Tired of Shooting Stars

Ulrika Jonsson is a proud mother of four, and was paid £170,000 to sit in a Jacuzzi for three weeks eating cheese on crackers. Who’s the joke on?

Ulrika Jonsson’s victory on Celebrity Big Brother can be seen as a feat for celebrity in general. Sure – the crowd booed her, but this is a crowd of envy-ridden celebrity-bent teens. Somebody who is 16 at the moment would have been born in 1993, and so started school aged 5 in... 1998 (scary I know!). So they are therefore too young to have familiarised themselves with Ulrika’s hard work and abundant television appearances of the 80s and 90s.

Newspapers like The Daily Mail often commiserate the low level of celebrity these days, but evidently loud-mouth reality TV stars cannot make it on their own, they rely upon the media (i.e. The Daily Mail) and television focus groups to support them and catapult them into stardom. Ulrika said “It’s a fix!” the second she was announced as winner. And of course it is! Not in that the phone votes are all rigged, but in that some of television’s smartest writers are on the editing team, characterising celebrities, devising plots from real footage and generally playing God. I love it.

We forget that Celebrity Big Brother was originally screened in England as a spoof of Big Brother, a satirisation and one of the first programs to endorse the slap-celebrity-somewhere-in-the-title 21st century approach to early evening TV. Call me tasteless, but I think Celebrity Big Brother is good quality TV. It’s not Gus Van Sant, it’s not a Thomas Hardy novel, it’s not a retrospective exhibition of Howard Hodgkin, but it’s good quality TV.

This year’s batch of celebrities was varied and interesting. I only managed to tune in four times, but when I did watch I was impressed by Terry Christian’s humour and fascinated by Le Toya Jackon’s self-representation. Even Mutya Buena, one of the least popular housemates, I think is pretty cool. Sugababes formed when they were 13, were signed at 16, they have no formal qualifications, they dropped out of school, but still – what a life – to have toured the world as a popstar with a bunch of albums all before the age of 21!

Ken Russell’s decision to appear in Celebrity Big Brother in 2007, for me, proves the integrity and phantamorgasmic worth of the show.

Ulrika Jonsson is a proud mother of four, and was paid £170,000 to sit in a Jacuzzi for three weeks eating cheese on crackers. Who’s the joke on? Ulrika? Channel 4? The media? No - The booing acne-ridden 16 year olds with their Superdry jackets, super wet hair and lurid phone contracts. It is this same societal group who insist on employing their waistlines to tell us that Jesus loves us... Well thanks, I'm sure All Saints loves them for the £55 they spent on a button-pressed strap of crap.

Words: Jack Cullen

Pants Wars: Return of the Umpire

Calvin Klein doesn't spring to mind when one considers change. They've built  a billion-dollar empire over based around white pants and white vests, and it's worked for four decades. It's impressive, but it's dated. It's black and white, it's boring and they don't seem to have changed since Donna Karan was interning there in the 1980s.
Whenever something exotic does emerge from the Calvin Klein, like their infectious and zesty aftershave Crave, it soon finds itself discontinued and buried under yet another blanket of bland.
This was the case, at least, until Björn Borg went from over-arm finalist to underpants fantasist. We all love to support an underdog, and although Borg boasts 11 Grand Slam titles (not even losing one set at Wimbledon in 1976), in terms of becoming an underwear giant it all seemed a bit far-stretched.
But while Calvin Klein’s never-ending winter continued, and more white pants flew off shelves thanks to Travis Fimmel car-crash-inducing bulges on billboards, Bjorn Borg threw away his racket and picked up one radical paint pallet. Suddenly exciting vibrant 5% elastane boxer shorts started to appear in department stores, until one night at G.A.Y. when everyone threw their arms up in ecstasy to My My My there was barely a C or a K in sight, and we all know that to be the Pants King you need your name branded across a majority of gay men's pelvis bones.

I’m sure it was no coincidence that soon Calvin Klein briefs with heavy-duty patterns came out in blinding Topmanian shades. But in Europe the athletic Swede wasn’t going to be defeated just yet. He started thinking outside of the server’s box, his team came up with arbitrary and aloof designs, like water-colour sketches of fresh water fish.
There’s no stopping him now, Björn Borg is set to surpass CK for 2009 as the most bought underwear label in Sweden, but I don’t what's stopping this victory from spreading further West. It’s a tough decision – but would you rather have a tennis champion or an OAP businessman pushed against your ass?
It’s ironic that Björn effortlessly personifies the Calvin Klein dream – strong, blond, sporting, heterosexual and successful. His fashion stems from truth, not falsity.
Which ever way you’re inkleined, a new era has been björn. The wealthy American hand that has held men’s balls for decades is starting to lose its grip. The Swedish hand that has held trophy-winning tennish balls for decades is on course to win game, set and crotch.

Commes Des Garçons Croissants

One of my readers emailed me today suggesting that I try writing something about cookery. Sure enough, she’s a chef, but why would I want to branch out into the hazardous and numeric world of online recipes? I’m much more thoroughly skilled in ordering off menus than peeling potatoes. Ordering is an artform. Jamie Oliver may well be exceptional in his ability to wet the appetites of middle aged women while simultaneously being a political tourist, but can he persuade a waiter to bring him the soup of tomorrow? Can he keep a straight face while referring to a 28 year old Sommelier called Alberto as 'Honey'? There generally seem to be two celebrity chef routes:

1) Corrugate your forehead and swear a lot.
2) Marry a millionaire art collector

It was fantastic when Graham Norton interviewed Nigella Lawson and Marilyn Manson. Nigella was in the middle of describing her hangover-cure breakfast, when Marilyn butted in – “Hangover-cure breakfast? Ecstasy and vodka”. So here goes, a rarefied treat for you all, a Jack of Hearts transition from the contrary to the culinary…my own edible creation…

Self-consciously inspired by the flawless Japanese fashion house, but equally as influenced by Bay City Rollers, The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Barbie accessories and childhood. You will need (for 12):
500g strong white flour/ 15g salt/ 75g sugar/ 25g yeast/ 270ml water/ 400g butter
10x1cm slices of chocolate
5 heaped tbs of icing sugar
10 Packets of Parma Violets (available from http://www.keepitsweet.co.uk/)
1 chilli
7 glace cherries
200ml Wray & Nephew overproof rum
12x3cm cut-outs of Andy Warhol’s head

Okay. So for the boring pastry stage use UKTV’s clinical and concisely phrased instructions as found at http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/514169 BUT when inserting the chocolate, add a sprinkling of diced glace cherries and chilli.
Then prepare the icing by crushing the Parma Violets, mixing with the icing sugar, then adding the Wray & Nephew bit by bit until nice and gooey. This should be poured over the croissants after they’ve had a chance to cool. Then lovingly place a little cut out of Andy Warhol’s head onto each one.
Parma Violets are a faded-celebrity confectionary that once boasted shelf space in all newsagents. Based upon the scented flowers, that Napoleon was a massive fan of (I know). While they look cool, they do actually contain stearic acid, E124 and E132, but don’t worry – it’s not like anyone of us know what that means. Bacardi is fine as substitute rum, if not a little disappointing.

Serving recommendations: Ideally Jack’s Commes Des Garçons Croissants should be served in only Björn Borg underwear, banana smoothies and with a smile that connotes typical apple-blossom English prettiness.

Let me know how you get on...

Words: Jack Cullen

Watch Out Art World: It's Mad Max!

He goes by the name of Maxdaman and he’s about to take the online art world by storm. What first attracts you to his work, which mostly consists of large-scale abstract painting, is the colossal quantity of colour. Then the political punch comes, chiefly his re-incarnation of the Coca-Cola logo in the form of Che Guevara.

In some of Maxdaman’s pieces we see powerful interrelating zig zags in big blocks of bright colours move across various walls, yet there is an intricacy to much of Maxdaman’s work too: the hours of craftsmanship is all too visible in some works, like the large labyrinthine mesh of multi-coloured ellipses (pictured above). His own body itself is heavily tattooed, clearly a believer in the Grace Jones-esque be a living work of art philosophy.
I managed to contact the Italian adult terrible briefly this evening. When asked what his work is about he told me: “The human face that you can see in the Coca-Cola logo is my main interest and focus. I claim to be the first artist getting TO that FACE, I have placed the copyright of it with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage”.

Sure enough, he has copyrighted his own version of Coca-Cola’s logo, simply as “DA FACE”. If only Andy Warhol was alive to see a seemingly always half-naked artist make a claim so emblematic of his own Pop Art agenda, a lifetime dedication that he gave birth to in the 1960s. DA FACE certainly has media interest potential. I asked him who is inspirations were by Maxdaman simply said “I am inspired by all artists. His work certainly hints at the obsessive detail of Keith Tyson’s paintings (Turner Prize Winner 2002), as well as building upon Bridget Riley’s colour pieces such as 'High Sky 2' (1992).
I enquired as to whether we can expect an exhibition in the UK…

“I don’t really plan to exhibit at all other than the web. Thank you very much, bless you.”

Whether you think he’s a creative genius or a mad axe man, why not look at three albums of his work, see the finished Che Guevara likeness, and maybe even become a fan of Maxdaman – follow the link below:


Words: Jack Cullen

Kay's Pay: "Too Much" Say Boltonian Bags

Nothing beats an enflamed internet forum. Whether it’s silver surfers commiserating over the construction of a bypass in Felixstowe, a teenager’s highly anxious and ‘urgent’ sexual health enquiries about a spot, or housewives giving each other Bonsai tips in Devon. There’s something fixating about these real people, the arbitrariness of their concerns, and their really odd turns of phrase, not to mention abundance of emoticons (e.g. :-) :-( :-/ :-P ... apparently an apt substitute for words)

I came across one tonight from over in Bolton that depicted townsfolk who were somewhat rumbled, disputing over how their taxes were being wasted on paying Vernon Kay to turn the Christmas lights on. I have to say, I was pretty amused reading their angered comments, such as “Could you enlighten me as to what this bloke’s profession is supposed to be?”
Erm… he’s a flawless and committed television presenter who has tackled a variety of popular shows for more than ten years? Married to Tess Daly (who recently announced she is pregnant with their second child), Vernon Kay is friendly, wealthy, successful and hands-down the embodiment of Bolton’s biggest export.

Vernon Kay and June Sarpong parented my adolescence as far as Channel 4 is concerned, which effectually means the entirety of freebie television for a teenager of the noughties. June disappeared at some stage, probably left in a deep decade-long sleep – snoring on a disused TV set in St. James’ Park, but the virile, valiant, venerable, vigorous, vocally vernacular and visually-pleasing Vernon remained. It’s difficult to dislike his seemingly bottomless pit of charisma and cheek. He also manages to wear glittery purple suits without looking like a paedophile.

Regardless of what his earnings are, I'm sure the government make no delay in axing half of it off for their own Christmas lights... also known as tank fire.

To read the rest of the bothered Boltonians’ remarks, where unemployable illiterate net-users wittily refer to him as the rib-splittingly funny ‘Vermin Kray’ visit: http://forum.theboltonnews.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=1907&sid=d3d628d5f99c7572e799ed9cf1d0249f
Do you know of any equally as mundane, yet ravishingly addictive, forum feasts? Pray do tell.

Words: Jack Cullen

Claim Your 80s Inheritance Now

My day has been completely hijacked. I discovered a website offering dozens of free remixes and covers of 80s pop songs, all done by acclaimed new acts. I’m not sure whether you’ve already been acquainted with http://www.buffetlibredjs.net/ but it’s intolerably cool.
My late maths teacher at school once told me that the 80s was a terrible decade for music, that although industry masterminds have scraped together some pretty good box sets, living through the actual ten year period itself was often god-awful. Whether this is true or not I am uncertain, but it doesn’t really matter – Our generation rocked up on planet earth towards the end of the 80s and simply grew up to inherit all the musical gold.
So far my favourites are:

Rick AstleyNever Gonna Give You Up (Baby Diamonds Remix)
How the f*ck somebody managed to make this cringeworthy gingery disco nut sound fresh, dark and sexually alluring is beyond me. Baby Diamonds turn Rick Astley from someone who still lives with his mum into somebody who beds other people’s mums.
Melnyk- Deal With God (Kate Bush Cover)
You can never have enough Kate Bush covers. We all know it’s impossible to conquer the original, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all enjoy flexing around the kitchen in a glittery cat suit soaking up an electro tribute for a few minutes every morning.
Starfucker - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Crack open a bud, these chilled guys from Portland bring a laidback progressive surfer feel to Cyndi’s biggest hit.
New Kids On The Block - Step by Step (The Requesters Remix)
Seriously. Trust Me. Just download this song and turn it UP. You’ll feel like suddenly you’re tripping in the middle of a 5000voltz Fanta commercial.

The Jack of Hearts is currently the official blog of Jack Cullen

Living The Dream

Adolescent nudity, sexually-aware innocence, whimsical beauty and more adolescent nudity: This month Ryan McGinley’s photography is part of yet another major exhibition in Washington, ‘Portraiture Now’. It seems there’s no stopping this guy, six years after he first snatched the throne as photographic enfant terrible and found himself famous on both sides of the Atlantic, torn out and blu-tacked to every undergraduate’s weed den.

There is very little left to write at the moment about McGinley. We all know too well the love story of the homosexual skater boy with a vision, who sold broken sofas and snapped drunken drug-dabbling teenagers for Saatchi, who paid a bunch of pretty childlike models to run around fields naked and be his artistic muse, who is still modelling for Gap and Marc Jacobs himself even when he’s halfway to being 60. I’m actually a fan of his work, but not necessarily in the avid fan for life nature that say Vice magazine is.

His collection I Know Where The Summer Goes caused a stir a few years back, with many of his former media supporters beginning to take a more critical eye, accusing McGinley of taunting his viewers with an idealised endless summer of naked endeavours and carelessly fun days that doesn’t actually exist. Journalists became somewhat immune to his work, which is often an amalgamation of Andy Warhol, The Wicker Man, William Beckford and Tony Hawks. (McGinley's Puma advert features almost identical scenes to the orchards in the opening moments of the original Wicker Man). It seems, like with Dolce & Gabbana adverts, the women are often arbitrary, a sort of lifeless padding around the real content of nude guys.

Like many 21yr olds, however, I know that this endless outdoor party lifestyle does exist. However, it’s more easily maintained by those whose parents are rich, or whose career goals are damp. McGinley’s work is unquestionably beautiful, and like Damien Hirst, seems quite satisfied in being just good.

Perhaps he is the rural counterpart to John Galliano or Bret Easton Ellis, but still lacking some of the charisma and zest. Often McGinley’s witty anecdotes and nightlife exposés of his gay encounters are required to truly unlock the magic of his work, consequently flawing the strength of some images to stand on their own. His photographs of fans at a Morrissey concert are wonderful, offering an alternative to the quintessential envy-inciting McGinley shots of washed-out skinny models trampolining naked, and documenting instead the impassioned mass following behind one of the world’s most brilliant living poets.

The most exciting question is, where will Big Mac turn his photographic eye next? Will he pursue his line in music video directing, building upon his success with Sigur Rós? Let’s hope he doesn’t fall down the all-too-predictable gay socialite route, perhaps one of Warhol’s vices, more boys, more nudity, more alcohol… BANG

Words: Jack Cullen

Recession? You mean Retail Recess

Credit what? The fourth day of 2009 has arrived and the sales are still going strong up here in Leeds. Okay admittedly the queue outside Greggs is unusually large, and Starbucks is lacking its quintessential scarf of a queue, wrapped around the Headrow, so perhaps eating habits are becoming increasingly modest and chicken dinosaur shapes will rule the earth once more. Still, the tills were ringing so busily it sounded like the Icelandic Bell Choir in Harvey Nics, if it wasn’t for the harsh grating voices of the perfume assistants, bless them, it's all part of the Northern shopping experience.

I bought myself a Duchamp tie (pictured above). A bit of a mad purchase, and it wasn’t even on sale as it's brand new stock. I was mystically drawn to the raw technological silver shade, embossed with entwining pink roses, it’s like a cross between Star Trek and Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I did a quick price check at the Duchamp store, but they’re not even selling their summer collection yet, go Harvey Nics!

A retro Chinese flag Be@rbrick was my second favourite purchase of the day (pictured below). I know Mr. Mao has an estimated democide count of 73,000,000 according to the political scientist R. J. Rummel, but one cannot let that detract from the cuteness of this Be@rbrick, besides they’re actually Japanese. Anyway enough from me, it’s 5am.

Words: Jack Cullen