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November 2013
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January 2014

"Well It's Kind Of Obvious Really, But You Can't Green Screen Sprouts"

It's almost precisely too late to be telling you about this, but Mr Weebl has been responsible for the most festive collection of videos you're ever going to see. In 2012 he restricted himself to a one-off collaboration with Right Said Fred: this year he's been making one short film every day throughout December, and putting them up on YouTube as The Mr Weebl Advent Calendar. It's a task that's forced him to push the boundaries of endurance and sanity. (Not to mention the boundaries of good taste, so be careful with a couple of these.)

Anyhoo, it's the 25th now, so Season's Greetings from me and The Belated Birthday Girl, with thanks to Mr Weebl for driving himself nuts for our entertainment.  

MOSTLY FILM: Review Of 2013

The official mascot of, camera operator Maurice StlyfilmWe're getting into the vinegar strokes of 2013, so everyone's doing their analyses of what's been good and bad about it. That applies to Europe's Best Website too, of course. This week, Mostly Film has been running a three-part review of the year, with contributions from many of its regulars. On Monday, it was a look at the year's television: on Wednesday, music: and coming up on Friday, the inevitable discussion of 2013's best and worst films.

I've contributed a bit to the music section: and as you can see, it's basically just a summary of what I wrote in my article the other day about my compilation CD, Hanging Out With Various Riff-Raff: Pick Of The Year 2013. As a result, I don't really have any backup material like I usually offer you - if anything, the background stuff is in the CD page.

Besides, most of the work in the Review Of 2013 articles has been done by the site's other writers. So let's celebrate them instead, with a list of my dozen favourite Mostly Film pieces from the year just gone. Follow the links and enjoy some of Europe's best film writing. (Mostly.)

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Hanging Out With Various Riff-Raff: Pick Of The Year 2013

Not riff-raffTechnically, this is the twelfth time I've had to do this in 2013. Sit down with one of my compilations of favourite songs of the year, listen to it from start to finish, make detailed notes while it's playing, and convert them into some sort of readable analysis.

Regular readers will know that this year, out of a misguided desire for completeness or something like that, I've been revisiting my earliest ever annual compilations, from 1982 to 1992. Along the way, I've had quite a few surprises: some records that I'd completely forgotten in the intervening decades, others where I have no idea nowadays what I ever liked about them. It's been fascinating, but it's time to get back to the present day and remind myself what grabbed my attention from 2013's releases.

The usual rules apply - I've burned an entire CD's worth of tracks from the year in question, and will attempt to justify their selection below. If you fancy listening to them for yourselves, there's a YouTube playlist at the bottom of the page. If you'd rather get your hands on a physical copy, then look out for the PRIZE COMPETITION towards the end of this article (closing date Feb 28th 2014). So with all that out of the way, onto the songs...

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Living For The Weekend: A 2014 Diary By The BBG story so far. Towards the end of 2011, The Belated Birthday Girl's frustration with the diaries available in shops reached some sort of peak. None of them were laid out in the specific way she wanted. So, with the aid of my book publishing arrangement over at Lulu, she made her own.

She did it again towards the end of 2012.

This article doesn't need anything like this number of paragraph breaks, but it helps to make the text stretch out to fit against the portrait-formatted image on the left. Because she's now designed a third one. So if you're in the market for a new diary, why not consider Living For The Weekend: 2014 Diary? Available for just £3.99 plus postage from Lulu. Buy now for Xmas. (Disclaimer: may not arrive in time for Xmas.)

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BrewDogging #12: Nottingham

Best. Graffiti. EVER.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush]

If you’re following me on Twitter, then you’ll know that the BrewDogging Projick was all wrapped up a fortnight ago, thanks to a sudden burst of activity at the end of November. On the last two days of the month, The Belated Birthday Girl and I visited the bars in both Shepherd’s Bush and Nottingham. I tweeted this from the latter:

As at 3.45pm today, The BBG and I have now drunk in all 13 @BrewDog bars, ending up at @BrewDogNotts.

We subsequently got a response from the official @BrewDog account, suggesting that we were probably the only people to have visited all 13 bars while not actually being on the company payroll. That includes Ian Prise, who famously spent eleven days in June sprinting through all 12 bars that were open at the time, but still hasn’t made it to the just-opened Shepherd’s Bush one yet. In your FACE, Prise!

Anyway, after doing thirteen pubs in a little under ten months, what have we learned? More on that shortly, but let’s look at Nottingham first.

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MOSTLY FILM: What The Fox Said Next

And he wore a hat, and he had a jobMostly Film's looking lovely at the moment, isn't it? Shortly after publication of the last piece I wrote for it, they gave the site a great big redesign, and it's all the better for it. Not only does it look pretty, but it's also much easier to navigate: so if, for some peculiar reason, you wanted to read all the pieces I'd ever written for it, just click on my monkey face in the right sidebar under Contributors and there they are.

Currently at the top of that list of pieces you'll find What The Fox Said Next, the latest one of those Monoglot Movie Club articles where I write about unsubtitled films I've seen on my various travels. It covers the two films (and one TV show) I watched in between stints of working, eating and sleeping in Oslo. I don't think I'll ever be so short for material that I'll write about my actual job, but this backup piece will cover some of the other things relating to my Norway trip.

That magazine cover over there is genuine, by the way. He's a detective, he has Downs, what else could you use as a title?

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BrewDogging #11a: Shepherd's Bush

'Sorry we ran out of letters!' The Belated Birthday Girl's photo from the soft opening of BrewDog Shepherd's Bush.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds]

We've been saying it since Bristol: this is a series of twelve articles. Twelve months in the year 2013, twelve BrewDog bars, twelve spaces in The Belated Birthday Girl's diary to document our visits to each one. But even then, we were getting a little ahead of ourselves - two of those bars (Leeds and Stockholm) were still under construction at the start of the year, and didn't open until March and May respectively. And there was always the possibility that the brewery would open another bar before the year was out. If they did that, would we be obliged to include it in our research or not?

That question was pretty much answered for us when BrewDog opened their thirteenth bar at the end of last month, just a short bus ride away from where we live. Hello, new local.

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This cover was *not* thrown together in two minutes in Photoshop. It was thrown together in two minutes in *Paint*. There's a difference.How best to explain this? Well, let's use an old Lee and Herring sketch as an analogy.

In series 2 of Fist Of Fun, there was a lengthy report on the Shrewsbury Pie Pie Festival. Every year (Brussels bureaucrats permitting), all the bits of leftover pie in the town are gathered up and baked inside a Pie Pie, which is then consumed by all the townspeople during the festival. Usually, no more than six or so of them die of food poisoning each time. (Once a decade, the leftovers from all the Pie Pies are baked into a Pie Pie Pie, but let's leave that aside for now as an unnecessary complication.)

So. Over the past year, in a nostalgic fit partly inspired by the landmark of my 50th birthday, I've been going back over my annual Pick Of The Year compilations, writing up all the ones that I hadn't got around to discussing on here before. That makes a total of 31 compilations so far, which will increase to 32 in the very near future when POTY 2013 hits the streets.

The Pick Of The Year CDs are pies, if you like. And 32/50 is the Pie Pie: an attempt to boil the music from 32 years of my life down to a double CD set featuring one track per year. So, if you found ploughing through over two days worth of music videos a little daunting, maybe you'll find 160 minutes a little easier to cope with.

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Simian Substitute Site For December 2013: The Northern Monkey


Books: 'Hatewatching.' It's such a pissy little word, isn't it? It's hard enough to catch the good stuff on telly, so why go to all that effort to track down things that you know in advance you're not going to enjoy? Having said that, I've spent part of the last month effectively hatereading Autobiography by Morrissey, so I can sort of understand the impulse a little bit. It's a messily structured piece of work that breaks down roughly into four sections. Morrissey's quasi-Dickensian childhood in Manchester, virtually unrecognisable from the one I experienced in the same city just four years after him: his glory days in the Smiths, glossed over in just fifty or sixty pages: his court battles over the Smiths' money, which take up as much space as the discussion of their career: and a rambly final sequence that appears to consist of raw lumps of his tour diary from the last fifteen years. Many people have noted that you have to read six pages before hitting the first paragraph break: I find it more alarming that you have to read seventy-odd pages before hitting the first joke, a charming anecdote about the day he bought his first New York Dolls record with a sweetly self-deprecating punchline. Sadly, Autobiography isn't big on self-deprecation, and its relentless negativity and blatant score-settling ultimately achieve the opposite of what a good showbiz autobiography does - it makes you doubt whether the original work was any good in the first place. An accidental encounter with Big Mouth Strikes Again on the radio shortly after reading the book at least convinced me that Morrissey used to be one of the wittiest and most darkly entertaining people in pop music: but those days appear to be long gone, I'm afraid.

Comics: My comics reading has slowed down to a virtual standstill, as I've been predicting since more or less the turn of the century. The only regular comic on my shopping list currently is The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman's 25th anniversary return to his most popular graphic work. (Only one issue published so far, and it's already running late, which seems like a bad sign to me.) I still keep my ear to the ground, though, and occasionally pick up the odd one-off that people are talking about: the most recent example of this was issue #11 of Hawkeye, Matt Fraction and David Aja's book about the ongoing adventures of the archery guy from The Avengers. I've enjoyed Fraction's more left-field writing in the past, while keeping clear of his superhero comics, but Hawkeye made me keen to read more of the latter. With perfect timing for Christmas, Marvel have just released a hardcover collection of the first dozen or so issues of Hawkeye, somehow keeping the price down to almost exactly the same as that of the two softbacks containing the same issues. Fraction's still got a knack for great pulpy comics writing - the first image in the book is Hawkeye being hurled backwards through a high-rise window directly into traffic - but the focus on the human being behind the superhero is what makes it unusual, and is backed up beautifully by Aja's rough-edged yet precise artwork. And it all climaxes with that issue #11, where a simple change of narrative perspective to one of the supporting characters turns it into something else entirely. I bought this at the legendary Page 45 shop in Nottingham, where the staff boasted that Hawkeye was one of the very few superhero comics they'd ever put on display in their window, and you can see why.   

Travel: The month just passed has been a little light on posts, as I'm sure you've noticed. Well, there's a reason for that: what with one thing and another, I've been travelling around like a mad thing all through November, staying in four different hotels during the month. You already know about my time in Leeds with The Belated Birthday Girl: at some point in December I'll be writing about my visit to Oslo for Mostly Film. But let's wrap up the other two locations here briefly. A short trip to Brighton and environs for yet another 50th birthday party (hi, Dave) had several non-party highlights. A splendid Korean lunch at Namul: a fun exhibition of Jan Švankmajer ephemera that closes on December 2nd, so run: Teddy's Tea Rooms, the ideal location for a morning-after chill-out, particularly thanks to the Cornwall-grown Tregothnan tea: and the Shoreham Bonfire and fireworks, whose actual bonfire made the one in London's Battersea Park look like a small accident with a cigarette. By comparison, a work trip to Dublin was mainly taken up with revisiting old favourite haunts: a movie at the Irish Film Institute, a burrito at Green Nineteen. But there were a couple of new discoveries in there too - Roly's Bistro turned out to be a thoroughly reliable location for lunch, and I finally got to visit legendary music venue Whelan's to catch Mary Coughlan and local support The Young Folk doing a charity bash for Sophia Housing Association. "Not bad for an ould wan," as the lady said herself.

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