Monday, 30 November 2009

An Old Woman in Barclay's Bank in Uppermill

I was paying some money in and struggling with the paying-in slip...remember when you used to fill those out for fun as a child? Banking was very exciting to me as a kid...

Anyway,  I was struggling and an elderly lady came in clutching a lot of paperwork and she went up to the counter and handed the bulk of paperwork over to the cashier and said that she had been told to come into the branch by a nice man on the phone, as she needed to change the details of her account.

The lady behind the counter nodded and asked why she needed to change the details and the elderly lady said:

"My husband died last week so I need to close our joint account and get one in just my name. This is his death certificate."

I was the only other customer in the bank and her words hit me like a ton of bricks, the two staff members in the bank also fell silent, the elderly lady gave a weak smile and the cashier began the process of erasing her husband's name and details from the system with a seriousness befitting the situation.

I paid my money in and left, thinking how sad that was, what a horrible thing to have to do and I got angry that no family members were around to help her with the tidying up of the loose ends left by death.

Perhaps she didn't want a fuss.

And then to top it off, I read this piece today in the Guardian about how homosexuality in Uganda will soon be punished by death or life in prison.

Sometimes, we seem to be taking far too many steps backwards...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Poles Apart: Done and Dusted, Perhaps Forever...

I'm back! Although not for too long, as I'm off to Milan this week to do some filming, so going to cram in a few blog posts and get this blog-show back on the road after the brief reprise of Poles Apart.

And where to start with Poles Apart?

Very much mixed emotions really, on one hand utterly wonderful to be back on stage, performing live rather than in recorded media, great to be getting laughs and making people think and theatre, for me, is where it is at. I just love connecting with a whole bunch of people in a room.

But I just feel that Poles Apart has run it's course, there is a threatened third and final reprise some time next year in fucking Shropshire of all places, which considering the voodoo that place has on me I doubt it'll be much fun. Plus, Mark and I's working relationship is not in the best of shape and there is a danger that it could bleed into our personal relationship, which would be frankly terrible and a cruel blow. I just feel that after working together since 1997 our time as a double-act has perhaps come to an end.

We did however discuss a new idea for a show where Mark and I run for parliament and I must confess, I am very keen on that but will it put too much strain on us and is that strain and unhappiness worth it, in order to make art? Maybe it is, maybe not...not too sure at the moment.

As for the show itself, we rehearsed briefly, the show coming back surprisingly quick and then developed the new material I had written about the BNP and bashed that into some kind of shape.

We then took it to the Lowry in Manchester and proceeded to sell out the venue and then have a cracking night with far too many highlights but the spontaneous applause Mark got for a some anti-racist thoughts and the Vietnamese couple on the front row getting some applause for being Vietnamese were real treats. It just felt so positive, so joyous, a room full of people coming together, what the show is all about really.

Then to London and the RichMix with a sense of dread, as London is notoriously hard to sell tickets in and the audiences can be tough and aloof. Well, the Friday night turned out to be even better than the Lowry, which we thought impossible, not only were the large audience up for it and engaged they were also willing to go wherever we took them, whether that be dark humour, silly visual gags or serious moments of reflection. It was a cracker! We also got given a category for our hard to categorise show: a comedy seminar. Brilliant!

The Saturday night, what could be the last Poles Apart ever, was a game of two halves really, not that the audience noticed I think (thankfully we sold well again) but we were a bit sloppy and lacking concentration in the first act and every time we clawed it back we let it slip again. We gave ourselves a kick up the arse in the interval and pushed hard in the second act to redeem ourselves and I think we did it, just wish we'd gave it our all in the first half and not been so cack-handed with the work; such moments in front of an audience are priceless, who knows when they'll next occur?

You'll be glad to know that no daft racists turned up, as I expected, because they are all deluded cowards, even though we made it onto a few far-right message boards and forums.

Lots of people turned up to support us, which I am very grateful for and would like to say thank you to everyone that helped promote the show and came to see us; we couldn't have done it without any of you.

Some bloggers have even written reviews, including Rog T with his thoughts, Ellie with hers and Rashbre with his and if anyone else chips in with some words do let me know so I can share it, whether it be good or bad.

And for now, that's it, until tomorrow that is...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Poles Apart: Rehearsals Commencing Soon

Well, here we are again, one more weekend at home before popping off to Manchester to rehearse Poles Apart.

I've spent most of this week either re-learning my lines (which has come surprisingly easily I am grateful to say), checking over the statistical details of the show (there is always a know-it-all in the audience), or writing new material.

Mark and I decided that it would be remiss of us to let the election of two British Nazi Party MEPs pass unmentioned in a show that is about immigration, especially as the BNP are so obsessed with immigration and race and fundamentally, upon close inspection, their policies and ideas are actually really quite amusing in a backward, oh my God did they really just say that, kind of way.

Although the downside of this was pouring over BNP policy and press releases to get a decent handle on their bizarre dogma (anyone for chain gangs to restore our coastal defences?) whilst trying to make jokes out of it, when it is already pretty ridiculous and poorly thought out in the first place.

Once written we then had to find a home for them in what is a pretty tight show but I think we've found good homes for the three BNP scenes, which are (not wanting to spoil anything for those coming to watch): a Nick Griffin musical medley, an insight into the night the BNP won two seats in the European Parliamentary Elections and finally, what happens when a Nazi tries to join the BNP.

Blogging will be light obviously over the coming week as I am deep into rehearsals but if you can, please do show your support for Poles Apart and come and see us in Manchester on the 26th November (which is nearly sold out I've been told) and London on the 27th and 28th November (which isn't, not yet anyway).

Do widzenia!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Internet Laws Part 3: DeMyer's Laws

Ken DeMyer is a terrible online hack and his uniquely awful writing style has influenced a whole raft of laws in his name, which are best observed by anyone who doesn't want to come across as a bit of a crank and Internet loon. DeMyer's Laws are as follows...

DeMyer's Zeroth Law of Internet Debating states:

“If you are Ken DeMyer...or another of Kenneth DeMyer's aliases, the debate will eventually reach a state where you violate one of the internet laws and you are going to lose.”

DeMyer's First Law of Internet Debating states:

“Anyone who brings Young Earth Creationism into an argument - that is not about creation, the origins of life or the age of Earth - requires no further serious consideration and is deemed to have lost the argument.”

DeMyer's Second Law of Internet Debating states:

“Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations, can be very safely ignored and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.” (On a personal level I have extensive experience of dealing with bloggers that use this terrible tactic, which runs hand in hand with the Argument From Authority fallacy)

DeMyer's Third Law of Internet Debating states:

“Anyone who posts a picture with a caption which does anything other than describe the picture is deemed to have already lost on the point they were trying to make and it can be ignored."

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Internet Laws Part 2: Cohen's Law


Formulated by Brian Cohen in 2007, Cohen's Law states that:

“Whoever resorts to the argument that ‘whoever resorts to the argument that (insert idea here) has automatically lost the debate’ has automatically lost the debate.”

Has also been stated in the much longer version:

"Whoever resorts to the argument that 'whoever resorts to the argument that... 'whoever resorts to the argument that... 'whoever resorts to the argument that... 'whoever resorts to the argument that ... 'whoever resorts to the argument that... ...has automatically lost the debate' ...has automatically lost the debate' ...has automatically lost the debate' ...has automatically lost the debate' ...has automatically lost the debate' has automatically lost the debate."

Monday, 16 November 2009

Poles Apart Redux

As some of you will already know, because I emailed you and you kindly publicised it on your blogs and websites, Poles Apart is being brought out of retirement after it's sell-out tour of the UK at the beginning of this year.

For an insight into the show from Blurred Clarity itself, check out this raft of posts that cover the last time we toured, the devising/rehearsal process and when the idea first popped up and our time in Poland.

And just in case you don't know, last year, sick and tired of the endless dirge of bigotry, lies and anti-Polish sentiment coming from the right-wing press, me and my mate Mark decided to go to Poland. We wanted to get a job; to put our money where our mouth is and garner a small taste of what it means to be an immigrant. We wanted to single-handedly reverse the Eastern European immigration trend.

So we got our CVs and covering letters translated (badly as it turned out) into Polish, put on our best interview clobber and made our way to Poland in a Vauxhall Astra.

We spent over two weeks as immigrants in Warsaw, ate a lot of lard and pigs feet and attempted to get any job we could, whether it be as a lift operator, a porn film star or a guttering and flues salesperson.

It was an amazing adventure that taught us much on the realities of life as an immigrant.

We eventually returned home and made a comedy show about our experiences that covers not only our time as economic migrants but documents the history of Poland, it’s 300 year relationship with the UK and the highly charged immigration debate in the UK.

The show contains Poland’s brightest new stand-up comedy star: Dariusz Drag, with jokes about Russians and Jews, a beginner’s guide to Polish culture, Political Correctness being wrestled to the floor and made to gag, the 1973 World Cup qualifier between England and Poland brought to life in front of your very eyes and Poland’s leading avant-garde theatre cooperative re-creating the invention of the Keroesne Lamp via interpative dance and extensive harmonica use.

Plus, Nick Griffin, avec eye patch, will be appearing to stroke his mandolin and sing his favourite ballad: “I’m Not Racist But…”

It’s on at The Lowry in Manchester on the 26th November at 7:45pm and the RichMix theatre in London on the 27th and 28th November at 7:30pm and if you've not had a chance to see me and Mark in action why not pop along and support us? It would be much appreciated and you do come, make sure you stick around after to make yourself known...if I don't know you already that is...

To wet your whistle, how about a few videos of our adventure and the show itself?

Poles Apart from Hard Graft Theatre on Vimeo.

Poles Apart Trailer from Andonis Anthony on Vimeo.

And if you're on that new fangled facebook thingy, get yourself in on the event group why don't ya?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bible Study: Modernity Doesn't get it

I know it has been a rather sporadic series of posts but today marks the final Bible Study post, the others can be found, in order of tracking the history of the Bible, at these places: And in the Beginning..., NewTestament, Humans Are Too Stupid and A Very Confusing Book Indeed.

The current modern Biblical malaise stems from a desire for certainty, as if to combat scientific certainty (which in itself is not totally certain) and to a degree, this has bred the modern, defensive Christian, who feels under siege from science and indeed modernity and has entrenched themselves in the warm comfort of Biblical dogma and apocalyptic visions. No longer is the Bible an act of faith in itself but an act of intellectual submission to a set of beliefs ruled errorless and binding.

This desperation had led to a disgusting distortion of the scriptural tradition, as witnessed in the idea of the Rapture and whereas in the past, the less than humane parts of the Bible were passed over or treated with exegesis, modern faith has actively sought these portions out and has invoked them ahistorically and literally.

Quite simply, the Bible is not there to back up political policy, doctrines or beliefs; it is an activity unto itself and not one to be abused as a mere block quote, to justify some insane position or another. The fundamentalist emphasis on the literal, which is ever restricting and limiting, is a breach with the long tradition of the figurative and the innovative.

It has not all been one way traffic though, modernity, with all of its advancements, has brought about unprecedented violence and tools of destruction, these have coloured interpretations of the Bible, apocalypse became a reality and the violence of modernity has in turn made the Bible more violently interpreted.

Modernity's assumptions about the Bible are, for the most part, horribly incorrect. The slavish conformity and dogma that is much of its current incarnation have little to do with Biblical tradition, the Bible is anti-orthodoxy and was always supposed to be contradictory and conflicting but more importantly it was supposed to be interactive and ever changing.

We have a long way to go to get back to that kind of subtle interpretation...

Friday, 13 November 2009

Page 3 Propaganda (Video Does Contain Boobs)

This is a great piece of work by Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads, a short film that exposes the long history of using the Page 3 girls as mouthpieces for political propaganda; brainwashing their readers with boobage, as Tim calls it.

You may laugh but this insidious tactic sums up the back hand way The Scum works to spread myths and whoever's political agenda it is currently backing, as Tim says:
"Since 2003, the Page 3 feature in The Sun has carried an item called 'News in Briefs' instead of the usual pun-filled caption of days of yore. Even the title itself is a lie; this 'news' item rarely carries news, and instead carries an editorial/opinion (an important distinction to make, especially when dealing with media owner Rupert Murdoch, the father of FOX News).
We are not saying that a young woman with her tits out is not allowed to have an opinion; far from it. We are instead asking, if Page 3 is as 'empowering' as some people claim, then why aren't these women allowed to choose which issue(s) they discuss and/or express their own opinion about that when appearing on Page 3?
At present, they are clearly often (if not always) compelled to echo/repeat the opinions of Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Wade, Dominic Mohan, Graham Dudman, or whoever else is calling the shots that day. This is not empowerment; rather, it is exploitation.
We challenge The Sun to allow Page 3 girls to use their paid appearance(s) in that tabloid as a personal/political platform, just as they do for columnists such as Jeremy Clarkson, Jon Gaunt, Lorraine Kelly and Jane Moore.
If there is to be editorial content on Page 3, then it should be clearly labelled as opinion (not news) and it should always be the heartfelt, unprompted opinion of the woman whose name, face and tits are being used to sell the idea. End of.
Any standard less than this exploits these women and cheats the readers."

Page 3 :: Girls + Words from Tim Ireland on Vimeo.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Internet Laws Part 1: The Law of Exclamation

"The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters."

This law is related to author Terry Pratchett's field test for insanity, in which an increasing number of exclamation marks from one to five indicates increased separation from reality, with five exclamation marks being an infallible indicator of the speaker or writer being "someone who wears their underwear on the outside".

Other examples of The Law of Exclamation include phrases such as: "this is true, it ACTUALLY HAPPENED to me!!!!" or "This is SPOOKY!!! I thought it was just an urban legend, but it isn't!!!!".

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Ideal Present For Family & Friends: Blood Pressure Monitor

I think this sign, situated in my local pharmacy, speaks volumes about either my neighbourhood or the owner of the chemist.

I mean, who seriously thinks that a blood pressure monitor, a precursor to death, is an ideal present for family and friends? If I bought that for anyone I cared for, they'd punch me in the tit.

And how shockingly overpriced was the product in the first place?

But if any of my readers do want to pick up a cheap blood pressure monitor then make sure to drop me a line and I'll let you know where the shop is...

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Best Albums of My Life: 1976-09

My final music based list for a bit, until I unleash my top albums of 2009 upon your asses, is a simple top ten pick of the best albums released in my life time, with some notable mentions thrown in for good measure. I am aware that the title of this post makes it look like I'm dead but I'm not, not yet anyway.

10. PEARL JAM – TEN (1991)





5. BLACK FLAG – MY WAR (1984)

4. NIRVANA – IN UTERO (1993)




And as always, what follows are the notable mentions, the close but no cigar albums of the last 33 years...







Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Best Albums of the Noughties

Following on from yesterday's music themed post, I'm sharing with you yet another list, this time what I believe are the best albums released between the year 2000 and right bloody now!

Hold onto your hats people and feel free to offer contrary lists in the comments, or suggestions, or hate mail directed at my music taste...






5 .RYAN ADAMS – GOLD (2001)





Notable mentions that don't make it onto the list but are worthy of a shout-out include:







Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Best Gigs of My Entire Life...

I love music, even more perhaps than I love acting but I've actually not been to that many gigs, I've calculated around 47 since my first in 1987.

Having said that, to create a list of the very best is a lot harder than I at first thought and I need to reserve a special mention for my first ever gig. It was Spear of Destiny, an 80's post-punk band with a Nazi name that were actually quite left-wing. One of my cousins on my dad's side was their live sound engineer/roadie and I was only 11, it was the 1987 tour to support their big album Outland and that tour they went on to support U2, before the lead singer caught a rare illness and it all went to shit. I stood in the sound booth at Rock City, the UK's best heavy metal venue (if not one of the finest live music venues in Britain) and the best thing about Nottingham and watched them make gnarled sounds. I was bored shitless as I was starting to get into rap but that was where it all started.

So, in reverse order then...

Plan B, the white rapper who played acoustic guitar, may have slid off the face of the musical Earth but in 06 he was at his very peak; on the cusp of hitting the mainstream but playing a tiny bar (I saw him when he had 'made it' and it was a different and far poorer affair) and saying every single line as if he meant it. His stripped back vitriol and passionate delivery cut right through me, it felt as I had been in the presence of a British Woody Gunthrie and I had to go out and make a change to the world after this intense and honest performance.

It's easy to forget that Beck used to be quite good, even if his music was an exercise in showing off and was heartless, with Odelay he made one of the finest records of the 90s and I was an avid fan. This gig stays with me because it lasted for about 3 hours and was spectacular, it had dwarves, excessive strobe, film, a dancing troupe, breakdancing and one bit where the entire band moved in slow motion as if time itself was being tweaked. It was Beck doing Barry Manilow, it was a show and he was the arch-showman, backed up with a mighty album to transform and re-enct for us. Clever, clever stuff.

Aside from the BLK JKS, I am rarely at the cusp of seeing a band before they get famous but with Franz Ferdinand I managed it by sheer fluke. I was doing the Edinburgh Festival that Summer and it always has some music programmed, I saw Evan Dando that year too as part of his "Baby I'm Back" tour. I heard one track by them, they'd only been going since late 2002 and their big hits and debut did not impact till the start of 2004, anyway, I liked the name and the song so went on my own as no one else fancied it. I ended up stage diving, hanging from the low ceiling and getting in a right sweaty mess, flying solo, I rocked out with disco-punk abandon and will always carry a Franz Ferdinand shaped hole in my heart because of that magic night.

Never got to see Nirvana but when I got to see Dave Grohl it was if I was getting as close as I could to the memory of Cobain. "The Colour and the Shape" had just come out and I loved it, as I loved all of Grohl's work at this point. It was anthemic in its scope and catchy as hell with lyrics that had a massive personal resonance at the time. This gig wasn't so much about the music, which was great as he cherry picked from two fine albums and also did Marigold the Nirvana B-Side; it was more abut just seeing Dave Grohl and when he stepped on that stage I had to take a breath in. I also remember loving him because he came on with a T-Shirt dissing that shit UK lite-rock band Bush, he had spelt it like this you see: BU$H. Oh how we laughed as we sang along...

For the life of me I have no idea when exactly this was but as it was supporting the seminal album "A Ass Pocket of Whisky" is must have been late 96 or early 97. If you don't know, RL is one of the finest bluesmen ever to grace the Earth and he was brought to my attention by working with Jon Spencer (who really should be as famous as The White Stripes, considering he got there first but without a gimmick...) so I went to the arse end of Notts to the smallest club ever and sat right on the front. Out came RL, 70+ with a gut the size of Europe. His grandson was on the traps and he had the legendary Kenny Brown on slide. He stared at the small crowd..."Well, well, well" he said then stomped his foot, as his grand child started to smack the shit out of the kit, the slide came in as if Satan's steed and RL then blew us away for 70 minutes with his down home dirty lyrics and blues riffing. I feel blessed to have seen an original blues practitioner in such an intimate setting.

Detroit fuzz-rock is something I love, The Stooges are one of my favourite bands of all time but I also love the MC5, so when they reformed and decided to play a small, obscure venue in Notts I was there, along with Mike Thomas and another bloke who was nearly 40. We stood right in the middle at the front, not expecting to dance but to be in prime viewing for what is a small space. The MC5 emerge, they are old but look brilliant and then proceed to emit "Ramblin' Rose" such a massive racket, matched with a progressive melody that, before we all knew it, had slightly three old men moshing. When "Kick Out The Jams" kicked in we nearly did a wee in our pants and arms around each other, sang as if it was 1969 all over again.

I can't believe I saw this but my girlfriend at the time and me were massive fans, I mean she was 5 years older than me and had been into them from Lick and Lovey and she bought me the ticket as a gift. It was rammed and Dando was at the peak of his fame and then he came on and seriously, it was when he had that really long straight hair, druggie prettiness and just sex on legs with Nic Dalton on bass and Dave Ryan on trap set and Juliana Hatfield adding her weight. It was fucking amazing as he played all of It's A Shame About Ray and threw in some old classics for good measure off of Creator, Lick and Lovey...I even have the track listing somewhere and I can say, I was there when Evan Dando was good!

To put this into perspective, ever since I was 18 and got into Black Flag, via Nirvana, I have them down as the band that saved my life and I mean that. Obviously, they split in 1986 but due to Rollins wanting to raise funds for the West Memphis Three he used his backing group and got some guest stars involved, including nearly all the ex-members, to record a benefit album of Black Flag songs. All gravy but then he decided to tour the songs to get more cash for the guys and this is where I come in. I must confess, it was like a dream come true to see those songs, engrained as they are on my memory, performed live by the man that sang them some 22 years ago. I shouted my heart out, every line word perfect and held my arms aloft and cried the tears of a very happy punk rocker.

I am perhaps proudest of this gig, in that I can say I was there and that I saw the Stone Roses at their absolute peak...even if I was high as a kite and can remember little aside from just dancing like a mentalist and being consumed by the music like some funky monkey, limbs everywhere, spiralling, mind and body out of control as what felt like an army of youth stomped and lolled to the amazing sonic boom that was the Stone Roses. I remember that they played "I Am The Resurrection" and I felt myself grow to the size of Jesus and loom over proceedings, full of swagger and power and looked around to see myself surrounded by fellow giants and we all smiled, secure in our magnificence. And yes, I was only 13 but my mate Stone who was a 6th former got me in and I was big for my age and the rest as they say is history.

This stands head and shoulders above anything else because not only was it so profoundly moving but the music is some of my favourite of all time. It was shared with a fellow music enthusiast who I have sadly lost contact with, Mike Thomas. Let me back track, I had been blown away be De-Loused At The Comatorium and had absorbed it into my DNA by constant listening; which made its transformation on that cold night in Nottingham (I remember upon living the gig I didn't feel a thing, in some sort of trance, immune to things as base as feeling the cold) all the more transcendental. Mike and I watched as they performed the album in order but ripped it apart, it was loud, visceral, three-dimensional: an endless barrage of perfect noise that carried us away on a wave of shock and awe, utterly consumed, we were at their mercy and I would've died for them that night. As the final screams of "Take The Veil Carpin Taxt" ran out I noticed that tears were running down my cheeks, the narrative had consumed me, my heart rent asunder by the sheer brilliance of genuine music at its very peak.

Mike and I stumbled out, embraced, shared a tear and became forever changed. On a side note Mike and I went to see them at Brixton in 2005 I think and it was the greatest disappoint of my life, aside from the time I saw a reformed Wire plod through their greatest hits with about as much zest as a nearly dead dog.

Special shout outs have to go to the BLK JKS, who are a wonderful unit live; Ben Folds Five, who I saw often enough and always gave their all in what was always a fun, positive night with them; Hefner, who I was so impressed with, I wrote them a letter and we had some correspondence about shopping centres and finally UK rapper Sway, my first gig with my precious Eva-Jane where unfortunately, I was stricken with a mental health episode but via her kind care of me at the gig and the uplifting, positive thinking hip-hop of Sway, I found my way back to Earth.

Monday, 2 November 2009

FSA Talking Food Adverts

My latest advert has hit the small screen, it is for the Food Standards Agency and features me and another actor playing a variety of talking foodstuffs, including: a South London 'yout' sausage; a Geoffrey Boycott style grumpy potato; a very Nottingham slice of pepperoni pizza; a camp as Christmas salted nut; a very distressed fish finger and right here, you'll see me being a West Country dried apricot.

The shoot itself was a really fun day, we could play around with the script and the characters and although we were working in what looked like medieval torture devices to hold our heads in place, seeing my face superimposed onto a peanut is a real career highlight.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

I love this job!