Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Definition of Irony


The Daily Mail. Great paper right?

Wrong. Those who agreed with the above line, get to the back of the queue. Hell, just get out. This is the paper that likes to think that it's the paper of the masses in the UK. And probably is. Middle England loves this paper, this rag that likes to think of itself as the moral high ground that other papers lack. A paper that rests on shakier ground than The Sun.

Riddle me this: I delved into this hotbed of fascism today (Father & Mother Vitch for their pains, like the paper - I think for the crossword on the back, but I can't be sure) and found the following: The Mail was offering it's readers a free £5 bet on the races at Cheltenham cup. The same paper that prides itself on it's racing pages.

This is the same Daily Mail that was so concerned about the spread of Super Casinos and their potential "devastating effect" on the general populous. Super Casinos that were going to destroy the very fabric of the nation. Super Casinos that were so dangerous the Mail "led" a campaign to stop the Bill passing, and indirectly managed to get it watered down to only one supercasino.

So, is it me, or does the whole "put a bet on us" stink of double standards? Gambling is ok, as long as it's authorised by the Daily Mail. I don't mind the betting, or the ridiculous stance in the paper on many things (it's dubious position on homosexuality for example), but I just cannot stand the contradiction between what is said and then what is done.
I'm thinking of starting a campaign of my own. So, how does one bring down a newspaper?


The Vitch

Happy Meals for an Angry World

It seems that, little by little, it is a becoming a McWorld. Cultures are crumbling quicker than a caffeine hit from a Starbucks triple espresso. Cities are going up in flames for the sake of flame grilled whoppers. The corporate monster has our histories in its grasp, and the future is a franchise.
But - let's face it. Everybody loves a latte.
It is my somewhat controversial belief that what the world needs is MORE chain stores. Look at the fear and resentment in the middle east. Of course they're angry! Wouldn't you be angry without a Cafe Nero within easy accessof your home? Give them a mocha, for crying out loud!I believe it is time we reached out to our friends in Iraq and Iran and said 'Hey guys, let's all have fun together. Stop mucking about and join the West you silly billies.' Here are three ways I believe we can rip up the roadmap to peace, and hit the gas on the freeway of fun.
1. T.M.I Fridays
Or 'Thank Mohammed It's Friday'. This popular western restaurant has shown that fun and food CAN go together. Possible menu options: Baghdad Burger,Milk Sheikh and Saddam Salad.
2. Celebrity Fatwa Club
This show has been a big hit in Britain, albeit as 'Celebrity Fit Club.' In Fatwa Club, the principle will be slightly different. You must kill as many people possible in the name of religion each week - the winner being the one with the largest head count.
3. The Strip
Like 'The Gap' but based around the fashions to be found on the Gaza Strip, this store will show that there ARE benefits to decades of holy war. Namely, a snug little pair of chinos and a lambswool cardigan.
The Valley

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Punisher: Marvel Enters the World of Weird

I know, I know. Two posts in one day, and they're both about movies that didn't get much critical acclaim or box office. But I've just watched this (I got it free with another purchase), and I've got to talk about it. This is perhaps the most bizarre movie I've ever seen.
We all know the story right? Frank Castle has his family killed by some underworld figures (I haven't read the comic, but I guess the origin is similar) and he goes slightly off the wall. In the movie, his family (and when I say his family, it seems EVERYONE in his family - aunts, uncles, 3rd cousins, you name it) are killed in retribution for his part in the accidental murder of John Travolta's son. So far, so Greek Tragedy all around.
So, the tone of the piece. I'm guessing serious. Heavy. Broody. That kind of genre. What I wasn't expecting was the broad knockabout comedy that occasionally punctured the movie, or the sublimely bizarre characters he has to face up to. For a start, there's a character that seems to have been lifted wholesale out of "El Mariachi". He sings Frank a song which he has written especially for him. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not buying the whole "writing a song for your funeral" rubbish. That's just plain odd. It just doesn't happen. It's been years since any Mexicans wrote a song for me.
Similarly, there is a scene involving The Russian, who's a walking stereotype of every single Russian sailor theme night I've ever been to (it was the one time, I was very drunk, and Vladimir was a true gentlemen). He is right out of a Cold War Bond movie, and is completely out of place. The whole fight, which is quite brutal, is played as knockabout comedy, with opera going on in the background.
Just when you think you've got the tone down, it shifts. There's a rather unpleasant scene involving Paxton who tortures one of the comedy sidekicks. This scene lingers on as if the director kinda enjoys filming a bit of broad sado-masochism. The whole movie is dichotic. I suppose the closest analogy would be if Batman Begins had scenes from the 1960s Burt Ward Batman and Mel Gibson's Payback spliced into it.
In many other ways, it is similar to the overblown action movies of the eighties. Bullets are fired and rarely hit anything (some scenes are reminiscent of the A-Team when people simply fail to die) and there are explosions a-plenty. But it's just all wrong. It's not helped by Travolta chewing the scenery like a pup with an old slipper. His performance is so over-the-top he'd put Robin Williams in the shade. And that's Mork Williams, not One Hour Photo Williams.
How to do a Punisher movie right:
  • Don't set it in Sunny Tampa, Florida. Set it in rainy, dark New York. That way, it'll look better when he blows the bad guys away.
  • Keep Thomas Jane. He worked with what little he had to produce something interesting.
  • Don't do knockabout comedy, witty banter, or chatty sidekicks. It doesn't work with the character.
  • Hire someone who knows how to write a script, and someone who can direct.
4 steps. You wouldn't think it was that hard. Obviously, it was.
The Vitch

The Manchurian Candidate

Just watched the Jonathon Demme remake of the Frank Sinatra classic. Thought provoking stuff.
On a pure visceral level, you know a film's got you by the short and curlies when you start shouting at the screen. I spent the last 15 minutes of the film alternating between berating Sgt Marko (Denzel, on fine form), covering my face with a pillow because I couldn't stand the tension, and pacing round the room saying, "Surely they can see this coming!"
What gets me most is the way that the whole film is a mish mash of different genres, (from oedipal greek tragedy to paranoid thiller) and the way that Washington downplays his usual screen presence to play a seemingly uncharismatic individual (witness his less than grandstanding opening scene talking to a scout group about his war endeavours). From the moment that you realise he isn't lighting up the screen in his normal way, you note, if only on a subconscious level, that something is very wrong.
Schreiber, too, is great. He plays his role in an understated manner, allowing you to feel the way the character has been manipulated, not only through Manchurian Global, but through his entire life by his mother (Meryl Streep, in her best Hilary Clinton impression), who's creating the husband she thinks she deserves.
Most importantly, it highlights the coming of the age of the Military Industrial Complex (as mentioned by Eisenhower way back when and taking the place of Communism in the original movie) and mirrors the way that the current administration in America is in bed with the corporations. As Demme mentions in short making of that accompanies the DVD, it concerns him that the current White House occupants could possibly make this movie seem somewhat tame.
If you haven't seen it, check it out. It is (considering it is a remake) worth your valuable time.

The Vitch

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

And The Award for Most Random Matrix Rip-Off goes to...

Don't know if you guys have seen this, but check out the new www.moneysupermarket.com advert on UK television (They need insurance? Lots of insurance?). Someone shoot the person who suggested that using the Wachowski classic as a template for selling money products.
What is the world coming to? You wait, Lion Eggs are going to use a digitally reanimated Steve McQueen out of Cool Hand Luke to suggest it's a good idea to eat at least 50 yolks a day...
The Vitch

Advice on Attack

Angry with someone? Have you tried every available option? Diplomacy? Foregiveness? Consideration? Is there still no resolution? Then perhaps it's time you attacked them. Attack has recently come back into fashion with the war in Iraq, the 'happy slapping' boom, and the ever more graphic use of violence in films. Indeed, many people are now skipping the 'talking' phase altogether in preference of attack. But how, I hear you ask, do I participate in this new craze? Ask no more, as I provide 'Advice On Attack.'

1. Running Into Someone
The art of running into someone at a high speed to knock them over was a commonly used method of attack by playground bullies. It is still effective now, with or without an elbow raised. If it is somebody you don't like, try running at them when they are standing on a soft surface, such as grass or a gym mat. If you truly loathe them, wait until they are standing by a cliff edge. However, in the latter scenario please don't run too quickly as you may not be able to stop.

2. The Punch
One of the best punches I have ever seen was at the punch bowl at a party. One guy said to another 'would you like some punch?' to which the man responded 'okay, that would be nice.' He then proceeded to pummel him viciously. It was a great punch: not just for its sheer, incomprehensible violence, but also as it was preceded by some very witty wordplay. To punch someone properly, put your fingers on your palm, tense and then move your fist into someone's face at speed. Combine with a pinch if it happens to be the first of the month.

3. The Foot Stamp
Stamping on somebody's toe requires one of the key principles of attack: stealth. Try stamping on a foot in a crowded underground station, cinema aisle, or a nightclub dancefloor. If it has worked, you will hear a howl of pain from your victim. Apologise immediately - even though you don't mean it. If the apology remains unaccepted, please perform methods of attack 1. and 2. as listed above. I hope this has been an useful introduction to attack.

The Valley

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pete Doherty: Idiot or Fool?

The man is skirting the bound of genius-like idiocy. He gets a suspended sentence and a enforceable treatment programme, and then does this. It's enough to make you laugh. You can just imagine the conversation that went through his head:
Doherty (left brain): Excellent. That was a jolly narrow escape there. Right, let's get some drugs and steal a car.
Doherty (right brain): No, wait, that's not a very sensible idea. How about we pick some flowers, feel remorseful that we're setting such a bad example to the youth of today, and go about ridding ourselves of these terrible addictions that are ruining my life?
Doherty (l.b.): Or... we could get some drugs and steal a car.
Doherty (r.b.): Ok. Your plan is better. By the way, you were great in Live8.
Doherty (l.b): Yeah I know. Shame everyone who saw it thought I was crap...

The Vitch

Monday, February 27, 2006

David Irving and Ken Livingstone: Uncomfortable Bedfellows?

You may have read over the past few weeks about the two gentlemen in the title. One is a Holocaust Denier, and has earned himself 3 years in prison. The other is the Mayor of London, and has earned himself a 4 week suspension from his post.
Though it seems the parallel I am drawing is obvious - Irving denied the Holocaust, while Livingstone made what has been construed to be an anti-semitic remark - I am more concerned with the concerning limitations of free speech.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not condoning what either Livingstone or Irving said. Irving is obviously deluded. Ken should have straight out apologised. It was inappropriate and especially concerning that he continued with the "Concentration Camp Guard" line when he found out that the reporter he was shouting at was Jewish. That said, I cannot see why either of them have been punished by the State.
In Irving's case, as whacked out as his suggestion is, he surely has a right to speak his mind. To draw a parallel, should I expect to be locked up for stating my startling new thesis that the world is flat? I guess most of you know I'm wrong (yeah?) but I can't imagine that someone is going to stop me from looking like an idiot. Perhaps the only way that I might even get my crraazzee idea heard were if someone were try to silence me, and tell me I had no right to say it. Now, I understand that denying the Holocaust is insensitive, distasteful and downright WRONG, but if he wants to make himself look like a buffoon, why stop him? Give me enough rope, and all that.
With ole' Red Ken, it worries me that an unelected body has decided to remove him from power. Livingstone was directly elected by the people, and if his crass remarks (which he still seems not to have apologised for) find common offense among the masses, then he will find himself booted out of office at the next available opportunity. It is not for a quango to find him "guilty" as charged and punish him. It was, and remains, his right to say what he wants. The way that certain "fascist" rags have gone after him, I'm simply surprised that he wasn't charged under the new incitement of terrorism laws.
I have no truck with the limits of free speech (shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre is generally a bad thing to do - as is shouting "water" in the theatre), but it's getting a bit too Orwellian these days. For something to be found out as a stupid idea, it has to be debated in public. This is something that can never be replaced by the role of government. Freedom of speech has to be for everyone, or it is for no-one. I'm concerned that in our age of paranoia, it could be a while before true freedom raises it head again.
Until then, I'm going to be shouting out my new "tablecloth" theory to anyone that'll listen. Well, at least until the thought police come and take me away...
The Vitch

Top 5 Christmas Films

Three months have passed since Christmas, and the question many people are stopping to ask me is 'when is it going to happen again?'. To be honest and truthful, I have no idea. While we wait, here are the top 5 best Christmas films ever made.
1. Die Hard
Bruce Willis is nothing like Santa, but this film is set around Xmas so therefore qualifies. Willis returned for two very similar sequels. Must have been a 'Claus' in his contract.

2. Miracle On 34th Street
I actually prefer the remake. Nothing against the black and white original, but this one is better in my view. The little girl in it was also great in 'Matilda'.

3. The Snowman
Not sure if it qualifies as a film per se, but Raymond Brigg's classic is just as vital to yuletide as Noel's Christmas Presents.

4. Elf

Funny film. Heartwarming too. Probably will be regarded as the best Christmas film ever in about a decade. Just not yet.

5. Mickey's Christmas Carol
A fantastic animated update of Dickens' classic, this also makes the list for a blisteringly good performance for the in-no-way-stereotypical-Scot, Scrooge McDuck. McDuck later tasted small screen success in 'Duck Tales.'

The Valley

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

At Home with Mr Mugabe

Robert Mugabe has been on my mind a lot lately. It's not that he has the bones of a 30 year old (though he's apparently been told that by his doctors) or that he is my favourite pin-up (a picture of Gerald Ford currently occupies my shrine to the deluded). Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party are ripping Zimbabwe to shreds, and no-one seems to care.
Some of the latest figures show that inflation is currently running at 630% annually. That's nuts. That means the price of anything is going to sextuple (I don't know if that's a word, but I want it to be) yearly. Hence, a Mars Bar that costs 50p one year will cost over £3 the next. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but unless the salaries are increasing at 630% (I'm guessing they're not) the inhabitants of Zimbabwe are going to get poorer and poorer. Check out Argentina a couple of years ago. They'll tell you hyperinflation is a bad thing. How did Mugabe deal with this hyperinflation? He printed more money to pay off IMF debts. Ask anyone who's done basic economics and they'll tell you this probably isn't a good idea, as this will devalue the currency even further, fuelling the inflation. The currency rate is such that, at the moment, converting £10 into Zimbabwean Dollars will make you a millionaire (at the time of writing the exchange rate was £1 : Zimbabwean $173,000).
It's got to a point where everything in the country is going from bad to worse, with education going to pot, the health service in tatters, and the potential for people to starve in their millions due to basic food shortages. What does Mugabe do? He throws a party for his 82nd birthday. A big lavish party, with all his lackeys praising him like the Second Coming has turned up in a sprightly 82 year old with the body of a 30 year old. Let's not forget the "retirement" home that is being built for him, even as locals are being forced out of their homes because of "security measures". The man is a corrupt and evil man, for want of a better word. But I know this. You know this. The Zimbabwean people know this. So why does it bother me so much?
This is what I don't understand. Why is it that Blair and Bush are willing to go after a sociopath in the Middle East, but not a whack job on the African continent? If the WMD question is defunct, and we go on Blair's assertion that it was a "moral" war, why aren't we doing something about Zimbabwe? Don't forget that until independence in 1980, Zimbabwe used to be Rhodesia and part of the British Empire. Why don't we care about the rights of the Zimbabwean people as much as the rights of the Iraqis? What was that? Did someone say oil? That's so cynical... It seems more and more likely that the Kosovo war back in the 90s is the last time that any power, super or otherwise, will take part in a straight humanitarian war effort.
Ultimately, Mugabe has demonstrated that it's going to take more than sanctions by all and sundry to push him out of power. The country is on a one way street towards civil war, and without some form of powerful intervention, there's no turning back. I don't think it's right to talk about morality and then ignore Zimbabwe. Mugabe is as much of a despot as Hussein was, perhaps even more insidious, and, whether through international pressure or military intervention, he needs to be stopped, one way or another.
The Vitch

The Joy Of Songwriting

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I have recently taken up songwriting, and findit a most fufilling pasttime. Whether the sweet song of a morning sparrow,or the grand sweep of a full symphony orchestra, music is truly a gift for the soul. Here's my first stab:

Pop Your Thing (Lyrics)

Pop your thing girl,
your ass is driving me wild,
you're like a Farley's Rusk,
and I'm a small child,
Feel like my head's in an oven,
'cos your body's so hot,
your camel toe's showing,
so gimme what you got.

It's a sprint not a marathon,
so race baby race,
pop your pop-pop in outer space,
Don't need Columbo,
'cos I'm on your case,
So pop your thing all in my face

I'm Marco Polo,
and your hotpants are China,
your cheeks would be antique,
if they got any finer,
you're speaking with your body,
and it seems to be telling me
'Explore my undergrowth,
Like David Bellamy'

Repeat Chorus x 2.


The Valley

HN51: Fear of a Cluck Planet

Last week a male duck was found dead in France, the cause of his death believed to be HN51, or 'bird flu.' The widespread panic following the discovery has led many to believe that this lethal virus will soon develop a human strain. But what is the feeling within the avian community? Here, The Valley talks exclusively to the mother of the duck who died last week, Mrs Le Quack.
V: Mrs Le Quack, thankyou for coming her today. Before we begin, I would like to extend my sympathy to you regarding your son.
MQ: Quack
V: I know. I know. He received a fitting memorial though - wrapped up with some plum sauce. He was a little crispy, I must admit. And not very aromatic.
MQ: [looks confused]
V: In Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' the most terrifying shot is the final one, where a huge number of birds circle Tippi Hedren's house. Do you think this scene would be more scary now if one of them sneezed?
MQ: [flaps wings aggressively]
V: That's your opinion, and you are entitled to it. I would just like to use this point to say, Mrs Quack, that if you feel either 'hot' 'cold' or 'shivery' during the course of this interview, I will open fire without a second's thought.
MQ: Quack.
V: Now, there is one scandalous Hollywood rumour that a certain duck whose name rhymes with 'Ronald' contracted HN51 after a night of wild abandon with another celebrity duck whose name rhymes with 'Baffy.' I would like to ask you - have you seen the video of this? And if so, can I borrow it? Just for research, like...
MQ: [takes off microphone, shakes head, and waddles away from interview]
The Valley

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bath in a Paragraph (or two)

Went to Bath in Somerset for a romantic weekend with Mrs Vitch. Had a great time. Thought I’d fill you guys in about what I loved and hated about the town.

Loved – The Corston Fields Farm B&B (Bed and Breakfast for all you non-UK peeps) we stayed at just outside of Bath (visit their website at
www.corstonfields.com). It was slightly more expensive than some of the other potential B&Bs in the town, but definitely worth it. The owners (Gerald and Ros) are incredibly welcoming, and Ros cooks up a mean full English breakfast. Now, I’m known as a chef extraordinaire in our household, but even The Vitch cannot hold a light to Ros’s breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, mushrooms and more (to note, most of their food is locally produced). Also, Ros and Gerald, if you are reading this, Mrs Vitch would gladly buy the bed in the Mahogany room off you, it was that comfortable. Everyone, check it out and stay there.

Loved – The Roman Baths (
http://www.romanbaths.co.uk/). It was educational, but avoided being worthy. Beware, it gets very busy at the weekend, and isn’t the cheapest place to go to (£20 for two people), but we loved it. The best bit? Getting to the outside baths and sticking my fingers in the water to see how warm it was, only to find out from a sign that the water is now apparently toxic (lead pipes and flooring) and you shouldn’t touch it. I’m now suffering from heavy metal poisoning.

Loved – Prior Park Gardens (
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-priorpark/). It’s a steep walk up the hill from Bath to get to it, but the views once you are there are great. Beware, you cannot park anywhere near the site, so park in the town centre and walk. It apparently has one of only four Palladian bridges in the world, presumably because Palladian bridges are always falling down.

Annoyed – By the expensive prices everywhere – I guess going to a “cultural” city means a price hike, but still. A £3 per person ‘donation’ to get into the Abbey! I only had a £10 note, so I made change from the collection plate, much to the consternation of the front door attendant. The Jane Austen experience (
http://www.janeausten.co.uk/) is similarly expensive (£6 per person) and though it was ok, I don’t feel like it was value for money. Other than the fact that Jane only lived in Bath for something like 6 months of her 41 year life, I didn’t really learn anything about her. I think I learnt more about her brothers (two of whom were Admirals in the Navy – nice going).

Hated – F.East (
http://www.f-east.co.uk/index.htm). Apart from the annoying way of spelling the name (F.East - Far East/Feast, geddit? – yep, rubbish) we wandered in while we were waiting to see “Good Night and Good Luck” at the Odeon (of which more later) and had a thoroughly bad time. It was really expensive (in Bath? Surely not!) and the buffet was sub par. The food was warm, not hot and it was pot luck as to whether something tasted like it should. Some dishes were ok, but others sucked. Plus, we were told (in an empty restaurant) that we could stay 2 hours MAXIMUM as the dinner rush was soon to start. Good customer service it was not. Avoid this place like the P.lague (see what I did there – no?).

Anyway, go to Bath. Its good fun and I can guarantee it’s classier than Gillingham on a Friday night, though I suppose most places are…

The Vitch

Clone Alone: The Genetic Artistry Of Dr Panos Zavos

John Lennon once wrote that 'Life Is What Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans' but I would today like to talk about someone is busy planning to make other lives (and has absolutely nothing to do with John Lennon). That man is Dr Panos Zavos. Dr Zavos, whose name instantly conjures the image of the moustachioed Dr.Nick from The Simpsons, is one of the more controversial figures in genetic cloning.

Last month Dr Zavos implanted a cloned embryo into a woman's womb, then proudly announced the fact at a London press conference. Scientists called him 'irresponsible.' Geneticists called him 'innovative.' The clone will probably call him 'daddy.'

It's not the first time Dr Zavos has run headlong at controversy armed with a jousting pole. A couple of years back he said the Bible was cool with what he did. His reasoning? God said 'Thou Shall Not Kill' not 'Thou Shall Not Clone.' God must be kicking himself about that one.

'Cos now Dr Pavos is allowed to bring all sorts of wacky wonders in the world. First children. Then children with muscles. Then child super-soldiers. The obvious outcome of all this cloning is clearly world domination via an evil army. Oh God, how could you forget that vital, vital 11th commandment?

Despite his Greek-Cypriot heritage, I thoroughly disagree with Dr Panos Zavos. I would like life to continue to be created by God, a nice man with a big white beard, and not Dr Zavos, a kooky cat from Lexington, Kentucky.
The Valley