Superbowl LI: Meh.

I’ve not long woken up and am feeling incredibly bleurgh, so forgive me if I ramble. This is because I stayed up far too late watching the Superbowl last night. And it wasn’t worth it.

Don’t worry I’m not going to trot out the usual stupid British criticisms of “Rugby players don’t need those pads” or “why is it called football when they use their hands so much”.

No, the reason I fear it wasn’t worth it was because I didn’t really care that much about the outcome. I decided to watch because I like the sport, and because of the occasion. 

Even non football fans have to admit that the Superbowl is one hell of a spectacle. It’s like the mutant baby of the the FA Cup final (or at least what it used to be) and Wrestlemania, with enough fireworks to open and close an Olympics.

But I had no strong feelings for either side. The Atlanta Falcons were a nonentity to me and while I have picked the New England Patriots to back in the past (I forget why) I’m hardly a fan. And it’s not the kind of sport where you can develop a feel for a team midway. In other games it’s easy to pick a team- you can be won over by skill, character or an individual player or turn against a team because of cheating, attitude or a specific player.

It’s for this reason that this season just gone my only real cares concerned three teams- the New York Jets, San Francisco’s 49rs and the Oakland Raiders. 

The Raiders are probably as close to having a team as I get, and this is built on shaky foundations. They have the coolest logo and colour scheme and were the favourite of nineties rappers.

The Jets are the team supported by a friend, so I like when they do well as he seems chuffed for them. 

And the 49rs? Well that’s because of one man Colin Kaepernick. I admired his quiet protest against the violence and oppression of minorities in America and felt he carried himself with dignity amongst the backlash. For that reason, I wanted him and his teammates to do well.

Beyond that I find it hard to really get behind US sports teams because I don’t have connections with any particular state or city, and many don’t have an identity that shines through to an outsider. 

Take football here in the UK. I’m a Swansea fan, but over the years have built up a whole heap of feelings for other teams. I have teams I have soft spots for (Bristol Rovers, Wimbledon, West Ham, Middlesborough, Crystal Palace) and teams I dislike to various degrees (Cardiff, Leeds, Arsenal, Chelsea). There are managers and players I like and dislike, and years of following the sport has built up these biases.

Maybe US sports fans have the same, but as a distant and infrequent observer, I’m oblivious to these quirks and the history of the teams. 

But I watched the whole first half with no real connection to either. Some were pulling for Atlanta as part of a heavy handed resistance versus Trump angle, but I wasn’t feeling it. It’s not the Patriot players fault Trump is on friendly terms with Tom Brady and the higher ups. And there are probably lots of Pats fans who hate Cheeto Mussolini. 
So, who should I pick. I could have been a glory boy and start pulling for the Falcons as they took a dominating lead in the second quarter, but I remained kind of neutral.

In fact I was more excited about the approaching half time show featuring Lady Gaga, as there was plenty of build up. Would there be guest stars? Would it be an attack on the new President? 

It turned out to be a belter, with Gaga starting off atop the stadium with an obvious dig at Trump and a call for unity. She then leapt down and descended by wire to the centre where she blazed through a series of her hits. As for guest appearances? Nope, she didn’t need any.

In the second half I continued to not care.

The Patriots closed the gap, but it still looked like the trophy was heading to Georgia. I could have gone to bed then as with Gaga done, I didn’t care.

And then in the last quarter the Patriots staged a massive comeback. They added nineteen points without any response from Arizona, leaving scores tied at 28-28. 

Still, I didn’t care. Part of me was hoping Atlanta could score as it would be a cruel twist for their fans to lose so late in the day. But on the flip side you couldn’t help but admire the Patriots for getting back into it, and does a team that throws away such a big lead deserve the win.

As it was the Patriots got the overtime winner and claimed the title. It was a dramatic finish but by this stage I was watching because I’d gone too far and it seemed silly to leave before seeing it through.

So, yeah, next year I might give the Superbowl a miss and just enjoy a good night’s sleep, and just watch the halftime show online the next day.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Expensive labels: Fashion thoughts from a man in joggers

Watching golf on TV. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Veganism.

There are some things I just don’t get. Probably the biggest is fashion and the industry that surrounds it.

I get that clothes can be about expressing your individuality, beliefs (I own an anti-war shirt or two) or cultural allegiances (football shirts). It can show what subculture you belong to, but what I don’t like is when people start using clothes as a status thing. So you have a flash shirt? That don’t impress me much.

I have simple tastes when it comes to clothes, being a jeans and T-shirt kinda guy. The only area I really go a bit further is shirts and trainers, where I like a bit of colour.

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Wayne Mardle is my style icon

You know those articles where they get the writer to leave their comfort zone? They could send me to London Fashion Week. I’d come back with stories of awkwardness, embarrassment and rants about the whole thing.

I don’t follow fashion so I only know LFW is going on because PETA protested it. I agree with this as I don’t agree with using fur in clothing unless you’re stranded on an island or you kill in self defence. If I got attacked by a bear and somehow came out on top I think I could keep a trophy.

I don’t back all of PETA’s policies but I am with them on the anti-fur stuff and think their campaign in this area is smart, using celebrities to draw attention to it.

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Anyway LFW arrives hot on the heels of New York Fashion Week, which I only heard about because of Lady Gaga, but which reminded me of why I don’t get fashion.

Lady Gaga was modelling for Marc Jacobs, and everyone was kicking off about how she “slayed”. I had a look and while she nailed the dead eyed model look, I hate to say it, but she looked daft. And I defended the meat dress, people.

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I mean, what’s the look here? It’s a total mess. The giant collar thing. The (hopefully fake) fur on the arms. The boots. What the hell?

Thing is Jacobs is a big deal and got applause this is despite the fact that people quickly noticed that another celebrated modelling for him, Kendall Jenner, looked like she’s joined the Night’s Watch.

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If Kris Jenner was my mum I'd head to the Wall too

It’s Jacobs who I’m focusing but most designers are the same. The stuff they show on the catwalk is unlikely to see the streets and is just them showing off. They get to use models as their Barbies and throw on these ridiculous get ups and then the fashion media labels them geniuses and visionaries.

Jacobs then releases clothes for the regular folk but because his name is slapped on them he gets to charge ridiculous amounts for them. Take this shirt:

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$395!! That’s how much he asks for that. That’s £284, for that I could get new trainers, a couple of new t-shirts, jeans, underwear and probably still have some left over for coffee and a new book.

I mean, it’s a decent shirt, don’t get me wrong, but the only thing special about it is the name on the label. That’s what baffles me.

Look at other things where the brand is important- with tech it’s about specifics and compatibility (unless you’re a full on iDiot) and with cars it’s about reliability. Sure, for some it’s status, but they tend to be idiots.

But clothes? Is a Marc Jacobs shirt better made, more comfortable or more hard wearing than a shirt from New Look? Is it so much better that it justifies that price tag.

For too many people the name matters because it will impress other people. That having a flash watch will make you seem more successful, that a posh frock makes you seem more sophisticated. It’s showing off, and not even about something you’ve done, just something you’ve bought.

If you have the cash, go nuts, but don’t act like it makes you better. Or that those clothes are special, because Giorgio or George, we wear clothes for two reasons- modesty and protection from the elements.

Fashion? I don’t get it.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


#FreeKesha: What about the men?

Earlier this week pop star Kesha was in court trying to get released from her contract with Sony and Kemosabe. The situation is horribly ugly for the singer, who finds herself trapped in a deal and obligated to record six more albums with a man who has abused her, producer DJ Luke.

I’ll make no bones about it, I believe and support Kesha and feel the position she finds herself in is disgraceful.

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Kesha

Before anyone cries “innocent until proven guilty”, I understand the concept but in cases of rape it’s a tricky one to apply. Because in presuming the accused innocent we are suggesting that the victim is lying.

Our culture has some serious issues with rape and one major problem is that victims are often placed under the microscope in ways that are grossly unfair, and their accusation is suspected and questioned.

Regardless of dress, lifestyle or profession, rape is rape. Yet, we get comments on how much women have drunk, what they wore or where they went. It all seems to suggest that in some way the victim was “asking for it”. No woman is asking for it.

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Personally, I think the victim should be believed and protected. That should be the starting point and investigation can come later.

False rape claims are rare and a woman has very little to gain from lying, as mentioned it places them under scrutiny and especially in Kesha’s case it doesn’t make sense.

If it was just a case of the relationship being strained she could have merely gritted her teeth and ground out six albums as quickly as possible. If Fleetwood Mac could make Rumours while the members were breaking up, then a personality clash would be easily overcome.

The news that a judge refused her appeals to be released is so infuriating and upsetting, as were images of Kesha reduced to tears in court. A young woman is being forced to make a horrible choice- give up the career she has built and loves, or go and work with a man who was physically and emotionally abusive to her.

Nobody should be forced to interact with their abuser and the judge’s ruling seemed more about business than the issues involved.

Really dropping the ball are Sony, who look terrible on this whole thing. Firstly, they seem to be siding with DJ Luke, which is not cool and secondly they appear to be putting profit over Kesha’s wellbeing. Sony could have handled it a lot better. They could have just let Kesha go and cut losses, or else worked something out where Kesha stayed with them but the link to DJ Luke was severed and he would not be involved or profit from her work.

Either option would have left them looking a damn sight better than they do now.

Thankfully there is some support for Kesha, with the #freekesha hashtag spreading online as people call for Sony to let her go and support her in what is a difficult time. She herself has thanked and acknowledged the help of her fans, but for it to really take effect she needs her fellow pop stars to help too.

This unfortunately has thrown up a new issue, one which highlights a clear failing in how we discuss rape. Several female celebrities came out in support including Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen, Lorde and Arianna Grande.

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While this is heartening to see, it turned a bit sour as Demi Lovato used it to apparently snipe at Taylor Swift for doing nothing. Petty point scoring was not a good thing to see.

The question that comes up here is, where are the men?

We expect the other female stars to rally, because of “sisterhood” but yet we let male stars off the book. Why haven’t Kesha’s former collaborators Pitbull and Flo Rida shown their support?

Rape and abuse our uncomfortable subjects, and ones that men have trouble engaging with. It’s not something we have to fear as much, and fear of saying the wrong thing lurks at the back of your mind. But we have to speak out, we need to show Kesha that we support her too, that we condemn the actions of DJ Luke and men like him.

We need to show that we believe those who come forward with allegations of abuse, that we believe they should be heard and the guilty punished. We need to show that we agree that rape is wrong and there are no excuses.

If more men were out there voicing this then perhaps our attitudes towards rape will change. That the discussion will change so that we focus on the issues that lead some men to feel they are entitled to a woman’s body no matter what and not what the woman could/should have done differently.

The victim is never responsible, the one responsible is the person doing the abuse.

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Kesha is in a position many victims of abuse aren’t: she’s rich, successful and has a platform to voice what happened to her. Despite all these advantages the system has failed her and she is still expected to work and make money for her abuser.

I hope that things change, I hope that there is a happy ending for Kesha. I hope that her courage in speaking out helps other victims to do the same and I hope that it can help our society adopt a better and more supportive attitude towards victims.

We need to change. And men need to take part in that. Nobody is saying it’s all men, but it’s too many men and they don’t get made in a vacuum, we need to understand why these men think and act the way they do and what we can do to make sure less of them do.

I stand with Kesha #freekesha

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Diana

In 1997, Princess Diana died. I was twelve at the time and even then I was mystified, creeped out and suspicious of the mass public grief that followed.

It all seemed a bit showy, fake and self indulgent. Thousands flocked to Buckingham Palace to leave tributes and I found myself struggling to accept that a stranger had impacted on their life so much. Some of it seemed to be a competitive thing, or induced by some kind of feeling that not displaying your grief meant you were cold or didn’t care.

It was like people decided to break away from the stereotypical British reserve and let that upper lip loosen up. Now, I think we should all be in touch with our feelings and express them, but a little bit of control isn’t a bad thing. Also, there are better ways to unleash it, although perhaps the show of letting it out over something you weren’t really connected with was the appeal. It was a safe release of years of keeping a lid on things.

I mean, these two kids probably weren’t that bothered and probably taken by a parent or grandparent who was caught up in the mob mourning.

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My mum is a republican and quite cynical in some regards and I think my distaste for the over the top displays that followed. Also it didn’t help that when I came down on the Saturday morning it was on pretty much every channel and I missed my regular dose of Live and Kicking.

I’m not a complete bastard, I appreciated that for her family it was a rough time and the manner of her death was tragic, but I think the British public went overboard and it didn’t seem right to twelve year old Chris. Also, I think even then I felt that the public was denying it’s part in her death. She was chased by paparazzi who wanted photos because the papers paid big bucks because of the public’s hunger for photos of her.

I know I blogged about Bowie and Lemmy’s deaths and was moved by them but to defend this I truly believe that artists and musicians make more of an impact because their work becomes part of our lives in a way a general celebrity doesn’t.

After her death Diana was elevated to near sainthood and the press continue to sing her praises while avoiding acknowledging that they were part of the celebrity culture which her sons loathe and which intruded on her life.

To this day the British media will pull her out as an exemplar of decency and run stories on slow news days.

The Daily M**l surpassed itself today as they filled two pages with a spread about her dress sense, which seemed to essentially say “she wore something which is kinda like something someone else wore” the idea being that she’s some kind of style guru.

The problem is that some of them are laughably tenuous. I mean, I don’t think Diana invented the white shirt and jeans combo-

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They’re not even the same jeans. And the tops are totally different!

Two whole pages about this?! I doubt this is what the writer dreamed about when they trained to be a journalist.

Google searching photos of Diana and then trying to find photos of current celebrities in vaguely similar outfits. And I’m not sure what the point was, I doubt the celebs even considered Diana in their choices.

Also, in many cases she didn’t look as good as the other picture, for example here’s Diana vs Gaga.

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I just think they could maybe let the Diana stuff rest now, it’s been almost twenty years, move on.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Getting Shirty!: Lady Gaga and the XXX Tee

Lady Gaga isn’t someone who dresses conservatively. In fact her OTT clothing often overshadows her (awesome) music.

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Actually quite normal for Gaga

It’s drawn heat in the past and this week she came under fire for her choice of clothing once more. Gaga was pictured wearing a pink suit and a T-shirt which is rather understated for her.
The problem was that the T-shirt got lots of people worked up because it showed Snow White involved in a dwarf orgy.
Now, this is hardly new territory, anyone who’s ever got lost down one of the net’s many rabbit holes knows that there are plenty of artists out there who specialise in taking beloved childhood characters and putting them in positions usually reserved for X rated fare. I’ve always wondered what the point is. There’s enough live action out there, so why make your own drawn versions?
Anyway, the press got up in arms over it and many didn’t like it. MWG, a massive Disney fan, was unamused, especially as Snow is her favourite of the Disney princesses.

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Snow White in her normal, innocent ways

Personally, I’m not a fan either, though there have been celebrities who have worn far more offensive shirts. Look at the filth Snoop is wearing here:
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But in all seriousness, I’m disappointed in Gaga too.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a hysterical “won’t somebody please think of the children?!” post, I just think that Gaga shouldn’t have worn the shirt.
Firstly, its not a good shirt. I haven’t done much research but I’d imagine there are better dirty Disney pictures floating about that you could stick on a shirt. Secondly, it is a bit rude for a morning walk. I’m no prude, but I wouldn’t want to be confronted by the image as I went about my day-to-day, whoever’s wearing it?
But my main objection is that it’s just so bloody stupid and childish.
It’s the kind of shirt you might see and giggle at. You might even daydream about wearing it somewhere fantastically inappropriate (the funeral of a hated enemy, when meeting the Queen etc.) but that little giggle aside you’d leave it on the shelf and move on.
I’ve discussed before that joke shirts are only ever good for one laugh, or normally smile, and that’s it. And a lot of shirts aren’t even that funny. This one isn’t.
It’s also not cool for a woman nearing 30 to be wearing it. I’m 30 and hugely immature, but even I know that it’s a stupid shirt.
It wasn’t always this way. As a teenager (14? 15?) I saw this T-shirt advertised that was a mock up tour shirt. But it wasn’t for a band, it was for Adolf Hitler!
Gods, teen Chris thought that was funny, and edgy, and cool. What a way to look cool and rebellious. I saw it and considered buying it. Thankfully my sister had more sense (as ever) and told me it was stupid, insensitive and not a good idea.
Not long after I came to agree with this, realising it was a stupid, nasty shirt and not funny, but I tell this story to show that I get it. That sometimes we all want to offend just to offend, whether to annoy a specific individual or group (hi, Cardiff fans!) or just to show how cool we are.
I just think that in this instance Gaga was wrong and should grow up and burn the shirt, because I doubt she’ll get much wear out of it.
It’s a shirt a teenage boy would find hilarious and, speaking from experience, most teenage boys are idiots.
Even as a big fan of Lady Gaga I think she made a mistake. But doesn’t everyone?
I’m still a fan and hope to see her live for the 3rd time on her next tour. So, no hard feelings, Gaga?
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


I’m a man, and I order Lemon and Herb

Disclaimer: MWG had the TV on while I was watching this so I got distracted by the cheesiness of The Lizzie McGuire movie, so forgive me if this goes astray.

On Sunday night, to celebrate my birthday MWG took me to a rather fancy hotel. It was four stars and probably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, having checked in we went for food and decided on Nando’s, I think in part to cancel out the poshness of the hotel.

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For those unfamiliar with Nando’s it’s a chain of chicken restaurants that serve food with peri-peri sauce and have a Mozambican/Portuguese theme according to Wikipedia. The food’s pretty decent and it’s got a relaxed atmosphere, so it’s a pretty cool place all in all, apart from that some idiots go in there and use terms like “cheeky Nando’s”.

Whatever, as we sat down I decided on my order- a double burger. And as you can choose your spice level, from Plain(ish) to Extra Extra Hot, I opted for Lemon and Herb, which is towards the low end of the spectrum. If I’m having just one burger I’d go for medium, but with two I decided to take it down a notch, and the Lemon and Herb is actually pretty tasty.

While MWG placed the order I sat at the table and remembered something I’d read once, a quick Google found the same thing, via the Cosmopolitan website, where a Nando’s staff member confessed:

You wouldn’t believe how many guys order ‘weak’ chicken and quietly ask you to change the flag so it makes it looks like they ordered hot chicken. It happens ALL the time.

That is hands down one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever heard. And one of the most pointless.

If you don’t want spicy, don’t order spicy. There’s nothing wrong with not liking hot food, it’s just a personal taste thing.

I suspect it’s some kind of bollocks macho thing, where they don’t want to look weak or girly, which is a little bit depressing. And I’d argue it’s kinda weak to pretend to be eating Extra Extra Hot when it’s just a Medium, just be open about it, you are who you are, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

The fact that these dudes feel the need to mask it shows how stupid this whole masculinity concept is in our society. It’s a vague concept at the best of times, that someone is somehow more “manly” than another guy. That there’s a checklist you have to tick off in order to be a “real man”.

There isn’t.

Stephen Fry. Tommy Lee. Bear Grylls. David Cameron. Russell Brand. Mike Tyson. Prince. The Rock.

All of these are men. Is one more of a man than the others? No.

Masculinity shouldn’t exist, or at least shouldn’t be a big deal. Why not just do what you want, rather than worrying about how it looks to other people?

I’m not the most macho of guys, and I regularly get grief from people about liking stuff which isn’t traditionally manly- rom coms, Eurovision, shirts with flowers on, Made in Chelsea, Lady Gaga etc. I get told I need to stop being “girly”.

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This is annoying because (a) is being like a girl really an insult? I don’t think so and (b) what the hell is wrong with liking what I like? Does it hurt others that I like blaring Born This Way on my iPod? Or that I think When Harry Met Sally is a quality movie?

Does it matter that I don’t give a toss about cars or the size of their engine? That I scream when I see a spider? That I order a Korma sometimes?

There’s this pressure on dudes to be “manly”, and it’s not good. It’s making people insecure about who they are, and that’s never good.

It’s also not healthy, and potentially dangerous, making men less likely to open up about their emotions, or seek help for problems, because that’s not seen as being a manly thing to do. They bottle things up, but sooner or later something’s gotta give, and talking it out early on might save everyone a lot of bother and misery.

That’s the serious end of the spectrum, but it bleeds through into regular life for dudes. They worry about how they look to others, they can’t be open about what they like and who they are. It even ruins their trips out for some chicken, because they’re worried about being exposed as a Lemon and Herb eater.

And even more depressingly it’s continuing this view that feminine things are lesser, or bad. That the worst thing a man can be is like a woman, as if women are inherently a bad thing. Which I think we all know is utter bollocks.

You like what you like. Don’t worry about whether it’s traditionally aimed at the other gender, it speaks to you, so embrace it. Trying to stick to what society expects of your gender limits your opportunities and choices, and you’ll never match all the expectations and standards, and you shouldn’t try to.

You’re an individual, not some daft list of characteristics that people can’t even agree on fully.

You’re a man because you’re a man, not because of what you like or how spicy your food is.

Be who you are, and when you make peace with that, you’ll feel a whole lot better, and won’t have to switch flags in your chicken.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Hit you with your selfie stick

Okay, right at the top I’m going to say I’m not one of those older people who has a snobbish, negative view of selfies and those who take them.
Sure, when I saw four friends cram into a portaloo to take a selfie on their camping trip I thought “what’s wrong with you?!” But that’s an exception.
I read something recently about how it’s wrong to slam selfies as vain or self absorbed because its better to have a generation of people who love themselves and are comfortable with how they look as opposed to the “I hate having my photo” taken anxiety. I’m paraphrasing badly, but I hope you get the point. That you can view the selfie as being a tool for confidence building and self expression.
Why all this selfie talk? Well, as written in the previous post, I went to see Lady Gaga this week and there were lots of pictures being taken.
For me this is a bugbear, because I think some people take the piss a little. One or two snaps, fine but don’t record for minutes at a time or snap away like the paparazzi.
Some of the photo taking at gigs, particularly Gaga shows, is kinda sweet. The Little Monsters are stoked to be that close to their idol, or proud of their homemade costumes. As I waited for MWG at one point I saw two strangers having a picture together because one dug the other’s costume, how can you not think that’s good?
Selfies at gigs are weird, I get the “stage behind” ones or a quick “me and my mates” shot, but most will be blurry, dim or unflattering. Sure the odd person lucks out like the Beyonce fan at the top, but most won’t.
Three girls in front wanted a photo to remember the show, but due to height differences and short arms it was a struggle.
Call me old fashioned but at that point I’d have asked someone nearby to take the shot for me.
Not these girls. Nope, one produced a “selfie stick”. I’ve never seen one of these in real life before and watched in intrigued horror as they extended it and held it aloft.
It may have resulted in a beautiful shot, but it seemed a bit of a stretch just for a photo. And it was up in the air, blocking the view and swaying around with reckless abandon.
I snapped a quick shot, hypocrite that I am, and luckily after a quick photo shoot it was folded away.
The selfie stick is a bridge to far for me. If your arms aren’t long enough or there’s no mirror handy, you should bite the bullet and accept it’s not going to be a selfie, and just have a regular, old fashioned photo taken.
Gods, I do sound old.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: Lady Gaga at NIA, Birmingham

As the rain lashed down on a miserable day in Birmingham, making everything washed out and grim, but for the thousands of slightly damp little monsters gathered in the NIA it was a far brighter, more colourful evening, because Lady Gaga was in town, and she was amazing.

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I’d kinda forgotten she was touring at the moment. When the artRAVE dates had come out I’d been broke and so not being involved it fell out of my mental calendar. Then on Monday MWG told me she had a surprise for me on Wednesday afternoon, the only hints she offered was that we’d have to drive somewhere and I’d need to dress tidy-ish. Being naturally suspicious and someone who isn’t too keen on surprises, I thought of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, where they tell him he’s going to be made but instead winds up whacked.

No prying could get MWG to budge, but she insisted I’d like it, so I just asked, as a shot in the dark, “Are we going to see Lady Gaga?”. She probably could have styled it out, but MWG’s poker face is atrocious and I knew right away what was going on (she’d bagged a couple of tickets that the original owners couldn’t use). I think she expected me to have a meltdown, but I’m British, dammit, so I kept a lid on the excitement which grew all through Tuesday and Wednesday.

I freaking love Lady Gaga. MWG is a fan too, and between us we’ve seen both of her major UK tours (MWG saw Monster’s Ball in Cardiff, and I went to Dublin for the Born This Way ball). It was really cool to go see her again, and especially cool that I got to be with MWG for it.

Even a downpour couldn’t dampen my spirits and I filed into the NIA with the other little monsters, once again feeling that I was probably one of the bigger monsters and feeling slightly underdressed in my t-shirt and 3/4 lengths. I marveled at the costumes some of the fans had crafted for themselves and took my place for the opening acts.

First up was Breedlove, a singer/MC who was alright but seemed terribly out of his depth. With no accompanying band or dancers he was just a loan figure on a vast stage, singing to a largely disinterested crowd. He’s probably quite good in a smaller venue, like a club or bar, but here he just didn’t seem to have the presence to convince, although his songs were fine and catchy pieces.

Next up was Lady Starlight, who hadn’t impressed me in Dublin but was better here. She seemed really into her techno set and there was something endearingly gawky about her dancing, she also looked like her costume was inspired by those collectible dolls you get representing countries. Austria maybe? It wasn’t really my bag but got me bopping away and was kinda fun.

And then, after a lengthy delay, the main event!

Gaga emerged, adorned with wings and played the title track from the ARTPOP album, followed by “G.U.Y”, one of my faves from that album.

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It was everything you expected from Mother Monster, a show of campy excess, fantastic vocals and her own, captivating, individual presence at the centre. I said of the Born This Way show in Dublin that at times it felt like a cult meeting at times and that was evident here, with the charismatic singer holding the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the gig.

It may have lacked the prog-esque concept of the previous tour, but the set was a triumph, with some of the big hits mixed with lesser known songs from the most recent album. In between songs Gaga spoke to the audience, in a mesmerizing mix of earnest expression, foul mouthed humour and tongue-in-cheek posturing.

The theme here was for her fans to direct their emotions into art and her own journey and growth as an artist. She talked to the crowd about self expression, addiction, self harm and self-acceptance, always with a feeling of genuine sincerity and care. The cynical may see it as Gaga playing the ally card, but it felt real to me (gods, I sound like that wrestling fan don’t I? “It’s still real to me, dammit!”) and must be extremely powerful for her younger fans who may be struggling to accept themselves and their place.

But beyond that it was just a triumph of pop art. OTT costumes, sexualized dancing and banging tunes, it supplied each in spades and was incredibly fun. I sang along, bounced about and while I may not have descended into the screeching raptures of the woman a few feet across from me, I was thoroughly entranced and loved every second.

lady gaga 2

I probably preferred the Dublin gig overall, but then Born This Way is an album I love and have listened to more, but in the run up to this gig I listened to ARTPOP a lot more and it’s better than I originally gave it credit for, and I suspect that Lady Gaga is going to be on hard rotation on my iPod for the coming weeks.

I’d definitely go see Lady Gaga again, which would make her the second artist I’d have seen 3 times, after Motorhead. Heck, I might even dress up a bit next time, really get into the spirit of things.

Paws up.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Machete Kills

I quite liked the first Machete film and as a Robert Rodriguez fan I was probably going to see the sequel anyway, although tipping the balance even more in it’s favour was the inclusion of Lady Gaga.

machetekills

So, I was definitely in to see the return of Danny Trejo’s Mexican avenger.

As well as Mother Monster the movie boasts an extensive cast, including a host of attractive actresses in skimpy outfits (Gaga, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega) alongside Rodriguez regulars (Vega, Danny Trejo, Antonio Banderas, Tom Savini) and a couple of famous faces like Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding Jr and Charlie Sheen.

machete kills poster

Sadly, the sum doesn’t equal it’s parts. The gag of the action movie spoof is a little worn and instead of the 70s/80s grindhouse vibe of the original this is more like a spy adventure, with the Roger Moore Bond flick Moonraker being a key reference point.

The plot starts with Machete working with his lover Sartana (Alba) to bust some American soldiers trying to sell weapons to the Mexican cartels. Both the cartel enforcers and the soldiers are killed when a gang of masked figures attack, and Sartana finds a missile on a truck before she is killed.

Machete is taken prisoner but then called to Washington D.C. to meet the President (Sheen, here introduced as Carlos Estevez) who recruits him to go to Mexico and kill a crazy cartel boss/revolutionary Mendez (Demian Bichir). Machete is helped by his CIA handler Miss San Antonio (Heard) and goes South of the wall that has been built on the border.

South of the border he finds he can’t kill Mendez as the missile is linked to his heart and must flee to the border with his charge, who has placed a $10million bounty on his own head. This puts them in the cross hairs of a variety of unsavoury types- vengeance seeking brothel boss Madam Desdemona (Vergara), face-changing killer the Chameleon (Walton Goggins, Gooding Jr, Banderas and Gaga) and corrupt cops.

After crossing the border Machete realizes that Mendez is merely a pawn used by insane weapons manufacturer Voz (Gibson) who plans to kickstart global destruction while he and others escape to safety on a space station to build a new world. Voz wants Machete to join him so that he can be cloned and give Voz an army of “Genghis Khan, high-caliber, people-f**ker-uppers”.

Machete escapes and reunites with old ally Luz/She (Michelle Rodriguez) and discovers that Miss San Antonio, now Miss Texas has double crossed him and works for Voz.

Machete (Trejo) and She (Rodriguez) together again.

Machete (Trejo) and She (Rodriguez) together again.

 

Can Machete and She’s Mexican network stop Voz from launching the missile and bring the madman to justice?

Here’s the problem with this flick, while you expect a certain lunatic excess from a Rodriguez movie they’re usually tempered with a bit more wit. Rodriguez’s movies have become alarmingly formulaic with a parade of interesting but poorly developed characters that seem to have been ripped from goofier comic books. They’re introduced, and if they’re lucky given a moment to shine before they get hacked or blown up. The violence is manic and ridiculous, but the effects are shoddy and not in a way that suggests it’s intentional. Plus, you soon get tired of yet another explosion of CGI blood and gore.

And there’s the plot. I mean, yes, the original was cheesy and bizarre, but this one is ridiculous. The Mendez character and his split personality is just dopey and the whole Moonraker vibe sends the movie into the territory of the absurd, but not in a good, fun way, more in a “are you serious?” way. The execution is sloppy and it’s not quite funny enough to muscle through.

There are a handful of moments that raise a smile, and little nods for Rodriguez fans, such as Vergara’s character using a machine gun bra which calls to mind Sex Machine in From Dusk Till Dawn.

machete kills vergara

In fact, she even busts out Sex Machine’s weapon of choice later on.

sexmachine

But it’s not enough. Even Trejo seems slightly embarrassed and the parade of supporting players are woefully underused. Alba and Hudgens get a few minutes before their characters kick the bucket and it’s painful to see Antonio Banderas reduced to this.

There’s not a lot of Gaga, but she handles her minimal role well enough and looks gorgeous doing it, but it’s disappointing. She was nominated for a Razzie for her work here, which I find harsh as this is a seemingly intentionally bad movie, and that should make her exempt.

Vergara is similarly underused and her character is a total mess, with a back story that’s a tad too dark for such a dumb flick. The only two of the female performers who does well is Amber Heard who seems to be having a ball as the double crossing agent and Michelle Rodriguez, who can do badass-chick in her sleep.

All in all, it’s a bit of a wash out, with Mel Gibson’s manic charisma as the villain being one of the few positives. This is unlikely to bring Gibson back from his wilderness years, but it’s an easy, funny performance which allows him to show all his old tricks and why he’s such an engaging and likable onscreen presence.

Manic charisma: Gibson as the villainous Voz

Manic charisma: Gibson as the villainous Voz

Rodriguez isn’t known for his restraint, and many of his films are shallow affairs, but this was the first of his movies where his sense of humour seemed to stall and it felt as though he was doing things because he thought audiences would go for it, as opposed to before where you sense he just puts in what he thinks is cool. This is seen most obviously in Charlie Sheen’s appearance as the President. While Sheen is predictably fine in the role, it’s stunt casting and there are nods to Sheen’s public meltdown and persona which are a few years late.

Sheen as the President

Sheen as the President

Perhaps Rodriguez needs to get back to his lower budget roots after he tackles the second Sin City movie.

There’s a funny trailer at the start for a third Machete adventure, but hopefully this is where the saga ends, because the joke’s not funny anymore.

Verdict: Lacking the fun of the original it all feels rather forced and limp, with a great cast being squandered. One of Rodriguez’ weaker movies and at times almost painful to watch. 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


First Listen: Applause by Lady Gaga

So, as probably one of the larger Little Monsters out there I’m really looking forward to Lady Gaga’s new album, Artpop, which is due for release in a few months time, there have been leaked, low quality versions of the first single from the album, “Applause”. I’ve avoided them but with a proper authorized version available I checked it out today, here are my thoughts:

applause

  • Like the techno-esque opening, reminds me of old computer games music.
  • “I live for the applause”- I’ve seen someone complaining about Gaga singing about fame so much, but I mean, she’s one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, she can’t really sing about the day-to-day life things. And also, she’s a popstar who benefits from the glitz and glamour, as with Russell Brand her persona only works with fame. Without fame it’d just look mental. Personally I like it.
  • Good, toe tapping beat that had me busting a little bit of a move on the sofa.
  • I like the tempo change for the chorus which gives it a sort of uplifting David Guetta-style quality (Yes, I like David Guetta’s stuff, okay? It’s feel good pop)
  • It’s pretty much what you expect from Gaga- cool, slickly produced pop music which is distinctively Gaga.
  • It doesn’t blow me away on the first listen in the way that “Bad Romance” or “Poker Face” did, but it took me a while to come around to “Alejandro” and to fall for “Government Hooker” which is now one of my personal favourites.

So on balance I quite like it. It’s not my favourite of her work, but it bodes well for the upcoming album.

Here’s the song, annoyingly with little adverts for the hosting site:

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.