Alan's Carcass: The Norton Anti-Virus?


Is it controversial that Graham Norton is on the BBC? He’s certainly not the first glittery suit to appear on one of their channels, but possibly the first to pounce around in such an openly gay manner, trouncing poor celebrities with snide remarks disguised as praise while they desperately try to promote themelves from his sofa. Of course the BBC only signed up Graham Norton once he had proved himself to be a roaring success on Channel 4, once his following was large enough and granny-Britain was vaguely accustomed to him.

So far, so good. For Graham that is. Because meanwhile, over on Channel 4, Alan Carr has re-emerged with his own show Chatty Man, and it is a complete rip-off of Graham Norton’s former shows on the same channel, with a few Paul O’Grady touches thrown in for good measure. The show mirrors, minute-to-minute, the tried and tested Norton template. And judging by the jokes, like Norton, Carr has given up writing his own material and sold his soul over to the ghost-writers.

Now I like Alan Carr. Don’t we all? In fact, more than that, I follow Alan Carr on Twitter. He may be an alcoholic in the making and good God does he squeeze every camp drop out of his larynx, but we can at least relax a little in his presence. Unlike Graham Norton (where every second phrase builds a mental image of two teenage boys bent over a dressing room table, Graham behind them brandishing two table tennis bats and a blow torch), Alan Carr is family-orientated, charms the sagging mothers of this land, and whenever his jokes do become a bit sexual, you only have to look at his teeth to convince yourself he’s all jest and couldn't possibly molest.

It’s a bit sad though that Channel 4 cannot be bothered to scratch their head a little and devise a truly original show to make the most of Alan’s talent. Instead we’re all forced to watch the ‘gays can’t catch’ routine.

The Friday Night Project rocketed Alan to fame, he became a theme of Monday morning office chat, just like Graham did in the late 90s. What made The Friday Night Project exciting was its ridiculous trimmings – the jacket of cash, incredulous audience participation, Alan in the crappest of drag, not to mention the entire framework of the program which was inversed.

With Chatty Man, we’re watching So Graham Norton minus the faux-snobbery and sexual perversity. For while Graham’s humour reveals that he was once normal and knows what spaghetti hoops are, Alan’s humour is an act or normality, he talks to his viewers as if he still does eat spaghetti hoops. Alan's less class-focused and contstantly jokes about being sexually unappealing. Perhaps this is a step forward for gay men? The removal of that constant anal sex tableau on the viewer’s mind. According to The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman, this is the reason why American TV now prefers gay women to men. (Althoough as much as I love Hadley, her argument is one word - Ellen).

Still, there’s something else wrong here. Maybe it’s all a step backwards and Alan should be the one on the BBC pouring tea for Rihanna, whilst Graham should be back on Channel 4 where he can return to his so very glorious days of women playing the piccolo on their vulvas?

Or perhaps like America, we’re all just tiring of overtly-camp comics? Young gay men are increasingly straight-acting (excuse the pathetic phrase) and occasionally irritated with society’s demands on the gay man to self-ridicule.

If gay culture follows the wave of feminism, which in turn follows race relations and civil rights. Just like Chris Rock’s humour of the early 90s, taking the piss out of black culture, is no longer that amusing or necessary, I think the glitterati camp as Christmas gay man has been stamped with a shelf life.

It’s a toughy. What do you think? And excuse the excess italics in this piece, but given the content, I think I can so get away with it love.

The Reality Cheque

Stuff of media legend, Tanya Gold, was only last week in G2 complaining about the increasingly undue arrival of Christmas each year. Harrods was the target of her poison-tipped pen this time. Still, it’s November 28th and The Guardian’s Weekend magazine are wasting no time in telling you what to buy this Christmas…

Now I’m 21, I don’t have children, and so it's an age when I still think I’m going to dedicate my life to myself and my friends as opposed to, you know, breeeeding. So perhaps I cannot comment here. However, I couldn’t help laughing out loud at this page in Weekend. It’s an ideas page with gifts for kids, targeted at the Guardian’s quintessential reader. Great. I’ve no problem with disguised advertising deals, and I read The Guardian myself. My problem here is that kids simply don’t want this shit…

The Jack of Hearts is therefore giving you reality alternatives to some of the boring crap on this page. Let us be honest about the items on this page, if they cannot be eaten and if they do not break, they will simply queue-jump themselves to a prime spot under a child’s bed for a decade, before the child eventually grows up and bins it, or eBays it, or does whatever people will do in 2019, I don't know, melt it.

10) Wooden pirate ship, £45, Burford

Reality alternative: A toy Somalian pirate ship. No cutlasses or Jolly Rodgers, but includes an onboard internet hacker’s suite, machine-gun armed pirates, a Murdoch helicopter and nonchalantly misled tourist figurines.

12) Interactive dolls, £19.99, Liv Fashion

Reality alternative: It always was Barbie, it still is Barbie and it always will be Barbie. Just because you had a Woolworths cheapo alternative in the 1970s doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer. Bow down to beautiful bony Barbie and deal with it Mum.

11) Knitting kit, £14 by Cath Kidston

Reality alternative: In my opinion Cath Kidston’s done very well for herself considering it’s all an over-priced re-hash of 1980s chintz. I say buy your daughter a can of spray paint instead and take her for a walk along Camden lock. The less she knows about knitting the better. After all Mum, you are feminist aren't you?

14) A Zebra trike from V&A

Reality alternative: It’s no mere coincidence that zebra trike rhymes with quad bike.

9) Knitted all-in-one, £34.99, Toby Tiger

Reality alternative: a knitted all-in-one? AKA, "your child is going to be humiliated whenever the photos re-emerge, har har". Get a grip, get a zip and go to Gap Kids. Shops that will help your child to be normal, not damage them for life.

13) Bus, £30. The Little White Company

Reality alternative: Because Britain’s all about red buses, cricket greens, Wimbledon and Earl’s Grey isn’t it John Major? I think you’ll find life on this lovely island is supported by the distant racket of tanks. Buy him a tank Dad. He wants a tank, not a bus. Just like you want a Jaguar, not a unicycle. The assonance of the words says it all really: "bus". Hmm. "TANK". Yep.

2) Utensils mini-chef outfit, £22

Reality alternative: McDonald’s vouchers. Princess Diana had the right idea.

5) Multi-purpose helmet, £40, Nutcase Helmets

Reality alternative: The company is called Nutcase Helmets. Their clientele are presumably nutcase parents. NO CHILD needs a multi-purpose helmet. I really pity the parents who buy this shit. I hope the recipient kids move their baby trampoline into the front room and use their Nutcase Helmet to smash up the chandelier.

***

My conclusion is this. If you’re a Guardian-reading parent who is just wonderful as a person and has an eye for liberal, apolitical and lacklustre toys: please, please, please, grow up. If you’re a good parent then your children will enjoy reading, drawing, outdoor activities like sport (God forbid) or dressing up (much healthier). But when it comes to materialism - just bite the bullet and do it properly. Kids don't want wooden caterpillars. You want Cath Kidston, they don't.

Barbie. Action Man. Nintendo. Sony. High School Musical. Doctor Who. These brands are not going to kill your children, and if you raise your kids properly then they’ll be intelligent enough one day to see the wolf inside granny’s clothes.

So go on Dad… write out that reality cheque.

Anish Kapoor: Period Art?

"making sculptures as big as is humanly possible with a proper mine’s bigger than yours mentality, but at the same time telling a story that is somewhat womanly"

*****

The Royal Academy rarely puts a roof over modern art’s bloody head. More known for nailing lilies and ballerinas to its walls than, say, screening the experimental Japanese Pop Art videos of Mariko Mori, the RA is characterised as the polar opposite to Tate Modern. There are at least five major galleries in London where one would expect to see Anish Kapoor’s work, but not the RA! And yet here he is, a mid-career retrospective, simply titled Anish Kapoor, and probably one of the RA’s best exhibitions in the last five years.

Kapoor did win the Turner Prize in 1991, which sounds relatively recent but is practically twenty years ago, and so he’s no baggy jeans Banksy newbie. I suppose he belongs to the media-friendly group of power house big-time sculptors, like Jeff Koons and Anthony Gormley. He’s one of those big-scale anti-YBA "fuck you Tracy, you might have a bed, but I’ve got 50 builders and 5 cranes" type of artists. A boy, to paraphrase.


The work of these boys interrelates too. Kapoor’s pile of mirrored balls outside the RA just screams Koons, and Hive (2009) is very Gormley with its bolted panels of rusted-looking bent steel. Kapoor’s effectively made some deconstructed Koonsian balloon dogs and a foetal Angel of the North.


What is so enjoyable about Kapoor is his constant endeavouring to open up the possibilities of interaction with his viewers. In one room dads flock to watch the canon shoot into the corner, their kids next-door jump up and down grinning in front of the bent mirrors, while old biddies get told off by gallerists for prodding arthritic fingers into the materials. The RA is filled with chatter for once, the air holds anticipation and awe, and it’s great.


The work displays a noisy ongoing battle between the sexes. Is Slug (2009) a war trumpet or a vulva? Is Svayambh (2007), pictured, a masculine object with a slow penetrative progression through archways?

Wendy Anderson in the exhibitions program is keen to explore one of these arenas – “the political notions of weaponry and death”, “the fallibility of machines”, “the architectural relationship between..." et cetera, et cetera.


I feel Kapoor’s representation of female identity is actually the strongest narrative level within the story of his work. Naturally works such as When I Am Pregnant (1992) provoke gender-orientated discussion, but I believe Kapoor’s later work bangs the feminist drum a lot louder. Art critics have gone to town on how Shooting Into The Corner evokes the bloody realities of war, filling the Royal Academy with the sounds of combat, but to me the work is a graphic representation of the menstrual cycle. As deep red cylinders of wax are routinely fired and ostracised from the cannon within a repetitive time structure, Kapoor is giving the Royal Academy its period. And as for Svayambh – forget trains - it’s a forty-ton stick of lipstick!


Perhaps the secret to Kapoor’s success is this combination of male and female art tendencies, making sculptures as big as is humanly possible with a proper mine’s bigger than yours mentality, but at the same time telling a story that is somewhat womanly.


Kapoor presents the masculine and the feminine as radical opposites that can contradictorily be in unison. He is loud and quiet, he is red and white, and it is this successful accommodation of such uneasy bedfellows that makes his work so powerful.


Looking at this year’s Turner Prize nominees Lucy Skaer, Roger Hiorns, Enrico David and Richard Wright, I wonder whether any of them will ever enjoy a mid-career retrospective at The Royal Academy in 2027? In fact, I wonder whether any of them will enjoy an exhibition there posthumously? I doubt it.


Below: The Royal Academy, where good arts makes for good aprons.


Britney Promotes Threesomes: New Song “3”

Upon first hearing 3 I thought – "uh oh – Britney’s scraping a barrel of shit here, singing like Microsoft Cher and using the child rhyme 1, 2 – buckle my shoe as a pop template."

The highlight of 2008 had to be counting the amount of “womanizers” in Britney’s brainwashing hit of the same name. The trickiness came with the robotic “womo-womo-nizarrgh”, did they count as two?


Well now, Britney’s new song 3 is all about, no not the holy trinity, no not her literacy age, but threesomes. It’s enough to make you wonder whether her PR team killed Stephen Gately just to get a threesome ball rolling in the press.


Britney Spears is phenomenal. Yes she’s insane, yes she mimes, yes she’s an industry product and there are probably twenty-seven Britney Spears who share a relayed work rota. BUT, her music is just so utterly well produced, it’s irresistibly catchy.


Like most Brit hits it takes a couple of listens before you’re hooked. Upon first hearing 3 I thought – uh oh – Britney’s scraping a barrel of shit here, singing like Microsoft Cher and using the child rhyme ‘1, 2 – buckle my shoe’ as a pop template.


I considered calling this blog post “1, 2 – Buckle Britney’s Poo”, in reference to her suggestive inciting of threesomes in the song, in which Britney herself sings about being “caught in between”. But the truth is, I would vouch for threesomes and group sex any day. Anything that challenges society’s perceptions of normal straight-laced sexuality.

I like Tilda Swinton having two boyfriends, I like Stephen Gately bringing home mysterious Bulgarians, and I like Britney Spears being a enfant terrible, a terrible inverse of the ‘American Dream’ that The Mickey Mouse Club originally tried to mould her as.

How fitting that while Cheryl Cole has an album out called 3 words, a cute little pop testimony to love, commitment and relationship standards; Britney has a song coming out simply called 3, about enjoying yourself, having sex inside and outside of relationships, and making the most of our time on this planet. We know which side Ashley Cole’s on.


I only have one question – who are the “Peter, Paul and Mary” that Britney sings about in her threesome hymn? Does she mean the biblical characters? Or are they celebrities? Peter Andre, Paul McCartney and Mary J Blige? Wouldn’t that be a fine way for Beatle number 3 to pop his clogs.

Britney's kind of threesome is probably more like Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake.

Check the song out yourself on YouTube. The video's pretty thoughtless though and makes no effort to pedal the interesting issues raised by the song. Wow, I'm making pretty Britney sound like a university subject. You heard it here first.

Jedlock: Time To Throw The Cowell In?

Tonight Simon Cowell sent contestant Lucie Jones home and consequently saved the notorious John & Edward, an act that he has claimed to loathe on several occasions. But why did Cowell do this? Allow The Jack of Hearts to explain…


The X Factor is a business, and while the live shows are part of that business, we must remember that Cowell owns and manages what can only be described as a colossal musical family on an international scale. The X-Factor is just one limb of his ever-growing television and music empire. If you’ve downloaded a song by Cheryl Cole, Alexandra Burke, Robbie Williams, Whitney Houston, The Black Eyed Peas, Michael Bublé, JLS or Westlife in the last month… then well-done, you’re part of it, and there's nothing wrong with that.


This year, a boy needs to win the show. Fact. And so Cowell has kept all three of his acts Olly, Danyl and the soon-to-go Afro idiot for this reason. It is also for this same reason that the cute and incapable Lloyd has been kept on, just in case he proves himself to be commercially viable.


Commercially viable is the crux of The X Factor. It's sad when the program could showcase a newt and make it an internationally successful popstar if it wanted. But no, Cowell wants low common denominators.


Cowell is currently driving the monetary success of Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis. Therefore the last thing he needs this year is for yet another female solo artist to win his show.


Next week The X Factor finalists record a group charity record. John & Edward will make this single much more promotable, since they’re very recognisable, popular in print media and visually have more iconographic strength than any of the other contestants. So John & Edward need to stay at least another week. It took Cowell a while to work out what exactly the twins are, and he’s still unsure, they’re an anomaly, but until he works out what to do with them, they’re safe. Arguably, only they have what could be called an X factor.


Cowell knew that John & Edward would have received more votes than Lucie this week. They were even on the cover of Heat magazine titled ‘Jedmania’! In taking the decision to ‘deadlock’ he ensured that his desire to keep them onboard was concreted without having to actually personally vocalise the sending home of Lucie and feel guilty.


All of Cheryl Cole’s decisions are ventriloquised and puppeteered by Cowell too, naturalised by an occasional staged dislike for one another. And why would Cheryl mind this? She’s enjoying huge success by surfing the Cowell wave. Their relationship is slightly reciprocal in that Cheryl’s opinion, whatever it may be, will always be shared by anyone who lives further north than Reading. She has huge people power.


Louis Walsh is a genuine judge and the show sucked when he was absent last month, but sadly he has his own personal motives steering his decisions. His power is no where near as safe as Simon's, and so he must shout everything that he says. The relationship between Cowell and Walsh is startlingly similar to that of Hitler and Rohm (!)


Dannii Minogue, alarmingly, is the most moral and grounded judge. She knows exactly what is going on and does her best to attest it. Still, she is being paid £450,000 to appear on the show, and despite this being a considerably low wage compared to the other judges and presenters (Cheryl - £1.2m), it is a very good deal for Dannii at this stage in her (previously sliding) career. Judging on this show is now the greatest feat of her Wikipedia page (!), and so although she is the most real person, she cannot afford to speak her mind with any conviction. Her best move will be to release a single within the next six months.


So, just remember. The X Factor is about very good television, Simon Cowell is about very good money, and the music industry is about very good sex and using people. So sit back, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy it. Just thank yourself you’re not an aspiring singer.


P.s. How annoying and blatant was the subliminal advertising for the remake of A Christmas Carol during last night’s show?!