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August 5th 2013
I am going to start today's entry in much the same way that Caitlin Moran began her column in Saturday's Times: by saying that you, dear reader, may well not know what a hipster is. Whereas Caitlin went on to launch an impassioned defence of the "sub-species", I mention them really only in passing, but I will steal her description:
For instance, if you have seen a young gentleman walking around with a beard that looks like a badger stapled to his chin, wearing a pair of deck shoes in an “ironic” manner and playing Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines on a tiny ukulele with an expression on his face that says, “Yes! I’m playing Robin Thicke on a ukulele! Can you handle this level of archness?” – then that was not, as you thought, an attention-seeking lunatic who’d seen all his proper clothes and shaving gear burned to the ground and was in the throes of a nervous breakdown, but a hipster, instead.
This might be only partially helpful to you if, like me, you don't know who Robin Thicke is (apparently a musician whose records, Wikipedia tells me, are "noted for their feature of a predominantly R&B sound" - or, as I would have put it, "are R&B") so let me take a different tack. Hipsters dress funny and are into stuff before it hits the mainstream, hence the classic joke: "Why did the hipster burn his tongue? Because he drank coffee before it was cool." And hence my mentioning them today, because I very rarely have cause to boast that I have been ahead of any trend whatsoever (I realised that Ricky Gervais was a bully long before it became commonly acknowledged, but that's about it), and I think I might have hit upon one.Felicity Jones: Next Big Thing
I have long said that ITV's adaptation of Northanger Abbey was brilliant, and that a large part of that was due to the performance of Felicity Jones as the lead character Catherine Morland, outshining even Carey Mulligan in a before-she-was-famous supporting role. In fact, to prove it, here's me in March 2009 on this very site: "Let me just throw a word in for the ITV version of Northanger Abbey, which I bought on DVD the other day, and is excellent. ... Catherine could do with being a year or two older, but you soon forget that as you get caught up in the beauty of her performance." I have re-watched the film several times over the intervening four years, and it remains a favourite. Anyways, I have kept a casual eye on Felicity Jones's career since then, and while I have only watched one of her other films - the indie hit Like Crazy - she has gradually been making her way up the greasy pole in the likes of The Tempest, Chalet Girl and the recent Breathe In. I'm pleased to say that she is about to hit the big time, though, appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 next year as, probably, Felicia Hardy (who apparently becomes Black Cat in the comics, a decade before Selina Kyle made a similar transformation in the world of Batman). As well as being a very good-looking girl - not an uncommon theme amongst successful actresses, it must be said - she is a captivating and intelligent performer who deserves to go far. So, even if you haven't heard of Felicity Jones quite yet, be prepared to hear more about her as 2014 rolls into view - and remember that you heard about her here first. I'm not 100% sure, but I think this makes me a hipster.
...er, although perhaps not as much a hipster as my parents are. Because I should admit that Felicity voiced Emma Grundy on the Archers for 1999-2009, and therefore Mum and Dad would have heard her dulcet tones (and I've never used that phrase less sarcastically) many years before I did.
...er, or rather, before I realised that I did. Because Wikipedia has reminded me that she played the school bully in The Worst Witch, a TV series that I watched occasionally as a kid. Oh, I give up. The point is: she's gonna be huge. And you heard it here third.

August 25th 2013
One of the great mysteries of popular music (other than how men of a certain generation can genuinely believe that the Stone Roses are a great band) is: who is Carly Simon referring to in You're So Vain? If you're not familiar with the song then you should check it out, because it's a good 'un, and you also might be confused so I shall illuminate you. Carly Simon's 1972 single You're So Vain is directed at an unnamed individual, and contains the repeated refrain: "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." Various theories have been posited about who the vain person is, including Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, David Bowie and Cat Stevens, but it has always seemed obvious to me that the song is not about one person alone; rather it must be about a number of people. I shall explain.
The key point, which sticks out like a sore thumb, is that if the song is about a particular person, and that person thinks that it's about him, then surely he's not being vain. He's just recognising facts. If my brother had a hit single (or, indeed, any single. It might not even trouble the top 50) called "You're My Twin Brother" then I don't think I'd be displaying any kind of vanity in reckoning that I was probably the inspiration for it. Basically, the whole idea of "you're so vain, you probably think this song is about you" just doesn't work at all. "You're so perspicacious, you probably think this song is about you" would make sense. Although it doesn't scan. Hey, you've got to make sacrifices.
Now, I know what you're thinking: where will Ben Affleck's Batman fit into the continuity of the Dark Knight trilogy? So let me instead direct your thoughts back to You're So Vain, and the argument that, even if the song were about one particular person, that person might still be vain in thinking so because modest folk wouldn't leap to such conclusions. And that would just about be a reasonable point if the entire song comprised of lyrics like the opening:

You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht [...]
And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner

But as the song develops it becomes pretty specific:

Well, I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won

And then it gets ridiculously specific:

Then you flew your lear jet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun

Stop me if you disagree, but if this song were about one particular person known to Carly Simon, and that person had a winning horse at Saratoga Race Course before jetting off to Novia Scotia to see one of only two solar eclipses visible from there during the early 1970s (thanks Wikipedia), they might be justified in thinking that the song was penned about them. I don't know what kind of person thinks to themself: "Hmm, yes, I did date Carly Simon for a while. And I do have a lear jet, which I took to Nova Scotia during the solar eclipse of March 7 1970. And, of course, I did have a successful flutter at Saratoga Springs back in the day. But that song? Probably about Bowie". If that's what's required not to be vain, then I don't think I know anyone modest.
So... either the song doesn't work at all, or it can't be about one individual. What makes more sense to me is that Carly Simon took bits and pieces from various different people - maybe Jagger had a lear jet, Beatty won at the races and Stevens wore apricot scarves - and lumped them all together into one song. That way it would take extraordinary vanity to say: "No, I've never been to Nova Scotia. But I do have a tedency to walk into parties like I'm walking onto a yacht, so I reckon the song's probably about me. And maybe the horse thing is a metaphor".
So, a great musical mystery solved by yours truly. Next time, I'll be explaining what Hotel California really is, and which one out of One Direction is called Liam.

what was I listening to?
The End Is Not The End - House of Heroes
what was I reading?
The Firm - John Grisham
what was I watching?
The Firm
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