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since 26/09/2002


Kill Bill Vol.2 (DVD) 15/05/2004

Now THIS is a Tarantino movie!

Kill Bill Vol.2 (DVD) I’m back! But far more importantly, so is our favourite gibbering, Hawaiian shirt-wearing maverick film director – Quentin Tarantino. Yes, the squeaky voiced one has now seen fit to unleash his latest offering for our consumption – Volume 2 of the ultra-violent blood ‘n guts odyssey that is Kill Bill. Viewers of the first instalment will know what to expect, then. Flying limbs, spurting blood, faceless warriors and not much else. Those who enjoy such cinematic luxuries as a plot, some acting or heaven help us – a script, were advised by me to take a magnifying glass along to the multiplex, as these elements were damned hard to find in that initial two hour death marathon. But never one to let us sink into our comfort zones, QT has moved the celluloid goal posts once again, and has now got a whole new package to offer the hungry film fan - one that gives us nearly everything we could ask for. Rock dwellers may need a plot summary, and in this case it’s mercifully short. Uma Thurman plays The Bride, a highly trained martial arts specialist gunned down on her wedding day by the Deadly Viper Assassins – a motley crew of evil sword wielding maniacs. After rising from a four year coma (those bullets to the head can really mess up your day), she sets out on her mission to Kill the lot of them, including their leader, Bill. The first film gave away so little about who these people were, and why they were so hell bent on pursuing these extreme actions, it was hard to ...

Baby Knits for Beginners - Debbie Bliss 15/12/2003

Debbie Does Knitting

Baby Knits for Beginners - Debbie Bliss Everybody’s at it. From supermodels whiling away the time in first class airline lounges, to expectant aunties like me clacking away on the sofa as they watch tv. Knitting, like love, is all around. But let’s be honest - in the incarnation that most of us know it, knitting is the handicraft that style forgot. Have you *seen* the average knitting pattern book? Bad hair, big teeth, shawl collars and flecky wool are just the thin end of the geek wedge. What’s a modern, minimalist auntie supposed to do? Step in Debbie Bliss and her world-conquering newest offspring: Baby Knits for Beginners. This book was only published a couple of months ago and the last time I looked, Amazon had run out of copies of it. It’s *that* good. Debbie Bliss – apart from being the most charmingly named woman in the sphere of needlecraft – is one of the world’s leading knitting experts. She has written heaps of books, and has her own range of wools too, more of which later. She has a website – – which I urge you to check out, if only to have your heart melted by the cover piccy of this book. It’s a smasher. But what’s the big deal about her latest book? Quite simply: it’s gorgeous. The book itself is a joy to behold, featuring the sweetest, most animated baby pics I’ve ever seen. The photography is credited to Sandra Lousada, ‘the doyenne of baby photography’. I had no idea that baby photography was an art in itself, far less that it had a doyenne, but I’m ...

The River Wild (DVD) 26/11/2003

I am woman, hear my oar!

The River Wild (DVD) WARNING: This op contains plot spoilers even worse than the ones the scriptwriters put in!! *************** *************** *************** *** Is it a beached whale? Is it a swaddled Inuit Eskimo? No, it’s ShoppingGirl, wrapped in cosy pyjamas and staying up long past her bedtime to watch the end of a cheesy thriller the very premise of which would have most sensible folks guffawing into their TV guides. Meryl Streep as action heroine? Sounds like a sketch from French and Saunders, but I assure you it’s real. Here she plays Gail, a teacher from Boston who also happens to be a fully trained and experienced river guide. There ain’t no rapid she can’t tame, no canoe she can’t skilfully flip. And no wetsuit she can’t fill out admirably – tantalising zips and all. And when a movie features white water, goodies, baddies, the great outdoors and a crazy man who wants to knife everybody, you just can’t help yourself from doing a mental ‘plinky plink’ of duelling banjos, as shades of Deliverance come to mind. But this film is about as much like Deliverance as Jack Nicholson is like Brian from Big Brother. But is that such a bad thing? It’s all very wholesome. Streep plays Gail, mother to the ten-year old Roarke, whose name rhymes with ‘book’. Roarke is played by the kid from Jurassic Park, and just like in that film he’s required here to be at death’s door one minute and then punching the air shouting ‘way to go!’ once the immediate terror has retreated – as you do ...

Top 10 Authors 10/11/2003

Break my spine and I'll kill you!

Top 10 Authors They said it couldn’t be done - Kaz participating in a challenge! But this one is simply irresistible so I have no shame in joining right in. Let’s approach those shelves…. Q. What is your favourite genre? A: Ooh – is anybody on here willing to own up to reading within a ‘genre’? I am – I read contemporary fiction, mostly written by women, mostly centred around relationships etc but DO NOT think for a moment I’m into chick-lit. I’m not. Oh and if Lesbian Victoriana is a genre then count me in! And comic novels set amongst eccentric academics float my boat too. Q: Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century? A: Nah – too boring. I get sick of all the heaving bosoms and nobody saying what they really mean. I read tons of classics when I was a teenager but I couldn’t go back. I remember not understanding the second half of Tess of the D’Urbervilles at all – it turned out she’d been raped in a milkshed halfway through but it was written so obliquely I didn’t even realise! Gah – I wondered why she kept crying. I’d like to take a moment to defend Dickens though – you guys are too harsh in my view. Who else creates such memorable characters – and made his contemporaries sit up and listen to the point that real social change was instituted? You might want to live in a world without Oliver Twist but I know I don’t! Q: Are you interested in thrillers? A: Not really – books with black covers are never a ...

Kill Bill Vol.1 (DVD) 27/10/2003

Kill Bill. Kill Ben. Kill Everybody!

Kill Bill Vol.1 (DVD) It’s entirely my own fault. I hate bloodshed and screen violence, and I have no interest in martial arts, Samurai fighting or Japanese manga and anime traditions. Yet – it was a night out with friends and I didn’t want to poop the party so I went with the flow and took my seat for the most anticipated movie of the year – Kill Bill Volume 1. Kill Bill is of course the fourth film to be written and directed by cinema’s one true maverick, Quentin Tarantino. I list Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown in my top ten films of all time, and although the violent aspects of the trailers had worried me, I was looking forward to enjoying those touches that only Tarantino has the balls to pull off. The opening moments didn’t disappoint. Nancy Sinatra singing ‘Bang Bang (He Shot me Down)’ over the opening titles would have sent shivers down the spine of a skeleton. But when the film proper started, that’s where it all went wrong for me. Uma Thurman, the star of Pulp Fiction, is our ‘heroine’, though I was never quite sure why I should like her. Her character in this film has no name, no ‘job’, no friends, and no apparent personality apart from a tendency toward extreme violence. Known in the titles simply as ‘The Bride’, her character is hell bent on avenging the mob who killed her husband, her unborn child, and the rest of her wedding party in a small church in the sticks. The Bride herself took a bullet in the head, but woke from a coma four years later – with perfect skin, hair ...

The Truth About Lorin Jones - Alison Lurie 23/10/2003

A portrait of the artist

The Truth About Lorin Jones - Alison Lurie (Apologies to all sci-fi/ horror fans – this writer has been put in this category by mistake! She’s no more horrifying than an episode of Heartbeat – sorry!) Alison Lurie is an American novelist who’s been around forever – at least it seems that way. Her most loved earlier works about extra-marital affairs and academic politics on college campuses in the Sixties have gone down as classics (The War Between the Tates, Love and Friendship, and others), and her last novel was published only a few years ago. Her books are acclaimed for their detail, their insight, their humour and their rollicking plots. The Truth About Lorin Jones may be her best ever work – but then they all say that, don’t they? Our heroine is Polly Alter – a woman who is picking up the pieces both of her failed marriage and of her doomed career as a painter. Her salvation comes in the form of a commission to write the biography of the brilliant but totally obscure artist, Lorin Jones. Polly’s passion for Jones’s work is matched only by her ruthless determination to reveal the real Lorin Jones – a woman Polly believes had her career ruined by sexist male art dealers and critics. The task that lies ahead for Polly is difficult – impossible even, as Lorin Jones was virtually a recluse before her death, and never went on public record with revelations about her work or her private life at any point in her career. But Polly has deep, personal reasons for finding out everything she can about this ...

Wife Swap - Channel 4 14/10/2003

Waynetta Slob and the Thirty Seven Grand

Wife Swap - Channel 4 The jewel in the crown of Channel 4’s ‘life change’ output, Wife Swap is classic water-cooler tv. By which I mean it gets the nations office workers gossiping beside the water-cooler – that sure sign of television success. Last years series provided us with some gems – who could forget Barry the professional gambler, who made his wife get up at 6am to make his porridge and run him to the gym? And the fat, racist couple swapped with the black professionals were beyond cringe-making. But last weeks episode was without a doubt the most controversial by far. For those who haven’t seen the show, here’s a quick rundown of the very simple format: Two women swap families for two weeks, each taking over the role vacated by the other. In the first week, the women must abide by the ‘house rules’ of their adoptive family. In the second week, they get to impose their own rules – which *must* be obeyed. And that’s about it. The compulsion factor is ratcheted right up by the choices of family – always picked to be as different as possible, thus stimulating tension and argument! I watched last weeks Wife Swap with my jaw hanging open and a desire to hurl a brick at the screen. Turns out the rest of the viewing nation was with me, and here is why… Emma and Colin were the ‘conventional’ couple. Both attractive professionals with ‘aspirations’, they live in a nice, tidy detached house with a shiny car in the drive. Emma is blonde and softly spoken, Colin wears glasses and is ...

chinois china china, Edinburgh 01/10/2003

Dogged by rumour

chinois china china, Edinburgh When I asked my four year old niece what her favourite restaurant was, she gleefully answered, ‘Ikea’!! So it’s fair to say she’s not exactly biting Michael Winner’s ankles in the food criticism department. But myself and him indoors like to think we’re a cut above, and so when faced with a babysitting/ dinner dilemma, we bundled the pink princess into the car and headed to our local Chinese buffet. But guys – it’s a *posh* one… Chinese buffets are springing up in this town like shiitake mushrooms. In the olden days (2001), there was only one – the imaginatively named China China. This has since been added to by Saigon Saigon (seriously!) and of course Jimmy Chan’s Buffet. These places have become an institution amongst the city’s office workers and young families. Because the premise is simply this: pay one price, eat all you like. Chinois is the newest of the lot, and it’s located in the Omni leisure centre at the top of Leith Walk, where it rubs shoulders with culinary monoliths like Frankie and Bennys, La Tasca and the Slug and Lettuce. Yup, we’re in ‘chain eatery’ territory, and we know what we like, thank you! No scary menus for us, if you don’t mind! From the outside, Chinois is extremely inviting. Its front is open to the mall, and the décor is so fresh, funky, clean and modern it makes me think of all those uber-trendy sushi bars in London’s West End. There are warehouse-type pipes running overhead, and one wall is taken up with massive, blown-up pictures ...

ITV - Tonight with Trevor McDonald 09/09/2003

Dying to be Thin

ITV - Tonight with Trevor McDonald Like most women, I have plenty of experience of ‘dieting’. However, I’ve never gone as far as starving myself to try to achieve my ideal body weight. Last night’s ‘Tonight with Trevor McDonald’ was an attempt to show us what it’s like to be a childhood anorexic. We’re used to images of emaciated celebrities being held up in the media as the ‘norm’, but the sight of these pre-teen girls with huge heads and teeth – like famine victims – was truly shocking. What was even more shocking though, was the nasty, sensationalist tone this programme took, and the complete lack of insight or understanding it actually gave us into these tragic young lives. The programme was filmed at a clinic in London called Rhodes Farm – and yes, the place is as wholesome as it sounds. Set in a beautiful, rambling house amid lovely gardens, Rhodes Farm Clinic is a residential home for young anorexic children between the ages of 8 and 18. We looked at a few different case studies, but focussed mainly on the story of Lisa, a fourteen year old girl who weighed four and a half stone upon her admission to the clinic. Lisa was very difficult to look at. Her bony, painfully drawn body was a truly heartbreaking sight. Her nose appeared to be blue, and her skin looked like white paper, stretched over her skeleton. Doctors had predicted that without proper care, she would be unlikely to live for more than two months. At this point, the viewer was of course desperate to know how this whole sad situation ...

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment - Isabel Losada 29/08/2003

Self-improvement for the Starbucks generation

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment - Isabel Losada ‘You know those people who always radiate cheerful optimism? Nauseating, aren’t they? I want to become one of those. I want to find out how to live life completely, abundantly, joyfully, stupidly. This is my quest. Enlightenment’. The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment looks like a novel. But it isn’t. It’s a travelogue of sorts – combined with a potted guide to more New Age disciplines than I ever knew existed. To some, it’ll be an indispensable bible, providing information, meditations and inspiration. To others, it’ll be an hilarious digest of ‘mumbo jumbo’. Isabel Losada might sound quite an exotic person, but in fact her name came from her Spanish diplomat father – ‘and now you know as much about him as I do’. We are treated to a mini-biography of her life up until this point, and it makes very interesting reading. With a background in stage school and dance, Isabel has been performing for the public – and loving it – from a very early age. Then comes the crunch: a rubbish marriage in her late teens, the breakdown of which saps her of all her confidence, and in fact renders her virtually agoraphobic for years. The silver lining is her beloved daughter – who is now a teenager. Isabel gradually rehabilitates herself back into a productive lifestyle, and at the time of writing this book, she is a freelance TV producer, living a champagne-sodden London media-luvvie existence. Couple this with the teenaged daughter who is mortified at her mother’s behaviour and we ...

Fiction 19/08/2003

Kevin Mooney Goes Over the Top

Fiction Kevin Mooney lived three doors down from us and from the outside, his house looked just the same as ours. But on the inside, it was so clean and modern it made ours look like a right dump. My mum had been so proud when she had finally managed to persuade the students from over the road to help her sand and polish our sitting room floor, she had got all her friends in to go ‘ooh’ and ‘aaah’ as if our shiny floor was a newborn baby. Kevin’s mum didn’t like wooden floors though, she thought they made it look like you couldn’t afford a carpet. But this is the funny bit – they had a wooden kitchen ceiling! When I finally got invited in last summer for some orange squash, I saw it for myself. They even had one of those modern fluorescent strip lights, which made my eyes hurt a bit. I waited around to see if I would get offered any sweets, and I was lucky that day because Kevin’s cousins were going to be visiting and his mum had stocked up on the kind of stuff my mum called ‘poison’ – crisps, chocolate biscuits, bubblegum and even some frozen ice-poles. I said yes to everything, and left feeling sick. It was worth it though, to get inside Kevin’s house and to see up close how glamorous his mum really was. Kevin’s mum was called Joan, and she was the most beautiful and fashionable woman I had ever seen in real life. She always wore high heels, tight trousers and lots of make-up and jewellery - and sometimes even a fur jacket. Kevin said she went to the hairdresser’s every week, ...

Edinburgh Festival Fringe - Summer, Edinburgh 09/08/2003

Pi**ing in a Portakabin

Edinburgh Festival Fringe - Summer, Edinburgh Why am I here? There's not much toilet roll, and there's a sign on the door urging me to 'spare a thought and share a flush'. Is this what life has come to? Yup - if you're in Edinburgh that is, for those four mad weeks we call the Fringe. And using portable toilets is the very least of it. Where shall I start - well, here's a good definition for you. When I was a kid, I asked my dad what the Festival Fringe was. My dad drew me a picture of a rug. He wrote the names of some world class performers in the middle (Yehudi Menuin, anybody?) and then, on the fringes round the edge, he wrote things like 'jugglers, mime artists, poets'. You get the picture. Well, that definition *should* still hold true today - except that it kind of doesn't. The Fringe has now become what most people mean when they refer to the Edinburgh Festival. It's expanded - exploded, even - to such an extent it now dwarfs the very thing it was once on the outskirts of. Sure, the mime acts, the street musicians and the myriad local productions from all over the world are still here. My god, are they here. Just try walking up the Royal Mile and see how long it takes before you are whipped out of the crowd and made to play the part of Bottom in somebody's Dream - or at the very least, had half a rainforests worth of fliers thrust into your hand by earnest young actors with home counties accents, chanting 'you've got to pick a pocket or two' - oh yes indeed ladies and gentlemen! But the ...

Standing in the Rainbow - Fannie Flagg 01/08/2003

Fried Green Ya-Ya Sisterhood for the Soul

Standing in the Rainbow - Fannie Flagg Fannie Flagg took the world by storm in the late 80’s with her iconic and best loved book – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. A multi layered tale based both in the present and in the 1930’s, FGT contained many elements that have been used since both by Flagg and by many of her fellow American writers as a means of shooting straight to the readers heart. Flagg’s stories are all about nostalgia for a way of life long gone. Her setting is always in Smalltown, USA and her characters are relentlessly eccentric and quirky. Female characters will be guaranteed to be strong and loving, at the heart of the family home, while male characters take a back seat. Everybody is kindhearted, but not everybody will admit to it – in Flagg’s world, you may well wake up to a gift of ‘pot pie’ on your ‘stoop’, but you may never find out who cooked it for you. All the old folks are wise and knowing, and all the youngsters and energetic and full of life. But through the sweetness runs a bitter thread of reality – and Flagg never shies away from portraying the seedier side of life too. Racism, incest, domestic violence, and even – gasp! – homosexuality sit jauntily alongside beauty pageants, cake baking competitions and home visits from circus elephants. I’ve been a fan for years, and it was with great relish that I ripped into Flagg’s latest mammoth offering – Standing in the Rainbow. Just shy of 500 pages, I knew this one was going to be an epic. And I was right – sort ...

Member Advice on Ciao Addiction 10/07/2003

Exceedingly good poetry

Member Advice on Ciao Addiction DAMN! I knew somebody would beat me to this and whaddya know - they have. Kirsty1 has written a fab spoof of this poem too but here's mine for what it's worth... If... If you can keep on clicking when all about you Are making dinner and asking if you’d like some too; If you can trust the most deserving writers But make allowance for them not trusting you; If you can rate yet not get tired of rating Or, being downrated, don’t bite their bait, If you can suggest a product, and not get bored by waiting, Then come on in – we think you’re great If you can drink – and not join in the banter If you can eat – and think of words not food If you can shop, and revel in disaster The op you then compose will be damn good; If you can bear to read the ops you’ve churned out In days before you truly grasped the nub, Or watch the ops you gave your life to languish, And click ‘refresh’, ‘refresh’, then join our club. If you can make one heap of all your winnings, And realise it’s two pounds forty four; Yet treasure this small tribute to your innings With a will to keep on earning even more; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To stay up long after Graham Norton’s gone; To click and write til there’s no more left within you, Except a coloured dot to keep you ploughing on. If you can travel wide and save your memories To re-create online for friends you’ve never seen; If you log on to Ciao in foreign cafes Four quid to learn you ...

Buyer Beware! (urgent warnings about products/services to avoid at all costs) 09/07/2003


Buyer Beware! (urgent warnings about products/services to avoid at all costs) Well it’s a good thing they took the word ‘gullible’ out of the dictionary is all I can say. I’d hate to have to use such a word to insult my wee sister, but just look at the evidence…. Here in Edinburgh (as in many cities, I’m guessing) we have a plague currently inhabiting our main shopping thoroughfare – albeit a very attractive plague. The deal is this: A good looking, trendy young bloke (or occasionally, a girl) stops you and asks you where you get your hair cut. Flattered by this rather glamorous young mans attention, you are supposed to go all fawny and start getting into a conversation with him. Once he’s managed to make you feel all relaxed and lovely about yourself, he proceeds to bash you on the head with his sales pitch. His product is a hairdressing loyalty card, offering massive discounts at a city salon. Currently being flogged is a loyalty card for a place called ‘Keith Angus’, which I’d never heard of but which sounds damn good according to the hype on the card. Here they wax lyrical about how they offer both classical and cutting edge styling, using top of the range products and employing only the very best stylists. The bloke my sister spoke to (she was having ‘one of those silly days’, apparently) suggested that she bring a few of her friends and a bottle of wine!! Uh – right mate, whatever. The card offers various discounts, including a half price cut and blow dry for yourself and two friends. There are also myriad other little offers such as ten ...
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