jeudi 27 septembre 2012

Atari Teenage Riot

I’m totally going to give away my age now.

Discussing ‘first computer game consoles’ recently, I had cause to remember fondly our old Atari.  This was the first game console we ever had in my house, and it was very exciting.  Circumstantial evidence suggests that I would have been somewhere between five and seven years old when this technological advance occurred.

Looking this up now on the internet, I believe that we had the Atari 8-bit 65XE model.  It lived on our dining table, a huge beast with a green screen.  It was played with a joystick (or keyboard) and games came on cassette.  Upon inserting the cassette, you would usually have to type in some coding and then wait for the game to ‘load’.  This would take some time, during which I would generally eat my tea or go outside and roller-skate for half an hour or so.

I very vaguely remembered games called ‘Leaper’, ‘Cloak of Death’ and ‘Up, Up And Away!’.  I was great at Leaper, much as I would later be at Tetris – a very complex and hi-tech game that looked like this:

The other two I played less because they required more complex coding and took much longer to load.  Playing Cloak of Death – a haunted house game in which you could type in commands in order to solve puzzles – was a big treat (even though it was quite advanced and pretty much beyond me at that age).

In reading up on these, I discovered another game that I had forgotten entirely: Savage Pond, which seems to have become a bit of a gaming classic.  Apparently it came on a double cassette free with the computer, along with ‘Up, Up And Away!’ (in which you are a hot air balloon avoiding birds, aeroplanes, lightning and the like, naturally), Cloak of Death and Quest for Eternity (a familiar name, but I think the game must have been truly beyond me as I have no recollection of playing it).

In Savage Pond, you are a tadpole – which might sound innocuous but does indeed become pretty savage when you have to start avoiding jellyfish and, um, nuclear waste.

Brilliantly, there is footage of the gameplay on YouTube.  Have a look at this, and thus be unsurprised at how enthusiastic we all were when the Gameboy and Sega Master System were released…

lundi 24 septembre 2012

Never Let Me Down/Like Being Killed

Never Let Me Down by Susan J. Miller

Like Being Killed by Ellen Miller

Some years ago, I bought two books at the same time, from a charity shop.  I had never heard of either of them; I only realised when I got them home that the two writers shared the same surname.

I have always been keen on books about drugs.  This is maybe not a cool thing to admit, suggesting a sort of on-going schoolgirl fascination with the subject.  You know, like the sort of girls who think Pete Doherty is cool.  Oh, well.  It’s a bit like when my friend Daniel instantly batted away my suggestion that he would enjoy The Virgin Suicides with ‘oh no, I only read novels by people who are already dead’.

Still, it started with the classics, from Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jnr (still my favourite) to Bret Easton Ellis, and I could still read that sort of thing all day long.  Same goes on film – if I’m honest, I still adore the grim voyeurism of The Panic in Needle Park and Christiane F.

So, that was the other thing that these two books had in common.  Plus the fact that they both turned out to be really, really good and I would reread both in years to come.

Never Let Me Down by Susan J. Miller is a memoir by the writer-daughter of a heroin-addicted jazz musician in Brooklyn.  She only found this out in later years – when her dad informed her in shockingly nonchalant I-thought-you-knew style – and suddenly the everyday strangeness and darkness of her childhood made sense.  Her father was the sort of character I find fascinating – a window dresser by trade and jazz obsessive, he was friends with Charlie Parker and would spend days locked in the flat with his jazzy drug buddies.  Growing up for the writer became darker and darker, but this is not a misery memoir – it’s far too interesting and well-written for that.

Like Being Killed by Ellen Miller is also a book about heroin, but that’s about all the two have in common.  Billed on the cover as being a novel about ‘two girls, one drug and the ultimate flat-share nightmare’, alongside a grainy photo of a woman slumped against a wall in only tights and a bra that I liked the look of.  It’s a grim and kind of awful read, but there is something so compelling about the writing that I would read it multiple times.  Most of these kind of books end up being a bit tame and disappointing, but this was the opposite – genuinely shocking but brilliant.  The main character, Ilyana, is self-destructive, drawn to Class As and abusive relationships, but with an intelligence that means she is depressingly self-aware about where it will all end.  When her advertisement for a flatmate is answered by the kind and open-to-a-fault Susannah, the flashback structure of the book means that you are horribly aware of where this story might be going.

I seldom buy books in charity shops any more, but this reminds me of why I really ought to sometimes – I’m not sure I would ever have stumbled upon these otherwise, two books that are completely different but thus intertwined in my head, both worth a read if you’re feeling strong.

dimanche 23 septembre 2012

Monster Hits

Before Nirvana, Hole, Sonic Youth and Beck, and all the other musicians I obsessed over as a teen – even before my beloved ‘Hormonally Yours’ by Shakespears Sister – there was a tape called ‘Monster Hits’.

It was a double-cassette compilation that I got for my birthday from my mum when I was seven or eight.  Most of it (Bros, Big Fun, Lisa Stansfield), I wasn’t too fussed over, but there were three songs in a row that I played again and again and again, in succession, continually rewinding the tape until it nearly wore out.

Those three favourite songs were, in order:

Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time
Aerosmith – Love In An Elevator
Alice Cooper – Poison

I loved them all with a passion that was probably weird for an eight-year-old.  I thought they were the three coolest songs ever written.  My love for Cher in particular grew and grew, especially when the Mermaids soundtrack was released (I wouldn’t be allowed to watch the film for some years, as it was rated 15, but I had the soundtrack cassette and knew it all word-perfectly).

I think this definitely influenced my future musical tastes, along with my earliest musical memories of singing along in the car with each of my parents (The Bangles and Jenny Sings Lenny with my mum; Steely Dan and Dire Straits with my dad).

They certainly influenced my future Lucky Voice choices – those three have become known as my specialities.

vendredi 21 septembre 2012

Themed Film Parties

From ‘witches and fairies’ at a friend’s birthday party when I was seven (I was the only girl to come as a witch) to ‘gangsters and molls’ as a teen (yep, I was the only girl who went as a gangster) and ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ as an adult (of course I went for the obvious costume choice of PJ Harvey), I love a themed party.  This runs in the family: for the last few summers, my parents have hosted ‘Caribbean’ and ‘Dallas’ themed parties.

I haven’t been to anything fancy dress in quite a while, possibly not this year – hopefully this will rectify itself soon.  In the meantime, my friend Ruth and I are in the process of organising what we like to call ‘Kardash-athon’.  The plan is basically that we will eat Mexican food (whilst this is not specifically ‘Kardashian – we briefly considered Armenian cuisine – it feels fitting as they, um, go to Cabo sometimes*), drink cocktails and watch episodes of the Kardashians, whilst dressed in bodycon and heels and a shocking amount of eye make-up.  Just because it sounds kind of awesome.

Themed afternoons/evenings around TV programmes or films are on of the best kinds of themed event, I find.  I did ‘Pride and Prejudice’ day with a group of friends once, round at my friend Camilla’s house, who is Austen-obsessed: we dressed in our most Regency-esque clothes, ate fancy hors d’oeuvres and watched the entire BBC adaptation.  At Camilla’s instigation, we then also had ‘Spaced’ day – which consisted of totally slobbing out, stuffing our faces  and watching every episode of Spaced.  Both were totally great.

I think I might go ambitious and plan a movie marathon next – I think maybe a Tarantino or Tim Burton fest would be quite suited to this.  Mr Nobody would be a great one, but I’m not sure I could make anybody else sit through the whole film.  Just avoid The Silence of the Lambs, Alive or Battle Royale – it might get messy.

* And Ruth and I both really, really like Mexican food.

lundi 17 septembre 2012

The Group

Some books make you feel very grateful for living in the times we do, particularly as a woman – you know, Valley of the Dolls, The Best of Everything, Tess of the D’Urbervilles…

The Group by Mary McCarthy is just one of those books.  It was written in the early 60s and is set in the 30s.  The vast differences (and a few similarities) between then and now are fascinating, particularly as this is such a realistic novel in which the everyday is rendered important.  I suppose, like most of us, I have my own version of ‘the group’ and I thought that the depiction of this dynamic was still spot-on.

The story opens at Kay’s wedding, for which ‘the group’ of university friends meet up after graduation.  We then follow their individual lives for the next few years, in a clever and seamless style, until the Second World War.

The very matter-of-fact descriptions were shocking for the time.  They also mean that you’ll warm to some characters more than others (and you’re supposed to).

I loved Polly in particular, and really liked Dottie.  I thought Elinor Eastlake, or Lakey – the ‘dark beauty’ of the group – was fascinating and could see why they all wanted to be her best friend.  Of the men, I rather predictably loved the damaged and unsuitable Dick.

As well as the characters and their stories, which are fascinating, the period details are great – the clothes, the food (Kay is obsessed with making efficient modern recipes for her husband Harald, such as meatloaf) and the rather terrifyingly old-fashioned contraceptives.

I would highly recommend this book as a study into a very specific period of modern history, as well as stories that are much more universal than that.  The tone and the subject place it, for me, somewhere in between Valley of the Dolls and The Bell Jar.  That’s high praise indeed.

jeudi 13 septembre 2012

Making Me Happy

Today feels like a good day.  Here is a little list of the things currently making me happy amid all the work and tiredness.  (Not just the glass of wine I am currently drinking whilst typing.)
  • Looking forward to seeing brilliant friends old and new this coming weekend.
  • The new Cat Power record 'Sun' - it's as good as I hoped (and I got a free poster in my brilliant local record shop, Resident - support your local record shop and you might get a treat!).
  • Loads of Jilly Cooper non-fiction downloaded to my Kindle.  'Turn Right at the Spotted Dog' is currently making my increasingly-autumnal commute a cosier time.
  • The new metallic leather shorts I bought in Beyond Retro last week, and plan to wear constantly as soon as it's cold enough.
  • My new favourite restaurant, La Choza, finally bringing good Mexican food to Brighton.


When my sister Katy and I were growing up, we loved any teenage American sitcom.  We devoured episode upon vacuous episode of California Dreams, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Hang Time, USA High, Sister Sister, Clarissa Explains It All, Blossom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, My Two Dads, Two of a Kind, What I Like About You, Sweet Valley High, Boy Meets World, That 70s Show…

Arguably, our favourite was Saved By The Bell.

Like Kelly Kapowski, we could not decide whether we liked Zack Morris or AC (Albert Clifford) Slater more.  We loved all the girls – perky cheerleader Kelly, spoiled fashionista Lisa and sexy feminist Jessie (my favourite, who would later star in the film classic Showgirls) – and coveted the hilarious 90s fashions.  We laughed at Samuel ‘Screech’ Powers.  How I longed to go to such a cool American high school and have a hilarious headmaster like Mr Belding and go to drink soda and eat French fries at The Max!

There were two episodes in particular that we loved, possibly because we were also very keen on cheesy pop music and musicals.  Yes, I can pinpoint my favourite episodes of Saved By The Bell, OK?

‘Jessie’s Song’ details Jessie Spano’s harrowing decent into drug hell.  Yes, really.  Well, no – not really.  She has an algebra test and a musical audition all in one week, and so takes some caffeine pills.  Her friends duly panic, Jessie falls out with them, breaks down and eventually Admits She Has A Problem.

Here is a helpful visual aid that illustrates Jessie’s caffeine consumption throughout the episode:

Even more hilariously, said musical audition is with the girl band Zack has put together, ‘Hot Sunday’.  They have one shot at big-time fame with a famous record producer who is coming especially to see them – not surprising when they make such a truly seminal music video as this:

As if it could get any better, there is the equally classic episode ‘The Zack Attack’.  If anything, I love this episode even more.

How could I not?  It’s a high-concept dream sequence, in which Zack imagines that their band – The Zack Attack – become world-famous rock stars.  It all starts so well – they are wearing sparkly outfits, fending off groupies, singing beautiful and not at all cheesy songs like ‘Friends Forever’…

I won’t spoil it for you, as obviously it’s a deep tale about enduring friendship and the corrupting influence of fame in our current celebrity-obsessed culture.

More importantly, how come they weren’t real rock stars when they had amazing songs like this?

Despite the fact that it doesn’t hold up at all and now seems, well, quite lame really – I still have a lot of love for Zack and the gang.  All together now – when I wake up in the morning

mardi 11 septembre 2012

Peter Blake @ Pallant House Gallery

I am obsessed with the crossover points of things I love.  So, I rushed to visit this exhibition, which explored the links between art and music.

Of course, Peter Blake is an obvious entry point for this – he is a proper music fan, as well as having been the designer of some very famous album covers in his time (Sergeant Pepper’s, anyone?).  As such, this exhibition featured a working jukebox nestled in among the artworks.

As well as his most famous works – aforementioned Sgt. Pepper’s, the Live Aid poster, covers for Paul Weller and Oasis – there was a lot that I was less familiar and pleasantly surprised by.  I loved his portrait of John Peel; the ‘sparkly’ paintings of Elvis and Chuck Berry (my gallery-going companion Cathy and I agreed that of everything there, we would most like to own one of the sparkly pictures); some of the lesser-known collages.  Of the ‘sparkly’ pictures (I don’t know if there’s a more technical term I could call them!), there was one in particular of Ian Curtis that I found mesmerising and could not tear myself away from – although in the notes, Blake made a point of saying that he was not a fan of Joy Division.  I think what I liked best about the exhibition as a whole was that I was left with the sense of Blake as avid fan, collector and celebrator – just like us, really.  But extra cool.

To complement the art/music theme, there was also a section of works by Derek Boshier, associated with the Clash and David Bowie.  I’ve never been massively into the Clash but love Bowie, so I was quite excited about this.  Maybe it was because it came after all the Blake brilliance, but I was left fairly unimpressed (although there was a portrait of Bowie as the Elephant Man that I liked).

Finally, there was a room of paintings by pop stars.  Predictably, this was a very mixed batch, and as such was particularly interesting.  From Ian Dury (who was taught by Blake, and whose paintings I thought were great), through to Alison Goldfrapp (classic art-school stylings that I love), and Pete Doherty, who I personally find embarrassingly ‘Sixth Form’ in everything he does, whatever the medium.

Generally, though, I left feeling as enthused as I would have liked.  Oh, and as a bonus we saw Peter Blake himself on my way out.  A very good evening.

samedi 8 septembre 2012


Like I need another virtual waste of time (don’t we all?).

I have joined Pinterest.  I am actually very keen on the concept – I have always been a somewhat obsessive scrapbooker, visual diary keeper and hoarder of old magazines/newspapers/postcards/any old rubbish I like the look of.  My fridge door serves as a hardcopy version of Pinterest.

Anyway, this appealed to me and, as such, I have set up boards that I hope will be visual repositories for some of my on-going fascinations: New York, California, Mexico, running, pretty ladies, icons…

For much Gallo and 60s action, do have a look at

vendredi 7 septembre 2012

True Romance, Tony Scott

True Romance is one of my favourite films of all time.  I have watched it repeatedly, on videotape when I was a student and in more recent years on a replacement DVD.  An ex-boyfriend and I used to quote it at one another endlessly.  Alabama Whitman remains one of my all-time fashion icons.  Only the other day, I posted a photograph of Clarence and Alabama to my Pinterest page –and the image still holds up as incredibly cool, even today.

I still have a copy of the script, in paperback format – it came free with Empire magazine when the film came out, and I have kept it ever since.  I was way too young to see it at the cinema – it came out when I had just turned 12, and was rated a very violent and sexy 18.  However, I had seen the cool-looking pictures of Clarence and Alabama and I was obsessed.  So, instead I bought the special edition of Empire magazine and read the script to myself, repeatedly.  In fact, I read whole passages of it into a tape recorder in different voices, so that I could listen to it as if it was a radio play.

The introduction to the script included an interview with Quentin Tarantino (the writer) and Tony Scott (the director, who very sadly died recently).  Together they explained how, in his version, Scott had changed the ending to Tarantino’s script – without wanting to ruin it for you if you haven’t already seen this gorgeous classic, he wanted to give the characters a happy ending.  Just because he loved them so much.  Tarantino was sceptical but eventually agreed that it was the right thing to do.

I could not agree more, and for this I will always be grateful to Tony Scott.

mercredi 5 septembre 2012

In awe

You don’t need me to write about Joan Didion.  Scribbling this in a little posting seems totally unnecessary to the point of insult.  I’m not sure I am fit even to breathe her name.

Having meant to for ages, I read first The Year of Magical Thinking (slayed me), then Blue Nights (beyond repair).  As you probably know, both of these are memoirs.  The first, which has become a classic, is about the sudden death of her husband – he literally dropped dead mid-conversation one evening while they were cooking dinner.  The second, almost unbearably, is the new follow-up – about the death of her daughter Quintana shortly afterwards.  They are both stunning.

I just finished one of her novels, Play It As It Lays – a brilliant evocation of an LA actress’s breakdown.

I am eagerly awaiting delivery of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the definitive collection of the essays for which she is arguably best known.

She is everything I want to be, basically.  There is no point in me trying to sell this to you.  Just read everything of hers that you can get your hands on.

samedi 1 septembre 2012

Tomboy Style

I really, really love the super-stylish blog 'Tomboy Style'.  I love the look and the ethos of it.  And the occasional gorgeous montages of my own tomboy style heroines - Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, general cool 60s chicks, Chan Marshall.

I highly recommend that you check out

In the meantime, here is my own little homage to their regular Q & A section.

If not in Brighton, I would live in... a house closer to my family.  Other places I could happily live include LA, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Bridport and Paris.

My dream holiday would be to... pretend to live like a local in all my favourite cities for a few weeks/months at a time.

My current obsessions are...
Food: It’s become a new law that I have to have a breakfast burrito and Vietnamese pho every Saturday.

Music: Lee Ranaldo’s solo album ‘Between the Times and the Tides’ – I literally cannot get it off my stereo.  I am also obsessed with Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Books: Joan Didion, Beryl Bainbridge, Weetzie Bat and my new Kindle.

Fashion: Anything French and comfy/cool – APC, American Vintage, Etoile Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno.

Exercise: I go running four times a week and am currently conducting an experiment of adding the Tracy Anderson Method. Don’t know if it’s working but it’s addictive.

I channel my childhood self when I... swim outdoors, ideally with my sister.

The fictional character I most relate to is... Franny Glass.

If I had to be outdoors all day I would... be brave and wear shorts.

My favorite quality in a man is... consistency.

My favorite quality in a woman is... solidarity.

I'm terrified of... NOTHING!

My dream car is a... pair!  I’d love a new Fiat 500 for running around town and an old Range Rover for adventurous roadtrips.  Either would do.

My cocktail of choice is... a French 75.

My celebrity crush is... always Vincent Gallo.

The beauty product of choice is... Chanel lipstick in ‘Egerie’ – it’s subtle but makes you look instantly prettier; you only need a tiny bit, or it looks weird.

My friends and I like to... drink wine, eat a lot of pasta, then talk about the big, important stuff (then have a living room dance party).

If I could go back in time for one decade it would be... The obvious answer for me would be the 60s, but actually maybe more the late 70s in New York – you know, Basquiat and Blondie and Fab Five Freddy.

As a teenager I was totally into... Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain in equal measure.

I tend to splurge on... travel.  Most of my money goes on train tickets to visit friends in various places, and on occasional big trips.  The next three weekends, we’re going to Wales, Durham and Oxford, followed by a wedding in Cork and a holiday in Spain.

My love of a ballet pump, band T-shirt, 60s Birkin and Breton stripe what makes me have Tomboy Style.