Come Together – Wes Anderson’s H&M Christmas Ad

When I heard Wes Anderson had directed an H&M ad I was curious. Skeptical, but curious. I love Anderson’s work; his visual style, his quirky rhythms, his wonderful, stylised delivery. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s only gone and made a tiny short film for the Swedish mega-chain. Complete with regular Anderson collaborator Adrien Brody.

In essence, the ad reminds me a lot of Anderson’s 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel, only without the same level of depth, sincerity and soul. I mean, it’s fun to look at and all, but at the end of the day, it’s just an H&M ad.

Napoleon Dynamite & Pedro End Up Working At Burger King

Wait a second… What? According to the clickbait-infested internet, “the cast of Napoleon Dynamite reunited” for a CLASSIC Burger King ad. So where’s Deb? Where’s Kip? Where’s Rico and LaFawnduh? Perhaps their careers are still ticking along, because to me, this just looks like an old, puffy Jon Heder and a very Pedro-like Efren Ramirez shamelessly cashing in on their most iconic and well-loved roles.

Heder’s not even in character FFS. On the surface, it seems like him and Ramirez (and Burger King) are simply alluding to the movie by association (and with tots, of course) but not fully committing to it by name or even a pair of glasses, a headband and a curly hairdo. So it is Napoleon Dynamite but at the same time it’s also just Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez. Possibly, to avoid being sued by Fox Searchlight, Paramount Pictures or MTV.

The ad actually reminds me of Harvey Keitel’s audacious parody of his classic Pulp Fiction character Winston Wolfe for UK insurance company Direct Line. Cheap and tacky.

The Flatliners – Nerves & Rise Records

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So according to Instagram, Canadian punk rockers The Flatliners have jumped the Fat Wreck ship and signed to Rise Records. The Oregon-based, BMG-owned label with wider “international reach” seems like the new way out for workaholic punk bands that hit the Fat Wreck Chords ceiling and want to keep on punching.

In other news, The Flatliners have also just released a new two-track EP called Nerves on Canada’s Dine Alone Records. Check it out!

Oskar Blues Brewery – Dale’s Pale Ale

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It’s hard to ignore the sweet simplicity of Oskar Blues’ mighty Dale’s Pale Ale. It’s strong, full-bodied and quick to the point (to the point no faking). I don’t know who the hell Dale is but his pale malts and hoppy undertones sneak in early and linger long after you’ve cracked the next can. It’s part American pale and part IPA; a “mountain pale ale,” that’s assertive, well-balanced and bold.

In spirit, Dale’s Pale Ale reminds me a lot of Vocation Brewery’s Life & Death IPA (or the other way round, really). Both beers are dark, no-nonsense, 6.5% brews – heavy on flavour and body and light on frills.

As such, there’s less in the way of innovative “fruit salad” overtures and more in the way of thick, golden, hoppy beeriness. Don’t expect exotic extravagance and ground-breaking revolution. Instead, Dale’s Pale Ale is a rich, tasty beer you can rely on like an old friend. “Strong beer” indeed.

ABV: 6.5%
Malt: “European”
Hops: Northern Brewer, Cascade, Columbus, Centennial

The Burger Chronicles #18 – Bun & Bar, Highbury

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This time, your friendly neighborhood burger club got in on the ground level. Before the joint hit the wider burger circuit at large – there’s still hardly any mention of the place online; and no phone number. I walk through Highbury practically every day. And when a new burger restaurant popped up, a local branch of Harringey’s Bun & Bar, I suggested we check it out. Two of our burger munchers rave about the Green Lanes spot, so it made sense on every level. And besides. Burgers. Walking distance. Booze.

It’s a Tuesday night, so you can imagine the kind of dedication and attention a table of 12 attracts at a new burger spot still trying to get the word out. It turns out the place has only been open for four days, and we get the impression that our group is its first horde of London-wide burger connoisseurs. Needless to say, they’re desperate to impress. Brewdog Punk IPAs on tap get the juices flowing as we check out the menu.

There’s a nice homemade feel to Bun & Bar. The lighting’s a bit too bright. The staff look a bit too keen. The menu’s not quite as stylised and self assured. The artwork’s not as cool. And the slick, ultra-contemporary music you usually associate with hip burger joints has been replaced by classic rock bands like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Quiet Riot – which I really like (I even catch a few people singing along, and spot some air guitar jamming later on).

Still, the people behind Bun & Bar have paid attention. The burgers sound great. Imaginative and exotic, in fact. Usually, a burger jumps out at me right away but I’m torn. The “chorizo spread” sounds a bit like Stokey Bears’ bacon jam and EVERYTHING comes with FREE rosemary fries – £1 extra for sweet potato.

But as usual when trying out a new place for the first time, I order a cheeseburger with extra bacon. The B&B Cheese Burger, with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, ketchup and smoky mayo in a brioche bun. And of course, I upgrade my fries to sweet potato. The burger sounds a lot like Patty & Bun’s. In fact, the subtle difference between the B&B Beef Burger and the B&B Cheese Burger sounds a lot like the Patty & Bun Ari Gold vs Smokey Robinson dilemma.

When the food arrives, finally – they do take a while (then again, they are cooking for 12) – the presentation’s really impressive. Usually, the lighting’s so dim and the buns are kind of squished down to keep the juicy burgers together, so a phone photo never really does them any justice. This time it’s almost too bright, as I surreptitiously sneak my phone out and take a shot.

Everything seems so clean and fresh as well. The sweet potato fries are some of the best I’ve ever tasted; light, crispy and delicious – I can’t really remember having rosemary salted sweet potato fries before either. And when I sink my teeth into the fluffy looking brioche bun the burger’s juicy and perfectly cooked. The well seasoned patty gives way to the taste of smoky, caramelized bacon. Simple, with a twist. The secret to a good burger’s all in the seasoning. And Bun & Bar know exactly what they’re doing.

Still eager to impress, the waiters and waitresses – and even the owner – come over to check if everything’s okay twice every 20 minutes. But it’s a friendly atmosphere. And everyone’s raving about their burgers. The two Green Lanes fans do say that they prefer the burgers down their local, but I can’t see how they could be much better.

Stokey Bears 2

Metallica & The Roots Jam Enter Sandman on The Tonight Show, With Toy Instruments

Channelling their fun, softer side – who knew – Metallica joined The Roots on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last night. Armed with toy instruments, the fun-looking, Fraggle Rock gang banged out a one-of-a-kind version of “Enter Sandman.” And for the record, Lars’ Fisher Price drum still sounds better than his St. Anger snare. Hot burn…

L.O.B. vs Copa ’90 – Keep Playin’

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The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

The Greys are having the season of their lives but they’re shedding dedicated defenders quicker than Manchester United. Tonight’s lineup was particularly attack-minded, so hard-tackling centre back Mike was called in at the last minute. The Greys face fourth-placed Copa ’90, one of four teams going for the title. They’ve played two games extra but they’re tied on points with the Greys, and behind on goal difference.

It’s wet and the ball moves around fast early on. The Greys win a free-kick on the halfway line. Hoping for the best, Mike smashes the ball straight at the Copa ’90 goal. Somehow, it misses everyone in the box, until lurking Greys forward Alex sticks a foot out and guides it into the back of the net. 1-0.

Minutes later Mike’s involved at the other end, as he dives in to block a cross and the ball catches him on the arm. “Penalty,” says the ref. It looks like a harsh decision. Ball to hand, completely accidental and his arm was in a natural position to support his slide.

Greys keeper Yusuf half goes the right way and comes agonizingly close but can’t stop the equalizing strike. 1-1.

Copa ’90 play in bright orange, like the Dutch national team, and their keeper looks like Ed de Goey. He seems hard to beat as well; the Greys manage to string a few chances together but the shots that aren’t straight at him are well kept out.

Soaking up the pressure, Copa ’90 launch an opportunistic counter. Their hulking, man bun-wearing centre forward is given too much space on the edge of the box. He hits a low shot that skids up off the wet pitch and squeezes under Yusuf’s elbow, as he gets down to try and keep it out. 2-1 Orange.

The Greys switch off for a bit in the second half, giving possession away and playing themselves into trouble. Instead of passing it around as usual they hit out-of-character long balls, which skid harmlessly out of play off the wet surface.

Finally, the Greys back off Copa ’90’s attacking midfielder one time too many and he decides to just shoot from way out. The ball squeezes through a crowd of Grey shirts on the edge of the box, through the clearing and into the bottom right corner of Yusuf’s goal. 3-1 Orange.

To make things worse, Copa ’90 aren’t done. They break down the right with a string of neat passes. An Orange-shirted forward cuts in on the right and ghosts past two Greys defenders, before placing the ball into the opposite corner of the net. 4-1. It looks like the Greys’ undefeated run might be coming to an end. But this realisation seems to galvanize them.

Alex gets the ball on the edge of the Orange box and sort of… steps on it. Greys winger Karim winds up and fires the dead ball past Alex – who might have got a touch – and into the top left corner. 4-2. One for the dubious goals committee, perhaps.

There are five minutes left on the clock and the Greys need two goals to hang onto their unbroken run. Finally, they play out from the back. Karim gets the ball down the left wing and knocks a dangerous pass into the box. Martin keeps his cool, sidesteps the keeper and buries the chance. 4-3. That’s more like it.

But just like that, referee Ash blows the final whistle and it’s all over. The Greys left it too late. They had more chances than their opposition but couldn’t stop Copa ’90 for a second time this season. Let’s just hope it’s a once off, not reality finally catching up with our momentarily defeated heroes in Grey.

London-by-Zee 8 – Diana Memorial Park

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Today Zara and I are meeting a fellow stay-at-home dad buddy of mine, Jerred, and his sons at the Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park. By now, I’m pretty comfortable carting Zara around in the sling, so a relatively long Tube ride doesn’t stir up as much anxiety as it used to – and I have rice cakes.

We get to Hyde Park in good time and head in. As we enter, a friendly looking dog comes bounding over. Before I know it, it’s springing up at Zara, sniffing around the sling and getting my back up. It does it again, getting way too close for comfort, but still the owner doesn’t come over to pull it away. By the time it jumps up at us for a third time, the owner still nowhere in sight, I’ve had enough. I stick my leg out and push the dog away.

Suddenly, a woman comes running over. At last. But to my absolute disbelief she starts shouting at me for “kicking” her dog. She calls me cruel and storms away. I can’t believe it. I have a dog. If my dog ran over and jumped up at a stranger’s baby I’d pull it away instantly, apologise profusely and slink away with my tail between my legs, hoping that the angry parent wouldn’t take things any further.

Before entering the playground, still in a state of shock, I ask the woman working at the gate if there’s anything I can do about the incident. Between breaths I tell her my story and she listens with a comforting amount of incredulity. She tells me to leave it. “Some dog owners are crazy,” she says. “God will judge them,” she adds. Funny, but I don’t think I want to take it quite that far. By the time Jerred and his two kids meet us I’ve calmed down. A coffee helps. And then we’re in the playground.

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It’s an awesome little space. Fenced in, so Jerred can let his older son wander around reasonably freely – mostly on the bustling pirate castle in the centre of the playground. The rest of us stroll around, checking out what the play area has to offer. We try out the metal chimes and musical hopscotch, which reminds me of that piano-jumping scene in Big. But Zara takes a while to warm up.

I try her out on the swings but she’s unsure. It’s her first time. Eventually, to my relief, I ease her into the seat again and she starts to let go. As she swings back and forth she starts to smile and really enjoy the ride, pointing at everything in sight; “Der! Der! Der!”

By now she’s totally into it, exploring the park as I run behind her, working hard to keep up. We revisit the sensory trail, peek through the tunnel under the hill and hit the swings again like old pros. And when Jerred and his kids leave Zara and I walk over to the giant pond, point at every bird in sight and head back to the station. We had a shaky start, but by the end she’s smiling from ear to ear.