Saturday, 24 January 2009

Newspaper freebies are cool, too

Another cool thing about England is the freebies newspapers often offer to get you to part with some coin. Granted, all these alluring freebies wouldn't be necessary if more papers here didn't seem to think a National Enquirer-type reporting style was the way to go, but the freebies are still nice.

For instance, the Daily Mail may not be that great of a read, but it can get some great DVDs on offer as freebies. My particular favorite is when they offer costume dramas for the price of a newspaper (as in when they offered Pride and Prejudice, the wonderful Colin Firth version, as a two-parter). This week I nabbed Jane Eyre, and today's offering is Lady Chatterley.

The shame is that the better papers, the ones I'd much rather actually read, don't give out as many freebies. They probably focus more money onto design and better writers -- though that doesn't stop papers like even The Times from having a slew of typos and sometimes doing rather misleading reporting that's far beneath it.

It will be interesting to see how UK papers can survive changing reading habits that are putting the hurt on U.S. papers. Will freebies make the difference? Would you be more likely to buy a paper in the States if it cost 50 cents or so more but you got a free Bowie CD? Time will tell what papers have to resort to, to stay alive.

Monday, 19 January 2009

British TV is kinda cool

No, not all of the original programming is cool in the UK. Much of it sucks. Man oh man do they love bad game shows and asinine reality shows (they have precious little like the reality TV I watched in the States, like Project Runway - the UK spinoff sucks - and things like Breaking Bonaduce on VH1). People on Big Brother become celebrities and have even gotten their own perfume named after them (as in the now fallen Jade Goody). AND you're forced to pay a monthly "license fee" to finance said crap programming. (Though some of the programs are good -- a few of the comedies, and many of the costume dramas are fab).

However, what's really cool about British TV is that they run movies, as well as shows that originally appeared on HBO and Showtime, UNCUT. That's right, no key scenes cut due to content, no funny lines watered down into some stupid, nonsensical crap to cut out a dirty word. It's awesome.

I once watched part of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" on cable in the U.S. It had been one of my favorite films back when I was too young to really be watching it. And cable TV ruined it. Due to editing, it was unclear what Phoebe Cates was doing when she was demonstrating oral sex on a carrot in the cafeteria, and a very funny line when stoner Sean Penn called Mr. Hand "You Dick" with just the perfect inflection became a not very funny voice-overed "You jerk." I gave up.

But in the UK, you would hear all those lines and more. You would see the scene where Phoebe Cates took off her bikini top and launched a million male fantasies. No cuts, no editing, no basically ruining the movie because certain scenes don't make sense anymore after the cuts. There's simply no point watching a modern movie on U.S. TV, even on cable - only the premium pay channels get it right. What's more, while you can't subscribe to HBO or Showtime here, you do get to see the best of their original shows on various Sky Satellite channels. Which has been nice for me, as I subscribed to just HBO in the States. Here I've enjoyed Californication and Weeds, both Showtime series I would've never seen (at least not unless I heard enough good word of mouth to rent them on dvd). Good stuff.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Showing your undies - Brit style

This goes under the category of "things that gross me out about England." You know that hip-hop style of wearing ultra-baggy jeans with the underwear showing? Usually involving showing either just the waistband of some boxer shorts or, for full tackiness, the whole boxers with the jeans nearly falling off some dude's skinny butt?

Well, I've seen an English version of this look around Reading, and it's ultra-gross. A few super-skinny Brit youths will wear tight-legged, skinny stretch jeans with the waist pushed waaaayyy down below the butt cheeks so you can see all of their their tighty-whiteys (which are plain white jockey underwear, the kind that look like they were bought in the aisle next to frozen foods at some discount store).

I wish I had a picture of this look. It's ghastly and yet mesmerizing because I just can't believe someone would wear that. Icky.