Saturday, 3 July 2010

June Stuff

Peter Griffin: The Fonz be with you.

Congregation: And also with you.

Peter Griffin: Let us aaaaaaayyyyyyy.

An extract from “The Father, the Son and the Holy Fonz”, a Family Guy episode, in which Peter starts his own religion by setting up The First United Church of the Fonz.

Hmm. June. Yes. A lot of crazy shit has happened this month, but most is stuff I'm not prepared to go into detail about right now. Or maybe ever. You'll have to wait. But stay tuned.

June's highlight- or at least the one I'm prepared to disclose here- was meeting a TV icon in Manchester Arndale shopping centre. Henry Winkler, AKA The Fonz from Happy Days, recently made a guest appearance in WHSmith. As Happy Days ended production in the mid-eighties, Mr. Winkler has since picked up a pen and written a series of children's books. He was signing copies of his Hank Zipzer novels, including “Holy Enchilada” and “I Got a 'D' in Salami”. I handed him my copy of Zipzer adventure “Day of the Iguana.”

“Matt... is great!” He reads aloud as he writes, and scribbles his signature underneath. The lady from WHSmiths takes our picture on my phone. Much respect to all involved.

I am now about to go all political on your ass, so brace yourself. In the recent elections, I voted Liberal Democrats- basically because Labour are incompetent and have allowed crime rates to spiral out of control, Delta-City-in-RoboCop style. They also opened the floodgates to Higher Education and made degrees so attainable that they no longer carry any worth. Conservatives, on the other hand, have put a “young” man in charge and have declared themselves “rebranded”, despite not even attempting to grasp the reality of life in the “noughties”- and now “teens”, I suppose you would call it. Their problem-solving abilities seem pretty minimal, seeing as they are now hacking off even more public sector jobs. We are cruising towards a Mad-Max-style dystopian future, I tell you.

The coalition government is now in power. I voted Liberal Democrats because they appeared the only appealing option- even though I thought they wouldn't get in power. I had to pick something- I think waiving my right to vote would render my opinion, on anything and everything, null and void. I don't really know much about the other little parties, and there wasn't much point voting for them anyway. So I voted for a mainstream party that I liked the ideals of, but I knew wouldn't win the election. Then I'd be free to criticise, no matter what happened.

Now look what has happened! My party has got into power, just about. And whatever barbaric treatment the government inflicts on Britain in the next four years, I have to share a portion of the blame. One tyrant out, another tyrant in. It's all very Animal Farm.

The FIFA World Cup is in full flow. I pulled out Netherlands in the work sweepstakes. A few hours ago they battered World Cup heavyweights Brazil 2-1. COME ON BOYS! MAKE ME RICH! I'll come back to this subject after the final. This is a brief mention because 1) it's too early to say much- let's wait 'til it's all over, and 2) I don't even like football anyway. I've seen enough diving, crying wussbags this month to last me a lifetime. Unfortunately, I'll be watching it all again in another four years.

Speaking of Brazil, I recently visited possibly the finest South American-themed restaurant in Manchester. Bem Brasil offers what could be described as a unique dining experience, with food “marinated in the traditional Brazilian way, fire roasted on our traditional charcoal BBQ and carved at your table”.

The first thing I noticed was the musician playing an unusually shaped guitar in the corner of the restaurant, laying down a latin vibe that set the mood for the evening. As I was a first time customer, the host explained the “churrascaria de Rodizio” service style- a £25-per-head, all-you-can-eat buffet with a twist. In addition to the laid-out salad and freshly cooked fish, waiters will offer you samples of different meats so, after picking up a plate at the buffet, you never have to leave your seat til you've had enough. You can sit, talk, watch the musician and admire the décor: paintings of parrots adourn the walls near the table, and at the back of the room one wall is completely covered by a stunning photograph image of Rio by night.

At the edge of each table lies a circular card- green on one side, red on the other. You want more food? Keep it on green. Had enough, or just need to munch through what you've got so far? Flip it to red. I, of course, forgot this, and ended up with a mountain of meats, sauces, potatoes and salad on my plate. My date had to remind me to flip the card once she noticed the pile of edibles I was faced with. I still managed to monster the lot, though.

Highlights of the food were the steak- which the Brazilian waiter carved straight off the metal skewer using a machete, straight onto my plate- and the pineapple-and-cinnamon dessert. By the end of it I was wishing I had a spare stomach so I could eat it all again. £25 for a meal is a little pricier than a lot of restaurants, even in the city, but at Bem Brasil it's worth every penny.

In last month's blog I mentioned Meet the Feebles, the bizarre 1980's puppet comedy by the legendary Peter Jackson. I bought this on Amazon, and the seller also sent me a bonus disc- a movie called Black Cat. It is a US film, but the sleeve was printed in German, so I didn't have much idea what it was about. I knew only that it was based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem. This unjustifiably raised my hopes. Slightly.

Unfortunately, by the end of the film I was none the wiser as to the film's story- basically due to it being possibly the worst film I have ever subjected myself to. I mean, I thought it would be bad, but... Jesus Christ. It starts along these lines: A couple adopt a cat, someone hangs themselves, the guy gets paranoid and starts yelling at said cat when they are alone, and the film ends with the other woman hanging herself as well. Oh, and someone gets an axe in their head. It all has something to do with this cat (which is also hanged). At the end of the film, one of the actresses reads out a segment of the Poe poem and expects us to see the relevance.

Black Cat offered up the most horrific editing I have ever seen in a professional film. Half the time, I couldn't tell who was talking, who was in the scene, where we were and, as mentioned, what was going on. Added to this was some bizzare screeching sound, like an eagle's call, whenever the cat was in frame. It sure wasn't a meow-type noise.

I felt dirty by the end of it, and not in a good way. To say Poe would turn in his grave is an understatement.

Balls to films. Books is where it's at, I say.

This month I read Shadows, a book by the Oldham Writing Cafe, a writers group I was a member of. It offered up quite a few interesting stories set in Oldham, most of which were factual. Quite an eye-opener.

I then read Pygmy, by Chuck Palahniuk. This tale of a group of foreign “operatives” infiltrating America with apparent terrorist intentions is one of the best stories I have ever read. The main character, a teenager nicknamed “Pygmy” by his American high-school classmates, narrates story broken English. Describes events thus. Operative constant have pure disgust all American culture.

You get the picture. The good thing about a narrator with sketchy English is that the reader has to slow down and concentrate on what the character is telling us. It's not a book you'd skim through. Each chapter has a new and justified plot twist and the conclusion is ridiculous but awesome. One of Palahniuk's best novels.

In June, Hollywood icon Dennis Hopper died of prostate cancer. A week later, Manchester Standup comic Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey) died after being diagnosed with a tumor on his chest. These events came almost a year to the day that Michael Jackson died.

I've noticed a lot of people mentioning that celebrities keep dying, and more so than when we were kids. I think there's two reasons for this. First, as you get older you become more aware of the media. We all watch TV, listen to the radio and visit the cinema. We consume media more as adults than we do as kids. Second, we consume a hell of a lot more media than previous generations did in years before. There there is an array of TV and radio stations- especially now digital mediums have come to fruition- and as a result, there are a lot more individuals appearing in the public arena. I mean, would you know who Frank Sidebottom was without me telling you he's the dude with the outrageously large paper mache head? In fact, does anyone outside of Manchester know who I mean?

This explosion of TV and radio stations means that people's niche interests are catered for by the media. We can all find something that we like. People in the media industry call this “narrow casting”- like broadcasting but to smaller groups of people. This allows more and more people to get into the limelight and become household names. And that, my friend, is why it seems that so many celebrities are dying.

June's been a pretty good month, I suppose. I guess, for the moment, I should say “happy days.”

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