugger that. If I stayed that late I’d have a lie in the next day, rock up at 11. Or expect a bonus.

I know some may be tutting over this, criticising my work ethic. Well to them I have one thing to say;

“Strong work ethic” sounds like a good thing. 

But who is it good for? Your boss is who. 

Seriously, most times someone is praised for their work ethic you may as well be praising them for making it easier for their boss to walk over them.

Staying late? Taking on extra responsibilities and duties? 

Who wins? Your boss. They get more of your time for the same price, or more work out of you. If you work somewhere that wants you to routinely finish late or have to do more than what you’ve signed up for your boss probably needs to hire more staff.

Your strong work ethic helps them to save money by not hiring and paying somebody else. And you’re stopping someone else from having a job. Bravo.

The employee-boss relationship is a deal. You exchange your time and toil for their cash. As long as you meet your half of the bargain (agreed hours and duties) then you deserve the payment. If they want you to exceed that they should match that increase, if they’re not going to, then screw ’em. 

You kept your part of the deal, now get your arse home.

Because nobody is going to be on their deathbed lamenting the fact they didn’t spend more time at work. Go home. Have fun. See your loved ones.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 


Book Review: Decline of the English Murder by George Orwell

Really getting into Orwell’s essays and nonfiction writing recently, with this being another solid collection of pieces on a variety of subjects.

The title essay is about the British public’s appetite and morbid obsession with murder cases and what makes the best in terms of public interest. He talks about how for a crime to really capture the public interest it should involve macabre ingenuity, and issues of class, love and tragedy. It’s an interesting piece and darkly comic in a way.

Other pieces deal with analysis of boys’ magazines and what they say about society, the death of what he calls “good bad books” and an account of his time as a hop picker. 

All are handled with intelligence and insight, and Orwell is a shrewd observer and commentator. It’s an interesting quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and more of Orwell’s work has been added to my “to read list”.

Verdict: Highlighting Orwell’s skill as a writer and his insight these essays show that even on seemingly trivial subjects he can see deeper themes. He looks at what literature shows about the society that births it. Smart and holds the attention well. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 


Disney Classics #8: Make Mine Music

We’re still deep in the wilderness years for this one, which is kinda like a pop music version of Fantasia, with this being a series of animated pieces to music. The problem is that in terms of art and music it can’t match the earlier effort. This is understandable as this was made during the Second World War and many of Walt’s men were overseas or making propaganda. Feature length animation had stopped being a priority and like Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, this is a package affair.

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While those were linked by themes of location, here it’s a much more muddled effort and as such the segments are rather hit and miss. As a kid I must have seen some of this as I remember the “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met”, the final part and this is one of the stronger, telling a complete story which uses music well and is quite funny.

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Aside from this it all felt new to me. Some pieces like “After You’ve Gone”, “Two Silhouettes” and “Blue Bayou” are incredibly forgettable, and I’d struggle to give many details on any of them, despite having watched it a few hours before writing this.

These are the more serious parts and they all fall flat, with the comedic entries having to carry the film and even here they drop the ball. “Casey at the Bat” a reading of a poem about a cocky baseball player coming a cropper is quite fun, but goes on a bit.

“Peter and the Wolf” is the closest this gets to classical and it’s a well done piece, with the different instruments working well and the cartoon style in bringing the characters alive is charming, even if the ending is a cop out.

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The hillbilly star crossed lovers who turn up in “The Martins and the Coys” are quite good fun too, even though it is a bit weird to see a bloody turf war turned into comedy. Nonetheless, it’s got some nice touches and the ending where the loving couple fall out after marriage is a neat kicker to the story.

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“Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet” is sweet enough but rather dull, but the jazzy “All the Cats Join In” is a treat. Capturing the fun, fast paced life of a group of teenagers it’s cleverly animated with the artist’s pencil adding details as the story progresses. The dance scene is quite good fun, and the energy of the piece lifts the film, although any momentum is utterly lost in “Without You”, a mournful ballad of lost love.

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All in all this is a frustrating watch with the changes in tone jarring and the lack of a through line to connect the pieces means it never feels like a movie and rather just a collection of shorts. And you wonder why they’ve been put together in this order.

Disappointing.

Disney Score: 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Mad MWF: The Road Warrior

The M5 slowed to a crawl as the cars filtered into the inside lane to pass a lorry standing still in the middle lane. In the outside lane was a car facing the wrong way, the driver side of the bonnet mangled, showing the cause of the delay.

Truck vs car.

Luckily all seemed unhurt and two other cars had stopped to help set up those high viz emergency triangle things.

We drove by and moved back into the middle lane, overtaking a black car on the inside.

The driver, a young bloke in his early twenties was on his phone. Not talking but actually typing on his phone as his passenger dozed next to him.

“That guy’s on his phone.” I commented. 

“What?” Asked MWF.

“That guy is using his phone. And we’ve literally just passed an acc-”

The rest of the sentence was drowned out by a loud blaring horn. The texting driver looked up in shock, his passenger jolted awake, startled and confused.

“GET OFF YOUR PHONE! YOU IDIOT!” Roared MWF.

That should have been it. Admonished for his wrongdoing, the driver should have put down his phone and thanked his lucky stars that we weren’t cops who would have handed him 6 points and a £1000 fine. 

But it wasn’t. Using the phone might have been a one off but he was about to prove that he was a bad driver.

He gunned after us, tailgating before overtaking and cutting us up.

It was a pathetic display of the male ego hurt, with the moron unable to accept he had been called out for doing something criminal and possibly dangerous. He doubled down on the danger by putting others at risk in what was clearly intended as intimidation.

And he wasn’t done.

Coming up to a junction he moved into the inside lane and we were passing alongside to carry on. As we were passing he swerved towards us and then took his turning heading for Penshore.

It’s a shame none of us got his number plate, but one hopes karma finds him and next time he uses his phone a copper spots him. 

It seems like him losing his licence would be the best outcome, as he clearly lacks the patience and maturity to handle the responsibility of driving. His pride hurt his response was to become more reckless and stupid.

Don’t be a dick at the wheel, someone could get hurt.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Would You Rather? Part 1: Missing fingers and seeing the future

So, I recently found this list of “Would You Rather?” questions and thought they might be quite good to do as blog posts. It’ll give me something to write when I’m blocked and I figure I can run them as a regular feature on the blog. If you agree or disagree with my decisions or arguments then feel free to comment down at the bottom. Let’s dive in (decided to shuffle through randomly apart from first three):

Would you rather always be 10 minutes late or 20 minutes early?

Initially I was going to say I’d rather be late because getting there early is a drag and sitting around waiting for someone always makes me feel awkward. But then I thought being ten minutes late would actually be more frustrating, you’d miss the start of things and more importantly always piss your mates off. So I’d go for always being early, and just make sure I took a book or had my phone charged.

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I bet everyone got fed up of this guy

Would you rather lose all your money and valuables or all of the photos you’ve ever taken?

Call me mercenary, but I’d rather lose all the photos I’ve ever taken. I’d be able to take more photos. Thankfully I’m at a stage where I can still remember all the good times I’d want photos of, and I think it would be easier to live without them than all the cash I have.

Would you rather be able to see 10 minutes into your future or 10 minutes into the future of anyone but yourself?

I’m not entirely sure on this one, because seeing ten minutes ahead for you would be interesting but would rob you of any surprises. Ten minutes into someone else’s future might actually be cooler and more interesting. I think if you could swap who you saw that would be awesome, because you could be ahead of the curve on everything.

I’d also be able to be a great reporter as I’d always update quickly.

Would you rather be an average person today or a king 2500 years ago?

I can definitely see the appeal of being a king.

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It’s good to be the King

But I imagine that life 2500 years ago would be kinda dull even as a royal. No novels? No pop music? Lower life expectancy? Superstition running wild? Nah, I think I’ll stay an average Joe today.

Would you rather have no fingers or no elbows?

My first instinct was to get rid of my elbows, but then I realised how awkward it would be to walk around with constantly straight arms. It would make life so much harder and would mean I couldn’t do things like hug MWF or hold my kids in the future. So, I guess I’d have to get rid of my fingers. I just think there’s more in place to help with that than to assist an elbowless man.

Would you rather get tipsy from one sip of alcohol and ridiculously drunk from just one alcoholic drink or never get drunk regardless of how much you drink?

Tipsy off one sip would be pretty cool. I mean, it’d be easier to avoid getting absolutely hammered, as you would just not drink past a sip or two, and you’d save money to reach the fun drunk stage.

Never getting drunk would be annoying, you’d go on a night out and just be sober until the end. As someone who needs a bit of a buzz to really cut loose on the dance floor it would mean I’d never dance again, which while no loss to the world of dance would be a bummer as I quite like a boogie.

Would you rather always be able to see 5 minutes into the future or always be able to see 100 years into the future?

If it was a one time thing I would pick the 100 years option because it’d be quite cool to see where we are in a century’s time, but if it’s something I do a lot then I think the five minutes is more useful. I mean, it’d be great for gambling purposes but also be rather handy for other stuff, like fighting crime. I’m assuming I see five minutes ahead but can impact or react to it. Seeing what is going to happen with no control would just be a pain.

But how creepy would it be to look five minutes into the future and just see nothing?

Would you rather randomly time travel =/- 20 years everytime you fart or teleport to a different place on Earth (on land, not middle of ocean) whenever you sneeze?

I’m assuming you come back, right? Like fart one is forward twenty and then the second fart brings you back? And the same principle for the sneezes, right? For the purpose of this question I’m using that as the rule.

I would go for the farting one. For starters, I sneeze more often than I fart so it’s less of an inconvenience, and I also seem to sneeze when I get out of the shower, so I’d wind up just turning up at different places naked and confused. Also, I could jump into a very dangerous situation, like a less fun version of Quantum Leap.

And while that idea might seem funny to you, and might produce hilarious consequences I feel it would more likely create embarrassing and potentially legally hazardous ones.

Top 5 Worst Places to Just Appear Naked:

  1. A school, I don’t want to be on a register or scare/traumatise some kids.
  2. One of those strict countries where I’d probably get lashes/prison unless I could sneeze again.
  3. Middle of the pitch during a major sporting event, in front of thousands in attendance and millions, and millions, watching at home.
  4. Inside Buckingham Palace or the White House, as might get shot by security forces.
  5. Porn set. I can live without having to compare myself physically to a porn star in person.

Would you rather spend two years with your soulmate only to have them die and you never love again or spend your life with someone nice you settled for?

First of all, I don’t believe in soulmates. The whole idea seems daft to me, I think you’re a full person on your own and don’t need someone to complete you.

Also, I would rather have a long life with someone nice than two years and then loneliness until death. So, yeah, I’d pick the “settle” option, although the phrasing is a little harsh. I think knowing they were going to kick the bucket after two years would actually be even worse.

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


My Favourite Films #43: The Princess and the Frog

Long time readers will know that I’ve been doing the Disney Classics films in order, but I’m going to jump ahead to include this on my list of favourite movies.

This movie was Disney returning to their roots with a fairy tale inspired story rendered in traditional animation and introducing the latest Disney Princess. And it ticks a lot of boxes, boasting a quality soundtrack, a funny script, a great villain and an involving central story. On it’s own merits it would rank high on my Disney list but what makes it a personal favourite is a sentimental attachment.

This is the first movie that MWF and I watched together, before we were a couple and just friends. We’d hung out for the day chatting and then put this on as MWF insisted I had to see it. It would be a while after this that we got together, but the movie and the day we spent together when we watched it were when I started to genuinely fancy her.

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The movie riffs on the traditional Frog Prince story, but gives it a clever twist. The old tale is retold in New Orleans, at the start by Eudora (voiced by Oprah Winfrey), a black seamstress to the daughter of her white boss and her own daughter, and the boss’ daughter dreams of meeting her prince. The seamstress’ daughter wants to run a restaurant with her father, but he reminds her that it takes hard work as well as wishing to get things done.

We then jump forward to the 1920s, and the seamstress’ daughter Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is now a young woman, still chasing her dream of the restaurant by working two jobs and saving every penny she can. Her social life suffers and her mother worries that she is failing to enjoy her life and is working too hard. An opportunity to get the money needed for the building she wants for the restaurant arises when her old friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) offers her a catering job as her wealthy father is hosting a big party.

Charlotte, still obsessed with landing her prince is excited as the party is hosting Prince Naveen, a handsome, suave young man.

Naveen (Bruno Campos) is a bit of a playboy and used to having money, although his parents have now cut him off. Arriving in New Orleans with his valet Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) he wants to live the high life but Lawrence reminds him he needs to settle down and get married if he wants to get back on the gravy train.

Naveen and Lawrence meet Doctor Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo witch doctor who reads their fortune and then tricks them into a bargain. His magic transforms Lawrence into Naveen, while Naveen becomes a frog who they lock away. Facilier plans for Lawrence to marry Charlotte, after which he will kill her father Big Daddy (John Goodman) and get his fortune and influence.

Naveen escapes and at the party meets Tiana, who has just been told her bid for the building has been rejected. Inspired by the story he tells Tiana she needs to kiss him, thinking she is a princess. She is reluctant to do until he promises to give her the money for her restaurant. When they kiss, however, it is Tiana who is transformed, becoming a frog as well.

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Naveen turns on the charm

Naveen realises that Tiana, despite her costume, is not a princess and that’s why it didn’t work. She in turn learns that he is broke. Both then get lost in the swamps and must try to find their way back in order to stop Facilier’s plan and return to their human form. Along the way they are assisted by Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) a trumpet playing alligator who dreams of playing Jazz and Ray (Jim Cummings), a cajun firefly. They are led to meet voodoo queen Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis) who they hope can help them.

The movie works because it’s got bucketloads of charm and a host of cool characters. And unlike a lot of Disney movies the leads are among the best characters on show here, with both Tiana and Naveen being very likeable. Their dynamic works brilliantly with the strait laced Tiana clashing with the laidback, pampered Naveen. Naveen oozes suave charm throughout and his carefree approach to life is fun, although he comes to learn that some things require work and that sometimes sacrifice is needed. In the same way he helps Tiana loosen up and realise that there are more important things than work and success.

Tiana is one of the better Princess heroines, as she’s shown to be smart, tough and hard working throughout. While she may need her priorities sorting out she is still a great heroine, being very proactive and swinging into action when needs be. She’s a very modern princess and works well, telling the audience that it isn’t enough to wait for good things to happen, you have to go out and make them happen.

The supporting cast are great, particularly Ray and Louis their guides in the swamp. Louis’ stupidity is endearing and his bizarre dream works well, and Ray is just flat out brilliant. With his bayou accent and spirit he is more than just comic relief and serves to educate the leads as to what love is about.

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And Tiana’s loud, brassy friend Charlotte is a great character, full of life and chattering constantly she could easily be a simply ridiculous character, but the script gives her a chance to show greater depths of friendship, decency and kindness. All of this without diluting her over the top character.

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Charlotte- Ditzy but sweet

Of course, all the best Disney movies have a great villain and here the film scores a big win with the sneaky, smooth talking Doctor Facilier, wonderfully voiced by Keith David. During his songs and speeches he delivers funny asides and is shown to be a smart, scheming foe. Distinctly creepy at times, it also works because Facilier doesn’t have power in a real sense, having received his gifts as part of a deal with his “friends on the other side”. It means that he too is under the cosh and the dark forces are kept at the fringes although they do make menacing appearances, and his main skill is reading and exploiting people’s weaknesses.

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The plot flows well and the development works, with the relationship feeling real and the turns making sense. There’s also a gut punch in the final act which continues a Disney trend of actually sneaking in some dark moments into what people dismiss as cheesy and cheery kids films. Even as a grown man it left me with a lump in the throat.

Of course, it all ends well, and the ending is satisfying. It’s a very rewatchable flick and the music, influenced by the New Orleans setting is filled with some crackers, especially the villain song and Ray’s ode to his distant love Evangeline.

Fun, charming and well done this is one of my favourite movies and high on the list of my favourite Disney movies too.

Disney Score: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Rewatch: Snog Marry Avoid?

In an old job I used to work a lot of night shifts, and discovered that the gods of late night TV were fickle. They’d occasionally bless you with a late night showing of some obscure movie or a repeat of a quality show, but often it was a wasteland of repeats, infomercials and tedium.

The best options were usually trashy TV- reality shows, light hearted documentaries or the soap operas. At 3am all you really want is something to keep you awake. Nothing too challenging or grim, ideally something fun and light. The two best channels for this were E4 and the now defunct BBC Three.

One personal favourite was Snog Marry Avoid?, which ticked the boxes- light, dumb, easy viewing. But last week I caught an old episode on TV.

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It was awful.

I remember it being quite cheerful, jokey and fun. But watching it again it left an extremely unpleasant taste in the mouth.

For those unfamiliar with the show the premise is simple: People are brought in to POD aka Personal Overhaul Device, which was a computer that would give them a “make under”. It announced itself as being pro-natural beauty and declaring “war on fakery”. Hair extensions, lots of make up, fake tan, fake eyelashes- these were what the show was against and it would transform them into more natural vision.

Now, originally I considered this all quite good fun, but maybe I’m going soft but it really isn’t. While still nicer than the US version, which I had to stop watching halfway through one episode, there is a rather nasty side to the show, even if they mask it with montages, upbeat music and Jenny Frost’s cheery presenting.

First of all, the whole premise is dodgy as hell. You’re basically telling people how they should look (it’s predominantly women, but they did have a few guys on the show), and that’s not cool. Watching it back it feels like a massive attack on individuality and choice, with “fakery” being bad and a more understated look being good.

They’d choose extreme cases (girl who applies three layers of fake tan, guy who takes 2 hours to get ready etc.) but even these seem a bit mean spirited. They liked how they dressed or felt comfortable that way why give them grief for it? What makes the natural look so morally superior?

Secondly, the title of the show highlights the meanest part.

Once they’ve dragged the person in front of the camera they’d explain that they’d asked 100 people whether they would snog, marry or avoid the participant (I’m guessing “f**k, marry, kill” would have been a bit too risque a title). We then get a couple of talking heads where the public insult them or explain they would avoid them as they were “trashy” or fake.

It’s quite hard watching a young person hearing people talking smack about their appearance so bluntly. While some fire back you can genuinely see that some of them are getting quite hurt by the criticism, and can you blame them? Imagine having to stand there while some stranger says they’d avoid you because you look a mess.

Making it worse is the fact that they then hit them with a percentage, usually quite high for avoid.

As it’s usually women in front of POD, it’s basically telling them to change for men’s approval and ignores the fact that some of those participants may be lying. I think a lot of the guys were being less than honest about which girls they would snog given the chance. Regardless, just because 80 guys say they would steer clear that still leaves 20 who’d snog you, which isn’t that bad.

The next part that sucks is that POD is actually a bully. She makes quite nasty gags about what they look like and ridicules them. Jenny Frost is the good cop, making a few light hearted gags about how long it must take them to get ready or how much of their hair is actually theirs, and then POD comes in like an insult comic who then turns preachy.

The contestant is then stripped down to a robe, robbed of anything that is unique to them and scrubbed of make up until they are a blank canvass for the show to turn them into a more acceptable version.

For a show that bangs on about people following trends it seems to be determined that women everywhere should wear pretty dresses and only have tans in the summer. That makeup should be applied in a minimal way and that everybody shun hair extensions.

There’s a dull quality to many of the make unders. It turns them into bland, mainstream versions of themselves. For example, here’s Jodie Marsh:

jodie-before_after__726928a

Often this is for reasons like the person has to be “taken seriously” or fit a perceived idea of how someone should look when they’re a mother or professional. Rather than questioning whether it’s fair to judge on appearance the show just decides that they should change to fall into line.

There’s no thought given to the fact that the make up and loud outfits are in any way helpful to them. That it serves as a mask or armour for their insecurities or a way of showing their personality, nope, it’s just shown as being stupid and ugly.

Last of all is a definite streak of slut shaming, with countless of the girls being called out for wearing skimpy clothes. Even back when I was watching the show and enjoying it I thought this was a weird aspect. Being scantily clad wasn’t being fake, was it? And again, this was where the show sided with those who made judgments based on looks.

With a fresh look the cheery, fun vibe starts to crack. The montages are crafted to make them look ridiculous and feature their friends and family ragging on them. Then the partners get involved, talking about how they dress, which smacks of hypocrisy. They started to  date the person as they were and now want to change them? That seems like a d**k move.

Jenny Frost talks about how bad the fakery is, but she’s not out there without makeup. It’s all bollocks.

You could make a show about natural beauty, and discuss things like society’s pressure on women to look a certain way. The risks of some treatments and the problems of how important looks are, but this show does none of these things.

It just sits there, smugly looking down its nose at those involved, ridiculing and humiliating them based on their looks. It wants everyone to fit within a narrow field of what’s considered attractive and criticises anyone who falls outside those confines.

If you like to wear makeup and fake tan, then crack on. If people judge you on what you wear then screw them, that’s their problem.

Watching it again the show is terrible, and I’m going to avoid it from now on.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 

 

 


Book Review: Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and Other Essays by Gay Talese

The title piece of this collection was mentioned in The Girl in the Spider’s Web and after a quick Google I decided to check out Talese’s writing. And I’m glad I did so.

Talese is a fantastic writer with a great eye for detail and small, quiet moments. His writing is engaging, warm and filled with clever observation. He was one of the front runners of “New Journalism” which was more subjective, literary and informal than what had come before. 

Talese puts you right in the heart of his stories and the focus of his pieces is informed by his attitudes and feelings. He writes about boxer Floyd Patterson languishing in misery and embarrassment after a loss to Sonny Liston, a melancholy portrait reflecting his habit of empathy for the defeated. 

The pieces are collected from over thirty years and so a theme is hard to pin down. What does appear in several is fragile or damaged masculinity. Most evident in Patterson hiding out after a loss it appears elsewhere; Joe Louis is shown in middle age, his prime years before, Frank Sinatra’s talent, his voice, is shaken by illness and this throws him off. Similarly in an article from the ’90s we see two enemies of the American establishment in the ’60s, Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro, meet as ageing men both with poor health. 

Sinatra demands to be in charge, is shown to be a man who hates disrespect and being made to look foolish. Patterson has a fake beard in his dressing room so he can sneak out should he lose. Talese homes in on these insecurities, on male proud it’s even in the story he tells of his father where a wily tailor tricks a mafioso using the man’s vanity and fear of looking stupid to win the day. 

While many pieces feature famous faces there are other examples where Talese turns his focus on less well known subjects. He writes about the offices of Vogue in a wry piece where he steals the language of the magazine to describe it’s workers. There is an article about the dedicated, grim work of an obituary writer at a major newspaper as well as personal essays about his father in Italy or how he became a writer.

Despite the time he wrote in Talese seems liberal and even handed. His portraits of black boxers avoids racist stereotyping or condescension, which can mar other articles from this era. The one misstep is that during the Sinatra piece he refers to Ali by his former name Clay, which many sportswriters were guilty of, but it’s hard to see any malice here, perhaps ignorance or the insistence of an editor?

Talese’s writing and the empathy, insight and understanding that resonates through it show that he was a student and lover of human nature, and a keen observer. Each portrait is engrossing and detailed, providing a real sense of all who feature.

A great read and I shall be checking out more of his writing in future.

Verdict: A talented nonfiction writer Talese produces essays which are involving and insightful. He captures the small, quiet moments that reveal the bigger characters and deeper stories. A delight. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.