Friday, 28 February 2014

Am I Cultured?

The Sunday Times is a huge British newspaper that is published every Sunday (obviously) and takes approximately a month to read. You need to have worked out at the gym for months to be able to carry the bloody thing home.

And when you get home you open it up and it consists of section upon section of news, business, sport, money, fashion and many other subjects.

One of those magazines is a newspaper in its own right called “Culture”.

I always try to read this magazine – mainly because it has details of what is on TV over the coming week. However, there is a lot more to it than just TV listings.

The “Culture” magazine has articles on the latest books, music, movies, art, ballet, opera – you name it, “Culture” probably covers it.

Nevertheless, the subjects are genuinely more high-brow – or “cultured” if you like.

Take the movie reviews, for example. You may have read my last post about movies, in which I sang the praises of superhero films, comedy films and action thrillers. Such movies barely get a mention in the Sunday Times; the reviewers opt to cover more cultured movies – for example Lincoln, a film I absolutely slated in my previous post.

And this leads me to ask the question – am I cultured? Or am I just a boorish philistine with shallow views who scoffs at profound and deep meaning in books, music and entertainment in general.

You might agree, if you are a regular reader. I have insulted opera, Shakespeare and modern art in this blog and I can imagine that a “cultured” individual, who loves opera and cries whenever he sees a rousing Shakespearean speech while appreciating a vomit stain on the walls of the Tate Gallery, might roll his eyes, shake his head and dismiss my, in his eyes, shallow views on such erudite art forms.

As far as films are concerned, I know what I like and to be honest I don’t really care whether people think I am a philistine for preferring movies that don’t bore me to sleep.

The same goes for books and music. Many years ago I was intrigued by the fact that Salman Rushdie had had to go into hiding because of a book he wrote. Somebody offered me the chance to read one of his novels, some years after that. It wasn’t The Satanic Verses, the book that got him into so much trouble. I can’t recall which one it was – I think I have blocked it from my memory.

Why? Because it was awful.

Now I am sure that people regard the books of Mr Rushdie as cultured but I hated my one and only foray into his imagination. The same can be said about other books that are meant to be magnificent works of art and “must reads”. I have tried a few and been completely bored with them.

Does this mean I am a philistine? Does the fact that I would rather read a Stephen King novel make me an uncultured barbarian when it comes to literary (so-called) masterpieces?

As regular readers know, I despise and detest contemporary art and the insipid pseudo-intellectual arguments like “it is breaking new ground” or “it’s not been done before” to justify an absolutely horrific load of shit masquerading as art hanging on the walls of a modern art museum. So-called cultured people fawn over these pieces of excrement describing them in the most colourful words and phrases that in reality mean absolutely nothing.

The fact that I do not believe the words they are using to try to describe what the artist was trying to achieve makes me, in their eyes, an uncivilized savage compared to them.

And what about music?

Such people love the fact that I listen to rock music and sing its praises because it confirms my standing as an uncouth monster that lacks any intelligence or taste.

Except I don’t lack intelligence at all and I love to prove this to pseudo-intellectuals whenever I get the opportunity.

In my view, progressive rock is the new classical music. Such music is technically brilliant and comes from the minds of geniuses. The instrumentation is perfect and the songs are mini symphonies. Take another genre I am currently enthralled by: symphonic rock. Artists such as Nightwish prove that orchestral music and heavy metal can be made to complement each other.

Here is an example which proves that what is essentially a heavy metal band can produce a wide range of musical styles, in this case an instrumental orchestral piece. Even if you hate heavy metal please press play – because this will surprise you and hopefully amaze you:

So am I cultured?

If being cultured means being a pseudo-intellectual making up bullshit about a pile of bricks in the middle of a room – then no!

If being cultured means buying and reading a book by an author who is vastly overrated and only gets reviews in the Sunday Times – then no!

If being cultured means pretending that I like a film like Lincoln because it won Oscars – then no!

If being cultured means not buying the music I love because “heavy metal” is the music of thugs and savages – then no!

If being cultured means raving about Shakespearean actors performing Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon – then no!

If being cultured means sipping an expensive wine instead of my favourite pint of bitter – then no!

I hate modern art; I prefer Stephen King novels to boring Sunday Times bestsellers; I love my no-brainer action movies and not boring Oscar winning nonsense; I buy the music I love whether it be heavy metal, pop music, progressive rock or classical symphonies;

And Shakespeare is STILL rubbish!

I personally think that culture is an individual quality. If you are happy with your opera, Shakespeare, Rushdie or even framed vomit-stains on a wall in a museum full of junk masquerading as art – then that’s fine by me. Just as long as you don't pretend to love them just to appear cultured.

I regard myself as cultured – and you are too (unless you are a pseudo-intellectual in which case you are a pretentious arse).

Do you agree, dear reader? 

Do you think I cultured or am I a philistine?

Do you think you are cultured? 

If not, why not?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Alphabet Movie Meme

I discovered a brand new movie meme while browsing the web. It may not be new but I haven’t seen it before – so I am going to have a go. It’s an Alphabet Meme so let’s dive in:

Anctipated Movie in 2014

If I can persuade Mrs PM to go to the cinema then it will be the sequel to one of my favourite films:

I will start working on her now.

Book Adaptation I Would Love to See

A couple immediately leap to mind. Bryan Lumley’s Necroscope would shatter all illusions about the pathetic vampires we see in movies today. A really good adaptation would terrify anybody who thinks that the dreadful Twilight Saga contains quintessential vampires.

Having just read Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, I think that too would make a fantastic film or series of films, particularly the fearsome Shrike:

Celebrity I’d Most Love To Meet

I think that would have to be Clint Eastwood, as long as he promised not to pretend to talk to Barack Obama. If I could resurrect a dead celebrity, I would choose two: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, circa 1940, and chat to them about their hilarious movies.

Dream Director/Actor Pairing

I would probably put somebody like Quentin Tarantino with Robert de Niro. That would be interesting.

Essential Classic Movie

Now here’s a question. What exactly is a classic movie these days? Movies made in the 1970’s are 40 years old and when I was a kid, old black and white movies from the 1930’s also fell into that category. I am going to cheat and name a proper “classic” movie – and a “modern” classic.

First, The Public Enemy, from 1931, which is a marvellous film about a ruthless gangster, perfectly portrayed by the brilliant Jimmy Cagney.

Second, and moving into a more modern era, The Godfather Part 2, which sees two of the greatest actors, Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, sharing the limelight in this magnificent sequel to another great film, the original Godfather.

I see that I have picked two gangster films – that is just a coincidence.

Favourite Film Franchise

I am a sad geek so there is only one choice; Star Trek. I love most of the films but my particular favourites are:

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek (The JJ Abrams Remake)
Star Trek: Into Darkness

Genre I Watch Most

You can probably tell from my answers already that I am a massive fan of science fiction. However, I would go further and add super hero films as a kind of “subset” because they are, strictly speaking, science fiction films – don’t you agree?

Hidden Gem

Long before Jurassic Park hit our screens with its fantastic marauding dinosaurs and superb special effects, there was another movie about a theme park gone wrong. That movie was, of course, Westworld, the story of a couple of guys who go on holiday to a theme park where they can immerse themselves into a wild west experience with robots playing the part of the of cowboys and gunslingers. Of course, it’s perfectly safe – that is until the robots break their programming and start killing the guests. Yul Brynner is superb as the gunslinging robot pursuing our hapless hero through the theme park with one intention only – to kill him. 

Important Moment in my Film Life

I would probably say that it was the day my dad succumbed after weeks of me pleading with him to watch a horror movie. He let me stay up to watch the 1958 Hammer horror film, Dracula, starring Christopher Lee. It scared me half to death but kindled within me a deep fascination with horror and vampires in particular.

Just Right for a Rainy Day

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (or if you are in America, just Avengers). Just switch you brain off, forget the weather outside and immerse yourself in two hours of total mayhem. It’s got everything – incredible (and flawed) super heroes, endless action sequences and an incredible villain – as well as some fantastic moments of humour.

Who can forget the moment when The Hulk takes on Loki? I laughed so much at that scene.

I truly love this film and can’t wait for the next one.

Kiddie Movie I Still Shamelessly Enjoy

Toy Story 2. My lads wanted to see the sequel and I hadn’t seen the first one. I promised to take them on a Sunday afternoon and took the opportunity to rent Toy Story on the Saturday – just so that I knew what was going on of course. I loved Toy Story but the sequel was so much better.

It’s funny and heart-warming – and I have watched it probably about six times now (as a guilty pleasure).

Location I’d Most Like To Visit

Predictably – the bridge of the Enterprise. Just give me a part as an extra on the next Star Trek – that’s all I ask.

Movie That I Know By Heart

Monty Python sketches are legendary, so much so that I can recite a lot of them. It’s sad I know. So it stands to reason that I can also recite a huge part of The Life of Brian – my favourite comedy film of all time.

“He’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy!”

“And what about you? Do you find it risible when I say the name … Biggus … Dickus?”

Netflix Movie I Actually Watched

I don’t have Netflix.

One Movie I Watched More Than Once

Again it was The Life of Brian. The entire movie had me crying with laughter so much that I had to pay to see it again just to see some of the other jokes I missed the first time.

Preferred Place to Watch a New Movie

There is no better place to watch a huge action movie than the big screen itself. My answer is definitely the cinema.

Quote That Inspires Me

There are lots – but I particularly like this from The Matrix:

“There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

Remakes – Friend or Foe

I don’t mind remakes if the film is an improvement on the original. There are cases where they truly do work, for example the two recent Star Trek movies are pretty good. Some remakes are pointless, like rebooting Spiderman just a few years after the original trilogy was produced.

A remake needs to add something new and exciting and sadly a lot of them do not.

Snack I Enjoy Most

Don’t get me started on cinemas and snacks. There is so much wrong. In the UK, the queues for popcorn and fizzy drink are usually so huge that you simply don’t bother. Also, cinemas don’t allow you to take in your own snacks, which means that you have to buy overpriced huge buckets of fizzy drinks and colossal bags of sweets and popcorn. I once missed the start of a movie because of queuing just to keep my kids happy.

When I become World President, there will be changes! I promise!

Twist That Blows My Mind

It has to be The Usual Suspects. If you haven’t seen the movie, then I won’t spoil it for you – but it still sends a shiver down my spine when I think about it.

Unapologetic Fan Person For 

I actually like almost all of the movies I have seen Tom Cruise in, to be honest. I know that as a top Hollywood movie star, he has the first choice of the best movie scripts but before he really became a huge star he appeared in some great movies, such as Born On The Fourth Of July and Rain Man. Mind you, I’m not really a fan of Top Gun, bizarrely.

Also, he is the same age as I am – although I am much better looking.

Judge for yourself:

Plastic Mancunian
Tom Cruise
OK - maybe he is better looking than me.

Very Excited For Award Season?

Not at all. Some of the movies that win awards are worthy of them but there have been lots of examples of Oscar winners that in my humble opinion simply do not deserve it. Take Lincoln for example. I watched the movie on a flight to Oman last year and it bored me to tears. Daniel Day Lewis may have done a half decent impersonation of what people think Abraham Lincoln looked like and spoke like – but nothing bloody happened. It had too much boring political dialogue and is only truly of interest to an elite group of people who know and love that particular period of American history. So no – I don’t get excited by the award season at all.

Wish I Had Never Watched

I' m sorry to mention it again but having just moaned about it, I cannot let it go. I wish I had never watched Lincoln. I had such high expectations based on the awards it won – but it was boring and tedious. I am sorry to go on about it but it was.

XXX Movie You Watched At A Young Age

The Exorcist – and it scared me to death. I had sleepless nights for weeks and weeks and I have never watched it since, such was the impact it had. At the time I was 16 years old and still half believed the preaching of the Catholic church. The Exorcist exposed a deep-seated terror within that I had no idea existed, and then attacked it with maximum prejudice. Vampires are one thing, but Satan is another prospect altogether, particularly scenes involving demonic possession of a poor innocent child.

I still shudder when I think about it.

Your Latest Movie Related Obsession

The Marvel Super Hero movies without a doubt. I love every one of them: Iron Man, The Hulk, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, Thor, X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. And the great news is that there are many more of them due.

Keep them coming I say.

ZZZ – Catcher

Dare I say The Twilight Saga again? I got a bit of stick for my negative views on the Twilight movies (read them here). They are so mind-numbingly boring that they are a great cure for insomnia and I apologise to readers who actually like them (on second thoughts, thinking about it, I don't apologise at all!).

And Finally …

As usual, please feel free to steal this – and let me know your A to Z – I will genuinely be interested.

Monday, 17 February 2014

500 Posts? Really?

Welcome to my 500th post. 

Yes, that’s right; I have written exactly 500 posts of bunkum in the past six years. I’m surprised that I have managed to keep this up to be perfectly honest. 

Regular readers will know that I have done a fair amount of travelling, some of it with work and the rest with holidays. In total I have visited thirty six countries (if you count England, Wales, Scotland, Hong Kong, Macau and Vatican City as countries – for poetic license I will do just that!).

I have acquired quite a few photos that are taking up a fair amount of space on my hard drive and for this special post and for a bit of fun, I have decided to share a few of them with you under the guise of lessons learned:

Not all creatures in Australia are out to kill me. Australia is full of venomous spiders, venomous snakes, vicious salties and monstrous jellyfish (and even the platypus has venomous spurs on its ankles) but the cuddly koala is harmless:

Poor Koala! (Australia 2005)
Even the plants in Australia can be dangerous.

Nasty tree (Australia 2005)

When I take over the world, I will use the robot army I discovered in Japan.

Piers Morgan - watch out! (Tokyo 2013)
Random strangers in Iceland are very friendly and like to cuddle Plastic Mancunians whenever there is a photo opportunity.

"Can I just hop into your photo?" (Reykjavic 2010)

Never ever ever EVER wear a Hawaiian shirt – not even for a laugh at a beach party in Barbados. It’s not cool and it certainly isn’t clever.

OH MY GOD!!! (Barbados 2007)
Glaciers are very cold. It is sensible to wear a warm coat and gloves. I failed.

"I really think you should wear a hat and gloves, young man!" (Canadian Rockies 2010)

Random strangers in Hong Kong are very friendly and like to cuddle Plastic Mancunians whenever there is a photo opportunity.

"My life's ambition - to meet a Proclaimer!" (Hong Kong 2013)

Don’t ever ever EVER grow a beard ever again. 

Can you actually see it? (Beijing 1999)

It is impossible to get a close up of Niagara Falls without getting your camera wet.

Can you actually see the Falls? (2001)
And finally, here are a few random pictures of some great places I have visited:

Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi (2012)

Boston (2009)
Alaska (2010)

The Great Wall of China (1999)

Hong Kong (2008)

Kyoto, Japan (2013)

Lisbon (2011)

Niagara Falls (2001)

Pompeii (2006)

Rome (2012)

Sydney (2005)
Post 501 should be on its way soon - where normal drivelsome nonsense will be renewed.

Thank you so much for reading so far. I really appreciate it.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Room 101 (Part Three)

A new series of Room 101 has started on BBC1, a show where famous people can banish things those things that annoy, irritate or simply horrify them so that the human race never has to see or experience them ever again. 
I have written two previous posts in a similar vein and so far have expelled twenty items,into that dark gruesome place including one or two people.
You can read about them here and here.
Now it’s time for ten more horrors to be cast into that room. 

Psychic Mediums
Psychic mediums, or charlatans as I prefer to call them, are basically con artists who prey on the vulnerability of people desperately struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one. I wouldn’t mind if there is any truth in what they claim. 
There isn’t - and to me it looks like The Emperor's New Clothes. Nobody can see it. 
Just look at this pile of crap and then dare to disagree with me.

Derek Acorah – please lead your fellow charlatans into Room 101.

Cold Callers

When somebody knocks on my door, I feel a surge of dread. Many people hope for a friend or a postman bringing a parcel or something equally pleasant. Sadly, most of the time it is a door to door salesman, somebody trying to shame me into giving yet more money to charity, a Jehovah’s Witness, somebody trying to persuade me to change my electricity supplier, a bunch of trick or treaters, a load of carol singers  or, worst of all, a politician canvassing for my vote.
The last doorstep pain in the arse was a Liberal Democrat party activist asking me what I thought about his party and whether or not I would be voting for his boss, the local Member of Parliament. I live in a marginal constituency and am therefore a prime target for these buggers. I told him what I tell them all:
“No! I don’t want to vote for your boss or your party. Goodbye!”
Good riddance to all of them.


McDonalds really irritates me, because they are ubiquitous and have been for seemingly decades. Worse, the burgers are unpleasant and don’t look anything like the pictures you see at the counter. 
Worse still, the food is horrifically unhealthy, as proven by the movie Supersize Me. 
Worse, still, I have had to explain to my kids again why we are having a healthy meal instead of visiting the McDonalds that was over the road from where I used to live. 
Worse still, they are trying to change their image by selling salads as if they now realise that they are contributing to the massive obesity epidemic in America and Europe. A
And the crowning turd in the toilet? 
“I’m Lovin’ It”? 
Into Room 1010 you go.

Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend

Foreign readers will not know who these jokers are. Let me introduce you to them.
Clive Tyldesley is a football commentator on ITV. He has the most irritating voice in Great Britain. His football knowledge is zero. His jokes are totally unfunny. He is obsessed with his own ridiculous opinions. 
Andy Townsend is an ex-footballer who is Clive Tyldesley’s sidekick – or as I prefer to call him – partner in crime, the crime being ruining my enjoyment of the game with their inane, pointless banter, flawed opinions and irritating voices.
These two men make me think twice about watching football. Usually I turn the volume down – it’s better that way.
Begone – the pair of you!

A friend of mine who is into hip hop tried to explain the culture behind his music. And it was extremely and gave me a fresh insight into the main artists, the music and the philosophy behind it.
But I have to stay – rapping ruins songs – and I still hate it.
I’m sorry to any readers who love to “spit lyrics” and effectively just talk their way to musical stardom but I just don’t get it – and I never will. Now while I am fine leaving rap lovers to their own genre, what I really hate is when it invades other musical styles – in particular rock music. 
I blame Aerosmith. I love Aerosmith by the way but I hate this song because of the rapping:

If rapping goes into Room 101 then it will no longer invade the music I love.

Traffic Wardens

If I ever lose my job, and find myself faced with a life without work, the last job I would look for is that of a Traffic Warden. These people are universally hated and spend their time strolling around town centres, scrutinising parked cars to see if they are violating any parking regulations. It seems to me that when you enrol to be a Traffic Warden, you have to learn to adopt the grim face of a jumped-up jobsworth. You have to have the gene that shows mercy surgically removed from your body and master the art of a smug smile when you hand over a parking ticket to a little old lady.
Begone you evil subclass of humanity and let me park in peace.

Katie Price
If you have never heard of Katie Price, or Jordan as she is also known, let me tell you about her.
She is a topless glamour model, an author, a reality TV star, a singer and a producer of a range of lingerie and beauty products as well as perfume.  She has even tried to be elected as a member of parliament here in Manchester. Her manifesto was “free plastic surgery for all”.
Basically she is an ex tabloid topless model with big boobs who has used her fame and figure to irritate everybody in the UK (and probably beyond) and corrupted a load of young girls who want to be just like her. Her novels are ghosted and her music is awful. She tried to represent Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest and failed miserably – she is that bad.
Here she is “singing”:

Go away! Just GO AWAY!!

Eurovision Song Contest

Talking of Eurovision, this joke of a contest that has been around for decades should be cast into Room 101 immediately. Basically what happens is every country in Europe, ours included, writes a song and they all go up against each other in a contest that is broadcast all over Europe on a Saturday night. The winner is the song with the most votes as voted for by each country.

The contest in the past has had good moments; Abba suddenly found themselves thrust into the limelight in the 1970s with Waterloo.

Now, however, it is a total joke. The music and performances, ours included, are shit. The voting is equally contrived with countries only voting for their mates.

Take a look at this – if you like it then you belong is Room 101 too.

British Weather

We are suffering at the moment because of something called the jet stream which has altered its position, causing Mother Nature to dump the Atlantic Ocean over our entire country. The entire south of England is underwater – and has been for two months.

This happens a lot and it doesn’t matter what time of year it is.

I am sick of it. Please let us have some sunshine.

Bad Taxi Drivers

On my travels I have encountered many taxi drivers. Most of them are okay (although they charge the earth to get me from A to B) but some have been terrible. Here are the worst offenders:

The taxi driver at Manchester Airport who was happy to let me into his cab after I had returned, jet lagged, from Toronto and then, when I told him that I only wanted to go 5 miles instead of 35 miles he accused me of queue jumping, threw my suitcase out of the cab and told me to piss off. I reported him – I hope you got the sack!

The Chinese taxi driver who took us to the wrong hotel in Chongqing having almost killed us on the motorway by driving for about a minute with no hands on the wheel and looking back at us as he tried to double the price we had agreed at the airport.

The New York taxi driver who was Romanian and tried to convince me that he had played for Tottenham Hotspur – in the hope that I would give him a massive tip.

The South African taxi driver who diverted off the motorway to show me a Township and then demanded a tip at the airport.

Into Room 101 you go – and let the good taxi drivers prevail.

Do you agree with my choices dear reader?