Last night at White Hart (White Hot) Lane, a new legend was born. His name is Gareth Bale; he is 21 and from Cardiff. He plays for Spurs. He destroyed one of the best teams in Europe and made their manager - one Fat Spanish Waiter called Rafa Benitez - look as crap as I've claimed him to be for years.
Today, the press are calling this young man one of the best young players in the world - they're not wrong. I've believed in this lad's talents since Spurs first signed him in 2007. He had a lot of bad luck to start with, but he is now emerging as one of the team's true world class players and effectively made himself a £40m player.
But take nothing away from the entire team; to beat Inter Milan - the European Champions - by 3-1 is an achievement par excellence. The shame of it is regardless of how brilliant the team was last night, they'll probably be brought down to earth on Saturday when they lose at Bolton. However, today, I am a happy man!
Andrew Lincoln played Egg in This Life and was a huge success. In my mind, he's done very little since that I've noticed, yet he's returned to the star spotlight in a quite extraordinary new television series from the USA called The Walking Dead. This is based on a comic book originally published by Image comics and created by Robert Kirkman (who I'm told has become something of a major player in the years since I gave up comics).
The show follows a group of survivors in the USA after a zombie apocalypse - which, I presume we will discover the reason for as the series continues - which will eventually be led by Lincoln's character, Rick Grimes. In the first episode, which in many ways mirrors both the 1961 Day of the Triffids and Danny Boyle's zombie reinvention 28 Days Later, the lead wakes up in a hospital unaware that the world has completely changed while he's been unconscious. But after that similarity, it goes off in a new and at times unexpected direction.
The Walking Dead will not be every body's cup of tea. It is gory and it is remarkably creepy. As someone who has always found the idea of zombies rather ludicrous, this is handled with a cinematic brilliance that makes the first episode feel like a fully-fledged motion picture. Lincoln struggles with a deep south accent, but other than this small quibble, he does an excellent job of portraying a policeman who wakes up in a nightmare world of which he has no comprehension.
The pilot is pretty relentless and its not long before we're introduced to concepts that George Romero has successfully burned into our collective consciousness. Unlike 28 Days Later, the zombies in The Walking Dead are slow and dead; but don't let that put you off. One or two of them are easy to handle, but when you're faced with an entire army of them, it suddenly becomes a different proposition and under the able direction of Frank Darabont (he of Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) gives us a pilot episode that will have you scrambling for a cushion to hide behind.
It has a climax to the first episode that is one of the best I have seen in many years and had the wife gripping my arm so fiercely I thought she was capable of ripping it out of its socket. Remarkably, the first series is only 6 episodes long and AMC, the producers have refused to confirm whether its getting a 2nd season. If the next 5 episodes are half as good as the first, it will become essential viewing. Bollocks to vampires - zombies are the new TV bogeymen!
Talking TV. My favourite programme for the last few years has been Dexter. For those unfamiliar with it, it's about a serial killer who works as a forensics specialist for Miami Dade police department.
Starring Michael C Hall, who was also quite brilliant in Six Feet Under - also one of my favourite TV shows of all time, it has become a firm favourite and unlike many TV series doesn't appear to have run out of ideas. In fact, far from it; the first two series were brilliant, but the last 3½ have been quite extraordinary. The finale of series 4 being possibly one of the best episodes of TV I have ever seen.
That changed on Monday when I watched episode 6 of the new series. Called Everything is Illumenated, it was possibly one of best episodes of television I have ever seen; on par with The Body - an episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I have felt is the best 45 minutes of television I have ever seen.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRjZ_3ZLL_I will take you to a video from the new Porcupine Tree DVD that shares the same name as this blog entry. The song - Half-Light - is one of those rare treats and I mean rare, as it doesn't actually exist on any official Porcupine Tree CD. This is what Steven "I'm the busiest man in showbiz, me" Wilson says about it: "...this is probably my favourite "lost" song from the PT back catalogue (don't look for it on a studio album, you won't find it) so I'm really happy that [it] now [has] a much higher profile as part of the live DVD/Blu-Ray. The special video guitar was created for me by Visionary Instruments from California."
The guitar really is something to behold! The song is also something special and I have been lucky enough to see it performed live - in Cambridge - back in 2007. I never in a million years expected an out take to be played at a gig, so imagine my delight when they just segued into this.
It's been a month and I'm proud as punch to still be off the dreaded cigs. But there is one thing that I'm really not very happy about. My sense of taste (the kind involving taste buds rather than a liking for flared jeans and floral skirts) seems to have completely deserted me. Nothing tastes the same any longer, and more worrying, nothing tastes very nice!
I have cooked several of my favourite meals over the last couple of weeks and nothing tastes right; or in most cases, nothing tastes very nice. I did a saag paneer yesterday; it's a dish that I can cook with my eyes closed; I've got it worked out, I don't need to move away from the recipe, yet, yesterday's was tasteless. The wife thought her's was fine - no changes - mine was just like tasteless mulch.
If it isn't a lack of taste, it's that everything is salty. Whatever I eat that has salt in it just seems to taste of salt and if its something like salted peanuts or crisps; then it just tastes of extreme salt. I know I smoked for best part of 31 years and when I wasn't smoking tobacco, I was smoking pot; but Christ on a bike, have I destroyed my taste buds so badly that only extremes seem to register now?
The worst part is that beer has gone from being wonderful stuff, to a sort of bland watery substance with an underlying taste of alcohol - seriously; last night at the pub I was drinking a beer that I normally really enjoy - Gravitas. Both Roger and Phil, my beer drinking buddies, were saying that it was an exceptionally good pint. I struggled to get through my pints. Even with my current predicament stopping me from going to work, I'm supposed to be attending a beer festival at the weekend with the aforementioned gruesome twosome; a beer festival featuring my favourite brewery in the entire universe - Oakham ales. I'm a little worried that none of it is going to have any taste, or worse still, it will have taste, but one I just don't really like.
We went to my favourite restaurant last week and not only did I struggle to get comfortable, but some of the courses we ate had a distinctly unpleasant taste. "Does this taste of disinfectant?" I asked Roger of our chilli paneer. He looked at me like I had gone slightly mad. It appears, that while I have this ravenous appetite, I am not putting on much weight because I'm not eating the things I would normally be eating. For fuck's sake, even chocolate doesn't taste right!
Subsequently, in the four weeks since I stopped smoking, I've lost 3lbs... How weird is that?
I'm a little disappointed. I know I've been bemoaning firework night recently; but this year its arrival has rather fucked up something.
A few months back, I wrote a review of my favourite restaurant - Pooja in Wellingborough; a proper 100% vegetarian restaurant, run by actual Indians and a place where the wife and I have visited so regularly that we not only feel like part of the furniture, we're treated like family by the owners.
Every year, Myood, the maitre de, insists we come over for Diwali and every year we sort of think that its an Indian celebration and we might be intruding on their religious festival. This year, Myood insisted again and was really adamant that we come and celebrate with them. He made a very good point of saying that Christians invite people into their homes at Christmas and Diwali is like a Hindu Christmas. In other words, he wasn't taking no for an answer. Every year, Pooja sets up a special tent in the forecourt of the restaurant and there are numerous foodstuffs not available on display. It is a time of celebration and they insisted we come over and celebrate with them. We agreed.
Then we realised that it falls on Bonfire Night weekend and with the dogs being turned into quivering wrecks because of it all, it means that we can't actually go over. It's pissed me off a lot, because while idiots have firework parties, ignorant of the pain and misery they're subjecting the nation's pets; we're going to have to, yet again, avoid spending an evening of celebration with our friends. Friends, who, incidentally, on learning that the wife and I want to go to India next year have become our unofficial 'hosts'. They are talking about arranging for us to stay with their relatives, meet up with friends who used to work at the restaurant or generally for us to be looked after by their friends in Gujarat.
I hope it pisses down with rain to dampen the fireworks - but sadly, I also want it to stay fine so my Hindu friends can have a great Diwali celebration!
I'm going to change my mind about something. I thought the new Orb featuring David Gilmour album was a pile of shite. I've given it a couple more listens and I'm now thinking it isn't that bad. It needs a few listens before it begins to have the desired affect. I'm listening to the metalic side at the moment and I have to admit, it's actually quite good.
Last, but not least and more music... While I think of Porcupine Tree as the best Prog Rock band on the planet (and, reluctantly, the best Prog Metal band, because of their propensity for heavy riffs in the last 10 years); I think of Amplifier as the best heavy rock band on the planet. Having seen them perform an hour long set at 2000 Trees in 2009, they did nothing but cement that feeling. Well, the boys from Amplifier have finally got their new album ready and in the next few weeks it should appear.
The Octopus is a double album and isn't just a record, but an experience. Go here: http://ampcorp.blogspot.com/ to see what I mean. Read Sel Balamir's blog and get an idea of why I think they're awesome.
I'm going to be doing another interview with him; which will be an updated version of the one I did a couple of years ago for The Comics Village (and I'm going to introduce him to a few more groovy words). But, in the meantime, check out their stuff on either Spotify or Grooveshark. Most people I know who like their rock music hard have enjoyed Amplifier. Now, they appear to be doing it all themselves - I don't think there's a record label involved any more - which I find a complete mystery - so if you like them: support them!