Tuesday, August 25, 2009

London 2012 Stamps

First class stamps for the London 2012 Olympics were released this week. Much better than the crappy bid-win stamps, the ten new stamps each represent a different sport and have been designed by a leading artist. I'm all for London-branding, Olympic-branding and cool design, so these are A-OK by Mr Christopher.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mad Mr Christopher

Just a quick one today: a photo of me at work. Looking pretty good. I like to dress smartly for the office. Look at all those other guys in lounge suits... HEY, MAKE AN EFFORT GUYS (I said earlier today). Also notice I'm the only one drinking (= party man) and with a newspaper (= well-informed man). I'm both good for morale and a damn fine worker too.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Bolt and Berlino

It was a year to the day since Bolt broke Michael Johnson’s 200 metres record in the Olympic final, and at the World Championships in Berlin yesterday the Jamaican felt it was time to give it another go. Another day, another earth-shattering world record.

Legs pumping furiously, Bolt pounded across the line in just 19.19 seconds, shaving 1.1 tenths off his previous record. Incredibly, he even ran into a slight headwind (-0.3 m/s).

The result was never in doubt. It doesn't need to be said that Bolt was in a race of his own: he had passed bronze medallist Wallace Spearmon within five strides. It was Bolt against the clock. Despite the pre-race doubts as to his preparation and the toll taken by previous races, Bolt won. "Tonight I can definitely say I didn't expect it," Bolt said after the race. "I was tired but I thought 'what the heck, let's try'. I ran hard and now I'm really tired! Next time perhaps I shall just run the 100m or 200m alone. I wasn't running upright - it wasn't a good race... but it was a fast one."

Indeed it was. The plaudits flooded in immediately. Steve Cram: "That is wrong. That is just wrong. 19.20?!" Michael Johnson: "Unbelievable. A ridiculous race. The bend is unbelievable. No one has ever run a bend like this ... this is the most incredible bend ever." Darvis Patton (100m finalist): “It’s like he’s created a game person. He’s like a cheat code. That’s how good he is.” Two races, two gold medals, two World Champion titles, two world records. Roll on the relay.

In related news, Bolt was seen before the race rocking an "Ich bin ein Berlino" T-shirt, a pun on JFK's famous misquote in reference to Berlino the Bear, the 9 foot foam mascot that appears to be the only creature capable of upstaging Bolt at these World Championships.

After Melaine Walker won gold in the 400m hurdles, Berlino picked her up, popped her on his back and careered headlong into a stack of hurdles, dropping the Jamaican in the process and sending millions of hearts into millions of mouths (remember Tony Adam's 'jovial' celebration after the 1993 League Cup Final? He lifted the winning goalscorer onto his shoulders, dropped him and broke his arm). No such problems here though – both Berlino and Walker were fine afterwards, the bear even larking about with Bolt after the 200m final. What a job...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alexey Titarenko

Alexey Titarenko is a Russian photographer famous for his ghostly depictions of downtrodden masses flowing through bleak, moody cityscapes (see shots from City of Shadows, below).

These haunting portrayals of a blurred, streaming populace have rightly earned Titarenko acclaim. The subject matter and composition of photographs in his other series make also make for romantic, elegant or fascinating viewing (see below).

However, the technique has its limitations. The long exposures leave some shots blandly monotone; flat, low-contrast and powdery. But this is the exception rather than the rule. If you like brooding and charismatic, post-Soviet urban imagery - and who doesn't - then Alexey Titarenko is well worth a look.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Revisiting Brideshead

Last night I finished watching the 1981 Brideshead Revisited TV adaptation. I read and wrote on Brideshead at university but, slightly embarrassingly, seem to have been more affected by the TV adaptation than the novel itself.

The tortured outpouring at the fountain from Diana Quick's beguiling, brisk and conflicted Julia and the tremendously painful return to the estate evoked by Jeremy Irons' insular, mournful Charles have played on my mind all day. Unfortunately the book is at home, but if I had it with me I would break my rigorously-applied rule and plunge into it again. As it is, I'm sating myself with tales of the inspiration.

If you haven't read or seen Brideshead, put one or the other at the top of your To Do List and prepare to be enthralled.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

MJ Memorial Shoot

Today I stumbled upon Mykromag's shoot by Dutch duo Petrovsky and Ramone on location outside the uniquely surreal Michael Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles last month.

While the shoot is not entirely impromptu, with the model's poses among the shrines, fans, police and general chaos of the day attracting seemingly little attention, no credit is given for the outfits or styling, making me think that the intention veers closer to photojournalism than to glossy style. The result is a series of striking images that are part fashion shoot, part documentary – a blurring of the line between reality and fiction that is particularly appropriate for its setting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mysterious Hills and the Baffling City

Today I have been trying to understand MTV's smash hit series The Hills and its equally bewildering sibling, The City.

For the blissfully uninitiated, The Hills follows the lives of hip young things living in LA, while spin-off series The City documents the move of one of the things to New York to work for a fashion designer. Now, you ask, what's so hard about that?

Firstly, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? They're actors, right? The premise is that both shows are reality TV, but this is patently untrue. Each episode is packed with drama, heartache and a suspiciously neat story arc, like a serialised chapter of a Dickens novel only with high heels, beach parties and rows over the layout of Teen Vogue. Whereas if it actually were reality, each episode would be packed with searching for keys, arguing with customer service hotlines and walking into a room and forgetting why you were there.

So which is it? The best explanation I can find comes from (where else?) Wikipedia: "the cameras follow [characters] daily and capture whatever unfolds." OK, so it's reality. Oh, hold on - there's more: "There is 'structure' provided to the program, as real life develops day-by-day and most dramatic events generally occur while being filmed."

Bear in mind that this is the best explanation I've found. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? What the hell is meant by "structure"? Structure like a storyboard, script and director? Because that's not really "structure", I'm afraid – that's "how you make TV shows."

Wikipedia also explains that one hip thing has confirmed that she is "joining the cast" and "has inked a deal with MTV to appear as a series regular throughout two seasons." How can you 'sign up' to appear in someone's life? Did she have a bit part as a passing acquaintance, only to act so deliciously and indispensably that the producers demanded the cast befriend her? God, I hope she knows. We don't want her going all Truman Burbank on us and flipping out when she finds it's just for the cameras.

And what about this 'job' business - does the City star actually work for the fashion designer? Did she get the job on merit? How close were we to having a series about a spin-off Hills character who spends all day flipping burgers or photocopying? And does the designer not get a bit ticked off with her employee's constant breaks for angsty Dawson's-style summits with her on/off boyfriend, explosive latte-fuelled clashes with bitchy rivals, or requests to be promoted as this season's storyline kind of counts on it?

I DON'T UNDERSTAND. And yet everyone is very excited about these shows and Heidi and Holly Montag are apparently very important people and don't you know, it's like reality but like also really cool? DON'T YOU GET IT? Sadly I do naaaht. So I'm going to pretend it doesn't exist, sit under a rock and wait for The Apprentice to come round again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Holiday season

It's that time of year again, when politicians' holidays are subject to a level of scrutiny usually reserved for – ooh, I don't know – the customer list of a Lincolnshire moat cleaner. And Daniel Finkenstein has a fine game on Comment Central this week:

- Match the Politician to the Summer Holiday -

1 - Nicholas Sarkozy
2 - Nick Clegg
3 - Gordon Brown
4 - David Cameron
5 - Barack Obama
6 - Vladimir Putin

a - Visiting the in-laws in Spain, doing a spot of light cycling
b - Topless horse riding through rugged, Siberian terrain
c - Rental home with own orchard, pool, golf and basketball court (est $50,000 a week)
d - Fife and Cumbria, with a worthy spell of volunteer work
e - 10 day holiday in France with “a really trashy novel”
f - Three week break in Cap Negre, with no-fly zone imposed

(Answers: 1 f, 2 a, 3 d, 4 e, 5 c, 6 b)

How many did you get right? I got the Obama and Sarkozy ones mixed up. (Of course, the basketball court was a giveaway.)

Obviously, none of this matters. It's trivia. But the papers are full of it because, as DF points out, it's very calculated trivia: "it's the anticipation of analysis that leads to those choices being micro-managed."

Take Putin, manfully stripped to the waist as he patrols mountainous terrain 'pon his powerful steed (in the same region of Serbia, incidentally, in which he was snapped shirtless while fishing and horse riding in 2007).

The intention can be summed up thus: Russians heart macho. Ex-President acts macho in photograph. Russians see photograph. Russians heart ex-President, want to make President again. Ex-President smiles, feels macho, tells rest of world to shut up while he does JUST VHAT HE VANTS VIT THE GAS SUPPLY, DA? That, in a slightly racist nutshell, is it.

And what about "call me Dave" Cameron? For a start, it's pretty rare to hear a boy announces with relish that he intends to read "a really trashy novel". Something easy to read, yes; pulp fiction, yes; ooh a bit of Maeve Binchy and a pina colada, no.

And second of all, that phrase is used exclusively to show that you know it's rubbish, but you're indulging in a guilty little pleasure. But hold on a minute... I have engaged in guilty pleasures before! Is Dave My Kind Of Guy? Because if he is, I'm bloody voting for him.

So what is the point of this self-fulfilling bit of stage management? World leaders know the public is watching, so they put on an act; we see them act, and correctly surmise that it's for show. I suppose there is no point.

But it seems to work. Plus it fills column inches and - crucially - it gave us an opportunity to laugh at Tony Blair in his trunks. Surely that counts for something.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bad head

Hey, want cool hair? GQ has just explained to me that Randi Lee, 34, has effortlessly cool (if bland) hair because "he always showers at night. Sometimes he uses shampoo, sometimes he just rinses. Then he goes to bed. When he wakes up in the morning, he’s already got the bedhead thing going.".

"Well," I thought to myself last night, "I can do that."

- Reasons why authentic bed head does not work -

1. First and foremost: superfluous sticky-up bits that make you look less "bed head" and more "idiot who cannot even get his hair to grow in the right way."

I once set off to school with what I thought was a rather racy new do (swept back in the style of Andy Garcia), only to find when I got there that my traitorous tresses had risen in the car and that rather than resembling a smooth-talking Mafioso, I looked like the self-conscious lovechild of a hedgehog and a greasy waiter. (I probably should have used 'POMADE', but the thought of smearing engine oil onto my head was appealing to my nine-year old self as it is now) My arrival at the school gates was met with howls of persecution from friends, teachers and the media that I can still hear today. At least I'm pretty sure it was the media. It was bad, anyway.

So that's danger #1.

2. Cold bits on the pillow that you roll back onto an hour after switching out the light. If God had intended me to sleep on a wet patch, he'd have withheld bladder control.

3. The risk that Stay-Puft from Ghostbusters will get you.*

4. You might end up looking like the imbecile from that advert, "Tim" or whatever he was called. You know the one I mean. "Everyone knows a bloke like Tim!!!!!"

I'll tell you what, gleeful voiceover man from Head and Shoulders, I do NOT know a bloke like Tim. I make it a point of principle. Or rather, if I DO know him, I know him as Tim, The Wanker With Faux Bed-Head Hair And A Horrible Array Of Smug Grins In Different Outfits. Not a moniker I am keen to acquire for myself. Certainly not if it necessitates sporting sticky-up bits and invoking the ire of a Ghostbusters baddie.

5. Admittedly this next one isn't so much a bed head problem as a 'washing your hair before bed' problem, but I think you're bright enough to see that that's what all this metrosexual bed head posturing was a cover for. My REAL issue is wet hair in bed. And do you know what the biggest risk involved with that is? WET-INSIDES-OF-EARS.

Wet-insides-of-ears create an instant and irrational feeling of vulnerability. I think my subconscious hypothesis is that earwigs (which obviously aim to live in actual ears) prefer wet, slimy ears (LIKE THEIR DISGUSTING SLITHERY BODIES) to normal ears. Ergo, fall asleep with wet ears, have brain eaten by earwigs. It's that simple.

So unless you like being papped as a weeping nine year old or BEING EATEN ALIVE FROM THE INSIDE OUT, leave the bed head to lothable lotharios from TV Land and wash your hair in the morning. Sorted.

Next week: Stray Nail Clippings - "One Thousand Splendid Swords."

* When I was small I was afraid of the hairdryer. But my Mum told me that if my hair wasn't dried properly before bed, I would get DAN DRUFF. Dan Druff rooted himself into my worldview as a monster in the style of Stay-Puft, the fictional Michelin-sponsored ghoul from Ghostbusters. I am assuming that this exact scenario happened to everyone. Even if it didn't, ignorance will not save you from his marshmallow-fuelled wet-haired fury so you best watch out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Zwei Brüste


I'm pretty sure that I do. And fitted ones like this (as opposed to boxy ones like this) are very much UP MEIN STRAßE. Apparently they're going to be big this autumn, but I still can't see myself having the balls to buy one. If I did though, my criteria would be:
  • fitted with a tight cluster of buttons and a low-cut V

  • navy with noticeable but not lairy pinstripes

  • room for a rather nifty pocket square (rarely a problem)

  • look like it should be $1,395 but actually be $13.95 (£8.29 thank you very much)
It should basically be the above suit. Generous anonymous gifts accepted. Danke.
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