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MOSTLYFILM: Celebrating Soderbergh

This is the original still from Schizopolis that I submitted to MostlyFilm along with my piece. For some reason, the piece's editor theTramp decided to go with something infinitely ruder. I'm not complaining, you understand.I'll keep this short, as I usually do when I've got a group piece on MostlyFilm to plug. (After all, it seems a bit much to write a thousand or more words of backup material like I did here when I only contributed five hundred or so to the original article.)

Anyway: Steven Soderbergh has a new film out, and here's its trailer. He technically stopped directing films five years ago (although during that time he directed two complete seasons of a TV show to keep himself occupied), but now he's back. In Celebrating Soderbergh, a bunch of the MostlyFilm regulars have picked one of his films and written about it. I went for Schizopolis, probably one of the oddest things he's ever done.

Need reminding what those films looked like? Well, that's why there's a video playlist down there.

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MOSTLYFILM: The Secret Life Of Arabia

Kingdom Centre in Riyadh. Ironically, given its shape, there isn't a single bottle worth opening in the entire city. I imagine most of you have made some sort of wallchart to accompany the BrewDogging posts on here. You've listed all of the BrewDog bars currently open across the planet - maybe you've even plotted them out on a big map - and you've been marking them off one by one as we've been visiting them. You're probably eagerly anticipating the day when we can say we've had a drink in every single one.

Well, spoiler alert: that's probably not going to happen. The primary reason for that is the BrewDog bar in São Paulo. Yes, I was in the city back in 2012, two years before the bar opened, but that was for work. Even Brazilians will admit that São Paulo has nothing to offer the casual tourist, which is what we'd be if we were visiting it for BrewDogging purposes. We'd have to expend a lot of effort and money just so we could have a cheeky drink or two.

Saudi Arabia's the same, but without the cheeky drink or two. Riyadh is purely a business city, and there's no reason you'd go there as a tourist: there's no actual method of doing it either, given that they don't offer tourist visas anyway. So when I went there back in May this year - primarily for work, but also to research an amusingly futile Monoglot Movie Club piece for Mostly Film called The Secret Life Of Arabia - I did wonder if writing up my usual set of travel tips would work as backup material. It's quite possible they would be of no use to absolutely anyone else reading this.

Mind you, that's never stopped me before, so here goes.

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Wasn't Really Sure What Was Going On

The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey first appeared on the internet 19 years ago today, on July 14th, 1998, setting out its stall with a post about Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan because it gave me an excuse to swear a bit. Nineteen years later, Ellis has written an animated series that's just debuted worldwide on Netflix, and I'm still finding excuses to swear in my own fetid corner of the internet. Best not to think about it, really.

Anyway, it's the traditional site birthday post, so happy birthday to me, and thanks to all of you out there reading, no matter how much of the ride you've been along for. This time next year, the site will be 20 years old: maybe I should start thinking about what happens then?

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<insert reference to shitty Neil LaBute remake of The Wicker Man here>There's an unspoken subtext to my latest MostlyFilm piece, a roundup of things I saw at the 2017 Manchester International Festival. Our visit took place nearly two months after the bombing at the Manchester Arena. It made me rather proud of the city of my birth, seeing the way people came together in reaction to the atrocity. And there are still signs of that all over the city today: the 'WE MCR' banners hanging off every vertical surface in town (as seen at the top of the MostlyFilm article), along with the frequent use of the city's bee symbol. (The example here has been on the floor of the town hall for countless years, but it's the best picture I have.)

We were only there for a weekend, catching six different MIF events (seven if you count the computer game), and spending any time we had in between them in many of our old favourite haunts. A couple of new ones were added to the list this time: breakfast at Evelyn's Cafe & Bar (which was Superstore when we visited it last), and dinner at Bundobust (having enjoyed the Leeds branch so much last Easter).

As for the shows, the MostlyFilm piece will tell you most of what you need to know, but I've also got some video trailers and clips here for those of you hungry for Red Button Bonus Content.

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BrewDogging #47: York

It's a better look than the Soho bar's BEER PORN, it has to be said.[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]

The thing you need to know about York is that everybody there is pissed all the time.

Okay, I’m prepared to accept that there might be statistical issues with my sample. It was Easter Sunday afternoon, and The Belated Birthday Girl and I were on a street with at least a dozen bars on it while the football was on telly. But it’s still the case that everyone we encountered during that period was out of it to some degree or other.

Including ourselves, it has to be said, as we’d just come out of a lunchtime session from one of those bars. So: how was it doing?

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Simian Substitute Site For July 2017: The Old Monkey


Books: The character of Alan Partridge first appeared as a sports commentator on radio and TV. Subsequently he's had a failed chatshow in both media, been the subject of a couple of fly-on-the-wall documentary series, streamed his North Norfolk Digital radio show over the internet and telly, hosted some specials for Sky, starred in a film and written a couple of books. Basically, he's become a continuity nightmare on the scale of the DC Comics universe. Luckily, he's currently in the excellent hands of Neil Gibbons and Rob Gibbons, who've been collaborating with Steve Coogan on the writing of all things Partridge since 2010. They've brought two interesting new approaches to the character: firstly an acknowledgement that the ageing process has changed his attitude to life subtly, and secondly a determination to pull all of the previous Partridge incarnations into a single unified canon. Their latest work, the book Nomad (just out in paperback), does both of these with glorious aplomb. It's the story of Alan's attempt to walk from Norwich to Dungeness, recreating a key incident from his father's life, and doing it in the distinctive voice of one of the most unreliable narrators you could hope for. There's a proper novel in here alongside all the jokes, and one which takes care to integrate this tale into what we already know about Partridge's life, at one point dedicating an entire chapter to a speed novelisation of the Alpha Papa movie. It's an excellent addition to the Partridgeverse, and should set us up nicely for the potential awkwardness of his rumoured return to the BBC next year.

Internet: I've got a new PC! Which means I've spent most of the past week rebuilding chunks of my digital life from scratch, including my iTunes database. Which led me to thinking about the podcasts I'm currently subscribed to. In case any of you might be interested, here's what my feed now looks like after some discreet pruning.

  • The Adam Buxton Podcast - great jingles, as you'd expect: what's more unexpected is how good an interviewer Dr Buckles has become over the few years he's been running this podcast.
  • Answer Me This! - Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann answer the questions that you can't be arsed to research yourself on Google.
  • Athletico Mince - accidentally omitted from the first version of this list, it's Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson's sort-of-football-but-not-really podcast.
  • BBFC Podcast - sometimes a little dry, but a fascinating series of case studies looking at how film certification has changed over the decades.
  • Bigmouth - a weekly round table of reviews from some of the people behind the late lamented Word magazine.
  • The Bugle - Andy Zaltzman and a rotating pool of guests (including his aforementioned sister Helen) attempt to have fun with the week's news, no matter how impossible that might seem at the moment.
  • Distraction Pieces - Like Adam Buxton, Scroobius Pip's evolved into an excellent interviewer, most recently persuading Goldie to let slip the real identity of Banksy (or did he?).
  • Dumb White Guy - comedian Brendon Burns in a podcast that's 50% talking to other comedians about race and gender issues, and 50% navel-gazing about his own attitudes to them (sometimes recorded in bed with his wife).
  • Fatal Attractions - the artist formerly known as FilmFan hosts a weekly discussion on tacky erotic thrillers from the 80s and 90s.
  • Jesse vs Cancer - Jesse Case, former host of Probably Science (see below), was diagnosed with 'stage 4 ass cancer of the ass' two years ago. This is him talking about it, and anything else that comes to mind. Funnier than it sounds, honestly.
  • The Mike Harding Folk Show - the first podcast I ever subscribed to, mainly because I admired how Harding recovered from being sacked from Radio 2's folk show by relocating the whole thing to his garden shed.
  • Page 94 - Private Eye's podcast, which (like their website) is made up of backup material relating to what's been recently covered in the magazine, a strategy that's made them one of the few dead tree operations still in profit.
  • Planet Maynard - a mishmash of stuff held together by Australian DJ Maynard. The best episodes are the Bunga Bunga strand, co-hosted with Tim Ferguson of the Doug Anthony All Stars.
  • Probably Science - Andy Wood and Matt Kirschen talk about science with experienced scientists and way-out-of-their-depth comics.
  • Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast - Herring's shambolic natters with comedians and media people always have their moments. Coming up this month: his uncomfortable reunion with estranged podcast partner Andrew Collins.
  • Skylines - the latest addition to my feed, a series of discussions relating to the CityMetric website and its features about world cities.
  • SPEKTRMODULE - Warren Ellis' irregular mixtapes of ambient music.
  • Vitriola - Robin Ince and Michael Legge talking swearily about music both old and new.

Telly: Remember last month I was talking about Twin Peaks, and how after four episodes it was feeling like standard late period David Lynch? Well, now I've seen episode eight, forget I said that.

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