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A marvellous little movie, Jack Sholder's 'The Hidden' is one of the most imaginative and certainly one of the most entertaining alien movies ever made. Beginning with an attention-grabbing set-piece (ordinary guy rips off store with shock violence), the film rapidly changes up a gear for a razor sharp car chase. Whenever you see a nurse pushing a guy in a wheelchair in a scene such as this, you know for certain that the speeding villain will only just miss him - and when the speeding villain sends the wheelchair flying, you know you're not in Kansas anymore. One after another, ordinary men go absolutely wild and start committing acts of random violence - theft, murder, wanton destruction - until they are killed, and killing them is a hard job. Cop on the case Michael Nouri is up to his neck when weirdo FBI man Kyle MacLachlan is assigned to help out, and swiftly reveals that each man is merely the host for an sociopathic alien parasite in town to have some laughs. If Nouri's plate wasn't already pretty full, MacLachlan reveals that he too is an alien, here to bring his 'man' in. Had 'The Hidden' been the gigantic commercial hit it deserved to be, the scene where It emerges from its host would now be as squeamishly renowned as the chestburster in Alien. As a victim opens his mouth, spidery legs suddenly grip his face from inside, and a horrible, quivering, Freudian nightmare drags itself from inside. It's a truly disgusting, unrepeatable scene which stays with the viewer for a long, long time: if 'Alien' presents a nightmare parody of birth, then this is a kebab's awful revenge after a rough Saturday night. Wisely, it doesn't happen onscreen again, and we are left with the knowledge that later hosts will have that forced into them. The thing is far smaller than ordinary aliens, and given that it looks like one of those magnified pictures of carpet fleas with the addition of some
50s radiation, the film-makers are demanding us to make quite a conceptual leap to see this thing as intelligent (even if, in the final analysis, it's a yob). Just for once, the villain doesn't intend to invade, it has no grand designs or devilish schemes: he's just a punk out for a laugh. Clearly absorbing some of the fantasies of the dull white men he inhabits, the hidden beastie wants a wild weekend of booze, fast cars, strippers, violent crime and loud music. With a lightning pace, some astonishing stunts, and more acid humour than a dozen other movies, 'The Hidden' is an insane black comedy, with the desert dry Nouri increasingly unable to deal with his psycho quarry or his earnest alien partner (having paid the same part here, in 'Blue Velvet' and in 'Twin Peaks', MacLachlan's promising career imploded). Only running out of steam close to the end, but with a fascinatingly ambiguous climax that just might see the good alien possessing Nouri's dead body to take care of his wife and kid, it's short, sharp and utterly plausible. How Sholder failed to become a major action director after this is anybody's guess, and needless to say the DTV sequel is a pointless rehash that offers nothing but a dull night in.
The success of Joe Dante's 'Gremlins' (1985) spawned several glove-puppet slasher movies without the wit or bite of that film, but the only alien entry was much the most successful. While 'Gremlins' ranged far and wide, spattering targets as disparate as Walt Disney and bar-room drunks, 'Critters' (1986) is a concentrated piss-take of the traditional small-town B-movie. The town loon who claims that aliens are transmitting through his teeth is by now a familiar character in sci-fi movies, and Critters does contain that cheesiest of lines "..they're getting bigger..", but generally, the film kicks in with superb performances, smart lines and quite the worst special effects ever seen in a good movie. Director Stephen Herek is - perhaps damagingly - nowhere near as nasty as Joe Dante (he would later become house director for Disney, making supremely affable versions of 'The Three Musketeers' and '101 Dalmations'), and while he's callous with a couple of subsidiary characters early on, the cast list is quickly reduced to a hardcore of people too likeable to be disposed of. He also only has 8 critters to begin with, so as the action stays rooted to the 'Night of the Living Dead' structure of a lonely house under siege, the frantic scrambling away from the hordes of little devils degenerates into a simple monster-on-the-loose chase, with a pair of giant Critters causing the trouble. What gives the film its edge is the consistently witty background: the small town sheriff is embodied by sly southerner par excellence M. Emmet Walsh, one of the alien bounty hunters causes endless confusion by constantly changing his face until he finds one that suits him, and there is a long diversion at a bowling alley filled with men wearing increasingly horrifying team shirts. There is a predictable in-joke when a Critter decapitates an ET doll, but far funnier is the spectacle of Mom from Sp
ielberg's film (Dee Wallace) stalking the critters with a shotgun, pulping extraterrestrials and yelling "get out of my house!" at her alien visitors. The creatures are appallingly wooden and unconvincing, but Herek has fun with their poisoned porcupine quills, rows of jagged teeth and hilarious subtitled dialogue ("Fuck!"); more diverting still are the shape-changing bounty hunters, who have no faces at all until they choose a disguise.
It's a bad joke, or it would be if so many people weren't going to die this Christmas. You go in sick, catch something, come out sicker. The surgeons and specialists all have delusions of grandeur and run their departments like private fiefdoms, the junior doctors are dying on their feet, and the nurses are like the galley-slaves in 'Ben-Hur' - the whip cracks, the work goes on. No, this isn't some crap little country with no money, this is allegedly 'Great' Britain, a country which is the fourth largest economy in the world, a country which actually had the civilised instincts to create the National Health Service, and look at it now. Why do we bother? Why don't we as a nation finally have the self-awareness to admit that we don't give a toss about the national health service, even though millions of us were outraged and appalled by the price we paid for petrol. The electorate have consistently voted in adminstrations who they perceived would not raise tax - the biggest public rising of our generation has been about paying less tax. The government that puts up income tax explicitly is the government that deselects itself. That's it, that's our country. So don't get sick unless you can afford to go private. Private Health Care shouldn't be regarded as some disgusting cancer on society - if you want posh food, a room of your own and peacocks on the lawn (this is a genuine feature of a private hospital where someone I know was treated) then fine, pay for it. The rich will always want to use their money to keep their lives exclusive - my watch cost £22, some people's watches cost £2200, that's just the way rich people like it. They like the option of having more, extra, away from the proles and in a sense that whole issue is irrelevant. The fact that private health care is available for people who can afford it is not important; we have a National Health Service which shoul
d be properly funded and supported by all the parties. We shouldn't be distracted by the existence of Private Health - unless you abolish rich people, that will always exist. The vast majority of people can't afford private health insurance, and as someone else has already pointed out, a huge proportion of the population would be refused insurance because they already have conditions the companies would deem to expensive to treat. So, we have to be honest with ourselves - it isn't about dividing the population up between those who can afford to pay and those who can't. Either we have a health service which works, or we are just another second rate country where the sick and disadvantaged are allowed to dwindle into an underclass. The latter is where we are currently going; the former will come directly from your wage packet - what's it going to be?
If ever you've wanted to know what a night out in Wigan, my former home, is like, then look no further than this thick slice of beefy action, directed by John McTiernan, whose action movies are generally quite elegant (think 'Hunt for Red October' or ' Thomas Crown Affair'), but who was here obviously having 'Predator' flashbacks. Yes it's all axe-fights and beer and killing - though for a film so obviously modelled on the nightlife to be found on King Street, there is a mysterious absence of pies. Anyway, there are these Vikings who have a terrible foe to face, and they enlist the help of an Egyptian adventurer (Antonio Banderas), who none of them seems to have noticed is actually Spanish. Vikings are clearly not the most intelligent of people, and they insist that the fake Egyptian (who attempts to bolster his Egyptianess by chatting to Omar Sharif, who is Egyptian, in a few fun scenes) go and help kill the dark and unseen foe. For the star of an all-action kill-fest, Banderas is a bit fey, and really doesn't get enough killing in before the film is done. As you can see, I found 'The 13th Warrior' a bit hard to take seriously, particularly given its silly plot (adapted, and considerably toned down, from a crazy novel called 'Eaters of the Dead' by Michael Crichton). The action is good when it comes, and like most of McTiernan's movies it looks terrific. Consumed with curry and some Stella, it's good fun, but compared to Richard Fleischer's brilliantly ruthless 'The Vikings', it's no classic.
'Election' is a rarity - a sharp political satire that makes absolutely no compromises to audience tastes and emerges with real bite and intelligence. Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is a swot, a do-gooding busybody, the kind of person is on every student committee, whose hand is always raised in class. Popular teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) decides, knowing that Tracy has some skeletons in her closet, and moreover, despising Tracy for being a knowall, decides to scupper her chances of becoming president of the student body with another candidate, nice-but-dim sports hero Paul Metzler (Chris Klein). A third candidate then enters the race, Paul's sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell), and as a whole tangle of resentments and plots take hold, Jim's conspiracies push him to the brink. There are parallels here with the 1996 US election, with Tracy as Bob Dole, Paul as Bill Clinton and Tammy as Ross Perot - these ideas are there, but the specifics are less important. What really matters is the general commentary on the way in which politics, while on the surface being a battle of ideas and principles, is actually about personalities, and individual ambition and prejudice. In a way, a better comparison is between Tracy and Tony Blair, the squeaky clean campaigner who believes that organisation and a positive face entitle one to power. The performances are exemplary, with Broderick superb as a flawed man floundering in a situation he has created but cannot control, and Witherspoon absolutely superb, bravely robbing Tracy of any hint of humanity, and ruthlessly abandoning the sunny good looks which have won her so many other parts. Unlike a lot of satires, which almost inevitably end in farce or bloodshed, 'Election' keeps its head and pushes its story to a logical and appropriate conclusion without compromise or excess. It has very few wholly sympathetic or wholly unsympathetic characters - Tracy is obnoxious (
but never actually lies or cheats), Paul is stupid (but entirely without malice), and Jim is weak and compromised (but his instincts are completely understandable). It's not a jolly comedy, but a serious - if hilarious - look at the nature of elections and the compromises made in politics: seek it out.
Dear Santa I hope you've got over that business of me not believing in you and bullying my parents into admitting that they bought the presents. I mean, I was only four, you have to cut me some slack. Anyway, now that I am 27 and know that the only way I am likely to get these things is by supernatural intervention, I would be very grateful if you could supply the following. I have been very good this year, making sure that I only undermine and belittle my colleagues behind their backs and never to their faces, and have got my swearing down to every second sentence. Cheers Moronboy 1) Double glazing - a bit exotic I know, but a man can dream. 2) I would like certain people - we know who we're talking about here, Santa - to forget our phone number occasionally. 3) A virus, undetectable and incurable, which kills people who use mobile phones in cinemas. I'd like the death to be long and spectacular, but can they rush from the auditorium first? Thanks. 4) A vast and unimaginable fortune. (just hoped I'd sneak that one in there) 5) An agent to phone me up out of the blue and offer me an advance on my novel. 6) The sudden and inexplicable disappearance of John Prescott. 7) Tony Blair and Peter Mandleson go looking for John (unlikely, I know, but you are a supernatural entity), and don't come back. Tony's replacement should be somewhere to the left of Tony Benn. 8) A strange and powerful urge should overcome dooyou's community, driving them to read and rate my opinions in absurd numbers. 9) A long and expensive safari holiday. Now. 10) Go on then, I'll really push the boat out - The Manchurian Candidate DVD. But Santa, only include this last one if you really think I've been good.
A short, but cautionary tale. I am a great advocate of travel, but a yuletide adventure can be unwise. My sister (who I should point out is now very happily settled with a nice chap and a baby which is freakishly jolly and good-tempered) had exited a long relationship which had looked like heading for the altar. The first Christmas loomed, and she decided, rather than spending it with my parents (with whom she is very close), she would jet off with one of her more glamourous friends to glam European cities for the festive season. The idea was to show herself, as much as anyone else, that she was a thrusting and independent young woman, who didn't need a reassuring festive family get-together. She was wrong.She visited one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but (apologies in advance) it might as well have been Hull if you're not in the mood. The fact was, she didn't really want to be travelling the world, she wanted to be sentimental and safe; she just didn't want to admit to that. So she spent a lot of money, a lot of time, and all she got was a bit depressed. So, if you yearn for an escape from the chaos of the festive season, think about it very carefully. Be self-aware, and even if you feel a bit wet, if you know you'd be better off having an utterly conventional Christmas, do that. What do you have to prove, you have the rest of the year to go trekking across Annapurna, and the festive season is loaded with associations you may not want to trifle with.
As a republican, I am not going to sit here and pretend to have an adequate opinion on the Queen's Speech - I simply haven't seen it. It may be rivetting, Her Britannic Majesty might start pole dancing or juggling fire for all I know, but she's never been a feature of my Christmas TV viewing. What I do know about Christmas is the fact that a lot of old movies get shown and that's a very good thing indeed. Often, the schedulers take the piss somewhat by putting absolutely classic movies on at 6am, but that's why videos were invented. The big throat-clearing flag-waving movies can only be valuable to be people who don't visit cinemas and never hire videos, but the oldies are very precious. Perhaps because they know lots of people are off work, perhaps because movie-watching is traditional at Xmas - who cares, when you get your Christmas Radio Times (and here's a weird thing, why doesn't anyone buy the Christmas TV Times, I mean, I know people will b3e buying it really, but nobody ever mentions it, just the RT) scan the early mornings and late nights. There will be b/w classics galore.
Here's how it works: if you want your message sealed up in a box with a bow on top, if you want to watch standard movie characters moving through easy-to-swallow moral dilemmas, with a pat tragic ending so that you can sob and feel better about yourself, you have 'Saving Private Ryan'. It's drama-lite, not too heavy or indigestible, with no real challenges. If, however, you want your cinema to be complex, difficult and with absolutely no easy answers whatsoever, then 'The Thin Red Line' is your war film. The story? The US army go to Guadacanal in World War 2. They fight. Some of them die. They leave. That's it. There are no great morals to be drawn, just a theme of war being a violation of the natural order. Malick's freewheeling, loose, narrative free approach meant that - according to Nick Nolte - he shot enough footage to make other completely different movies with the stuff he didn't use here, and I hope he does. It's rich in imagery, beautifully made, and absolutely compelling. War has no structure, no inherent path you can follow from here to there, so unlike virtually any other movie, 'The Thin Red Line' sees various people wandering through the story; some apparently crucial characters just leave or die when you don't expect them to. At times, the film seems to be the most gripping evocation of the violence of war in cinema history, at other times, Malick gets so wound up in his scenery that it almost becomes like 'Waiting For Godot' meets 'Platoon' (which would be a justifiable vision of what war is like). Guilty of over-indulgence, occasional ponderousness and squandering of some great actors (when he saw how little of his part had been retained, George Clooney allegedly asked to be cut out altogether), this film is also poetic, gripping and incredibly beautiful, with some magnificent performances (Nolte, Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel) and a complete disregard for t
he normal rules of cinema.
Madeleine Stowe should really have been a bigger star, but she has had a few problems. She is a very beautiful woman, which would always have made producers push her into bimbo roles, girlfriend of the hero etc. Indeed, this was where she started, as the object of Richard Dreyfus' voyeuristic attentions in 'Stakeout', and her classical face and huge brown eyes might have made her a convincing subject for an obsession. She played a hapless victim in Costner's revenge, the trophy bride of a gangster seduced by Kevin Costner only to come to a grim end. But the moment that Stowe opens her mouth, this deep, throaty, inherently sarcastic voice comes out, which presents Hollywood with an even bigger problem: a beautiful woman who is obviously intelligent. No, many producers would probably say, we don't have those. So her appearances have been sporadic - a nice cameo in 'Short Cuts', a less useful one in Nicholson's 'The Two Jakes' - and a series of bigger roles in interesting, sometimes brilliant films. 1992 was a good year - the deeply ambivalent and much underrated 'Unlawful Entry', about a psychopathic cop (Ray Liotta) who stalks a yuppie couple (Stowe and Kurt Russell), and 'Last of the Mohicans', a loose adaptation of James Fennimore Cooper's classic novel. In the former, Stowe is a smart support player, making convincing the potentially difficult character of the wife who only belatedly cottons on to Liotta's psychosis. Meanwhile 'Mohicans' is one of her best parts; strong-willed and fearsome, easily a match for sensitive macho man Daniel Day Lewis. This same fiesty, unflappable feel made her superb in 'Twelve Monkeys' - another difficult part, as the real world contact for Bruce Willis' insane time traveller, and the same level, sarcastic and tough persona. Her only real starring role was in 'Blink', a gimmicky thriller, in the sense that it feature
s a woman whose lifelong blindness has been cured, only to leave her with perception problems which mean that she sees events after they have happened (she then 'witnesses' a murder). So far, so cliche, but it works like a charm, with excellent direction from reliable old hand Michael Apted, and a strong central performance, with Stowe ignoring the temptations of sentimentality and playing it hard and ruthless. Some of her films have fared badly ('The Proposition', 'China Moon'), but they were fundamentally interesting ideas which didn't quite make it. Her most recent appearance was in 'The General's Daughter', back to playing support in a generally starry cast. It was an OK film with most of the cast enjoying William Goldman's snappy dialogue, and even in this mainstream movie, she made an admirable fist of keeping pace with John Travolta. Madeleine Stowe is a tough, fiery actress who probably hasn't had the luck she needed to hit the big heights - but nevertheless, her superb work in 'Mohicans', '12 Monkeys' and 'Blink' should have cemented a worthwhile reputation.
Question: is Doris Day dead or alive? (see below) One of the reasons why this question is so hard to answer is that more than any other actress of the 50s and 60s, Doris Day (real name Kappelhoff) has become so entirely outdated, many probably haven't even heard of her. If she survives at all, it is only because of her songs, still turning up on many an easy listening compilation (take away 'Que Sera Sera', and I don't even think that would happen). Doris Day had an incredibly fixed persona - uptight, prim, slightly boyish, and completely virginal. She appeared in a lot of musicals in the fifties, and a lot of popular romantic comedies in the late fifties and early sixties, though after 1968, she made no movies at all. Her archetypal roles are as 'Calamity Jane' in the musical of the same name, Marjorie Winfield in 'On Moonlight Bay' and Jan Murrow in 'Pillow Talk'. In all, the form is the same - Doris hates men, Doris wins the heart of a generally sexless leading man (Howard Keel, Gordon MacRae, Rock Hudson), and then, Doris reluctantly succumbs. Almost invariably, she belts out a few songs. Think of any famous female (or male) film star - they would have been in at least one, unalloyed, unquestionable classic. Not Doris. If you look at her filmography, you struggle to see anything really great, with the mark of a true masterpiece. Her best movies ('Calamity', 'The Pyjama Game') do not hold a candle to 'Singin' in the Rain' or 'On the Town'. Her occasional stabs at dramatic acting - for example, Hitchcock's pleasant remake of his own 'Man Who Knew Too Much' - are OK, but nothing special. Indeed, even in her most famous pairing, as beard to Hudson in all of those comedies, she isn't as good as Paula Prentiss in Howard Hawk's 'Man's Favourite Sport', a film full of subtle references to Rock's true sexuality. <
br> In truth, Doris Day is too unfashionable, her virginal, man-hating persona too fixed in an era now deemed suitable for TV period dramas to be believable. Marilyn Monroe made films at the same time as Doris Day, but her vivid sexuality seems more understandable than the prim Doris. If you want a very strange experience, find one of her movies on daytime TV - it's fascinating to see. Answer - Yes, she is.
Given all we know about what a weird creep Phil Spector actually is (and if you don't Ronnie Spector's autobiography will tell you all you need to know), it seems odd that any of the rather innocent, lush pop could have come from him. 'A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector' (or 'The Phil Spector Christmas Album' as most people call it) is even more of a surprise, as it is a quite wonderful album, and not freaky at all. Admittedly, the bit at the end when Phil comes on and talks about how the album sums up his feelings about Christmas is very strange, as Phil has such a weak, breathless voice. Nevertheless, the storming set of tinsel-tinged tunes which precedes his intervention makes up for it. The sounds are magnificent, with virtually every song bursting into life with a huge orchestra and a plethora of jingle bells. The famed Spector 'Wall of Sound' gives every track a strong backbone, even the really crap ones (i.e. the ones by Bobb B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans). But crap is not really the order of the day - The Ronettes' 'Frosty the Snowman' and The Crystals' 'Santa Claus is coming to town' are acknowledged classics, while I think that Darlene Love's version of 'White Christmas' is streets ahead of B-B-Bing's treacly interpretation. It's defiantly secular, obsessed instead with presents and sleigh rides and Santa, and all the better for that, so stick it on the stereo and every Xmas chore will be easier.
1) Don't buy too big a turkey / pudding etc. if you are worried about the aftermath. My mum roasts a bird as big as a small horse, but she and my Dad enjoy the leftovers almost as much as the meal, so just think about what you need. 2) Turkey sandwiches are always an option, but if you've really punished the bird in the oven, it will be quite dry and you'll need a lot of gravy. Next day, the meat left on the turkey will be even more dry, and the sandwiches won't exactly be exciting stuff. So, don't poison your family, but don't overcook the beast either. 3) Turkey sandwiches are more interesting and palatable if you give them some imagination - coronation turkey is a good option. Heinz sell a pre-mixed sauce, but it's just as easy to do your own - mayonnaise, curry powder or paste (whatever you have), a spot of apricot jam (optional). Add to lots of turkey and serve on freshly baked / bought bread. 4) Christmas Pudding Ice Cream. Of course, the easiest way to make your own ice-cream is buy somebody else's (vanilla would be my choice, or something with a bit of alcohol in it). Then just beat in crumbled bits of leftover pudding into it. Lots of people (Nigel Slater is one) advocate making your own ice cream by using ready-made custard - this works very well with pudding. I tried this last year and it worked very well, and despite the winter cold, a spot of pudding ice cream was more welcome than some pudding warmed up in the microwave. 5) Throw away any vegetables you still have unless you have mashed potato and you want to make potato cakes. I do not believe you can do anything with cooked vegetables. 6) Strip the turkey carcass and make soup, or follow the Nigella Lawson option of keeping the carcass and freezing it to make stock at some later point. It is possible to make really good stock with the bones. 7) Bit specific, but do not attempt to make turkey curry with the leftovers
. It is a foul and unnatural creation. I speak from experience. 8) Do not leave the carcass out for the birds to eat. My mum does this and I think it is profoundly unnatural.
In my flying history, I have had spectacularly bumpy landings, Hollywood-movie style turbulence, small fires, and have discovered how easy it was to smuggle a convincing replica firearm through customs at Charles De Gaulle airport (if ever there's a 'Stupid Things You Have Done While Travelling' category I'll tell you that story). Nevertheless, I don't feel unsage about flying, certainly, I feel more safe on a plane than I do crossing the A6 in Stockport, where I currently work. As far as the thrombosis issue goes, I feel the same way as I do about air pollution. There is still a lot of conflicting evidence about what exactly can and can not happen. But it doesn't matter. If the airlines acted as if there was a problem, and made more room, and made it easier to exercise and walk about on the plane, flying would be better. Then, if we were all at risk from thrombosis, the situation would improve. If we weren't, their service would be much improves anyway. At the moment, you have two choices: fly expensive class, which is quite fabulous, and I would recommend it to anyone, or, in the real world, be pushy and inconvenient. If you are sandwiched next to other people, don't think about it, just get up and walk around periodically. You'll never meet these people again anyway, so disturb them. Move about, stretch your legs. This will make you feel better and stave off any thrombosis problems should they be a reality. And of course, the converse is true; don't expect to get too comfortable on a plane, because you should be ready to move for other people. I've been sat next to really ignorant fellow passengers who clearly felt that they had the right to set up camp and not be disturbed. They were soon disabused of that notion. Despite the tragedies and pitfalls that are a small but inherent part of flying, I won't be giving it up. Without wishing to trivialise the issue, I'd ra
ther take some risks than stay at home and not see something of the world before I die, otherwise, the caution exercised in extending my life won't have been worth it - I'd rather travel and die young that get old at home.
I mentioned these in another review, but I feel that they are such an ideal stocking filler that they deserved a mention entirely of their own (so apologies if you've already read my 'One who has everything contribution and feel cheated). Many publishers have jumped on the bandwagon, but the format is relatively consistent - a book of about two inches across, priced at around two to three pounds, with quotes or thoughts on each page. At this size, they fit perfectly into a stocking. I think the 'Little Book of..' phenomenon started with Paul Wilson's 'Little Book of Calm', which has been a huge bestseller. This book is either a very comforting and helpful aid to beating stress, or the biggest load of empty-headed New Age twaddle perpetrated on a gullible public in twenty years, depending on your perspective. I tend towards the latter, if only because it makes me feel better about myself to know that reading it doesn't make me feel better about myself, if you see what I mean. The companion volumes to this are the Little Books of 'Chaos' by Craig Brown and 'Bollocks' by Alistair Beaton. Both are well-written diatribes, brilliantly satirising all the touchy feely garbage which has made Wilson a millionaire. Buy someone both the Calm and Chaos books, and all their moods will be matched. Also finely matched are Lillian Too's Little Book of Feng Shui, one of several Little Books by Too about the furniture shifting phenomenon ('Feng Shui at work' is another), and Rohan Candappa's 'Little Book of Wrong Shui', which perfectly spikes the nonsense of 'Feng Shui' (sample observation "A door should never be bigger than the space it has to fill" is actually from Wrong Shui, but wouldn't look out of place in Too's daft books). Also on my level is Alec Bromcie's 'Little Book of Farting', which is full of handy tips on farting eti
quette, observations on the biological origin of flatulence, and some very funny ephemisms for farting (my favourite is 'barking spider'). It's a cut-down version of Bromcie's 'Ultimate Book of Farting', which no home should be without. Where do I stop? 'Abuse' features a brace of fine insults and putdowns collected by a stand-up comic over a career of dealing with hecklers who didn't like her act, whereas 'The Little Book of Crap', is also funny (the author of that has two promising titles for 2001, the Little Books of Crap Excuses and Crap Advice). Just go to Amazon or Alphabetstreet and type in the words 'Little Book of' and you'll find tiny books for all ages and senses of humour (Shakespeare quotes, Winnie The Pooh, it's endless). as you might have guessed, I have a heap of these in my house (outside the toilet door, in case anyone fancies a quick read). They're cheap and a bit throwaway, but anyone finding an appropriate one in their stocking is certain to get a few chuckles out of it.