Friday, August 22, 2014

Top 5 TV show concepts

1. The Alternative Britain's Got Talent
I obviously despise Britain's Got Talent – partly because people on it don't have any; partly because it's so fake and tacky and ugly. I'd like to see an alternative version, where people with genuine, original talent and imagination are showcased, not just ugly people singing cover versions of crap songs. Christ.

2. Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Erm #1, a somewhat controversial concept this. Take a young child (aged 4-8, say) and see how far they get walking on their own (from a shop to home, maybe, or taking the tube), filming their responses and experiences along the way with hidden cameras. Parents watch events unfold via a mobile van.

3. A Couple Abroad
Travel show meets adventure show where each week a couple is separated at opposite ends of a foreign city (preferably chaotic, exotic and dangerous: Lagos, Jakarta, etc) and have five hours to find each other without phones, money or maps.

4. CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) Historical
Erm #2, this is from a previous post from years ago, but still holds true. And I quote:
'This will be part-documentary, part-drama, as our anal team look back at unsolved real life cases and mysteries through history and apply their state-of-the-art forensic technology to reproduce them, and try and solve them.
First episode: Michael Jackson.
Other episodes: Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Elvis Presley, Roswell, crop circles, how Gordon Brown got to be Prime Minister, etc.'

5. Big Brother Special Needs Special
Erm #3, this is also from the same previous post:
'The popularity of Big Brother Tourette's Syndrome sufferer Pete Bennett proved that disabilities can be compulsive viewing. So why stop there? Let's have Big Brother Special Needs Syndrome Special with an assortment of people with disabilities and mental health issues including Down's syndrome, autism, bi-polar, schizophrenia and cerebral palsy.'

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top 10 great ideas

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chips vs French Fries

Things prefaced with the word 'French' often sound far more sophisticated (even if they're actually not): French Toast (ie eggy bread), French Kissing (ie tongues), French Letters (ie condoms) and French Fries (ie the American name for chips. Confusingly, Kiwis and Aussies call chips crisps and chips hot chips. Kiwis call Kiwi fruit Chinese gooseberries but the rest of the world call them Kiwi fruit. Jerusalem artichokes are neither from Jerusalem nor artichokes).

The traditional British chippy is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. On a recent trip to Brighton it took us over half an hour to find one. Though I have no aversion to French fries, the skinny little things can't hold a stick up to our traditional thickly cut chips, drenched in salt and vinegar (ketchup optional; unlike with French fries where it's de rigueur) and eaten in the lashing rain and wind.

French fries are doing a similar thing to what coffee has done to the UK's taste buds: making us believe we enjoy something we don't. Tea is obviously nicer than coffee; chips are obviously better than French fries. But both tea and chips occupy the old-fashioned past of British culture we want to forget; they belong to the old generation. The old-fashioned tea room can't compete with the modern, upbeat coffee shop; the old-fashioned chippy, full of old and/or poor people, looks obsolete compared to fast food joints. Coffee and French fries have that American, on-the-go lifestyle feel to them. Due to the lower surface-to-volume ratio, chips have less fat than French fries.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The cost of camels

The man's Cheshire Cat grin got progressively wider and wider as our guesses for the price of a camel in Abu Dhabi got progressively further and further off the mark. £1000? £200? Well, actually more like £125,000. I've been offered upwards of fifty camels for various girlfriends in various North African countries – maybe I should have taken them up on their offers. But racing camels are a different breed of camel altogether – literally. Racing camels are like racing horses, and command similar prices. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi apparently owned three rare breed black camels, highly valued in the Gulf states. We saw camels racing at the Lambeth County Show last month. They weren't very fast, one was called Bertie, but I like camels, not as noble as horses, but possessing more character, they're quite possibly a tad stupid, but steadfast, cheeky and with bags of stamina. In the butchers in Libya one finds camel meat for sale; to advertise the fact, live camels are sat around outside the premises, seemingly oblivious to the fact that dead camel heads are sitting near them with their oesophaguses in their mouths.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Today's List #1

• Spoonful of Collapsed Atoms
• Dance of the Fonts
• Barnatea
Cult of Personality
Everything is Vintage
Colonel Panic, Captain Sensible and Corporal Punishment
The Grateful Bed
These Brutish Isles
The Agony of Choice
• Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Market
• Salty Sex
• Anti-social Media
• Hapax Legomenon

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

London libraries #1: Peckham

"It is an absolute public disgrace that for the last 30 years the main bulwark and protection for children and their reading in our culture, namely the public and school library services, and particularly the spending on books, has been cut, cut and cut again until our libraries are now a brave but struggling shadow of their former selves."
– David Fickling, Publisher & Editor 

In theory, libraries are great. They've got loads of books in them and homeless people too. Now they've also got CDs, DVDs and computers. My mum worked in a library for years. A recent survey concluded that librarian is the most stressful job in the world. She used to hire me out CDs for nothing but the new system meant she (that is, I) had to pay. That's progress. Libraries aren't even about books anymore. They're about targets, profits and Polish au pair girls waiting to use the internet. Recently librarians had to complete a course – about how to judge a book by its cover (this is true).

For me, walking into a library used to feel like walking into a church. I got a feeling of serenity and sometimes awe. I liked the silence and that vast bank of information (books!) and all the people lost in their own thoughts and other peoples thoughts and words. Libraries are as old as civilisation itself.

Peckham Library was designed by Alsop & St├Ârmer in 2000 and won the Sterling Prize for Architecture for that year. In an age when they're closing down across the country, and physical books an anachronism, the success of libraries like the Peckham one and the recently refurbished Henry Tate building in Streatham show how current, rewarding and positive libraries can be.

A recent pointless poll by American Express of the UK's top fifty 'urban gems' placed Peckham's library on the list.

Previously on Barnflakes:
London through its charity shops

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Ch-ch-ch-changes finally on DVD

Exciting news for fans of classic 1970s sci-fi children's BBC TV serials (isn't that everyone?): the BFI is finally releasing the DVD of The Changes, along with Out of the Unknown and Red Shift, a play adapted by Alan Garner and based on his novel. 

Read the BFI announcement here.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Children of the 1970s, which looks at The Owl Service, Penda's Fen, The Changes and Children of the Stones. Penda's Fen is still begging for a DVD release.