Simian Substitute Site For August 2018: Funky Monkey Pub Crawl

Funky Monkey Pub CrawlMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JULY 2018

Movies: This is an awkward month to be talking about. As you've probably noticed, there were only two posts here in July, but those two posts took a ridonkulous amount of work to complete. And there's another issue: as you'll hopefully find out soon, July has turned out to be one of those months where there's plenty of activity to write about in detail in the future, but not very much that I can throw away in a quick paragraph here. So, this is going to be even more of a mishmash than usual, starting with a quick run through the films I saw at the pictures during the month. Ocean's 8: it doesn't have the effortless quality of Soderbergh's variations on the theme, but it's entertaining enough, and the cast are all having fun without making you feel left out of it. Yellow Submarine: fascinating to realise that all the avant-garde animation I've been watching in festivals for the last thirty years has borrowed from this movie somewhere along the line. First time seeing this in a cinema for me, and the setting emphasises the weird dichotomy between the speedfreak overload of the fantasy sequences and the mogadon pacing of any scene with the Beatles in it. Vertigo: last time I saw it in a cinema it was 40 years old. Now it's 60, and still more perverted than any other picture from the period you can name. Hereditary: nah. For all the hype, there's a British horror movie from the last decade (no names mentioned) which takes a similar narrative trajectory to this one, but works because it knows exactly how to slowly crank up the story to a point of no return. Hereditary moves in ludicrous fits and starts, so the only sensible reaction is to laugh at how daft it gets.

Theatre: For some reason, the leading male role in The King And I is never given to an actor from Thailand. I don't know about you, but that's a Tony Jaa movie I would kill to see. In the meantime, at least these days they tend to cast actors of Asian extraction: last time I saw it in London the King was played by Korean Daniel Dae Kim from Angel and Lost, and the current production at the London Palladium (running till September 29th) stars Japanese Ken Watanabe from various Christopher Nolan films. To be honest, giving the role to someone whose first language isn't English may have been a mistake: Watanabe has the presence that the role demands, but his diction leaves a lot to be desired, as he's frequently quite hard to understand. He's the main weak link in Bartlett Shears' production, hot from New York and bearing awards by the ton. Kelli O'Hara is quite obviously Broadway royalty and is spectacular as Anna, and the look of the show is always sumptuous thanks to Michael Yeargan's sets and Donald Holder's rich lighting. But it doesn't quite take off the way it should - you want Shall We Dance? to be a moment of total ecstasy, but it never reaches the heights you want it to. It's still an entertaining night out, but it could have been even more so.

Music: Here's a question: has anyone ever noticed that the categories in Month End Processing are always in alphabetical order, or have I just been wasting my time for the last eight and a bit years? Don't answer that. I only mention that rule here because I'm about to break it, as there's a bit of Music that refers back to the Theatre production mentioned above. In the programme for The King And I, they mention that Ken Watanabe has had a musical career prior to appearing in the show, and has released a couple of albums. This seems like the sort of research task that a monthly subscription to Spotify was made for. Which made it all the more bizarre to discover that Ken Watanabe, when he isn't acting in movies or Broadway shows, has apparently made a couple of records of glitchy electronica. A furious evening of research revealed what you've probably already guessed: there's another Ken Watanabe. This one has studied music production at UAL, Middlesex and Goldsmiths (according to his LinkedIn profile), and has cheekily managed to bagsy the domain kenwatanabe.com for himself. From there, you're currently able to stream or purchase his current track My Wetland Dream: I suggest you do that, if only to confuse him about why there's a sudden surge of interest in his music.

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Bermondsey Beer Mile: Slight (many happy) Return(s)

The Kernel Brewery, taken by The Belated Birthday Girl in 2014. You can tell it's an old photo, there are people in it.Twenty years ago today, I pressed a single button on a computer keyboard and UNLEASHED HELL. (Well, I say it was a single button, it was probably more like a messy FTP upload, but you get the idea.)

July 14th 1998 - Bastille Day, no less - was the day that I launched The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey, the Demon Internet website that eventually migrated over to this thing on Typepad. So, I've been spouting off on the internet for twenty years today. As I usually do most years, I'd like to thank all of you who've been reading this nonsense, no matter what proportion of those two decades you've been here for.

Still, the question remains: how do I best celebrate the anniversary of the creation of a website?

And the answer is: with the help of The Belated Birthday Girl, I've created another one.

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Simian Substitute Site For July 2018: Ten More Years Of Simians

Really not worth clicking on the picture this month, trust meMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JUNE 2018

Books: Six months after I first mentioned it here, I've finally got around to reading The Gospel According To Blindboy, the book of short stories by Blindboy Boatclub of The Rubberbandits. When I first heard he was working on it, I assumed they would be something like Limmy's stories, tales of surreal goings-on that would quickly spiral into something dark and distressing. And sure, some of Blindboy's stories do that (although they escalate much faster than Limmy's ever did: Arse Children, in particular, will be a jaw-dropper for anyone with any Irish in them whatsoever). But just as many of them take a swerve into somewhere that's still surreal, but utterly delightful, which works just as well for me. Apparently there's an audiobook on the way too, which is great because Blindboy's a terrific reader - he's roadtested half a dozen of these stories already on his podcast. To give you a flavour, you can find those stories linked to here, bearing in mind all timings are approximate because of the way adverts get randomly inserted into podcasts after their initial release: Did You Read About Erskine Fogarty? (starts 13:23), The Bourneville Chorus (starts 33:00), Scaphism (starts 36:43), Shovel Duds (starts 55:58), Malaga (starts 3:32) and Hugged Up Studded Blood Puppet (starts 19:55).

Movies: Bollocks to Secret Cinema, obviously. Mainly because it strikes me that in all the site-specific shenanegans that they build into their events, watching the actual film itself is very low down their list of priorities. It's possible to show a film properly and have fun with its presentation, as demonstrated by London's Prince Charles Cinema with their recent screening of Bonnie And Clyde. The starting point was, of all things, a University College London research project conducted between 2013 and 2015, Cultural Memory And British Cinemagoing, in which a thousand or so people were questioned about their memories of going to the pictures in the 1960s. Magnificently, all the raw data from that research can be read here: but they've also used it to recreate a typical 1967 night out at the movies, with Bonnie And Clyde as its centrepiece and UCL drama students helping out in supporting roles. The attention to detail was high throughout - hippies outside the cinema handing out invites to future attractions: personal greetings from usherettes and staff in period costumes: salt 'n' shake crisps and bags of boiled sweets handed out for refreshments. And that's before we got to the on-screen supporting programme: a batch of adverts for the concession stand, a Pathe newsreel about current crazes, and a Yogi Bear cartoon that was just mediocre enough for you not to feel cheated when it turned out to be the starting point for some theatrical silliness. All this and the Queen to finish off. As a nostalgia event, it was a little outside my timeframe (I think my first film at the pictures was Disney's Cinderella about a year later): but it was a brilliantly entertaining way to spend an evening, and I hope they do more of them.

Telly: Whenever The Belated Birthday Girl and I are in the kitchen these days, our cooking sessions tend to start with a joint yell of "ALLEZ CUISINE!", which can only mean one thing: Iron Chef America is back. It's been four years since the show was last on American TV, and close on double that length of time in the UK: as yet there's no sign of this season making it onto Food Network UK, so you'll have to use the combination of a VPN routing through Montreal and the website for Food Network Canada, which hosts the five most recent episodes of this ongoing run. There have been a couple of changes: Alton Brown's chatty introduction has gone, the number of judges has been reduced from three to two, and the basic challenge of the show - cook a five course meal from scratch in an hour - now has the additional requirement that the first course must be ready to serve in twenty minutes. All these factors ramp up the pace and urgency of the show even beyond the ludicrousness of its previous seasons. Happily, the gladiatorial aspect of the chef-on-chef battle is as hilariously tongue-in-cheek as ever, largely down to Mark Dacascos' role as the Chairman - the one remaining hangover of a series backstory that nobody even remembers any more, intended to link the show to its Japanese predecessor. If nothing else, watch the first four minutes of this slightly dodgy copy of the season premiere, and make it your goal for the month to have as much fun in your job as Dacascos does in his.

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Edinburgh Festival Preview 2018: We Will Deep Fry Your Kebab

No, no clues here, you'll have to look up the post title for yourselves.The rules are simple. If x is the number of a year after 1994, and (x+1)/3 is an integer, then x is a year when I'm not going to the Edinburgh Festival. Like this year, for example.

This doesn't stop Spank's Pals from going up there without me, of course. And so a secondary tradition has emerged over the decades: every three years, even though I have no intention of seeing any of the shows, I read through all of the Edinburgh programmes - International, Fringe and Book Festivals - and still come up with a list of possible recommendations.

They're primarily aimed at Nick and the crew going up there this year on August 11th–18th, so I'm not recommending anything outside of that week. But if the rest of you want to use these suggestions for your own purposes, feel free. All links go directly to the ticket booking pages for the shows, with one or two exceptions where appropriate. Here we go...

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Monoglot Movie Club: Gogol. Bored? Hello!

Just try looking at that statue without making a loud 'whoosh' noise with your mouth. I dare you.Now, you see, at the start of this year it didn't seem like such a big deal. "Fancy working for a week in Moscow?" they asked me in January. "It won't be for a couple of months yet, we'll need to sort out visas and everything." It'd be my first time visiting Russia, so how could I possibly turn down that opportunity?

It took nearly three months to complete all the paperwork, by which time we'd had that whole awkward business where the Russians allegedly tried to whack a couple of their own people in the Salisbury branch of Zizzi. Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia were at a post-Cold War low. Arsenal had just beaten CSKA Moscow 4-1 in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final. And I was going to be in Moscow the same week that the city was hosting the second leg.

Spoiler alert: I got out alive. Arsenal, meanwhile, won 6-3 on aggregate, only to bottle it in the semis.

So, while we're on the subject of football... If any of you are going to be in Russia for the World Cup over the next month - hey, look, an actual excuse for publishing this two months after the fact - here are some travel tips for you, along with two of my inevitable reviews of unsubtitled local films I didn't have a hope in hell of understanding.

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BrewDogging #53: Overworks

Carelessly, Overworks has chosen to serve its beers in glasses that feel pain.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn]

Earlier this year - in BrewDogging #49, to be precise - I introduced you to the concept of the Intergalactic Beer Visa, a small passport-sized booklet allowing you to collect stamps from each of the bars you visit. At the time, I didn't mention that the visa also has a competitive element to it, in that you can claim prizes for collecting stamps from all of the bars in a particular category. For example, all the ones in England, or Scotland, or London.

The easiest prize to claim is one they call Homedog, for anyone who manages to visit all of the bars in the brewery's home city of Aberdeen. The Belated Birthday Girl and I achieved that over the space of a single weekend - a weekend, in fact, when the number of Aberdeen BrewDog bars literally increased by 33%, thanks to the opening of BrewDog Overworks. We even managed to fit in an entire AGM between the second and third one.

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Simian Substitute Site For June 2018: Monkeyshrine

MonkeyshrineMONTH END PROCESSING FOR MAY 2018

Internet: Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris are the perfect example of modern jobbing comedy writers. Starting off about two decades ago with their spoof local paper The Framley Examiner, followed by a few years of writing the text bits in Viz, they've now become ubiquitous: creating modern Ladybird books, becoming Charlie Brooker's go-to writing partners, and transferring the tropes of Scandi noir to a Radio 4 sitcom. If you follow Hazeley and Morris on Twitter, it becomes apparent that they're fascinated by the mechanics of comedy itself, dropping behind-the-scenes stories of script-doctoring on Paddington 2 or how Philomena Cunk's interviews work. All of this comes together in their new podcast Rule Of Three, in which the pair interview different people every week about one specific piece of work they find funny, and pull it apart to analyse why it is. As E.B. White once famously noted, there's a very real risk of the frog dying, but so far they've managed to get the balance between analysis and laughs just right. Their chat with Jon Holmes about Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album is a good place to start.

Music: Time for another quarterly round-up of things I've been listening to. Justifications follow (along with YouTube links for the non-Spotified):
1. This one's still in my head after seeing Miyavi live in April. The World Mix loses the original's RAWK bombast, but adds some verses from Afghan refugee rapper Sonita.
2. One of the songs on Half Man Half Biscuit's new album contains a perfect six-word gag - "Hadron Collider / Who's there / Knock knock" - just in case you thought Nigel Blackwell's muse had run dry after thirty-odd years. This particular song is mostly here for the refrain, but it's a great refrain.
3. Kojey Radical was one of my big discoveries of 2016: I was convinced he would be huge by now, but the rest of the world seems to be taking its time catching up with him. In the meantime, there's this lovely single collaboration with Mahalia and Swindle.
4. Daniel Kitson ran the breakfast show on Resonance FM for three weeks in May. It was precisely the mixture of whimsy, cheekiness and unexpected music that you'd imagine. I think we can all agree, though, that this track by Awkwafina really shouldn't be played at breakfast time anywhere.
5. Time for one of those things that Spotify thought I might like: instrumental outfit Echo Collective covering Radiohead's album Amnesiac. Lots of it just sounds like the originals with the rough edges sanded off, unfortunately. But somehow, the Lytteltonesque swagger of the final track translates rather beautifully.
6. People seem to be very uncertain about the new Arctic Monkeys stuff. I actually like the fact that it's an album that I'm still not sure about after a couple of listens.
7. The singles suggested that Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer was going to be a highlight of the year: the album itself goes way beyond those expectations. You've all seen the emotion picture by now, hopefully?
8. As mentioned in the recent discussion of our Tallinn trip, Noëp puts on a pretty good live show. The records don't have quite the same oomph, but this is still a nice song anyway.
9. Still waiting for Ylvis' Stories From Norway series to get some sort of international release. In the meantime, at least we have the songs. This one (from The Andøya Rocket Incident) had a personal relevance for me a couple of months ago, because... well, we'll get to that.
10. Fifteen years after its initial release, Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks has been repackaged with assorted remixes and variations. This mashup of its most familiar melody (you may remember it from the film Arrival) and a Dinah Washington classic has been knocking around for some time, but it's nice to have it now available alongside the original.


Theatre: If the title of their recent show at Wilton's Music Hall is anything to go by, the next Tiger Lillies album will be called Devil's Fairground. It could just as easily be called More Songs About Fucking And Smack, except then you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from all their previous albums. To be honest, it must be well over a decade since I last saw the Lillies, having slowly drifted away from them since their career peak as the musical force behind Shockheaded Peter. They still look much the same now, apart from having changed drummers - the facepaint means that singer Martin Jacques and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Stout appear ageless. The night we saw them at Wilton's the audience was a little bit odd, breaking into shocked giggles at any swearing and seeming to be totally unfamiliar with the one cover version of the night, Is That All There Is? But the mixture of melancholy, pitch-black humour and pretty tunes still works for the band, so there appears to be no reason why they should change now.

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BrewDogging #52: Tallinn (Nordic Expedition II part 4)

Two of the most prominent features of BrewDog Tallinn are a merchandise wall and a Stargate.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo]

March 30th - April 2nd 2018

Having started in Denmark, trekked through Sweden and made our way across the water to Finland, there's one more country to go before this Nordic Expedition is complete. To be honest, up until recently my mental image of Estonia has been shaped by two things: the old Film Unlimited trope of the Estonian Butler Movie as the archetype of esoteric cinema, and the former sumo wrestler Baruto. (A couple of years ago, I managed to combine the two for an April Fool's gag.) But last time we were in Finland, we heard that the city of Tallinn had become a new hub for craft beer brewing: there were even Finnish brewers who'd moved over there for the tax breaks.

That isn't as dramatic a move as it sounds, as Tallinn is ridiculously close to Helsinki: just half an hour by plane, or two hours by boat. We take the latter option to travel to Estonia, using the Tallink Megastar ferry. It's Good Friday morning, so the West Harbour Terminal in Helsinki is full of Finns making the same journey for the Easter weekend, all being addressed over the PA as ‘dear darling passengers’. Our window seat on the Megastar turns out to be a good choice, despite the fantastically rude kids who barge in front of us every so often for a look: the voyage isn't as spectacular as our one into Finland, but approaching Tallinn through a layer of ice is still pretty impressive.

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Riding The Viking Line (Nordic Expedition II part 3)

Slussen, in Stockholm. It'll be nice when it's finished. (Around 2026, apparently.)March 27th-30th 2018

If Nordic Expedition II is a song, then this bit is the middle eight.

So far this week (as in the last week of March 2018), we've been to Copenhagen and Malmo, visited a new BrewDog bar and done several other fun things. Without wanting to give the game away too early, by the end of the week our journey will climax in a country that's entirely new to us. But in order to get there, we need to revisit some of the highlights from Nordic Expedition I: Stockholm, Helsinki, and a ferry journey between Sweden and Finland. The challenge is therefore to find new angles that we didn't already cover two years ago.

Let's see how we do, shall we? (Bearing in mind that all that 'new angles' shit is probably going to go straight out the window as soon as we get near a BrewDog bar.)

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BrewDogging #51: Malmo (Nordic Expedition II part 2)

It's the lightbox that confuses me, I think. Perfectly acceptable when it's behind the bar advertising the tap list, less so when it's outside the building.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading]

March 25th-27th 2018

These multi-city journeys require some planning, you know. Over the last decade or so, we've taken plenty of inspiration from The Man In Seat 61 when it comes to potential methods of getting around. But ultimately, you have to fire up multiple browser tabs for plane, train and boat websites to co-ordinate all the bookings, and that's before you even get to the hotels. Still, it all somehow comes together, and you even have a paper trail at the end of it. In the case of the original Nordic Expedition in June 2016, I can now look through my mail inbox and see that we had our route through Norway, Sweden and Finland booked and locked down by April 16th.

So imagine our delight when BrewDog Malmo opened just over a fortnight later, in an entirely different bit of Sweden. It was too late to change our route by then, and even if we'd wanted to it would have taken us massively out of our way. We always suspected we'd be coming back eventually to tie up that loose end. And two years later, here we are.

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