Sunday, December 10, 2006

Remembering The Love Man: Otis Redding, 1941-1967

It was 39 years ago today that Otis Redding's plane crashed during a storm en route to a concert in Madison, Wisconsin. He was just 26 when he died, but Otis gave us an enormous body of work, songs that have become part of the soundtrack of our lives, from "Respect" to "Try a Little Tenderness." from "Shake" to "The Dock of the Bay." He gave us dreams to remember and he will always be remembered, with love and respect.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Funniest Radioactive DVD Ever? Ross Noble gets my vote

Finally got my copy of Ross Noble's "Sonic Waffle" DVD from Amazon UK. Rewarded with belly laughs, giggles, tears of laughter, big grins that last for hours, and generally uplifting after-effects that last for days. Somehow ordinary words like "hilarious" don't do it justice.

And talk about value for money. You get the very tight "Live at the Apollo" show which was screened on cable in the US in 2006. That was my first exposure to this Geordie comic and I was going to try transferring it from my DVR when I thought to check Amazon for a DVD. You also get a full-length unedited show from tsfa. From this show you get a real sense of what it is like to see Noble perform in person. And you realize what you might have suspected from the Apollo show--he makes this stuff up as he goes along. Taking cues from the audience is a fine comic tradition, as is the art of hanging your repertoire of jokes on those cues, but Noble uses audience input to create his show, live and off the top of his head.

Bonus features are the commentaries and the back story short film. The latter is firmly in the Python tradition and leads to the crowning absurdist epiphet: Radio-Active Kung-Fu Refrigerator Boy and Monkey-Slayer Ross Noble. As for the commentaries, I find these rib-ticklingly funny, first the commentary on the ssss show, then the commentary on the commentary--a first to the best of my knowledge ("This is me commenting on the commentary you heard earlier...you might not realize it but that commentary was entirely unscripted" and so on.)

I strongly urge anyone who is a fan of the Pythons and/or Eddy Izzard and/or The Big Lebowski to check out Ross Noble. He is unlike anyone else but those three reference points should be good predictors of your predisposition to find Noble knee-knockingly amusing. Not that everyone will find him equally entertaining. My wife insists she is not interested in seeing his shows a third time and only watched one half of one DVD commentary (she also promises to hit me if I repeat any of the material ever again--that's fair enough because I am content to enjoy a Noble-sque view of things and make up my own absurd banter when the mood strikes me).

But the burning, almost radioactive, question now is this: Why would someone who lives in America order from amazon.co.uk? As of right now, there are no Ross Noble DVDs published in the US. So I ordered one from the UK, having noted that it was not region coded. but so far that's the only way to get this DVD. Why? I don't know. But I do know it plays fine on my Toshiba SD 3980 PAL/NTSC Region Free DVD player.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Art of Acting Means Being Different People

Yes, these two people are the same person, my cousin, the actor Nick Tennant. To my mind, that is what great acting is all about, the ability to assume an identity to the point where the audience sees the character and not the person playing the character. Nick has that ability.

Take just a simple example from popular culture: Magneto in the X-Men movies. The character is played by Ian McKellen, but when you are watching the movie you don't sit their thinking "that's Ian McKellen." You're thinking "that's Magneto." And you're not thinking "that's Gandalf" or "that's Richard III" or maybe "that creepy Nazi neighbor in Apt Pupil." The character assumed by the actor is what you see, and IMHO what you should see, not the actor "being someone else."

Another good example would be Hannibal Lecter, engraved on the movie-goers mind by Anthony Hopkins (BTW, young Nick--above--attended the same drama school as Mr. Hopkins). That performance, powerful as it was, does not prevent you believing that Anthony Hopkins is the gritty but harmless New Zealand eccentric Burt Monroe in the must-see sleeper: The World's Fastest Indian (safe Christmas present for anyone interested in motorcycles or engineering feats of any kind).

For the record, the photo on the left is one of Nick's standard "head shots." The picture on the right is Nick duirng his time as Grumio in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2003 production of the bard's "Taming of the Shrew" and Fletcher's "The Tamer Tamed." It was Nick's idea to play the groom's role in a realistic stage of grubbiness. Hence the look you see.

Hooray for The Hogfather: Sky's Rendtiion of Pratchett Discworld Novel Debuts

Two days ago, London's Curzon Mayfair hosted the premiere of "The Hogfather," Sky's hi-def film screen adaptation of the Terry Pratchett Discworld novel that will be show on Sky 1 this Christmas (Sky 1 being part of BSkyB, or British Sky Broadcasting, the Murdoch-owned, UK-based satellite broadcaster that operates the Sky Digital network). For more details of the film see IMDB and Sky's TV guide.

Although I live in America and won't see The Hogfather this Christmas, I do expect that one of the hi-def channels in the US will pick it up. But to be honest, I would not know about this movie if my cousin, Nicolas Tennant (a.ka. Nick Tennant and Nicholas Tennant) had not been cast in it (along with Sir David Jason playing Albert, the alluring Michelle Dockery playing Susan, and Ian Richardson as the voice of Death). This led me to venture into Discworld for the first time and read the book, a step I am very glad I took.

Of course, I had seen a steadily growing number of these novels on the bookstore shelves for years, but had always been put off by the fact that a. fantasy fiction is not my favorite genre, b. the covers looked really cartoon-ish and uninviting (the American editions have recently been released with more subdued covers--but the trick to getting the most from these books is to create your own image of what the inhabitants look like rather than accept someone else's). Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Hogfather--the book, finding it to be a delightful mix of whimsy, humor, surprisingly contemporary political satire and comic allusion, and yes, deep thought (or at least deep-thought provoking notions).

And because the character that Nick plays is Corporal Nobby Nobs of The Night Watch, I worked my way through that sub-section of the series. I found these novels to be a fine anti-dote to depression, or at least a reliable escape from the distress of daily life.

BTW, the 'andsome bloke in the photo is Nick, so anyone who sees him as Corporal Nobby Nobs will know what a brilliant actor he is. (Corporal Nobby Nobs is introduced as "a small but irregularly formed figure" whose ears could look suggestive--in a later book we are told "the only reason you couldn't say that Nobby was close to the animal kingdom was that the animal kingdom would get up and walk away.") The following dialogue is just a taste of what Discworld can be like:

Sergeant Fred Colon: War, Nobby. Huh! What is it good for?
Corporal Nobby Nobs: Dunno, Sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe?
Fred: Absol -- well, okay.
Nobby: Defending yourself against a totalitarian aggressor?
Fred: All right, I'll grant you that, but --
Nobby: Saving civilization from a horde of --
Fred: It doesn't do any good in the long run is what I'm saying Nobby, if you'd listen for five seconds together.
Nobby: Yeah, but in the long run, what does Sarge?

Celeb Trivia du Jour: Michelle Dockery appeared in the original stage production of "His Dark Materials" which is currently being filmed with the latest Bond, Daniel Craig, in the role of Lord Asriel, and starring Nicole Kidman.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cobb on Arts & Entertainment? Yes!

Yep, this is what's next. A separate blog for thoughts on arts and entertainment.

And let me start with a shameless plug for the current and very hot novel by my favorite novelist/restaurateur: Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta. Definitely worthy of its National Book Award nomination. If you think you are cool, try this book on for size. I'm sorry it didn't win, but I am sure there are many awards in Dana's future. I know she is working on another novel right now, even as she orchestrates the fine dining experience that is known as The Rose and Kettle, one of the many good reasons to check out the gem of upstate New York: Cherry Valley.

Also, an arts and entertainment posting would not be complete without a recommendation for your listening or viewing pleasure. My thanks to Mark (a poet with colour and World's Best House Painter) for turning us on to Lemon Jelly. All kinds of weird elements merge to make beautiful music. Not really lounge, not really house or trance. Not Tubular Bells but not unrelated. Maybe a pinch of Ogden Nut Flake? Have played the Lost Horizons album over and over, like we used to play LP sides back in the day, with the disc stacking arm off to the side to force a repeat. Here is a video to give you some idea (the band does not preview their tracks on Amazon).

Note: Cobb on A&E is firmly opposed to the pirating of copyrighted material and strongly encourages anyone who wants to play a piece of music or a work of video for their own pleasure to purchase a legitimate copy.