Monday, December 29, 2008

Joss Stone 'in new relationship' with old friend

The 21-year-old from Devon is reported to be in a relationship with Danny Radford, 19, who works in the building trade.
Stone, who has sold over 10 million albums worldwide, has known him for most of her life but they only started their romance in the summer.
"Joss and Danny are definitely an item now. He's been staying with her at her home in Devon when she's home from Los Angeles, and they're inseparable" a friend told the Sun.
The friend added the two had grown close on a recent trip to Amsterdam.
"One of the reasons that they work so well is that Joss trusts him completely.
"She knew him before she was famous and he has been close to her family for years.
"Joss's mum loves him and trusts him not to hurt her."
Danny, who still lives with his parents - close to Joss's family home - is her first steady boyfriend since Beau Dozier, the music producer.
She met Beau Dozier when she was 17 and moved to live with him in LA. But they split up after 18 months.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sapper / Bulldog Drummond / Daydreams of empire




Bulldog Drummond

Daydreams of empire


Nicholas Lezard
Saturday 6 December 2008 00.01 GMT


T
hey don't really do heroes like Bulldog Drummond any more. After a reverie about his days in the first world war strangling German soldiers behind enemy lines, we are told: "There are in England today quite a number of civilians who acknowledge only two rulers - the King and Hugh Drummond. And they would willingly die for either."

This is just as well, for in this, the first of the hugely successful series of novels (Herman Cyril McNeile adopted the pseudonym "Sapper" because serving officers could not publish under their own names), Bulldog Drummond comes up against as nasty a pair of villains as you could wish to meet, the chief of whom is hell-bent on bringing Britain, whose victorious army has just marched into Cologne, to her knees.

It is odd how books such as these begin with boredom. Carruthers in The Riddle of the Sands (1903) is half out of his mind with boredom; John Buchan's Hannay begins The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) "pretty well disgusted with life"; the war has yet to begin. When it is over, Bulldog Drummond, "finding peace increasingly tedious", goes so far as to place an advertisement in a newspaper asking for diversion: "legal, if possible; but crime, if of a comparatively humorous description, no objection". Years later, James Bond - who Ian Fleming acknowledged was at least partly based on Drummond - would begin his career nauseated by the smell of a casino at three in the morning. This is because the works are, as a clever colleague of mine pointed out, all daydreams; and indeed one wonders what kind of mind it is that yearns for war as a diversion.
One particularly wonders about "Sapper". His work has been routinely condemned for its xenophobia and antisemitism. But while one should indeed condemn these attitudes, at least this novel is largely free of them (although you will search in vain for anything faintly resembling progressiveness). Antisemitism and other ugly prejudices were, to varying degrees, the order of the day (consider the line in The Thirty-Nine Steps about how "the Jew" now "has his knife in the Empire of the Tsar because his aunt was outraged and his father flogged in some one-horse location on the Volga").
But in this novel, at least, there is not too much to worry about. There is something Arcadian about Drummond. He has a rather familiar kind of innocence. His manservant, his ex-batman, serves him his morning beer loyally and "discreetly" leaves the room when he starts speculating about an encounter with a woman; and Drummond himself can begin a chapter with the line "I almost think, James, that I could toy with another kidney" (for breakfast). Does this remind you of anyone? Of course it does. What we have here is a PG Wodehouse story, almost; a Wodehouse story with master criminals (we also have murderous trained gorillas, acid baths, booby-traps and savages armed with poison darts hiding on the tops of wardrobes) - the kind of story, in fact, that Wodehouse's more impressionable heroes use to fire up their own imaginations. We even have gangs of loyal, tiddly young blades called Algy who call each other priceless asses, or some such.
Drummond himself is unflappable, unambiguously heroic, nonchalantly lighting cigarettes faster than he can smoke them (I could have sworn that at one point he had a pipe in his hand at the same time), making cheeky quips - many of them genuinely amusing - to the villains and getting the girl, despite the honest, ugly features which gave him his nickname. And the chief villain, of course, occasionally expresses regret that he will have to exterminate so worthy an opponent. ("You are meddling in affairs . . . of the danger of which you have no conception.")
So yes, it's an imperial fantasy - just the kind of thing Guardian readers should be shaking their heads and going tut-tut about. But, being Guardian readers, you will know that you are immune from the dangers of such fantasies, and can instead enjoy the work on its simplest, most straightforward level: as a rattling good yarn.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Life and style / Hugh Hefner / There was a moment when I was having sex with four Playmates

Hugh Hefner
LIFE AND STYLE
Q&A: Hugh Hefner
'My most treasured possession? A rotating round bed'

by Rossana Greenstreet
The Guardian, Saturday 21 November 2008


Hugh Hefner was born in Chicago in 1926. He served in the army during the second world war, and went on to study psychology at university. In 1953, he launched Playboy magazine, and by 1971, when Playboy Enterprises became a public company, it was selling 7m copies. He remains editor-in-chief. He is twice divorced and has four children. His illustrated autobiography is published this month by Taschen.
When were you happiest?
Now: I just passed my 83rd birthday and look back on a life well lived.
What is your earliest memory? 
When I was four, we moved to the house on the west side of Chicago where I grew up. My earliest memories are of that first summer.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 
Crankiness.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? 
Deceit.
Property aside, what's the most expensive thing you've ever bought?
McDonnell Douglas DC-9.
What is your most treasured possession?
My rotating round bed.
What would your super power be? 
Immortality.
What makes you unhappy? 
Not being in a loving relationship.
What do you most dislike about your appearance? 
I am losing my hair.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
They are talking now about Robert Downey Jr.
What is your favourite book? 
The Great Gatsby.
What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
My pyjamas.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? 
My life, probably!
What do you owe your parents? 
My ideals.
What or who is the greatest love of  your life? 
Probably my girlfriend, Crystal Harris. She's an upcoming Playmate.
What does love feel like? 
It completes me.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I don't have dinner parties – I eat my dinner in bed.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"What the fuck?"
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
That's a very dangerous game.
If you could go back in time, where would you go? 
To my childhood.
When did you last cry, and why? 
Last weekend, at a screening of Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist And Rebel.
How do you relax? 
With my girls, in bed, watching a movie, just having a good time.
How often do you have sex? 
Two to three times a week.
What is the closest you've come to death?
There was a moment when I was having sex with four Playmates and I almost swallowed a Ben Wa ball.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
To have had a positive impact on the social-sexual values of my time.
What keeps you awake at night? 
The need to go to the john several times a night – that comes with age.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
As Time Goes By, Frank Sinatra.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you? 
To hold on to your dreams.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Life and style / Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Chimamand Ngozi Adiche
LIFE AND STYLE

Q&A

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche


Novelist
Rosanna Greenstreet
Saturday 25 October 2008 00.01 BST


C
himamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in 1977 in Nigeria. She studied medicine, then at 19 went to the US, where she gained a degree in communication and political science, and a master's in creative writing. Purple Hibiscus, her debut novel, published in 2003, was shortlisted for the Orange prize for fiction and longlisted for the Booker. Her second novel, Half Of A Yellow Sun, was published in 2006 and won the 2007 Orange prize. This week she has been at the Cheltenham Festival, which finishes tomorrow.
When were you happiest? 
All the years before I turned 15. Or so it looks to me in retrospect.
What is your greatest fear? 
That I will lose the people I love.
What is your earliest memory?
I was about four. Our house help, Innocent, was plaiting my hair and I was crying, squirming, reaching out for the pack of Smarties my mother had placed on a table in front of me - just out of my reach - as a bribe.
Which living person do you most admire and why? 
My father, because he doesn't think that real life is going on somewhere else, in a universe parallel to his.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My unforgiving nature.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Self-righteousness.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I must have blocked the memory.
Aside from a property, what's the most expensive thing you've ever bought? 
My car.
What is your most treasured possession?
I own things I like, but nothing inanimate that I treasure in a deeply consuming way.
Where would you like to live?
In a large, sprawling house in a shady compound in Enugu, eastern Nigeria.
What is your most unappealing habit?
You don't want to know.
What makes you depressed?
Watching the news.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My big toe looks like a tortoise's head.
If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
A mammoth.
What is your favourite book?
Chinua Achebe's Arrow Of God.
What would you most like to wear to a costume party? 
A Victorian dress, a bonnet and a sheathed sword across my shoulder.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
All my pleasures are guilt-free.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My family. My partner, Ivara.
What does love feel like?
Comfort. Time shared.
What was the best kiss of your life?
My teenage crush, Nnamdi.
What is the worst thing anyone's ever said to you?
I'd better not say. They might read it and realise I'm still plotting revenge.
What do you owe your parents?
A joyful childhood. And so much more.
To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
To the girls in my class at primary school, for being a bully.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Iris Murdoch, Sidney Poitier and Thomas Sankara.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
'Sort of.'
What is the worst job you've ever done?
Undergraduate intern at the Philadelphia water department.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not having known my grandfathers.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I would not have stopped playing soccer in grade five.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
The west coast of Africa circa 1650.
When did you last cry, and why?
Three weeks ago at the airport, saying goodbye to my brother and best friend.
How do you relax?
I read.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Finishing Half Of A Yellow Sun.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Uwa Bu Olili, by Celestine Ukwu.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a person who tried to tell the truth and tried to be kind (and knew that sometimes the two are contradictory).
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That the universe will not bend to your plans. It does its own thing.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Philip Roth / Indignation / Review



 Review: Indignation by Philip Roth

Tibor Fischer, an uncommitted Philip Roth reader, finds himself converted
'The car in which I had taken Olivia to dinner and then out to the cemetery - a historic vehicle, even a monument of sorts, in the history of fellatio's advent onto the Winesburg campus in the second half of the twentieth century - went careering off to the side.'
Yes, it's the new Philip Roth novel.
There is a part of me that wishes Roth would stop writing about sex, because he writes so much better about other things, and after Portnoy's Complaint, The Breast, Sabbath's Theater (and, well, most of his novels) does he have any fresh flesh left?
Venery; being Jewish; the campus; these are all the topoi you expect to find in a Philip Roth production, and they're all here.
Set in the late Forties and early Fifties, a whiff of The Catcher in the Rye drifts into Indignation. But above all is the shadow of the Grim Reaper, who is looming larger and larger in Roth's pages.
Marcus Messner, son of a kosher butcher from Newark, goes to the Mid-West college of Winesburg to escape his father's mania for his safety and well-being.
Marcus wants good grades, he is obsessed indeed with academic success, because he doesn't want to have to pull out chicken entrails for a living and because he fears the draft and ending up in a foxhole in Korea facing waves of bayonet-wielding Chinese.


    With the death of Saul Bellow, the silence of Salinger, the diminution of Updike, Roth has smoothed his way to the front of American letters. He's the Don.
    I have to say I've never been rendered agog by a Roth novel: Tom Wolfe's done that, Tom Robbins has done that, Charles Willeford has done that. While I've enjoyed several of Roth's novels, I've never had that urge, the evangelical urge which is the hallmark of a great book, to force the book onto others.
    For example, Roth's much-praised novel The Plot Against America, an alternative history of the United States, was skilfully executed, but it was a book I failed to care about. Why write an alternative history of something when you can write the real history? I felt it was an accomplished but hollow exercise.


    Indignation, however, is one of the strongest skeletoned of Roth's novels, and is a model of authorial misdirection and narrative muscle. Nearly every time you think you can see where the novel is going, Roth changes tack, almost as if the whole book were written to a blueprint of zig-zags.
    Winesburg College is a small canvas to work with, but Roth cultivates it masterfully. The portrait of Messner's parents, his ultra-anxious father and kvelling mother, is superb.
    Bernard Malamud's depiction of working-class and poor Jews is perhaps more engaging than Roth's, but you could certainly accuse Malamud of occasionally slapping on some romantic poverty and pushing the dignity of hard graft.
    This isn't the case with Roth: his description of depressed post-war New Jersey is as warm and appealing as a butcher's slab. While Messner's relations with his fellow students (another much-written-about subject) - the irritating room-mates, the frat boys, the nutty fellatrix - are as good as character studies get.
    'I inwardly sang out the most beautiful word in the English language: In-dig-na-tion!' Messner tells us during a sticky interview with the Dean of Winesburg.
    One wonders why Messner finds the word so beautiful since his frequent encounters with the emotion are so hard for him to contend with. What is his indignation about? The sanctimonious Dean, the strictures of 1950s college life, the indignities of existence?
    My one (minor) disappointment with the book is the last chapter, where the narration changes from first person to third and the fate of Marcus Messner (something most readers will have guessed) is spelt out.
    If I had to choose one word to sum up Indignation I'd go for classy. If I were allowed two: very classy.





    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Joss Stone 'recording Barack Obama campaign song'



    Joss Stone joins a long list of stars queuing up to be associated with the phenomenon dubbed 'Obamania'


    Joss Stone 'recording Barack Obama campaign song'

    British soul singer Joss Stone is reported to have begun working on a campaign song for US presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

    Devon-born Stone is said to have taken to her recording studio to ensure the song is ready for November's election battle between democratic candidate Mr Obama and his republican rival John McCain.
    Mr Obama, 47, is apparently a big fan of the 21-year-old's work and is hoping her style will strike a chord with both black and white voters in America.
    Miss Stone is already a household name in the US, where she spends up to nine months each year.
    "Joss is a big supporter of Barack Obama and was very excited to be asked to do this for him," a source said.
    "He sent a personal message asking her to get on board.
    "He has always admired her music and thinks she is the perfect choice because of her unique appeal to black and white voters.
    "She believes he is going to be the first black American president and she is honoured to be a part of that."
    She joins a long list of American stars queuing up to be associated with the phenomenon dubbed "Obamania".
    Film star George Clooney has thrown this considerable weight behind him, while R'n'B artist Alicia Keys and hip hop singer Jay-Z have dedicated songs to him.

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