Guildhall Shopping Centre, Queen St, Exeter EX4 3HP
Three months after our last visit, my wife and I were happy to return to the Exeter branch of Lebanese restaurant chain Comptoir Libanis on a special trip in honour of Veganuary.
Although neither of us are practicing vegans, we are both sympathetic to the vegan cause. My wife, to her credit, at least, had a fully vegan meal. I caved and chose to have some meat. But I won’t dwell on that.
The restaurant is, as before, welcoming and pleasant to visit. Staff are friendly and attentive. Even the toilets are nice with paintings of Hollywood stars of yesteryear adorning the walls. As a writer for Yours Retro magazine, I appreciated this.
The restaurant was also as good as it was before in catering for my nut allergy, removing all pistachios from the first course. Most restaurants have improved their standards on this recently, but there is still room for improvement at many.
Not here! They were great about it.
The restaurant seemed fairly quiet for a Friday night. January is, of course, traditionally a quiet month for restaurants. The other restaurants we passed looked quiet too. Comptoir Libanais looked quieter still.
The aubergine was very tasty, soft and held together well and each bite was accompanied by a pop of pomegranate freshness. This heat situation was, for me, made worse by the meal having far too much chilli on it. It practically blew the back of my head off and got my meal off to a rude start.
I much preferred the hommos, which had a smooth, creamy texture. The falafel was crunchy and the pink pickled turnip and mint provided a colourful combination. The spicy harissa sauce made it impossible to eat in full (for me anyway) though.
The tagine was perfect comfort food. The vermicelli rice made a nice change and there were peppers with aubergine, chickpeas, a tasty sauce with tomatoes and pomegranate seeds on top.
Which key events of the Roaring 20s are likely to happen again in the next decade? 1. A General Strike: possible but unlikely. 2. Stock Market Crash: very likely, but hopefully on a smaller scale. 3. Silly dancing trends, fashion and slang adopted: certain. 4. Republicans win 3 presidential elections as US retreats into isolationism: sadly seems very plausible. 5. Italy descends into fascism: I hope not! 6. Brits triumph at Olympics after running in slow motion to Vangelis music on a beach: er… 7. The Queen and Sir David Attenborough are born. Unlikely. In fact, probably quite the opposite? Happy New Decade readers!
As the rosette emblazoned (or, at least, drawn) on the cover reminds us, Viz has been doing this for forty years now.
Yes, that’s right. There have now been four whole decades of the popular British adult comic, which is ‘Not For Sale To Children’. In theory, this should mean it has now reached middle age or at least some semblance of maturity?
Has it though? Well, as Viz’s longest running character, the foul-mouthed TV personality, Roger Mellie, The Man on the Telly would say: “Hello, good evening and bollocks.”
In other words, “no”. As another publication which lasted in print for roughly half as long as Viz’s 40 years to date once memorably put it, this is a magazine “for men who should know better.”
This edition of the Viz annual, promises “a brassy fanfare of crowd pleasing blasts from issues 262-271.” So what’s included?
Roger Mellie appears opposite Gemma Collins on a celebrity version of Channel 4’s Naked Attraction. Aldridge Prior, The Hopeless Liar gets his perfect job: as President Trump’s press secretary: (“The President can do a one inch punch just like Bruce Lee and it would instantly kill you. FACT!”). Raffles, the Gentleman Thug is up to his usual tricks, (“Don’t forget your red flag, Bunny! We’ve got to absquatulate before the Scuffers get here!”). Old favourites return (“There is precious little sunshine for those living in the shadow of The Bottom Inspectors”), alongside strange newcomers (“Wally Walton’s Emergency Scorpion Squad and Wall To Wall Carpet Warehouse”). If you’ve read Viz before, you’ll know what to expect.
Viz has never been just a comic, however. Nearly half of it is made up of features usually satirising the celebrity-obsessed culture of the tabloid press. Highlights in this book include ’20 Things You Never Knew About Hats,” and a spoof of ‘Take A Break’ magazine called ‘Take A Shit’. There’s also a special festive edition of Roger Mellie’s Profanisaurus.
Mrs. Brady: Old Lady. Letterbocks. Gilbert Ratchet. Big Vern. The Broon Windsors (a bizarre amalgamation of the family from the long running comic strip, The Broons and the Royal Family). Mr Logic (“He’s An Acute Localised Body Smart in the Rectal Area”). I’ve really only scraped the surface of the world of Viz here.
Perhaps you think Viz is crude, vulgar and disgusting. Perhaps you think it is sometimes or often quite brilliant. You are both right.
Or as senile Daily Telegraph reader Major Misunderstanding says to an estate agent and his clients who he has mistaken for a group of young anti-Trump protesters, “Go back to your bedrooms and play on your ‘You-Tubes. Nobody cares tuppence for what you think.”
Chris Hallam has written a feature on Viz for the magazine, Comic Scene Volume 2, Issue 11, published in mid-December 2019
Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) articulates an interesting theory in the second episode of the third season of Peter Morgan’s The Crown.
The theory states simply that just as there is a clear pattern of steady, reliable, generally boring Royals, such as Queen Victoria, George V, George VI and the Queen herself, there is equally a parallel lineage of wild, reckless and hedonistic rebels. Consider: Edward VII, George V’s brother Prince Eddy or the notorious Duke of Windsor. Just as the older Queen, played by Helen Mirren in Morgan’s 2006 film, famously held back from shooting a stag, the other bunch would probably have ended up riding it roughshod over the hills and far away.
The Royal couple here are clearly thinking about the Queen’s own naughty little sister, Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter), glamorous and popular, but also increasingly wayward as she tours the mid-1960s USA. Viewers at home will, of course, be wondering how this theory applies to Prince Harry. And Prince Andrew.
At any rate, Margaret, at this point, gets an opportunity to restore Anglo-US relations which have been damaged by the new Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s (admirable) refusal to join America in the disastrous quagmire of Vietnam. The princess is thus dispatched to the White House in use her charms to win over President Lyndon B. Johnson (Clancy Brown) in the hope that L.B.J. will go all the way in resolving a British balance of payments crisis.
Quentin Tarantino – The Iconic Filmmaker and his Work, by Ian Nathan. Published by White Lion
One day, nearly thirty years ago, a young bearded man in a black suit ran across a road and was immediately hit by a car. Despite flying into and breaking the car’s windscreen, the hoodlum is soon on his feet again and pointing a gun at the unfortunate driver. As the scene is filmed from the driver’s perspective, it almost feels like we, the ones in the audience, are the ones being carjacked.
The carjacker was one ‘Mr Pink’ played by Steve Buscemi. The film was Reservoir Dogs and with its release, the career of film director, Quentin Tarantino had begun.
The years ahead would see the film’s director, Tarantino become so cool that for a while, it seemed possible that the name ‘Quentin’ might actually become cool in itself. In the end, despite the continued popularity of artist Quentin Blake, this never quite happened. But, as with his earlier fine, nicely presented coffee table books on the Coens and Tim Burton, distinguished film critic, Ian Nathan’s book on the video shop employee turned director, reminds us why Tarantino largely deserved all the subsequent fuss that was made about him.
The 1990s was a great time for Tarantino. Reservoir Dogs, a film about a robbery we never see and notorious for an ear removal scene we also never see, featured career-best performances from all its excellent all-male cast. Perhaps only Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi have done better work elsewhere and even they are better in this than anyone else.
Why is it called Reservoir Dogs? The book suggests the issue – as with the answer to the question, “who shot Nice Guy Eddie?”- is a mystery known only to Tarantino himsel). My own theory: the main characters’ behaviour resembles a pack of wild, stray dogs living near a reservoir, fighting each other, betraying each other to survive. But I’ve no idea whether this has any basis in fact. Do stray dogs even live near reservoirs and behave like this? I’ve no idea.
The Nice Guy Eddie ‘mystery’ is more easily explicable, however. The ‘shooting’ of the character, played by the late Chris Penn, was actually the result of a technical error. The ‘squibs’ which stimulated his gunshot wounds went off, exploding prematurely. Tarantino, cannily recognising the potential for controversy, deliberately left the mistake in the finished film. So basically nobody shot him.
Next up, was Pulp Fiction, the film where Tarantino fulfilled his promise. Then came Jackie Brown, the Kill Bills, Inglourious Basterds, the westerns and this year’s triumphant but flawed Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. I am fully aware I have not covered Tarantino’s body of work fully here. Rest assured: Ian Nathan does. The lone exception is Once Upon A Time… which is touched upon, but was obviously released too late for the book.
But in every other respect, as a crash course in Tarantino, this is second only to watching the films themselves.
Guildhall Shopping Centre, Queen St, Exeter EX4 3HP
Three years after it opened, the Exeter branch of Lebanese restaurant chain Comptoir Libanis has established itself as a solid player in the city’s ever expanding food empire.
Arriving for lunch in the Guildhall Centre on a grey early October afternoon, we might have expected the restaurant to be deserted. Not a bit of it. There was a busy, pleasant, family friendly atmosphere and some well-behaved pre-school children sat near us, many wearing Fezs on their heads, which I presume had been given out specially (just like that?).
The food: For starters, we were recommended the Mezze Platter., for me and my wife to share. This consisted of hommos, baba ghanuj, tabbouleh, falafel, natural labné, cheese samboussek, flatbread and pickles. Every aspect of this was pleasant and as I am a nut allergy sufferer, I was especially appreciative of the staff’s sensitivity when I enquired about this.
I am generally quite a messy eater (the party of children I mentioned before, probably left less debris behind than I typically do. I thus went for a relatively safe option: a burger, specifically a Lebanese Lamb and Halloumi burger consisting of char-grilled lamb kofta burger with grilled halloumi, tahina, harrisa mayonnaise, tomato, pickled cucumber, served with Lebanese spiced potatoes.
We live in age where high quality burgers have become almost the norm. This one certainly really hit the spot. I soon found myself calculating how much bread I needed to sacrifice to ensure I could manage all of the main event.
Not for the first time, my wife chose well too, opting for Chicken Taouk: marinated grilled chicken breast with garlic sauce, pickled cucumber and tomato. I was soon in the weird position of envying her choice while simultaneously being pleased with my own selection.
Our only error? We had by now eaten far too much to even contemplate a dessert. The starter alone would have satisfied many people.
Still, never mind: we are sure to come to Comptoir Libanais again.
Reproduced, with thanks, from Bingebox magazine (2016):
It seems like a familiar sight. A lone sultry and very famous singer delivers a seductive performance of “happy birthday” to the birthday boy, actually her secret lover, who also happens to be her leader. But as she reaches the third line, something jars. The words change and things take a chilling turn. “Happy birthday…Mein Fuhrer,” are the star’s next words. For while this is Marilyn Monroe, she is not singing to President Kennedy, the charismatic young American president but to … someone else entirely.
So, begins the trailer for the second season of Amazon Prime’s, The Man In The High Castle. And as if we didn’t know already, this is a world in which history has taken a very different turn from our own. And not for the better.
THE REICH STUFF
of The Man In The High Castle stems from the endlessly fascinating question;
what would the world be like, had Nazi Germany and imperial Japan triumphed at
the end of the Second World War instead of the Allies, (that is the United
States, Soviet Union, British Empire and others)?
It was a
question which once haunted the feverish, troubled but hugely imaginative mind
of author Philip K Dick. The man whose writing ultimately inspired many of the
greatest science fiction films of all time including Blade Runner, Total
Recall, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau, Dick been just too young to
fight for the US in World War II himself but nevertheless realised what a close
thing the outcome of the war had been. Over fifty years’ ago, inspired by
another novel which convincingly imagined a victory for the slavery supporting
Confederacy in the 1860s American Civil War, he set to work producing a book
depicting a similar alternative ending to World War II.
Prone to hallucinations and sudden bouts of paranoia, Dick had a relatively short turbulent life, dying in 1982, aged just 63 without seeing most of his work reach the screen. But he enjoyed probably more success The Man in High Castle than with any other book during his lifetime.
WELCOME TO AMERICA: 1962
season of The Man In The High Castle in 2015 brought the book’s chilling vision
vividly to the screen. The United States of America we know from this period
(portrayed in the early series of Mad Men, amongst other things) was confident,
victorious and powerful poised on the verge of huge successes such as in the space
race, but also riven by racial division and on the brink of disaster both in
the Cuban Missile Crisis and in the growing war in Vietnam. But the America portrayed
here is very different: it is no longer in fact, even the “United States” at
all. We soon learn that the west coast of the former USA is now under the
control of the victorious Japanese while the eastern bit is under Nazi German rule.
The Rocky Mountains meanwhile are a neutral buffer zone between the two sides,
this being where the mysterious “man in the high castle” is said to reside.
Tantalising hints as to what has befallen the
Allies are scattered liberally throughout both the series and the book. One
character suggests the great war leader President Franklin D. Roosevelt was
assassinated long before the war started in this reality, perhaps explaining
why the US did not win. Another suggests that the war dragged on until 1947 instead
of 1945 here, only ending when Nazi Germany dropped an atomic bomb on Washington
land then and few of the characters we meet are not facing a conflict of the
loyalty of some sort or another. With the first season still on Amazon Prime
some might want to steer clear now. But for everyone else, here’s a quick
Francisco resident Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) for example, an expert in
aikido appears happy living under Japanese rule at the start of Season 1. That’s
until her half-sister Trudy who turns out to have been a member of the
anti-government Resistance, is unexpectedly killed. Juliana finds herself drawn
herself into the work of the Resistance as she attempts to complete Trudy’s
last job: delivering a tape entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy to the mythical
man in the High Castle. Intriguingly, the tape depicts an alternative version
of history in which the US and the Allies defeated Germany and Japan!
Essentially, the world in the tape is very like our own.
aided and abetted by her boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) a man enjoying
some creative success but who has a dark secret which pushes him closer and closer
to full blown rebellion: he is Jewish. Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) meanwhile
faces conflict of a different sort. Although supposedly a member of the
Resistance he is in fact a secret agent in the employ of SS Obergruppenfuhrer
John Smith (Rufus Sewell). Although very clearly a baddie, Smith is far from
the typical stereotypical black and white Nazi villain. As his name suggests,
he is an American-born participant in the new regime. A family man living a
comfortable suburban life, it is suggested he has been drawn to Nazism by the
apparent failure of the old American system in the Great Depression of the
Thirties. Trade minister Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) is yet another
character who finds himself torn between conflicting loyalties. The new series
also sees Chief Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) begins to take more interest
in the Man in the High Castle.
Juliana, increasingly unsure what to do about the treacherous Joe, Joe doubting
his own continued commitment to the Third Reich, Smith increasingly doubtful
about the Nazi philosophy after the illness of one of his children, more revelations
from The Grasshopoper Lies Heavy tapes and mounting tensions between Germany
and Japan, the ten hour long episodes of Season Two of The Man In The High
Castle promise to be just as compelling and as full of intrigue as the first.
At the root
of the series’ success however is its authentic portrayal of a chilling but
plausible alternative version of American history that though perhaps a touch more
plausible in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent election victory, has mercifully
WHO’S IN IT?
starring role of Juliana Crain, French-born Alexa has appeared in a good range
of TV (Angel, Mob City) and films (notably The Chronicles of Riddick and Clash
of the Titans).
With a key role
in Ewan MacGregor’s recently released directorial debut American Pastoral,
British actor Evans who plays Frank Frink has been in plays, TV and film
aplenty, notably offbeat superhero flick Hellboy.
Instantly recognisable as the older man love interest Lord Melbourne in the recent ITV Victoria, Sewell, also British, has been playing sexy villains for years in A Knight’s Tale, The Legend of Zorro and other films and TV.
Reproduced, with thanks, from Bingebox magazine (2016):
Send her victorious? As
the dust settles, ITV’s Victoria is widely seen as the winner of this autumn’s
big ratings battle with BBC’s Poldark. But whatever the outcome, both are
likely to be big sellers on DVD this Christmas.
In retrospect, with its
attractive cast and sumptuous period setting, it might seem hard to see how
Victoria could have failed. But fail, she very easily could have. A few months
ago, Jenna Coleman’s post-Doctor Who credentials were unproven. But as the
teenaged Queen assuming leadership of the greatest empire the world has ever
seen, Coleman has triumphed, her decision to forsake the TARDIS, totally
Her on screen romances with
her first Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (played by aging sex symbol, Rufus
Sewell) and more famously German aristocrat, Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) were
also well received. Although given that Coleman is already far more attractive
than the real Queen Victoria ever was and that her infatuation with Melbourne
along with much of the plotting which makes up much of the storyline is largely
fictional, the series soon faced charges of historical inaccuracy.
But unlike the last
attempt to tackle this subject matter – 2009’s film The Young Victoria – this
is a success. Perhaps it is fitting that that earlier film was written by
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. For it is in Victoria, that ITV has
truly found a period drama to compare to Downton’s level of success. Long live
The wilds of late 18th
century Cornwall have proven fertile ground for drama before. First, there was
Winston Graham’s dozen or so hugely successful Poldark novels. Then there was
the hit 1970s TV series. Finally, there was last year’s BBC ratings smash
Poldark starring Aidan Turner. It was only a matter of time before Poldark
returned. With the second outing proving another success, both recent series
are available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
This is perhaps
inevitably a sexier affair than the 1970s series: recognising this, Turner is
required to take his shirt off in the first episode of the second series. But
let’s not get carried away: were Poldark not compelling, well-acted, authentic
and reasonably faithful to its source material, it would never have worked. The
second series begins where the last one finished: with Ross accused of murder.
Thanks to this and the
likes of War and Peace and The Night Manager, the BBC has had a good year for
TV drama in 2016. But while one wouldn’t want to rain on Poldark’s undoubted
success, it is worth noting that Poldark though screened on BBC One was, like
Victoria, made by ITV Studios. With ITV also behind a number of the notable
period drama hits of recent years such as Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge, is it
conceivable the Beeb’s status as the home of British period drama could be
under threat? Only time will tell.
WHO’S IN IT?
A familiar face to many
already thanks to roles including the poet Rossetti in TV’s Desperate
Romantics, as the conflicted vampire in Being Human and Kili in the Hobbit
films, the Irish actor’s dark brooding sex appeal as Ross Poldark has
undoubtedly smoothed the show’s path to success.
As Ross Poldark’s beautiful second wife Demelza, Eleanor Tomlinson has seen her star rise considerably. A film actress since her early teens, her CV includes major supporting roles in big screen flop, Jack The Giant Killer and BBC War of the Roses historical drama, The White Queen.
As the ruthless, arrogant and determined power-hungry banker George Warleggan, Jack Farthing has essentially taken the role of Poldark’s villain. A theatre actor, the Oxford-educated Farthing is best known for posh roles such as Freddie Threepwood in P.G. Wodehouse adaptation Blandings and for Oxford University-based film drama, The Riot Club.
The answer lies within Chris Mullin’s excellent 1982 novel, A Very British Coup. Written in the dark days of early Thatcherism, Mullin envisaged a future (the late 1980s), in which Perkins, a working-class hero and onetime Sheffield steelworker leads the Labour Party to an unexpected General Election victory on a manifesto not dissimilar to the one Labour lost on in 1983. Perkins’ Labour Party is thoroughly socialist and the new government quickly embarks on fulfilling the radical agenda it has been elected on: dismantling Britain’s nuclear deterrent and leaving NATO, breaking up the newspaper monopolies, redistributing wealth and more.
Needless to say, the establishment: the civil service, the media and the security services are horrified. They immediately begin conspiring with the US (who, viewing things through a Cold War prism, see Britain as having “gone over to the other side”) in a bid to thwart the programme of the democratically elected government. It is a great read.
Mullin was writing at a very volatile political time. In 1980, the new Thatcher government was already proving to be such a complete disaster that it seemed hopelessly doomed. For much of 1981, the SDP, not Labour, seemed set to replace them. By the post-Falklands summer of 1982, the resurgent Tories again seemed unbeatable, as indeed, proved the case, the Iron Lady having staged her own very British coup in the South Atlantic. We are in very volatile times again now. The future in the Brexit era is very hard to foresee.
In this long-awaited sequel, Chris Mullin (now a former Labour MP himself) creates a convincing near future which cleverly not only seems sadly only too plausible but which also makes sense in the context of what has happened in the earlier book.
It is the 2020s. With Brexit having proven a miserable failure, serious consideration is being given to a humiliated Britain going crawling cap in hand and applying to rejoin the EU. Trump has left office, but has left the international situation thoroughly de-stablised. Today’s leaders have left the political stage. A King is on the throne, as he was in the earlier novel. Labour seemingly locked in perpetual opposition under an ineffectual woman leader seems poised for a takeover by the former aide of the recently deceased former Prime Minister, Harry Perkins, Fred Thompson (Mullin isn’t much of a one for glamorous character names). As so often happens, Perkins, the scourge of the status quo in life is now hailed by left and right alike as a great leader of the past, now he is safely dead. Thompson was played by Keith Allen in the acclaimed 1980s TV version of the book is still middle aged (Mullin admits to some authorial sleight of hand here: only ten years have passed since the events of the first book, not thirty or forty).
But can Fred Thompson succeed in leading Labour back to power and restoring Britain to it’s former glory? Will his family difficulties or a rising tide of violence threatening to engulf British politics get in the way?
The Daily Telegraph describes this book “preposterous.” Presumably, they mean “preposterous” in the sense that it doesn’t mindlessly back Brexit or shamelessly back Boris Johnson’s leadership bid as that newspaper did.
This is perhaps – like Thompson himself -not quite the equal of its illustrious predecessor. But it is a fine sequel and an excellent, short-ish read.
Director Stanley Kubrick considered withdrawing the film soon after release in response to tabloid reports that groups of young men had been launching ‘copycat’ manned space expeditions to the planet Jupiter.
Conspiracy theorists have speculated that Kubrick made the film as part of a plot to fake the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landings. This is, of course, nonsense. He was already too busy faking the Vietnam War.
The final line of the film is “My God! It’s full of stars!” This claim is untrue: in fact, there are no Hollywood stars in it. Leonard Rossiter is literally the most famous person in the film and even he hadn’t been in ‘Rising Damp’ then.
The apes at the start of the film are speaking in genuine prehistoric dialect. Roughly translated, they are saying things like: “God, this is taking a while to get going isn’t it?” “Hey! Watch what happens when I throw this bone in the air!” and “Shit! Where did that big black thing come from? That wasn’t there just now…”
Ever the perfectionist, Kubrick made one extra throw the bone in the air 7,674 times, even before he switched his camera on.
The song ‘Daisy Bell’ was not Kubrick’s first choice for the famous HAL shutdown scene. He had originally planned to use the song, ‘Cinderella Rockerfella’ sung in duet with another computer voiced by Barbara Streisand. This didn’t happen only because Kubrick never thought of it.
Although authentic-looking, very few of the scenes were actually shot in space.
Stanley Kubrick originally planned to film the movie in real time, starting in the prehistoric era.
Some viewers reported finding the film overlong. Some even claimed it was longer than the actual year, 2001 itself, including those who had watched it during the year, 2001.
A pilot for a spin-off TV sitcom , ‘You Can Call Me HAL,’ in which the computer sang ‘Daisy Bell’ during the credits and occasionally killed people was made, but never aired as it was shit.
Some have noticed that if you move the letters of the name ‘HAL’ one letter back in the alphabet it spells out the initials: ‘GZK’.
Things which the film predicted correctly about the year 2001: there would be some were people around doing stuff with computers and space. Things it got wrong: manned space expeditions to Jupiter, computers don’t usually take that long to shut down, classical music wasn’t that popular.
Kubrick was reportedly disappointed that very few people really thought the flying bone had actually turned into a spaceship.
He also was surprised so many people guessed the ‘twist’ that the planet of the apes at the start was supposed to be Earth.
Alternative names for the film which were considered were: Million Dollar Space Baby, The Keir Dullea Movie, Monolithicent, Kubrick’s Pube and The Apes of Wrath.