Monday, January 25, 2021

Broken Promises & Shattered Bones

Things that we learned from the first two episodes of Efterforskningen (The Investigation) - broadcast on BBC2 this week - that we really should have known, previously. Number one: The Danish word for 'murder' (or, more strictly, 'homicide') is 'Drab'! Forty episodes of Forbrydelsen and four series of Broen and this blogger had never even noticed that before. This blogger is extremely grateful to his fine fiend Nick Cooper for pointing out that most of the international versions of 'murder' appear to have a similar etymology to English (most notably, the New York and Glasgow variants, obviously). Including, interestingly, Finland where the word is 'murha.' This 'seems to confound the usual gags about Finnish being completely different from any other language,' notes Nick, correctly. For once, it's those crazy Danes that are the ones who are being deliberately obtuse.
'Fifty homicides are committed in Denmark every year. It's the lowest number ever. But it doesn't feel that way ... because we hear about all of them.' 'Maybe it's because the more civilised we become the greater is our need to stare into the darkness.' The Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm has made a string of accomplished, morally complex dramas which almost nobody in Britain has seen (but, which those of us who have, absolutely adored). He was one of the co-writers of From The North favourite Borgen the award-winning drama about coalition politics. With Thomas Vinterkorn, he co-wrote The Hunt in 2012, which starred Mads Mikkelsen as a school teacher wrongly accused of sexual abuse. In the same year he also made his solo film debut, A Hijacking. Two of the stars of Borgen - Pilou Asbæk and Søren Malling - played a cook on a cargo ship and the shipping company's chief executive, who are pushed to their limits when the vessel is taken by Somali pirates. In 2015, Lindholm reunited with both actors for his Afghanistan drama A War, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. Now the three of them at it again. The Investigation is a six-part true-crime drama about the highly publicised 2017 murder of the Swedish investigative journalist Kim Wall, whose dismembered body was found in the waters around Copenhagen after she went to interview the Danish entrepreneur-inventor Peter Madsen on board his submarine. In a clever move, Madsen himself is not depicted (or even, actually named) in the series, the drama focusing instead on the meticulous police investigation to prove what actually happened to cause Wall's death and the grief process of her parents, Ingrid and Joachim (both of whom were heavily involved in the production). With a cast and crew that had many links to previous acclaimed Scandinavian series like The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge and the under-rated Those Who Kill (Den Som Dræber) it was never going to be any less than gripping telly. But, having devoured all six episodes of The Investigation on BBC iPlayer back-to-back, this blogger was mesmerised by this beautifully shot, slow moving, intricately plotted and immaculately acted piece. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping had previously assumed that there was unlikely to be a better Scandi Noir thriller shown on British telly in 2021 than the Icelandic Brot (The Valhalla Murders) and nor was their likely to be any foreign language drama that would even touch the final series of From The North favourite Engrenages. Wrong. And, wrong again. We're only three weeks into the year, dear blog reader, but it's perfectly possible that the winner of From The North's Best Of list for 2021 is currently being broadcast before this blogger has even started making notes about what's going to feature on said list(s). Those crazy Danes, it would appear, have done it again. Tak.
And, speaking of Spiral, iPlayer now features the entire eight series of the truly wonderful French crime drama, including the final two episodes of the last series which will not be broadcast on BBC4 until next weekend. This blogger won't spoil it for any dear blog readers who haven't seen the conclusion yet but, suffice to say, it's pretty much everything you'd expect from Engrenages and a bit more besides. And, even more importantly, it ended as many of us had half-expected - and hoped - that it would. Which was jolly nice. As more than one critic has suggested, it seems Spiral saved the best till last. For which, a heartfelt merci beaucoup to all concerned.
Which seems like an appropriate moment for this, dear blog reader ...
Staged. 'I'M DOCTOR WHO!''NOT ANY MORE, BABY!' Another iPlayer binge-out on the second series of the acclaimed, wonderful David Tennant/Michael Sheen lockdown vehicle. After which, this blogger went back and watched the whole of the first series again (previously included on From The North's 2020 Best Of list). And, why not?
American Gods. Because, you just can't beat an episode of Ian McShane and Peter Stormare trying to out act each other in a 'who can flare their nostrils the most' contest.
The Blacklist. Never, in the history of television, has a long-running series come so perilously close so often to disappearing up its own arsehole but has always managed just to pull back from the verge of doing so. It happened again this week dear blog reader and, again, they just about managed to avoid a complete car crash in the latest episode. Though it was touch-and-go for a while.
Winterwatch. Oooo ... frosty.
Qi. More of national treasure Bill Bailey at his effortless best. What's not to love? And, much to this blogger's surprise, the 'virtual audience' thing used on the latest episode actually did work. Not as well as a real one would have, obviously but you can't have everything. Though, at times, it did resemble a 1970s US sitcom featuring a superimposed laugh-track.
Mark Kermode's Secrets Of Cinema. The latest episode, on pop movies, was a thing of beauty, Mark looking at a genre which combines his own twin passions. Pop movies encompass many forms, from drama and comedy to fantasy and documentary, producing some of the most potent and emotive moments in popular culture. Rebellion, romance, anarchy, excitement. Mark showed how the fusion of pop music and movies has been a double act like no other. Worthwhile, for many reasons, one of them being for a further lionisation of Kermode favourite Slade In Flame!
The second Sri Lanka versus England test match. Which, England won. You can normally tell just how exciting any cricket match has become when it tears this blogger away from watching old episodes of Homes Under The Hammer.
Would I Lie To You? Wasn't it absolutely fascinating to observe that when the latest batch of episodes were filmed - late last year,  between lockdowns - all the panellists were socially distanced but, seemingly, the audience was not?
This coming Friday's episode, of course, is a time for fans to rejoice as national treasure Bob Mortimer returns to Would I Lie To You? with more of his own specialist brand of preposterous tales. Most of which, remarkably, turn out to be true. Trying to keep a straight face will be fellow panellists Samantha Morton, Sarah Hadland and another much-loved semi-regular, Miles Jupp.
Many of this blogger's beast fiends have been jolly impressed with the early episodes of Russell Davies's new drama, It's A Sin. This blogger has, he must confess, been rather less blown away by its awesome hugeness than they - though the script is, as you'd expect, effortlessly superb. Nevertheless, there's a fine piece by Big Rusty in the Gruniad Morning Star this week which this blogger wishes to draw dear blog readers' attention to. If for no other reason than it gives this blogger another opportunity to use this favourite 'Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Rus-sell' photo to illustrate this. Never a chore, dear blog reader, never a chore.
In the last From The North bloggerisationisms update, this blogger promised, solemnly, that From The North's 'decidedly strange' - if brief - 'flirtation with becoming a political bloggerisation thingy over the last half-a-dozen updates or so' would be over. A promise which this blogger is about to break. Because, you know what it's like, dear blog reader? This blogger is sure we've all experienced that sinking feeling when you start a new job only to find the bloke who's just got sacked and you've replaced has left a load of shit on your desk that needs clearing up, right?
Or, to put it another way ...
Another question which needs to be addressed at this juncture, dear blog reader. Is there is actually anything that infamous 2000 episode of The Simpsons (Bart To The Future) didn't predict with chilling accuracy?
This blogger is grateful to his dear fiend Michael Lee who notes that, at least on the strength of the pilot episode, it appears as though the 2021 West Wing remake has the CJ character down. Word, brother. 
Absolutely Goddamn correct in every regard. Though, this blogger added, he is not sure at all about the new Toby. That's just stunt-casting, surely?
Speaking of the greatest TV show in the history of the world (that doesn't have to words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title), it was proper lovely to see From The North favourites Brad Whitford and Richard Schiff cropping up on the BBC News channel's Kathy & Christian, being interviewed by Kathy Kay on their overwhelming joy at the result of the recent US Presidential erection. And, on the differences between the actual White House and the studio set they worked on.
Richard, in particular, has been very visible this last week - one presumes he's got a bit of time off from filming The Good Doctor at the moment what with the Canadian lockdown and everything. Now, seemingly, fully recovered from his nasty bout of Covid late last year, not only was he tweeting, lovingly, about the time he was interviewed by the late Larry King and celebrating the Biden West Wing but, also, finding the time to get interviewed by From The North favourite Eddie Izzard whilst running a marathon. Eddie was doing the running, incidentally, not Richard. Nice work if you can get it. Seriously, he gets everywhere, that bloke, including invites to all the nicest houses.
Still on the subject of people who get everywhere ...
Forbes magazine's excellent piece 'We All Got Played': QAnon Followers Implode After Big Moment Never Comes is just one of several articles which delve into the murky world of now extremely former President Mister Rump's - how can we put this most delicately - madder supporters. And their bewilderment and discombobulation that now extremely former President Mister Rump is, you know, now extremely former. BBC News' Biden Inauguration Leaves QAnon Believers In Disarray covers broadly similar themes. The Associated Press, NPR, The Washington Post and NBC News were also keen - more than keen, in fact - to find angles on this most wee-in-yer-pants amusing of stories. Though as bonkers theories go, this one is probably the most bonkers of the lot. Bar none. Meanwhile, a word to the wise (and, indeed, the unwise) from Q his very self. You tell 'em, Major Boothroyd.
BBC News also had a helpful summation of many of the big taking points from Inauguration Day. From Bernie Sanders' meme-friendly mittens to the fireworks which - somewhat literally - accompanied Katy Perry's big finish. From Melania Rump's mysteriously mid-air-changing attire to the beginning of a significant, if you will, purple reign. And, from Eugene Goodman's great moment to the glorious show-stealing poetry of Amanda Gorman. Yes, even from the distance of five thousand miles, that looked like a good day which yer actual Keith Telly Topping's many, many American fiends were all having. The Late Show Live's Stephen Colbert covered broadly the same topics. Albeit, his version was somewhat funnier.
One of the - few - things this blogger has rather enjoyed about the last four years of American insanity is the - relative, and this blogger uses the term, advisedly - rehabilitation of the forty third US President. Apart from by some Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star, obviously. Seemingly, four years of Rumpism can make most things look marginally less horrible (God, even Nixon's getting a touch of reflected 'well, at least he wasn't Rump' blow-back these days). But the sight of serious Democratic players actually stopping to give Bush a bit of credit (even if it is, simply, for 'not being Rump') and Dubbya happily hanging out with Clinton and Obama and talking a vague sort of sense these days remains quite startling. But, actually, somewhat uplifting. As this blogger noted in relation to last year's one-off West Wing revival, it's an age-old truism but one that a lot of people have been given plenty of time to think about over these last four years - be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.
MSN reports that, one his first day in his new gaff, President Biden made a decorating choice which has had the space community all abuzz: There is now, it would seem, Moon rock in The Oval Office. The rock is believed to be a piece of vesicular basalt which was previously presented to President Clinton by the Apollo 11 crew back in the 1990s.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump was called on Air Force One last year by 'a prankster posing as Piers Morgan,' the hateful, horrible oily twonk has claimed. President Rump, as he was at the time but no longer is (you might have noticed), only realised that he had been tricked when he phoned the real hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan while on his way to Florida last year. The alleged security breach is claimed to have occurred in October, but only emerged in an interview the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan gave to the BBC's Americast podcast. The presence of the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan on which means it's probably the only episode of this fine podcast series that this blogger will only ever listen to once. And then, only so that he could bring you this story, dear blog reader. You see what this blogger has to put up with for you lot? Now extremely former president Mister Rump and the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan recently had a very public falling out over Rump's handling (or, lack of it) of the pandemic. Asked by the BBC's Jon Sopel why Rump had called the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan out of the blue this past October, the hateful, horrible oily twonk described 'an absolutely hilarious story, where somebody had called [Rump] pretending to be me the day before and got through to him on Air Force One.' Rump didn't realise that he had been duped, the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan claimed. 'They had a conversation with [Rump] thinking he was talking to me.' Given the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan's previous record of complete and total accuracy in reporting things we may, perhaps, want to take these claims with not so much a pinch as a vat of salt. You know the kind of thing, getting extremely sacked as editor of the Daily Mirra after publishing faked photos. Claiming that he had never met filthy albino kiddie-fiddler Jimmy Savile ... until someone found an article that the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan had written in which he claimed to have done exactly that. Being interviewed, under caution, by police officers from Operation Weeting investigating phone-hacking allegations at Mirra Group Newspapers during his tenure as editor. Being found by the Press Complaints Commission in 2000 to have breached the Code of Conduct on financial journalism. Et cetera, et cetera. Hateful? Certainly. Horrible? No question. Oily? We can be of little or no doubt. Twonk? Oh, yes, this blogger should cocoa. But, honest and truthful? This blogger will leave that one entirely up to you, dear blog reader.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, the fall out from the 6 January Washington malarkey continues to trickle onwards. Many of the - alleged - conspiring insurgents have, already, being pinched by The Fuzz for their - alleged - naughty insurrectionist doings. And that number is increasing day by day. Over the last week, for instance, we have seen the first conspiracy charges over the failed Capitol coup with three people affiliated with the far-right group The Oathkeepers accused of plotting ahead of the insurrection. All three deny any wrongdoing. And, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, 'well, they would, wouldn't they?' The FBI have also busted a Texas type individual who had already been charged with various offences related to the 6 January incident and is now also charged with making online death threats against the Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And, against a police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, one of the Capitol insurrectionists. Clint Broden, the alleged insurgent's attorney, called the threat 'an inappropriate comment made in the heat of the moment on Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez's Twitter feed,' according to the Grunaid Morning Star. Which, if you look up 'rather insubstantial attempts at accepting a guilty plea and hoping not to get twenty years in The Joint' on Google, you'll find that one pretty close to the top of the list. Another - allegedly - threatening individual who - allegedly - called for the 'public executions' of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and told Rump supporters to 'kill your Senators' has been very arrested by the FBI in Queens. A prominent Covid-19 denying doctor from California who took part in the failed coup has, similarly, been nabbed by The Feds and, after a spell in custody, is now out of bail. Also arrested have been a man who was captured on video swinging a hockey stick at a police officer and another who beat the same officer on the Capitol steps with a flagpole containing the stars and stripes (which is, surely, in contravention of the US flag code quite apart from being jolly unhealthy for the officer being thrashed with it). Amongst others facing charges for their insurrectionist ways are the so-called QAnon 'meme queen', a Beverley Hills salon owner, a Florida-based member of the right-wing Proud Boys, a far-right 'media personality' (for which read 'someone who has his own website') who calls himself Baked Alaska, someone alleged to have been 'making a scene' on the sidewalk outside the Capitol Hill Kimpton George Hotel, Zandra Sixkiller-Cramer of Glenwood, Maryland who was arrested for unlawful entry, Jessica Reinke arrested for defacing public property and assaulting a police officer and, err, Jesus. Apparently. A seditionist who posed in front of the US Capitol while wearing a shirt with the words 'Murder The Media' emblazoned on it has been charged with illegally entry. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Nicholas DeCarlo admitted that he entered the Capitol, but said he did so 'as a journalist.' The charging documents against DeCarlo state that he is not on record as being a credited journalist. And, there was also the chap whose brother is a Secret Service agent who once led Michelle Obama's security detail.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump reportedly pushed the Department of Justice to directly ask the Supreme Court to invalidate President Biden's erection win, people allegedly 'familiar with the matter' have told the Wall Street Journal. The effort was part of Rump's pressure on the Justice Department in his final weeks in office to overturn his embarrassingly huge erection loss which also, allegedly, included plans to fire then-acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen. And, to replace him with a relatively unknown Justice Department lawyer who was, it is claimed, 'willing' to use the department to support Rump's specious claims about erection fraud in Georgia, two people 'briefed on the matter' snitched to CNN. The effort, ultimately, failed - as all of Rump's ludicrous narcissistic bullyboy thug nonsense did - as Rump appointees in the Department of Justice refused to file the lawsuit, according to the Journal. Rosen, along with former Attorney General William Barr and former acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, would not file the Supreme Court case citing that there was 'no basis' to challenge the erection outcome and the federal government had 'no legal interest' in whether Rump or Biden won the presidency.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump's diehard supporters are often accused of living in a fantasy land, but one particular court case recently launched to try to reinstall him as El Presidente has, reportedly, surprised even the most hardened observers of Rumpesque strangeness by citing, as evidence, a mythological realm from The Lord Of The Rings. The case was launched in Texas, in the name of a variety of small conservative groups including Latinos For Rump and Blacks For Rump and was filed by one Paul Davis, an attorney who had previously lost his job after posting Instagram videos of himself at the insurrection attack on the Capitol. The case offers the usual baseless mix of allegations about erection fraud common among the sick Rump cult and calls for the voiding of every vote cast in the erection. All one hundred and fifty odd million of them. But - unusually for a legal strategy - the case cites as 'evidence' to back up its pro-Rumpian claims the tragic fate of the Kingdom of Gondor, one of the central realms of JRR Tolkien's fantasy classic, whose exiled ruler, Aragorn, was played onscreen by Viggo Mortensen. 'Gondor has no king,' the lawsuit states, a footnote providing an explanation of the terrible fate of Tolkien's - entirely imaginary - land populated by dragons, wizards, hobbits and elves, all threatened by a baleful Dark Lord backed by an army of Orcs and, famously, with little time for due democratic process. The suit explains how Gondor's throne was empty and its rightful king is in exile, presumably positing the idea that Rump is the true 'King of America' - a land which has been happily monarch-free since 1776. Although that is the name of a jolly fine Elvis Costello & The Confederates LP from 1986 which is a particular favourite of this blogger as it happens. Just, you know, in case you've never heard it. 'This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington DC a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice-President and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American people,' the case states, somewhat dubiously. It adds: 'Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as "Aragorn", occurred at the end of the story.' The lawsuit then suggests that America's version of the stewards of Gondor should be selected from among Rump's cabinet members, who should run the country whilst a new erection takes place. Legal experts have taken proper umbrage at this daft malarkey. One thing that Americans learned during the post-erection litigation is 'how little patience courts have for absurd legal arguments,' Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a fellow at the Brennan Centre for Justice at the NYU School of Law, told Salon in a thorough examination of the case and its legal merits. Or lack of them. 'This legal effort to declare Congress illegitimate will be laughed out of court and could lead to sanctions for the lawyer bringing such a claim.' Meanwhile, the rightful King of Gondor did eventually regain his throne and married Arwen, the daughter of Elrond. And they all lived happily ever after. The end. 
Many once-loyal members of Mar-A-Lago are leaving because they, reportedly, 'no longer want to have any connection' to now extremely former President Mister Rump, according to the author of the 'definitive' (for which read only) book about the resort. 'It's a very dispirited place,' Laurence Leamer, a historian and author of Mar-A-Lago: Inside The Gates Of Power At Donald Trump's Presidential Palace, told the host on MSNBC's Weekends With Alex Witt on Saturday. He also claimed that members are 'not concerned about politics' and 'they said the food is no good.'
The health officials who assisted now extremely former President Mister Rump in his (lack of) response to the Coronavirus pandemic, long believed to have harboured animosity toward a President who often eschewed science in favour of mad conspiracy theories, have begun to vent their frustrations with their former boss in public now that he has left office and they are no longer afraid of his terrible wrath. On the day of President Biden's inauguration, Centres for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield decried a 'lack of consistency of public health messaging and the inconsistency of civic leaders to reinforce the public health message' in a New York Times interview, adding: 'You can read between the lines what that means - "civic leaders."' Well-known spelling mistake Doctor Deborah Birx, who was at times maligned by both Rump and Democrats in her role as White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator and chief apologist, told CBS News that she 'always' considered quitting (but, never actually did), stating that she 'wasn't getting anywhere' in her role and admitting the erection became 'a factor' in health decisions. But Doctor Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has been especially vocal since becoming Biden's medical adviser, stating at a press briefing on Thursday he was 'uncomfortable' with Rump spreading information which was 'not based on scientific fact' and calling his own status in the Biden administration 'liberating.' He also told CNN's New Day that the Rump administration's 'lack of facts' on Covid 'very likely' cost lives. Fauci and other public health officials were repeatedly gagged from talking to the press or otherwise speaking publicly under Rump and Vice President Mike Pence, who headed up The White House coronavirus task force and even once restricted health officials from appearing on CNN. Rump often diverged from his health officials when it came to how to combat and discuss the virus, trying to paint the rosiest possible picture and touting unproven treatments. And, let us never forget, suggesting that injecting bleach was a way to beat the virus. And, also, die.
Dominion Voting Systems have sued now extremely former President Mister Rump attorney and pan-continental joke Rudy Giuliani for defamation, accusing the ex-New York City mayor of having 'manufactured and disseminated' a false conspiracy theory involving the company's voting machines and seeking a diarrhoea-inducing billion dollar plus compensation. It is the second in a series of high-profile, high-dollar lawsuits Dominion has filed against now extremely former President Mister Rump allies who pushed false accusations of erection fraud. Giuliani's lawsuit comes after Dominion already sued former Rump attorney - and madder-than-Mad-Jacqueline-McMad-winner-of-the-Mrs-Mad-competition - Sidney Powell for similar defamation. And, being mad. Probably. The company has also sent letters to more than one hundred individuals and companies (including, reportedly, Fox News) warning of potential eye-wateringly massive litigation to come.
Congratulations to all of the media who - now that US politics has some adults back in charge and is, as a consequence, in danger of becoming a bit, you know, boring - have to find something to report on that doesn't involve the President tweeting insane conspiracy theories at 5am. Welcome, therefore dear blog reader, to the first in a new semi-regular From The North feature This Bollocks Constitutes 'News' ... Now That Mister Rump's Had His Twitter Privileges Withdrawn. Number one - news about 'The First Dogs.' (And, no, if you're wondering, this is not a belated reference to Melania.)
Meanwhile, the - as yet unconfirmed - reports that now extremely former President Mister Rump is looking into the possibility of setting up his own political party (cos, you know, it's his party and he'll cry if he wants to) does rather bring to mind Bender's furious rant in an episode of Futurama when he gets thrown out of a theme park on The Moon. 'Yeah, well, I'm gonna go build my own theme park. With blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the park!'
To while away the many long and tedious hours of lockdown, dear blog reader, this blogger has been working on a new Stately Telly Topping Manor door sign. It gets the point over pretty well, one feels.
And finally, dear blog reader, the most important message you'll see all week. Probably. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

We're Glad It's All Over

You will all be happy to know, this blogger is sure, that From The North's decidedly strange flirtation with becoming a political bloggerisation thingy over the last half-a-dozen updates or so will, after these latest shenanigans, be well and truly over. Mostly. Bet you're pure dead revealed on that score, dear blog readers.
From the next From The North bloggerisationism update, we'll be - mostly - back to normal service; TV reviews, laughing at daft headlines and whinging about this blogger's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies. Actually, if truth be told, there is plenty of all of those in this update, as well. But there's also a larger-than-normal blog-load of stuff related to America's current, fascinating, 'Meet The New Boss, Hopefully Not At All Like The Old Boss' moment. Stand by for action, dear blog reader, anything can happen in the next ten thousand words.
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the forty sixth President of the United States of America. It was a historical moment when, to quote CNN's Alisyn Camerota, 'reality won.' Which was nice.
Due to Covid restrictions, the ceremony itself was bereft of the cheering throngs of supporters and well-wishers traditional at inaugurations. It also saw extra-tight security after the US Capitol was breached by violent pro-Rump seditionists on 6 January with the centre of Washington resembling The Green Zone in Baghdad. Among those present were three former presidents: Barack Obama - whom Biden served for eight years as Vice-President - Bill Clinton and George W Bush. Also attending was now extremely former Vice President Mike Pounds, Shillings & Pence who managed to avoid now extremely former President Mister Rump's farewell event by claiming a prior engagement. Which was both smart and, more importantly, funny.
Rump became the first President not to attend his successor's inauguration since Andrew Johnson snubbed Ulysses Grant's ceremony in 1869. Rump hosted a - not particularly well-attended - farewell event at Joint Base Andrews military facility on Wednesday morning (which concluded with him, hilariously, boarding Air Force One to the strains of 'YMCA'!) before beginning post-Presidential life at his Mar-a-Lago golf club in Palm Beach. In a farewell pre-recorded video message broadcast on Tuesday, Rump called on Americans to pray for the incoming administration, though he - pointedly - did not mention his successor by name. Trump's Farewell Speech Was Everything You'd Expect It To Be: Petty, Threatening & Racist according to The Huffington Post whilst the BBC 'fact checked' some of the claims made by Rump in the video and, let's be charitable and say, 'found it to be somewhat lacking in accuracy.'
So, to paraphrase the late former President Gerald Ford, 'America's long national nightmare is over.' Hopefully. Yes, dear American blog readers, you are still in the middle of a Plague. Mind you, so is everyone else on the planet so don't think you're special in that regard. Yes, your economy is well and truly in the toilet. Though, again, so is every other country's. Yes, appallingly, Coldplay are still allowed to make records. Yes McG is still being given money to direct really terrible films. Yes, James Corden is alive and getting paid as well. But - and this is really important - soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump is now extremely former President Mister Rump. And, once again, in a galaxy far, far away, Ewoks are dancing. Instead the world has been shocked - and stunned - to discover that America now has a President who appears to understand nuance; who seems to have empathy for those less fortunate; who can grasp the fundamentals of a complex world. One who actually speaks in proper sentences and doesn't make policy announcements on Twitter. One who sounds ... Presidential. That's all going to take some getting used to, frankly. To quote the man whose lyrics the new President's former boss was so keen on alluding to 'it's been a long time coming but I know, a change is gonna come.' The adults, dear blog reader, at least appear to be back in the room. It feel's good, doesn't it? But, also strange.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump was reported to be furious - orange-faced in his furious furiousness, if you will - that so many 'top celebrities,' including Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Tom Hanks, were to feature at President Biden's inaugural celebrations. This being in stark contrast to his own, embarrassing, inauguration event four years ago. At which the 'highlight' - and this blogger uses that word quite wrongly - was a performance by The Piano Guys (no, me neither). This blogger would normally make a pun along the 'I am furious, orange' lines at this point but, nah, that ship's already sailed.
The BBC News website's Ritu Prasad asked an interesting question on inauguration eve. One which is, very definitely, deserving of an interesting answer.
Bashing Boris Johnson will be 'glad' now extremely former President Mister Rump has not been re-elected for a second term, ex-Civil Service head Lord Sedwill has suggested. In a staggeringly Stalinist-style rewriting of history in the Daily Scum Mail, his Lordship claimed those who believed Bashing Boris would have preferred now extremely former President Mister Rump to win November's erection were 'mistaken.' Sedwill said that a Rump victory 'would not have been to the benefit' of British or European security, trade or environment issues. Downing Street, meanwhile, claimed that Bashing Boris 'looked forward to working with Joe Biden.' Whether President Biden is looking forward to working with Bashing Boris (or, even, telling Bashing Boris what to do and watching, amused, as Bashing Boris does exactly what he's told) is not known at this time. But, we can probably guess.
Extremely former President Mister Rump's expected batch of one hundred pardons and commutations on the penultimate day of his presidency was not the highest of his recent predecessors (President Obama beat his ass hollow in that regard). But, Rump's record of clemency for some damned strange criminals was certainly the most controversial. On Monday, ahead of the final batch of pardons, Faux News reported that Rump was not expected to issue pardons for either himself or his family, according to White House correspondent John Roberts. Although, in the case of the former, it remains unclear whether any President is able - legally - to pardon him (or her) self. White House aides and lawyers had, reportedly, urged the soon-to-be-former President not to even try to pardon himself or to issue pre-emptive pardons for members of his family, fearing that such a move could, potentially, lead more Republican Senators to vote to convict now extremely former President Mister Rump in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Rump had previously claimed that he had the 'absolute right' to pardon himself for any federal offences which he may - or may not - have committed, but the concept remains untested because no President has ever attempted to do so. A 1974 Justice Department opinion - issued shortly before then-President Nixon's resignation - suggested that Presidents could not pardon themselves because this would violate the 'fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.' According to White House reporter Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post, meanwhile, Rump spent much of his last few days in The Oval Office sour, sulking and 'fixated' upon 'getting revenge' on the ten Republicans in the House who voted to impeach him. But also, that he was talking about pardons 'non-stop' whilst still, baselessly, claiming to anyone that would listen (and, indeed, anyone that wouldn't) he 'won' the erection. Which, of course, he didn't. As well he knows. The Pink News website published claims made by ex-White House aide Richard Grenell that now extremely former President Mister Rump spent the final hours of his Presidency 'reflecting on gay conservatives.'
In the event, Rump pardoned his former adviser Steve Bannon, who was facing fraud charges, one of seventy three criminals to receive the Presidential privilidge. Of course, it's worth remembering that the Supreme Court ruled in Burdick Versus the United States that a Presidential pardon carries with it 'an imputation of guilt, acceptance a confession of it.' Rump also granted clemency to more than seventy others in his final hours in office. Pardons were announced for rapper-type individuals Lil Wayne and Kodak Black (no, me neither) as well as for the former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Bannon, who was a key adviser to Rump during his 2016 campaign, was charged in August last year with fraud over a fundraising campaign to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. The announcement, however, was as much about those who were not included on Ze List as those who were. Despite weeks of speculation, Rump did not, in the end, attempt to pardon himself, any of his family or anybody directly involved in the 6 January sedition. Including Republican politicians Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Mo Brooks. Rump, ultimately, shied away from more controversial pardons for his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, his children or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Unless he did it really quietly, whilst no one was looking. Giuliani claimed to journalists that he neither needed nor wanted a pardon. One or two people even believed him.
According to the Daily Scum Mail Tiger King Fans Are Left 'Absolutely Livid' As Joe Exotic Misses Out On Donald Trump Pardon After His Team Prepared A Limo To Pick Him Up From Jail, something also alluded to by the BBC's Jon Sopel in the latest episode of the Americast podcast. One - anonymous, and therefore, almost certainly fictitious - Twitter user quoted by the Daily Scum Mail said: 'WTF? Joe Exotic didn't make the cut for a Presidential pardon? There is no Justice.' Exotic has served roughly two years of a twenty two-year jail sentence. He was convicted on seventeen federal charges in 2019 for animal abuse and an attempted murder-for-hire plot on Carole Baskin. So, to be fair, he does sound like a now extremely former President Mister Rump kind-of guy.
On the subject of The Sedition, several media sites, including The Daily Beast, Politico and NBC News have detailed further FBI and other law enforcement investigations currently on-going related to the insidious seditious activates which took place in Washington DC. Luke Mogelson of the The New Yorker magazine posted a - genuinely disturbing and very widely seen - video showing some of the terrorist scum's entry into the US Capitol. Their minds poisoned by a non-stop diet of lies, conspiracy theories and crass rhetoric as they searched for someone, anyone, to punish for the fact that they merely lost an erection. As the former FBI Senior Intelligence Adviser Philip Mudd advised the mob on CNN when asked if he had any sympathy for the bizarre delusions of the seditionists: 'This idea in this conversation that we're having that started with "I understand your anger, but ..." Can we please stop the first half of the sentence,' he noted. 'I don't get their anger, go get a damn job and shut up!' Testify, Brother Mudd.
Meanwhile, in addition to the previously infamous 'Bigo', Jake The Bison Man (who lives with his mom), Elizabeth from Knoxville, The Redneck With The Flag, 'Camp Auschwitz' Guy (and his massive beard), et al, another lady currently under investigation for her - alleged - naughty seditious ways is a twenty two year old Pennsylvania care worker. Who, it has been claimed, 'stole Nancy Pelosi's laptop during the Capitol siege so she could sell it to the Russians.' What a proper scallywag, if true. The matter is, reportedly, being investigated by the FBI though, at the time her name first appeared in the media, the alleged perpetrator, one Riley Williams, had not been arrested 'after she reportedly ran away from home.' A day later, however, Riley's ass was firmly in The Slammer. On a similar theme, The Kentucky Kernal - which isn't, as this blogger previously believed another name for the boss of KFC but is, in fact, a media outlet - reported that a University of Kentucky student is also under investigation by the FBI for, allegedly, 'violating the law by stealing a "thing of value of the United States" that is a "Members Only" sign.' And then, bragging about it on social media like a daft plank.
A man seen smoking a cigar and, seemingly, having a fine old time during the failed coup attempt has been extremely arrested, according to the FBI and ABC News. Dominic Pezzola was taken into custody on Friday and was charged with smashing a window at the Capitol. After Pezzola turned himself in to The Feds prosecutors asked that he be detained, based on 'risk of flight and risk of danger.' Jon Schaffer, the guitarist from a heavy metal band Iced Earth (who, if this is anything to go by, aren't very good), reportedly faces six charges, including 'engaging in an act of physical violence in a Capitol building.' He was, allegedly, amongst rioters who sprayed Capitol police with bear spray. Following his arrest, the remaining members of Iced Earth released a statement via bassist Luke Appleton's Instagram account denouncing the actions of the Washington terrorists. Jenny Cudd, the owner of a flower shop who once ran for mayor in Midland, Texas, has also had her collar extremely felt. According to officials, Cudd posted a video during the violent disorder where she claimed: 'We did break down Nancy Pelosi's office door.' Ooo. Careless.
The CEO of an Illinois company, Brad Rukstales, was arrested by Capitol Police for taking part in The Sedition. Federal authorities then filed additional charges. According to court records, Rukstales was part of a crowd which encountered Capitol Police on the upper level near the door to the House atrium. Police said that he 'and five others in that crowd' were arrested after they ignored orders to leave the building and cease their unacceptable insurrectionist ways forthwith (if not sooner). Campaign finance reports show Rukstales contributed more than twenty five thousand bucks to now extremely former President Mister Rump's campaign and other GOP committees during the 2020 erection cycle. Following the arrest, his employer, Cognesia, stated that he had been fired. 'It was the single worst personal decision of my life,' a seemingly contrite Rukstales snivelled to CBS Chicago. 'I have no excuse for my actions and wish that I could take them back.' 
As Christopher Michael Alberts of Maryland was, reportedly, being escorted away from the Capitol on the day of The Sedition, a Metro Police officer noticed 'a bulge' on Alberts' hip, arrest records stated. A closer inspection revealed a nine millimetre weapon with a single round in the chamber and two fully loaded twelve-round magazines. Alberts was also, allegedly, wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a backpack containing a gas mask and a pocketknife. He has been charged with carrying a pistol without a license, possessing a firearm on Capitol grounds, curfew violation, possession of unregistered ammunition and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device. Alberts reportedly told arresting officers that he was carrying the guns and ammo 'for personal protection' and that he didn't intend to use it to harm anyone. One or two people even believed him. Josiah Colt, the Idaho clown who was pictured dangling from the Senate balcony after insurrectionists stormed the chamber, is reportedly facing charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing. And 'impersonating Tarzan in a public arena with wanton disregard for the memory of Johnny Weissmuller.' Probably. Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, two off-duty police officers from Rocky Mount, Virginia, have been jointly accused of trespassing and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Another person arrested was Douglas Sweet who told the Virginia TV station WTKR that the Capitol had already been breached by the time he arrived and that he had simply walked in. He claimed that he and others 'surrendered immediately.' Sweet told WTKR that he believed now extremely former President Mister Rump's claims that the erection had been stolen. Rump 'asked all the patriots to show up, so I did,' Sweet added.
William Pepe, a New York City transit worker, has been suspended without pay from his job after officials said he called in sick from work to travel to Washington and participate in The Sedition. He has also been extremely arrested and charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. Aaron Mostofsky, the thirty four-year-old son of a Brooklyn judge, was freed from The Joint after posting a one hundred thousand dollar bail. Pictures from the riot showed him wearing furs and a police tactical vest that he is accused of stealing. And, looking like a complete tool at the same time. And, two alleged 'militia members' whom Sky News were very keen to brag about having 'tracked down' have been also busted by The Feds in connection with The Insurrection.
Meanwhile, a real estate agent who live-streamed from the midst of the seditious attack and then got herself arrested, is now reported to be pleading - that's pleading - for a presidential pardon. Jenna Ryan, of Carrollton, Texas, was extremely arrested and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. And now, she's shitting herself as the prospect of a spell in The Slammer beckons forth. She told a reporter from CBS 11 that she could not discuss details of the case. However, commenting on the events in Washington, she claimed that she was 'basically following my President. I was following what we were called to do.' Ah, The Nuremberg Defence - 'I was just following orders, guv'nor. It's not my fault.' Interestingly, Jake The Bison Man (who lives with his mom) is also said to be going down the same defence route, claiming that he was only in the Capitol in the first place at the 'invitation of [the] President.' Extremely former President Mister Rump, of course, denies that he encouraged anyone to do anything. Nothing whatsoever to do with him. No siree, Bob. Although he did say, whilst the attempted coup was still on-going that he 'loved' the 'patriots' who were involved in events which included the murder of a police officer. Then, a couple of days later, he dramatically changed his tune.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that its Office of the Pardon Attorney 'is not involved in any efforts to pardon individuals or groups involved with the heinous acts that took place this week in and around the US Capitol.' So, sorry Jenna, sorry Jake The Bison Man, sorry Elizabeth from Knoxville, sorry feet-up-on-Nancy's-desk 'Bigo', there's no pardoning for you lot, it would seem. You're just going to have to face the music for following The Leader, grit your teeth, bend over and take your pants-down caning like adults. Tragedy. Look forward, therefore, to some lengthy spells in The Joint and regular cavity searches to make sure you haven't got any concealed weapons rammed up yer personage. There's some people who pay good money for that sort of thing. Apparently. 
Various media outlets also, amusingly, report stories about numerous family members snitching up their relatives who were - allegedly - part of the failed seditious coup to the authorities. Like, for instance, this one. And this one. And this one. And, also, this one.
On Sunday, for example, the Department of Justice announced the arrests of two men who were - allegedly - pictured bringing plastic restraints into the Capitol. Authorities allege that Eric Gavelek Munchel was the individual photographed carrying a number of plastic zip-ties inside the Senate chamber. He was detained in Tennessee. Larry Rendell Brock, who is accused of entering the Capitol with a white flex cuff - a restraining device often used by law enforcement - was arrested in Texas. His ex-wife, reportedly, turned him in. Which is, actually, really funny. Grassed him up like a good'un, so she did. Like the others, he was taken in by The Law, in shame and ignominy and now faces a stretch in The Slammer, thanks to information provided by their own flesh and blood who turned Copper's Nark. Because, seemingly, they couldn't stand to be associated with seditious domestic terrorist scum. That, to be fair, kind of restores ones faith in human nature, does it not? For, as the Bible says, thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother. Unless they're fascist filth, of course, in which case turn 'em in to The Feds without a second thought.
Something else which restores ones faith in humanity is the fact that a group of - bipartisan - House members have introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Capitol police officer who deterred a mob away from the Senate chamber during the coup. The citation credited officer Eugene Goodman for 'his bravery and quick thinking during last week's insurrection.' Goodman - an Army veteran who served in Iraq before joining the police - drew widespread praise as a video of him purposefully baiting a seditious mob to chase him, in the opposite direction from the still-open Senate chamber doors, beyond which lawmakers were hiding, went viral on social media. Officer Goodman has also recently been promoted to acting deputy House Sergeant At Arms and featured in the Biden/Harris inauguration ceremony escorting the new Vice President to the podium.
Amongst numerous examples of fine, thoughtful, impassioned journalism which the riotous assembly in Washington encouraged, this blogger would particularly like to recommend the Christian pastor, author and blogger John Pavlovitz's essay A Revolution Of Nothing. Which is well worth a few moments of your time, dear blog reader. It would also be worth a few moments of the time of the numerous seditious worms who tried to take the Capitol by force; for them to make the, presumably horrifying, discovery that their 'revolution' (to use the words of self-style insurgent - and, now, musical-comedy Interweb legend - Elizabeth from Knoxville) was based on nothing. Nothing, that is, apart from lies and staggering self-aggrandisement. 'This was not an insurrection,' writes Pavlovitz passionately, 'it was a live-streamed social media white fantasy. Most [of those taking part] did not make an attempt to conceal their identities: a product of how emboldened they felt in this aggression, how unafraid of accountability they were and the story they'd told themselves about how righteous they imagined their cause, as they committed a deadly act of collective terrorism against the very heart of our democracy.' Sadly, this blogger suspects barely a single individual who gave it some serious riot on 6 January would recognise - or even understand - the points that Pastor Pavlovitz makes. Or recognise themselves in his description of them: 'We saw their radiant Cheshire Cat grins; their sweaty, red-faced tirades; the snarling, disfigured fury as they assaulted police officers and crushed one another in crowded hallways on their way to what they believe was their destiny: a grand revolution.' Eloquent. And, accurate.
With less than forty eight hours left of his presidency, at-the-time-soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump was continuing to claim to all and sundry that he 'won' the erection, New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman reported. Which again, just to clarify, he most certainly did not or anything even remotely like it. No matter that his claims of erection fraud had already been rejected by dozens of courts including The Supremes (Diana, Mary and Flo rejecting his lawyer's arguments without keeping them hanging on), members of his own administration and the majority of his own party's leaders. Eventually, in the case of the latter. In a preview of the internecine Republican battles to come, Rump is, as previously noted, reported to be 'furious' - again, orange-faced in his furious furiousness - at the ten Republicans who voted in favour of his impeachment. But, he is said to be directing the majority of his considerable irk towards the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, a staunch ally of the now extremely former President. One who voted against impeachment but also said that Rump bore 'some' responsibility for the violence on Capitol Hill. Haberman added that associates who've spoken with Rump claim 'he's used the same vulgarity' which he previously used about now extremely former Vice President Pounds, Shillings and Pence to describe McCarthy, saying that he 'bowed to pressure' with his House floor speech. Meanwhile, the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, is reported to be directly blaming now extremely former President Mister Rump for the riot. 'The mob was fed lies,' said McConnell on the Senate floor as it met for the first time since the attack on Tuesday. 'They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.' McConnell has not yet indicated how he will vote in the impeachment trial of now extremely former President Mister Rump. If he votes to convict, it may convince other Republicans to follow his lead. Then again, it may not. Time will tell, dear blog reader. It usually does.
Haberman also states that Dominion Voting Systems have sent a legal cease-and-desist letter to Mike Lindell - the ludicrously-moustachioed MyPillow® tycoon who seems to be Rump's current best chum in the all the land, bar none. (Lindell, incidentally, is currently whinging like a whnging whinger that his fiendship with Rump and his, apparently serious, suggestion that the now extremely former President should introduce martial law to cling in power is costing him money. Yeah well, tough. That's free-market capitlism for you, mate. The purchasers have spoken.) It is the latest in a series of legal threats made Dominion and by Smartmatic: The Elections Company to discredited jokes like Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. Over their oft-repeated - and, entirely false - claims, about Dominion's machines being responsible for various - fictitious - fraudulent malarkey. Powell and Giuliani, once staples of Faux News, have both abruptly disappeared from the airways after FOX reportedly also received legal warnings over the naughty disinformation they were, seemingly, happily spreading. Now the pair are said to be 'embroiled in legal battles' and 'political strife' as former allies turn on them.
On 10 December an attorney for Smartmatic sent FOX a letter accusing them of '[publishing] and [republishing] dozens of false and misleading statements,' demanding an on-screen apology and retraction of the false information. Powell never returned to the network from that moment and Giuliani made his final appearance on FOX two days later before also vanishing. Lou Dobbs broadcast a twenty-minute retraction, debunking all of the theories that his own show had pushed for weeks. FOX reportedly received a second letter from Dominion, ordering them to preserve documentation ahead of threatened future legal action. Consequences for Powell and Giuliani didn't stop with the loss of their platform: Powell, it is claimed, is facing a 1.3 billion dollar lawsuit from Dominion for her 'demonstrably false' accusations and has been largely abandoned by former allies after her ridiculous typo-ridden 'kraken' lawsuit was laughed out of court in Michigan. A useful (and very amusing) summery of which can be read here.
The Gruniad Morning Star, meanwhile, claims that a Rudy Giuliani 'associate' allegedly told an ex-CIA officer that a pardon from at-the-time-soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump would, allegedly, 'cost two million dollars.' John Kiriakou, who was very jailed in 2012 for an identity leak, alleged that his pursuit of a pardon came up during an alleged meeting with Giuliani last year. And, the Raw Story website suggested that Ivanka Rump is, allegedly, 'in a bit of a panic' after, allegedly, 'watching her father singlehandedly wreck her [own] political future.' Alleged 'sources' told CNN's White House correspondent Kate Bennett that both Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are, allegedly, 'worried' about what they are going to do next because the Washington Sedition have provided 'horrific images' which will follow them wherever they go. 'That has Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in a bit of a panic as they look to their future,' Bennett said. 'I talked to a lot of sources today who say they're questioning everything now, from where they're going to live after The White House to what their careers will be.' Especially as, due to the current Covid pandemic, McDonald's aren't hiring as many people as they usually do.
The public will not see extremely former President Mister Rump's White House records for some years (as is usual with all former Presidents), but there is 'growing concern' that the collection will never be complete - leaving a hole in the history of one of America's most tumultuous presidencies. This is according to the Gruniad Morning Star if not anywhere more reliable. 'Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved,' they noted. 'He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.' 'My director came up to me and said, "You have to tape these together,"' the newspaper quotes Solomon Lartey, a former White House records analyst, as alleging. The first document he taped back together was a letter from Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, about a government shutdown. 'They told [Rump] to stop doing it. He didn't want to stop,' Lartey continued. There is also a fascinating piece on the BBC News website entitled Will The Trump Corporate Backlash Make A Difference?. This states: 'Fortune Five Hundred firms from Marriott and Disney to Dow Chemical have halted certain political donations, citing the violence. Such a unified display of disgust is unprecedented in modern memory.' And, the Washington Post suggests that online misinformation about erection fraud 'plunged seventy three per cent' after several social media sites suspended extremely former President Mister Rump and 'key allies.' Research firm Zignal Labs makes the claim, 'underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively' and slap down such wilful badness. And, in other news, apparently the Pope is a Catholic bloke called Frankie and, bears do shit in the woods as nature intended. 'The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm' reported that conversations about erection fraud 'dropped from two-and-a-half million million mentions to six hundred and eighty eight thousand mentions across several social media sites in the week' after Rump was banned from Twitteraccording to the Seattle Times. Erection chatter had been 'a major subject of online misinformation for months,' beginning even before the November erection, pushed heavily by now extremely former President Mister Rump and his odious ringpiece-licking cronies.
Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein discussed with CNN's Anderson Cooper how extremely former President Mister Rump's final days in office compared to those of the President that he knew best, Richard Nixon. 'The real difference in the final days is that Nixon was not a deluded, deranged out-of-control President of the United States who has to be restrained in a constitutional straight-jacket which is really what is going on now. The military won't heed his words ... people around him are trying to restrain him because they think he is dangerous.' So, dear blog reader, expect All The President's Men II to be coming to a streaming media near you as soon as they get the casting worked out.
The giant blimp depicting now extremely former President Mister Rump as a diaper-clad angry orange-faced baby, which followed the now extremely former President on his visits to London and symbolised international opposition to his administration, has secured its place in history after being acquired by a British museum. The twenty-foot-tall Rump Baby Blimp was created ahead of the President's first visit to the UK, when hundreds of thousands of Britons poured onto the capital's streets to protest his presence in the country. And, indeed, his presence on Earth. It will now be displayed in the Museum of London alongside other remnants of public protests in the capital, the institution announced on the eve of Rump's departure from The Oval Office. 'We hope the baby's place in the museum will stand as a reminder of when London stood against Trump - but will prompt those who see it to examine how they can continue the fight against the politics of hate,' the team behind the blimp said. The balloon became famous around the world when London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, whom Rump has frequently denigrated, gave permission for it to fly above the city during Rump's visit. Since then, it has followed the now extremely former President on his trips around the world, appearing in Washington DC and at several of Rump's rallies and international tours. 'This large inflatable was just a tiny part of a global movement - a movement that was led by the marginalised people whose Trump's politics most endangered,' the blimp's creators added in a statement. 'London has always been an open, ever-evolving polyglot city. A haven for knowledge, tradition and controversy and over thousands of years we have played host to many a historic protest,' said Museum of London Director Sharon Ament. 'By collecting the baby blimp we can mark the wave of feeling that washed over the city that day and capture a particular moment of resistance - a feeling still relevant today as we live through these exceptionally challenging times - that ultimately shows Londoners banding together in the face of extreme adversity,' she added. Now extremely former President Mister Rump is overwhelmingly unpopular in the UK and in several other countries and studies have shown that the global image of the US has tumbled under his dubious leadership.
The British government has been urged by its former homelessness adviser to extend benefit increases worth twenty quid a week beyond the end of March. Dame Louise Casey said that ending the Universal Credit top-up, introduced during the Covid pandemic, would be 'too punitive a policy right now.' She added that people would view the Tories as 'The Nasty Party' if they did so. Gotta clue you up on this, Dame Louise, they do anyway.
And, on that bombshell, dear blog reader, let us get back to what this blog is - at least in theory - supposed to be all about. This blogger's thanks go to his one-time publisher David Howe for alerting him to the existence of Josh Snares' superb How Doctor Who's Missing Episodes Came Back [Part One] video which can be viewed on You Tube. Thoughtful, balanced, immaculately researched and, just as an added bonus, really funny. And, again, dear blog reader, well worth a few moments of your time. Just under fifteen of them, in fact. Well done, Josh. Can't wait for Part Two.
According to the LGBTQ Nation website, From The North favourite Star Trek: Discovery's Mary Wiseman has come out as 'queer as proud.' Good for her. In an interview, conducted by Dawn Ennis for Forbes magazine, Mary responded to Ennis's joke 'it's nice that [the producers] let the straight people also be part of Star Trek,' alluding to the LGBTQ representation on the show, including four previously out cast member - Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Blu Del Barrio and Ian Alexander. The series' co-creator, Bryan Fuller, is also proudly gay. 'I'm so glad [to be part of it],' Mary said. 'It's so important in that this is the world. This is what the world looks likes, this is the world coming into focus and this is a real representation of who should be at the table.' The actress does not identify as straight, but since she is in a heterosexual relationship - with Noah Averbach-Katz, her co-star whom she married in 2019 after years of dating - she feared being outward about her sexuality as a 'straight-presenting' woman would subject her to criticism.
Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight has confirmed the hit BBC historical gangster drama and From The North favourite will conclude with a film following the show's final TV series. On Monday, Knight said that the upcoming sixth series would be the last on TV but added that 'the story will continue in another form.' He has now confirmed to Deadline: 'My plan from the beginning was to end Peaky with a movie. This is what is going to happen,' he added. He explained that 'Covid had changed our plans' but did not elaborate. The final BBC TV series has resumed filming after being hit by Covid-related production delays. Knight had previously planned for a seven-series run of the drama, which is set in post-Great War Birmingham. 'My ambition is to make it a story of a family between two wars,' he said in 2018 ahead of series five. 'I've wanted to end it with the first air raid siren in Birmingham in 1939. It'll take three more series to reach that point.' It now appears as though a movie might be replacing his plan for series seven.
When this blogger included Prodigal Son in From The North's list of Best & Worst TV Of 2020 as the 'Curiosity Of The Year', he expressed the hope that the creators of the drama - Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver - would watch a few more films for a bit of additional inspiration. He wasn't expecting that one of the first would, seemingly, be The Exorcist if the latest episode, Speak Of The Devil is anything to go by. Good fun, though.
It was worth this blogger getting up early one morning over last weekend to watch From The North favourite Mark Kermode on BBC Breakfast's The Film Review utterly eviscerate Gabriel Range's David Bowie biopic Stardust. 'There's only one word to describe it and that is "naff!"'
A five hundred-year-old painting has been discovered in a flat in Italy and returned to a museum - where staff were unaware it had even been stolen. The copy of Salvator Mundi, which is believed to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci, was found in a bedroom cupboard in Naples. This copy is thought to have been painted by one of da Vinci's students. The owner of the flat was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen goods, police said.
And now, the first in a new From The North semi-regular series, 'who the flamin' fek gives a stuff about such nonsense.' And, the winner is the BBC News website with their bowel-shatteringly awesome article Trampoline Prices "To Soar Fifty Per Cent On Shipping Costs". Don't worry guys, what goes up, as Blood, Sweat & Tears once wisely noted, must come down. Just wait for the bouncebackability.
By the time he reached his mid-twenties, Phil Spector the acclaimed record producer - and convicted murderer - who died this week aged eighty one, had already achieved his stated ambition of making records which elevated the craft of producing pop singles to something close to an art form. The prodigious commercial success of his mini-epics led Tom Wolfe to describe Spector, in a celebrated 1964 essay, as 'the first tycoon of teen.' Even as that assessment appeared, however, the first signs of Spector's decline into paranoia and violence were beginning to appear. And, the remainder of his life represented an accelerating sequence of bizarre behavioural episodes ending with the death by gunshot at his Los Angeles mansion in 2003 of Lana Clarkson, an actress whom he had met in a Hollywood bar where she worked as a waitress. Six years and two highly publicised trials later, a jury's unanimous verdict finally pronounced him guilty of her murder. During his months in court, Spector paraded a succession of increasingly elaborate wigs, his appearance supporting the popular image of him as an eccentric recluse and the real-life model for Z-Man Barzell, the crazed record producer at the centre of Russ Meyer's film Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Stories of his manipulative, paranoid behaviour were endlessly recycled: they included the occasion that he ordered a scheduled flight to pause on the runway to allow him to disembark, the violent jealousy that made a virtual prisoner of his second wife, Ronnie, the constant presence of silent bodyguards and the habit of pulling guns on the artists whose recordings he was supervising. Even his friends were wary of his sudden, irrational rages, fuelled by alcohol and a neurotic compulsion to repay slights, real or imagined, recent or historic. 'He's a mysterious man, his woodwork to perform,' John Lennon once famously noted in an interview with Bob Harris concerning the infamous Rock & Roll sessions in 1973.
To music fans who grew up in the 1960s, Spector's name will always be synonymous with recordings which embodied both pop music's early innocence and its increasing sense of adventure and style. Many of them, such as The Crystals' 'He's A Rebel', 'Da Doo Ron Ron' and 'Then He Kissed Me' and The Ronettes' 'Be My Baby' and 'Baby I Love You', set voices of New York girl groups against a grandiose, cathedral background that became known as The Wall Of Sound, created through lavish use of instrumental resources and overdubbing. A devotee of the sort of creative excess previously associated with Richard Wagner and Cecil B DeMille, Spector hired guitarists, bassists, drummers, pianists, percussionists and saxophonists by the dozen, rehearsing them and putting them through a recording process involving endless minor adjustments and retakes. Days would be spent on the creation of a three-minute record aimed at teenagers, but the value of his work was apparent in a richness, complexity, power and sonic excess which enhanced rather than obscured the simple message of the songs. He reached a creative peak in 1964, with The Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' and, two years later, with Ike and Tina Turner's 'River Deep Mountain High'.
Spector's career as a hit-maker began in 1958 and came to a sudden halt in 1966, but his work influenced devotees from Brian Wilson to Bruce Springsteen and The Ramones and attracted enduring loyalty, not least through the efforts of the British-based Phil Spector Appreciation Society. John Lennon and George Harrison were ardent admirers of his records and they subsequently invited him to rescue the collection of material from The Beatles' January 1969 studio recordings and to turn it into a releasable LP. The result, Let It Be, may have dismayed Paul McCartney (who later authorised the release of a 'naked' version), but Lennon and Harrison both went on to invite Spector to collaborate on their subsequent solo work, including the former's Imagine and the latter's All Things Must Pass, both hugely successful.
Harvey Philip Spector was born in The Bronx, to Ben and Bertha Spector, the descendants of Russian Jews. A small, chubby child who suffered from asthma and an allergy to sunlight, Harvey was nine years old when his father, an ironworker who occasionally suffered from depression, parked the family car a few miles from their home, connected a rubber pipe from the exhaust to the interior, closed the windows and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Four years later, in the hope of making a fresh start, Bertha took her two children to Los Angeles, where they settled in the Fairfax district, a Jewish enclave. While Bertha took jobs as a seamstress and a bookkeeper her son, now demanding to be addressed as Phillip (with two ls), attended Fairfax High. Keen on music - jazz and rhythm and blues in particular - from an early age, Spector learned to play a variety of instruments, including the accordion and the French horn and, for his thirteenth birthday, his mother gave him a guitar. Lessons with Howard Roberts and Barney Kessel, gave him a technique and, in the latter case, a lifelong friendship. Now a pale, skinny teenager, Spector used his wit and musical ability to advance his popularity with classmates. In 1957 he teamed up with a Fairfax classmate, Marshall Lieb, to sing The Five Satins' 'In The Still Of The Night' on a radio talent contest, their success kick-starting his ambition to make it in the music industry. After leaving school, however, Spector enrolled at Los Angeles City College to train as a court stenographer - an occupation made attractive by his reported fascination in criminal proceedings. In the spring of 1958 he and Lieb, accompanied by sixteen-year-old Annette Kleinbard and another classmate, Harvey Goldstein, walked into the Gold Star recording studios, where Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues' had been recorded earlier in the year. Having scraped together forty dollars, they recorded a song called 'Don't You Worry My Little Pet', which was good enough to earn them a contract with a local label and the money to record another song for the B-side. In 'To Know Him Is To Love Him', Spector paraphrased the inscription from his father's tombstone and confected a catchy piece of pure pop featuring Kleinbard's wistful lead vocal and backing harmonies from Lieb and Spector. Goldstein had already left to join the navy, but not before bequeathing the group its name: The Teddy Bears. When the single was released on the Doré label, in an initial pressing of five hundred copies, the song was on the B-side, but the enthusiasm of local radio disc jockeys persuaded the label to flip the record over. An appearance on American Bandstand, the nationally-televised show hosted by Dick Clark, was enough to give it the momentum that would take it to number one in Billboard's Hot One Hundred and to sales approaching one-and-a-half million copies. In England, the record was also a huge hit and, in Liverpool, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, members of the teenage skiffle group The Quarrymen, learned how to sing three-part harmonies by listening over-an-over to the song.
Although The Teddy Bears never repeated that success, Spector was on his way. It was while recording the group's only LP that he met Lester Sill, a well connected Hollywood record salesman who would become his mentor. Sill put him in touch with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the successful songwriter/producers who had made the move from Los Angeles to New York and were enjoying success with The Coasters and The Drifters. In the spring of 1960 Spector arrived at their office on West Fifty Seventh Street, where they signed him to their company as a writer and producer and allowed him to sleep on the floor until he found accommodation. Over the next two years Spector was fast-tracked through supervising sessions with artists both obscure (Billy Storm, The Top Notes) and more well-known (Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker). He co-wrote the classic 'Spanish Harlem' for Ben E King with Leiber, played the memorable guitar solo on The Drifters' 'On Broadway', became a familiar figure in the music publishing companies that made their headquarters in various Broadway office blocks and was, eventually, hired as a personal assistant to Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. His first hits as a producer came in 1960 with Ray Peterson's gentle 'Corrina, Corrina' and the following year with Curtis Lee's 'Pretty Little Angel Eyes' and Gene Pitney's 'Every Breath I Take'. That autumn he reached the Top Five with The Paris Sisters' 'I Love How You Love Me', a basic rewrite of 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' on which Spector was able to showcase his command of studio resources, in particular a gift for adding echo to vocals and strings. Already wise in the ways of the industry, he was keen to operate on his own terms and in 1961 he and Sill started their own label. Its name, Philles, indicated their intention to merge Spector's creativity with Sill's business acumen. Their first release featured The Crystals, a New York girl group whose lead singer, Barbara Alston, invested a gospel-derived song called 'There's No Other (Like My Baby)' with a youthful splendour that carried it into the US Top Twenty. It was in the summer of 1962 that Spector found the song that established his identity. 'He's A Rebel', written by Pitney, turned out to be the perfect vehicle for The Crystals, but only once Spector had returned to Los Angeles to record the backing track at Gold Star and used Darlene Love, an experienced Hollywood session singer, as the lead voice. An infectious Latin rhythm and Love's brash delivery took the song to number one. Love was also the lead singer on Spector's next hit, an imaginative reimaging of 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' from Disney's Song Of The South. Given a downbeat backing and a strange, echoing guitar solo, it was released under the name of Bob B Soxx & The Blue Jeans. To Spector, the identity of the artist was always subordinate to the sound: 'Tomorrow's Sound Today,' as it said on the sleeve of each Philles record.
In 1963 The Crystals were allowed to sing on their own records, La-La Brooks taking the lead on the two songs that carried them back into the Top Ten. With 'Da Doo Ron Ron' and 'Then He Kissed Me', both composed by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Spector approached the apogee of his method: squadrons of musicians almost engulfed the voices with thunderous backing tracks, enhanced by the effect of Gold Star's famous echo chamber, that threatened to burst the speakers of transistor radios and dansettes in teenage bedrooms across America. His attention, however, had already turned to his next group: The Ronettes, two sisters and a cousin from Harlem. The compellingly sultry lead voice of Veronica Bennett - seeming to echo the women's looks, which emphasised extravagant beehives and heavy mascara - received its perfect setting in their first two singles, 'Be My Baby' and 'Baby I Love You', both huge hits and both twenty four carat masterpieces. The Ronettes, The Crystals, Bob B Soxx & The Blue Jeans and Darlene Love were all featured at the end of the year on A Christmas Gift For You, in which Spector brought the old-fashioned idea of a seasonal LP up-to-date with the lavish application of The Wall approach to such seemingly inappropriate songs as 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town', 'Winter Wonderland', Sleigh Ride' and 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer'. The assassination of President John Kennedy had dulled the appetite for Christmas entertainment that year, however and the LP went virtually unnoticed on its contemporary release.
The following year, at a time when the US was in thrall to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other British Invasion artists, Spector seemed to be one of the few figures in American pop music capable of resisting the Atlantic tide. He became very friendly with both groups, their flamboyant Carnaby Street cool appealing to his own dandyish instincts. He attended the sessions for The Stones' first LP with Gene Pitney and played maracas on 'Little By Little'. When Cilla Black's cover of 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' threatened to deprive The Righteous Brothers of a big hit in Britain, Andrew Oldham, The Stones' manager, took adverts in the music papers to promote the cause of the Spector-produced original. It worked and both versions were Top Ten hits. The British audience also responded eighteen months later to the epic grandeur of 'River Deep Mountain High'. But the Ike and Tina Turner masterpiece was a mysterious failure in the US, where it was claimed (by Spector himself if not anyone else) that the industry was taking its long-wished-for revenge on Spector's incorrigible arrogance. Stung by the record's failure, depressed by the heroin-induced death of his friend Lenny Bruce and, perhaps, aware that he was in danger of becoming an anachronism in a world where musicians were taking their destinies out of the hands of producers, he abruptly closed Philles. A three-year 'retirement' from music saw him act as producer on Dennis Hopper's notorious The Last Movie and take a small role as a drug dealer, alongside Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, in Easy Rider. In 1969 he re-emerged to produce records for the A&M label and 'Black Pearl', by The Checkmates Ltd, gave him a comeback hit before his association with The Beatles began. His work on Let It Be wasn't the complete botch of legend - his crystal-clear production of 'The Two Of Us' is especially good - but McCartney was furious at Spector's decision to smother 'The Long & Winding Road' in syrupy strings and a choir and the affair was soon cited in court as a specific contributing factor to The Beatles break-up following the LP's release in 1970.
For a time Spector and Lennon became inseparable, relishing each other's company as they collaborated on 'Instant Karma', Plastic Ono Band and Imagine LPs and, with Yoko Bloody Ono, the Christawful schmaltz of 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)', all subtly (or, in the case of the latter not-so-subtly) enhanced - as was Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord' - by Spector's touch. A Christmas Gift For You was reissued on Apple and became a holiday favourite, but Spector infamously fell out with Lennon while making Rock & Roll, a process sabotaged by an excess of drink and drugs. Harrison, with hindsight, expressed some reservations about Spector's 'everything including the kitchen sink' production of All Things Must Pass but that was one occasion where Spector - given his head - worked wonders with Beatle-related material; it's impossible to imagine what 'Wah Wah', 'Isn't It A Pity', 'Awaiting On You All', 'Let It Down' or the title song would have sounded like without Spector's treatment.
Renewed attention encouraged him to start a new label, Phil Spector International, with the help of his old friend Allen Klein. But the echo-laden drama of such late recordings as Dion's 'Make The Woman Love Me' and Darlene Love's 'Lord If You're A Woman' failed to find an audience, suggesting that Spector's approach was finally obsolete. There would be three further collaborations, each in its own way unexpected, with Leonard Cohen (Death Of A Ladies' Man, 1977), The Ramones (End Of The Century, 1980 which included their spirited cover of 'Baby I Love You') and Yoko Ono, who invited him to help with the LP she wrote and recorded after Lennon's murder (Season Of Glass, 1981). Between 1988 and 2000 Spector was also required to defend lawsuits brought by The Ronettes and Darlene Love, who were eventually awarded significant unpaid royalties from their 1960s hits. After a fifteen-year absence from the studio, the acrimonious truncation of a project with Céline Dion in 1996 elicited a statement from Spector which could stand as his professional epitaph: 'It became apparent that the people around Ms Dion were more interested in controlling the project and the people who recorded her, than in making history. One thing they should have learned long ago. You don't tell Shakespeare what plays to write, or how to write them. You don't tell Mozart what operas to write, or how to write them. And you certainly don't tell Phil Spector what songs to write, or how to write them; or what records to produce and how to produce them.'
Spector was first married in 1962 to Annette Merar, whom he met at school; they divorced in 1965. Three years later he married Ronnie Bennett and, together, they adopted three children: Donte Phillip and twins, Gary and Louis. They divorced in 1974. Eight years later Spector married Janis Savala, a music publisher, with whom he had twins, Nicole and Phillip Junior and who stayed on as his assistant after their separation in 1991, the year that Phillip Junior died of leukaemia. In 1998 Spector paid over a million dollars for the Pyrenees Castle, a mock chateau in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, where Clarkson's dead body was found in the early hours of 8 February 2003. Three years later, while awaiting trial, he married Rachelle Short, a singer and actress, in a private ceremony. They divorced in 2019. He is survived by Donte Phillip, Gary, Louis and Nicole.
The BBC, meanwhile, has apologised for the original headline in its reporting of the death of Spector. The first version of the breaking news story on the BBC News website carried the headline: Talented But Flawed Producer Phil Spector Dies Aged Eighty One. Which isn't necessarily inaccurate but it does, rather, ignore the 'being a convicted murderer' part of the story. The BBC said that the headline 'did not meet our editorial standards.' The text was quickly changed to: Pop Producer Jailed For Murder Dies At Eighty One.
Chris Cramer, a major figure in BBC News and later CNN International, has died at the age of seventy three after a period of ill health. Cramer's legacy will be the major change in attitudes and support for journalist safety which he championed through the BBC and across the wider industry, as well as many achievements in newsgathering and international news. He began his career as a teenager on the Portsmouth Evening News, moving to BBC Radio Solent when it launched in 1970. After a year's secondment in Brunei he found his way to the BBC TV Newsroom in the 1970s and developed his reputation as a highly competitive and effective news editor and field producer. In 1980 he and a BBC team were in the Iranian Embassy in London collecting visas when it was seized by gunmen opposed to Ayatollah Khomeini. A stand-off and siege followed, with Cramer among twenty six hostages. He managed to feign serious illness and was released by the gunmen allowing him to give vital information to the authorities before the SAS stormed the embassy and rescued the hostages. At a time when no-one understood or spoke of PTSD, it had a marked effect on his life. Many journalists and crew subsequently spoke of his care and attention when they had difficult experiences and he went on to drive major changes in understanding and support for journalists' safety. With BBC Safety manager Peter Hunter, Cramer introduced the first hostile environment training courses, risk assessments and equipment for those covering conflicts. Former correspondent Martin Bell recalls: 'From Vietnam to Croatia I had covered ten wars without protection. Then in June 1992 we were shot up crossing the airport runway in Sarajevo in a soft-skinned vehicle. Within two weeks Chris had procured our first armoured Land Rover, the redoubtable Miss Piggy and the body armour to go with it.' Cramer later introduced the first confidential counselling service for news teams, recognising PTSD and helped found the International News Safety Institute, which spearheaded safety across the news industry. During the 1980s he was at the forefront of organising and overseeing major news coverage, including Michael Buerk's reporting from the Ethiopian famine, coverage of the IRA Brighton bomb attack, the Zeebrugge ferry disaster, Kate Adie's reporting from Tiananmen Square, the fall of Eastern Europe, the first Gulf War and many more major events. His fierce competitiveness delivered a series of major exclusives and awards for BBC News. In the 1990s he oversaw major investment in BBC Newsgathering and the integration of radio and TV reporting - often against internal resistance. His managerial style could be uncompromising and tough, but he was also bitingly funny, shrewd and his hard exterior hid a warm-hearted and generous core. In 1996 he left the BBC to move to Atlanta as managing director and executive vice-president of CNN International. There he took his passion for news safety and his competitive news edge to develop the network into a greater global force. He is also remembered for supporting women into senior and executive positions and helping them succeed. Director of BBC News Fran Unsworth recalls: 'He was one of journalism's enormous characters and a legend in the television news industry. But the legend and the reported image always belied the man. He was immensely kind, thoughtful and caring underneath that image he sometimes projected.' After eleven years he left CNN and took up roles first with Reuters TV and then the Wall Street Journal, where his experience and expertise were used to develop their digital video services. He leaves his wife, Nina, son Richard and daughter Nicolette and his daughter Hannah by an earlier marriage to Helen, a former BBC producer.
Sylvain Sylvain, the punk icon and guitarist for The New York Dolls whose riffs bridged the gap between punk and glam rock, died this week aged sixty nine. His wife, Wanda O'Kelley Mizrahi, confirmed the musician's death to Rolling Stain. 'As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and half years,' O'Kelley Mizrahi wrote in a statement on his Facebook page. 'Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let's send this beautiful doll on his way.' The group's eponymous 1973 debut remains a landmark in rock and/or roll music with Rolling Stain naming it on their five hundred greatest LPs of all time list. 'Glammed-out punkers The New York Dolls snatched riffs from Chuck Berry and Fats Domino and fattened them with loads of attitude and reverb,' they wrote at the time. 'Produced by Todd Rundgren, songs like 'Personality Crisis' and 'Bad Girl' drip with sleaze and style. It's hard to imagine The Ramones or The Replacements or a thousand other trash-junky bands without them.' The androgynous, proto-punk group channelled their love of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, MC5 and The Stooges into hard-driving rock songs with a pop sheen like the glorious 'Jet Boy', wearing flamboyant outfits and make-up that would set the fashion template for a generation of kids from Manhattan to London. Born Sylvain Mizrahi in Cairo, his family moved to France before settling in New York. He ran a clothing company and was a member of the band Actress, featuring Arthur Kane, Johnny Thunders and Billy Murcia before co-founding The New York Dolls - the group took their name from a toy repair shop - in 1971. While he served as the group's rhythm guitarist, their first two LPs - New York Dolls and 1974's Too Much Too Soon - also featured Mizrahi on piano and songwriting contributions. 'It took us forever to get a record deal, to get into the business,' Mizrahi told The Quietus in 2018. 'But our songs were hits. The kids knew 'Personality Crisis', they knew 'Trash', they knew all those songs way before we even released them. They made us superstars.' 'When they came into the studio [with 'Personality Crisis'], it was already an important song,' engineer Jack Douglas told Sound On Sound in 2009. 'It was Syl who decided to add the piano - even at that time he was a very decent player. It definitely gave the song more edge.' But it was their live show that earned the band its shocking reputation. The group steadily built up a cult following through regular performances at New York clubs CBGBs and Max's Kansas City, pioneering a sleazy, androgynous look culled from makeshift outfits. 'In the Dolls, it was really a little bit like The Little Rascals,' Sylvain told Vogue in 2015. '"Hey, man, we're bored! What the fuck are we going to do?" "Well, let's put on a show! What do you got?" "My mother's got these weird lamé pants." "My older brother left this old motorcycle jacket that's been in the closet." "Where are you going to get the make-up?" "My girlfriend's bag! She shops at Biba in London every other day." Once we got started and once we got going, we became the darlings of it all.'
While the band's line-up shifted through the years, Sylvain and vocalist David Johansen remained until its dissolution in 1977. 'His role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision,' Lenny Kaye wrote following the announcement of Mizrahi's death. 'Though he tried valiantly to keep the band going, in the end The Dolls' moral fable overwhelmed them, not before seeding an influence that would engender many rock generations yet to come.' Artists from Bowie to The Sex Pistols and Guns N' Roses cited them as an influence and Morrissey was, famously, president of their UK fan club before forming The Smiths (and then, going mad). 'My best friend for so many years, I can still remember the first time I saw him bop into the rehearsal space/bicycle shop with his carpetbag and guitar straight from the plane after having been deported from Amsterdam, I instantly loved him,' Johansen wrote on Instagram. 'I'm gonna miss you old pal. I'll keep the home fires burning. Au revoir Syl mon vieux copain.' Following the band's break-up, Mizrahi worked on various solo projects, teamed with other artists and launched The Criminals with Bobby Blain, Michael Page and Tony Machine. His solo work included his 1979 self-titled debut, 1981's Syl Sylvain & The Teardrops and 1998's Sleep Baby Doll. The New York Dolls went through multiple internecine squabbles for years, starting with the death of Billy Murcia and his replacement with Jerry Nolan. But Sylvain reunited with the group in 2004 at London's Royal Festival Hall, as part of the Meltdown festival curated by Morrissey. 'The world wasn't ready for them,' Morrissey said at the time. 'It seems to take the pop world thirty years to really understand a group or an artist.' The group would continue to tour periodically in the mid-2000s before dissolving again. Sylvain co-wrote and played guitar on their final three CDs: 2006's One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, 2009's Cause I Sez So and 2011's Dancing Backward In High Heels. He was also a member of The Batusis, who released an EP in 2010 and in 2016, he performed at South By Southwest. 'The New York Dolls heralded the future, made it easy to dance to,' Kaye continued. 'From the time I first saw their poster appear on the wall of Village Oldies in 1972, advertising a residency at The Mercer Hotel up the street, throughout their meteoric ascent and shooting-star flameout, The New York Dolls were the heated core of this music we hail, the band that makes you want to form a band. Syl never stopped. In his solo lifeline, he was welcomed all over the world, from England to Japan, but most of all the rock dens of New York City, which is where I caught up with him a couple of years ago at The Bowery Electric. Still Syl. His corkscrew curls, tireless bounce, exulting in living his dream, asking the crowd to sing along and so we will. His twin names, mirrored, becomes us.' 'A group is made up of people who start out there in some basement,' Mizrahi told The Quietus in 2018. 'They're bored of what life is and then all of a sudden, someone says, "Let's have a show!" "What are we going to do for a stage curtain?" "I'll use my mother's bedsheet." I think it comes down to performance. Performance is what all these musicians are about.' In 2018, Sylvain also released his highly readable memoir, There's No Bones In Ice Cream.
Occasionally, dear blog reader, a newspaper headline can leave the reader intrigued enough to investigate the story accompanying it. And then, there are other times where you simply get everything you need from the headline itself. Further details on this particular case can be found here, should anyone wish to know more. This blogger was particularly startled by the use of the phrase 'serial bum-shafter' in this report. A phrase which doesn't get used a lot in modern parlance, one feels. There's probably a jolly good reason for that.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, it's always worth reflecting that, no matter now bad things get, there's no need to feel down. Unless you're extremely former President Mister Rump boarding Air Force One for the last time, obviously. 
Sometimes, dear blog readers, when it comes to a newspaper reportage there are just so many questions ...
And, in this case, let us once again stand up and salute the utter shite that some people chose to care about ...
To think, dear blog reader, this blogger never even knew that government funding was available ...
Breaking news just in ...
And finally, dear blog reader, this blogger's beloved (though tragically unsellable and, seemingly, relegation-bound) Magpies have still not sacked Mister Bruice (nasty to see him, to see him nasty). Though, judging by this article it can't be too much longer. Newcastle United: Does 'Steve Bruce's Way' Offer Magpies Hope For [The] Future? asks BBC News' Alistair Magowan. To which the conclusion seems to be, pretty much, no. Not even a little bit.
One last postscript from US inauguration day, dear blog reader. Or, two, actually. Firstly, from the Twitter feed of the goddamn legend that is Richard Schiff. Word, Toby!
And, from the Twitter feed of his The West Wing cast mate Brad Whitford. Word, Josh!