Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mark Thomas

Sorry for the delay, but anyway, Mark Thomas.

Before I start, I do swear a bit in this one, so if you're easily offended, get a grip on yourselves. Read on. Follow some of the links and maybe you'll find something worth getting pissed off about and you'll direct your anger at some of the evil things happening in the world rather than someone typing a swearword on the internet.

Mark describes himself as a fat dad with a failing mouthwash regime. I call him a hero of modern politics. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

He calls himself a fat dad because he's got two kids and a complex, but to be honest, he's not in bad shape for someone in his mid forties. So he's half right I suppose. I can't comment on the mouthwash.

Why I consider him a hero will take a bit more of a back story. A story which starts with the sad fact that I knew more about politics at the age of 10 than I did at 18. The reason for this was a tv show called "Spitting Image" which at one time told a growing boy all he needed to know about the world of politics and the strange people that inhabited it. The show started in 1984 when I was 7, by the time I was 10 or 11 I knew every member of the cabinet and shadow cabinet and what they did. I was aware of the scandals and the stories. I was interested and wanted to fix the broken world I saw around me. By the time it finished in 1996 it had descended to picking on celebrities with silly jokes and I'd long since lost interest. I was going off to university, the traditional time of political activism, and I couldn't give a stuff.

Then in 1996 a loud mouthed comedian from south London somehow managed to get channel 4 to give him a tv show. That was Mark. It was called the Mark Thomas Comedy Product. It slapped me round the face, yelled in my ear that there were some serious problems that needed looking at then put me down. Unlike the puppets on Spitting Image (I'm not being derogatory there, they really were puppets) here was a man who literally put his money where his mouth was. He would go out and investigate the shit, then protest against it and even better he would tell everyone else and ask them to join in. Genius. If you go to his website you'll be greeted by the banner "If you're not pissed off, You're not paying attention.

I could go on for pages and pages about the sort of things he gets up to but I'd best not here because it's late and I'm tired. Maybe I'll talk about some of the things he's done, and inspired me to do next time. This time I'll just talk about the show I saw.

The focus of this tour and Marks latest campaign is one of the most draconian laws our retro-active over-controlling draconian government has put in place in the name of countering the so called terrorist threat. What's so evil about this law ls that it sounds so innocent. SCOPA is a law that actually makes it against the law to protest near the Houses of Parliament (and quite a large chunk of London to boot) without getting written permission from the authorities first. i.e. the poeple you are most likely to be protesting against, those in the houses of parliament, have the final say as to whether you are allowed to protest. What constitutes a protest under this law, One person wearing one pin badge. That's right, a tourist walking through parliament square wearing a "give peace a chance" t-shirt could be deemed to be breaking the law and be arrested. This show was about Marks attempts to fight the law by obaying the law. The shows blurb reads;
"Comedy that really makes a difference! This is Mark's true story of cake icing as a political weapon, of demonstrations to Defend Surrealism and getting to like the police. Mark turns an 18 month battle over Parliament Square and the right to demonstrate into bizarrely brilliant stand up. This is how Mark fought the law ... with the law's permission! It is a laugh out loud funny world inhabited by anarchists, Goths, artists and a chap called PC Paul McInally, in which Mark becomes a Guinness World Record holder, organises 2,500 protests in one day and changes the law in the process." and since I couldn't sum it up better I won't.

I think I've rambled enough for now. If you want to know more, drop me a msg or email. I may pick this up again in a future blog even. For now, it's late, good night.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Shins

Well the new lease on life continues apace, the private life of Paul becomes more and more public and much more and more fun.

First an explanation on chronology, I went to two gigs this week. I'm going to do a blog on each, a kind of mini review of the night and the experience. The first on Tuesday was Mark Thomas. The second was Thursday night, that was the Shins. "But Paul," I hear the more observant of you cry, "the title of your blog is the Shins, surely you have made some mistake with your timeline. Why put the second night before the first, pray tell?" and since you ask I will tell. Both gigs were outstanding for very different reasons, but the Mark Thomas show was important and I want what I say about that to stick in your mind, so if you read these blogs together you'll read that last and it might stick.

But first the Shins. And before them the friends. I'd never heard of this band until recently when I was introduced to their music by my friend Hannah who's lovely. Thank you Hannah for the music (anyone who starts humming ABBA to themselves, shame on you!). Anyway when I got the annoying email a few months ago from ticketmaster I very nearly deleted it without thinking, then I noticed the Shins were playing. In Manchester. Yippee Skippy! I rang Hannah, she rang Steph and Laura (two of my new friends in manc I met thru Han) I bought four tickets.

So Thursday night we went it was great. I've got the tickets and I'm waiting for the girls in Kro bar, which is just across from the Manchester Academy where the gig is and I'm doing the standard first one there act. Nursing my pint, looking at my watch far to often, glancing at the door whenever it looks like it moved and generally trying not to look like a lonely alcoholic. Then Laura and Steph turn up and I got hugs. Yay me! and Hannah turns up and we have excited giggly catch up chat and we're sat outside so the smokers can smoke and it's November in the north of England so everyone's shivering and turning a lovely blue colour. Then it's time to go across the road and we shove our way to about half way up the hall and the band starts to play.

Now I'm a bit nervous at this point whenever I see a band for the first time because some of them are a bit hit and miss. Arctic Monkeys for instance, brilliant albums, could listen to them all day. Bit crap live. And I'm a fairly new Shins fan, I didn't want my new found love of the band to be shattered. I needn't have worried. They were outstanding. True artists. A joy to listen to. Another little sound-bite quote you get on album covers.

They didn't play my favourite song, Baby Boomerang, but I'll forgive them because they did drip with entertainment and the crowd lapped it up. They didn't do much in the way of banter with the crowd but when they did they all came across as nice chaps. They even talked about a busking competition they'd had on the streets of Manchester that day. The bass player won with a princely sum of £19. I would have loved to have seen that. Just outside Boots getting a sandwich for lunch and coming across a guitarist in an international band to say, I've got a ticket to see you play tonight. Priceless.

Any way it was a great night, good music, all right venue and absolutely brilliant company.