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November 2019
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Fearless. Ruthless. Cheerless. Clueless.: Pick Of The Year 2019

Don't worry, *nobody* recognises the second one.There used to be a tradition here on Christmas Day. I'd post up a video of a newish Christmas song - this year, for example, it probably would have been this not-safe-for-work-or-family-gatherings romp - wish you season's greetings from myself and The Belated Birthday Girl, and we'd be all done in time for lunch.

Some of you will remember that I didn't do that last year. And I rather enjoyed what I did instead, to be honest. So, in what the young people today will not be calling a 'surprise drop', here's a CD-R's worth of my favourite songs of 2019, along with the usual competition to win a copy of the CD for yourself. Assuming your name's Dave, obviously. Merry Christmas!

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BrewDogging #68: Carlisle

Just try something for me: open up the Warsaw review in a separate tab, and then flip between the pictures on the two tabs. Spooky, isn't it?This'll be the last BrewDogging of 2019, I reckon. (There's a research trip for another one still to be done, but you won't read about that until 2020.) In 2019, I wrote reports on eleven new bars, ten of which are linked to at the bottom of this page: Brixton, Paddington, Dalston, Union Square, Peterhead, Itaewon, Le Marais, Outpost Manchester, Perth and Edinburgh Airport, obviously not counting the one you're going to read about now. The vast majority of these opened this year, so we seem to be just about keeping up with James Watt's plans for world domination.

We should also report that we lost one: Angel, which finally pulled down the shutters after three separate attempts to make it pay its way. (Someone else is currently having a go at making the site work.) Maybe that makes you a bit twitchier about new bars when they open, looking for signs that they'll be able to make it through that all-important first couple of years? Maybe.

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Living For The Weekend: A 2020 Diary By The BBG

More food mama / Give us more food mama / Give us prawn ring mama / Give us anything mama / Thank God my mum has gone to Iceland [not pictured: mum]Your next diary is going to be rubbish, and it's all going to be the Government's fault. (Not that Government, the one before.)

Back in June 2019, they announced that they were going to move the date of the 2020 May Day Bank Holiday. Under the usual rules, it would have fallen on Star Wars Day, Monday May 4th. But for 2020 it's being moved to Friday May 8th, to fall in line with the 75th anniversary of VE Day. 

A change like that is always going to annoy some people, but it was surprising where the main objection to it came from: diary and calendar manufacturers. Because by the time the announcement of the date change was made, many of them had already completed their print run. Some of them had to expensively pulp all their stock and reprint: others have had to go for the messy option of an apologetic sticker on the cover with a correction: a few are just ignoring the situation and hoping not too many people lose their jobs from not going in to work on May 4th.

In those circumstances, a diary that's traditionally put together in a kick bollocks scramble towards the end of December doesn't seem like a silly idea any more, does it?

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Simian Substitute Site For December 2019: Monkeys Music Club

Monkeys Music ClubMONTH END PROCESSING FOR NOVEMBER 2019

Movies: November's always a funny time for movie-going here at Ch√Ęteau Belated-Monkey: all those films we saw at the LFF in October start appearing in cinemas, and it feels like the rest of the country is finally catching up with us. (We took a bunch of Spank's Pals along to Knives Out just the other day, for example, and are happy to report that it's one of those films that contains hidden bonuses for people who see it twice.) Mind you, we don't watch everything the LFF has to offer, so sometimes November sees us catching up with unseen festival movies that got unexpectedly good buzz. The Last Black Man In San Francisco is one of those, and you can sort of understand why: director Joe Talbot and cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra have between them assembled some of the most ravishing images you're going to see in a film this year. Having said that, every single one of those images is already in the trailer: the full-length film starts falling apart a little when you consider it as drama. Its two central characters - the dreamer played by Jimmie Falls, and the playwright played by Jonathan Majors - have an interestingly ambiguous chemistry, but we end up seeing everything through the lens of the playwright, meaning that all that glorious imagery is weighed down with overly theatrical plotting and dialogue. It's still worth seeing, on a large screen if possible, but it's frustrating in the way it hovers close to greatness without ever quite achieving it.

Music: It happens to us all in our twenties, I'd imagine: we get blind drunk one night, and wake up in bed next to someone unexpected. Except in my case, as I've previously documented, I woke up one Saturday morning to find I'd been sleeping with a box set of the Philip Glass opera Akhnaten, which I'd bought from Tower Records on the way home from the pub. David Freeman's original eighties production was the first opera I'd ever seen at the London Coliseum,  and I was very fond of it: so I'm not quite sure why I didn't rush to see Phelim McDermott's new production when it played at the same venue earlier this year. Happily, that production's now currently running at the Met in New York (closing on December 7th), and was recently the subject of a live broadcast to cinemas across the world. Having seen McDermott explain his relationship to Glass and his music in his lovely solo show Tao of Glass earlier this year, it's fascinating to see the techniques he uses to visualise the score: in particular, the chorus of jugglers whose repetitive rhythms match the ones we're hearing. (Commiserations to the juggler who ended up dropping a club in front of a global audience of some several hundred thousand, though.) The music and visuals are both extraordinary, and easily distract you from the fact that plotwise the opera could be synopsised on the back of a postage stamp. If your local cinema ends up doing an encore screening, you should go.

Theatre: "How are they going to do that on stage, exactly?" People never asked that question in the early days of theatre: the assumption was that traditional staging techniques and the complicit imagination of the audience would combine to allow you to depict anything you damn well liked. But as we got used to the realism of television and movies, we expected to have our visual images spoonfed to us, to the extent that we doubt what theatre's capable of. For example, if it could recreate the events of Touching The Void, the true story of Joe Simpson's quest to descend one of the world's most inhospitable mountains with no partner, no supplies and a broken leg. Director Tom Morris (younger brother of Chris, fact fans) and writer David Greig have come up with the perfect solution to that problem, one which the movie version of the story touched on a little bit - it's as much about the mental trauma Simpson went through as the physical trauma. The latter is recreated with imaginative use of props and a surprisingly versatile set, but the real focus here is the psychological stress of Simpson's ordeal, which is portrayed using some ingenious theatrical devices. Unlike the film, which goes out of its way to reassure you from the off that everything turned out just fine, there's a real tension in this staged version even if you do know the ending. It's on at the Duke of York's in London till February 29th, and is well worth a look. 

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