Celebrity Families: The Carters

International superstar Beyoncé has caused quite a stir by adopting her husband Shawn’s name for her forthcoming “The Mrs Carter Show” tour. We asked her about the reasoning behind it.

carters

“It’s a powerful name. It’s a name of power,” Beyoncé tells me as we sit over cocktails and a plate of scotch eggs in a pop-up artisan cafe on the deck of a Dover-Calais P&O ferry that’s moored in uptown Beverly Hills. “For a good few years while Jay [Shawn’s “rap name” is Jay-Z] was growing up, his mum [TV’s Lynda Carter] was Wonder Woman every week on tv and his dad [Jimmy] was president of the USA. And that’s exactly the sort of drive and ambition my solo career encapsulates.”

It must have been quite a childhood, I say. “Hell yes!” spurts Beyoncé, waving at the waiter for prawns. “He used to get teased something awful at school. ‘Show us your magic bracelets!’ ‘Negotiate a peace with Cuba!’ All that sort of thing.” She sighs wistfully.

Just then we’re joined by Beyoncé’s aunt Helena [Bonham Carter, best known for her role as Don Johnson’s love interest in Miami Vice] – they briefly brush each others’ hair in greeting before settling down to tell me more. “When I had my kids they were always over at Lynda’s wanting to play with Jay-Z,” confides Helena in an outrageous Cockney accent. “My eldest Dwayne [Carter, best known today as musician Lil Wayne] has quite the rivalry with Jay these days but they were so friendly once. They used to do raps together over Sunday lunch!” Did they have beef, I ask. “No, chicken usually,” says Helena.

Beyoncé’s thoughts turn to the lost members of the Carter clan, as a regretful breeze ripples across her perfect skin. “Jay hardly sees anything of his uncle Chris these days,” she moues. “He went a bit wild with his conspiracy theories about twenty years ago, it was all ‘the truth is out there’ and ‘trust no-one’ and ‘aliens are in the jelly’ and that sort of thing. He and his kids the Backstreet-Carters have been shut off ever since. Poor Nick and poor little Aaron.”

“They wanted it that way,” spits Helena bitterly.

Still, happier times lie ahead, I venture, drawing Beyoncé’s attention back to her forthcoming tour and the reason for our interview. “Yes, and perhaps now you appreciate a little of the wonderful Carter legacy,” she says with a sweet, winning smile. “With all that rich history behind the name I’d be a fool not to adopt it for promotional purposes.” And the loss of the Knowles name? “My father Nick will be devastated. But with the money from the tour he’ll finally be able to do up his house.”

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Is The Hunger Games a shot-for-shot remake of a 1979 episode of Grange Hill?

A lot of people are quick to claim that The Hunger Games is some sort of rip-off of Battle Royale. But Suzanne Collins claims she’d never heard of the Japanese book and film before her own became a success, and who are we to argue? Especially when, somewhere between Connecticut and Shikoku – here in South East England in fact – there’s another source so close as to be uncanny. Could a Grange Hill school trip to Beaconsfield really have inspired the adventures of the Panem tributes? Let’s take a look…

Once a year, selected children are taken out of their ordinary lives by a woman in a remarkable hat and suit

Once a year, selected children are taken out of their ordinary lives by a woman in a remarkable hat and suit

On the way there they must learn to respect their mentor

On the way there they must learn to respect their mentor

alliances

Alliances are soon formed in the wilderness

But the gang are in pursuit, and our heroines must flee!

But the gang are in hot pursuit!

Lost in the woods, will the odds be in the girls' favour?

Lost in the woods, will the girls find the odds are in their favour?

The man who could save them waits in a rose garden, but how will the story end?

In a rose garden waits a man who could save them, but will he?

What happened with the bigger boys

(By Bert, aged 4.0)

My mum was going out on speed dating because it was Valentine’s Day and she left me on my own and I said I would be bored and she said shut up and why didn’t I read my chicken book. I like my chicken book but I have read it a lot and I know how it ends – on the front it is very colourful and the chickens look nice and on the back there are smaller pictures of the chickens and it tells you about the meal deals and it has the phone number.

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Out the window I could see that the bigger boys from down the road were getting dressed up for skiing but it is weeks since there was any snow so I ran outside to warn them.

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The bigger boys laughed at me and they said they just like dressing up in lots of different outfits because then they get lots of girlfriends and they put on their sailor clothes and they looked stupid and I wanted to laugh at them back but I did not because I am scared of Louis.

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Louis made me sit on the front of a car while they drove it around the block and I pretended I was in a film because then it was less scary and I thought Niall would help me because he is the gentlest one from the bigger boys but he was showing off because he just wants Louis to like him and I do not like Louis.

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Some of the other bigger boys were riding a motorbike and they were all very grown up and they were talking about all the tattoos they had got and about all the girls they would like to kiss and about how they did not mind if she was fat or ugly and I wondered if my mum was doing well at the speed dating.

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But it turned out the bigger boys were not driving properly and the police made them go to prison and I had to go too but only to tell them which were the boys that had been bad to me and I thought about all the girls who would be sad if the bigger boys had to stay in prison and I did not tell the police anything and I got to go home and my mum was still not back but I looked at the pictures of the chickens and I went to sleep.

The biggest jigsaw shop in the world – a review

We were in the Lake District recently and happened across this place:

Barney's News Box Jigsaws

They’re very modest on the sign. “Probably the largest selection of jigsaws in the world” they say. Probably! And it does look like an ordinary shop from the outside.

downstairs

This is the sight that confronts you on the ground floor. Impressive. Still, you’ve perhaps seen bigger jigsaw displays elsewhere. But then you go upstairs:

upstairs

This is the view from the top of the stairs, and the point at which things get a bit overwhelming. With jigsaws piled high from floor to ceiling you might struggle to make out that narrow opening on the right there. What’s through the rabbit hole?

rabbit hole

Here I am at the centre of the cardboard cave. A place where the walls themselves are towers of terrifying puzzles and distance is as meaningless as direction. A person could lose themselves forever here. And what did I find in the furthest corner of the labyrinth? This:

Downton Abbey jigsaw

A classy extension of Downton Abbey’s brand identity there. So which other cultural forces have taken jigsaw form in this brave new world?

Twilight jigsaws

It’s Twilight’s Edward and Jacob, in Puzzleball form! £6.99 each – a bargain. Finally Bella can have both! Who else is here?

hannah montana jigsaw

It’s Disney’s Hannah Montana of course! “Made in 2D, Displayed in 3D” – will Miley Cyrus EVER be able to move on?

jigsaw names

Here’s a selection of the generic jigsaws. The size and scope of the industry that keeps crazed fans in a constant supply of fresh puzzles had never occurred to me before. What evocative names.  Blooming Cart. Proud Peacock. Gotta Love Snow! Yes, you gotta. Is there anything a bit more racy though? Well…

naughty dots jigsaw

Oh this is the stuff. Really Really (Really) Naughty Dots – Explicit Jigsaw Fun For Adults Only. It’s the future our forebears fought for. It even comes with a special pen! Mind you, how many stages of frustration do you want to put yourself through? You’ll spend hours doing the jigsaw, and then you have to do the dot-to-dots, and finally you’re supposed to get some sort of erotic thrill out of a phallus you’ve drawn yourself with a wipe-clean pen.  I suppose for some people the anticipation’s everything. Here’s something a bit gentler for a happy finish:

young farmers

Carry On Urbanka

carry on urbanka

What happens when you take Doctor Who‘s single most innuendo-laden story and reduce it to its purest form by taking out everything but the smut? A mildly amusing YouTube edit of Four To Doomsday is what happens, and here it is:

2012: A review in subtitling disasters

In my similar round-up last year I explained that our telly automatically turns subtitles on when muted, which often then get stuck when we change channels. With hilarious consequences!

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department started to get frustrated at the public's apathy

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department was getting increasingly frustrated at the public’s apathy

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard's special nickname for her had become common knowledge

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard’s special nickname for her had become common knowledge

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

Never, Fiona. Never.

Never, Fiona. Never.

My albums of 2012: Games & Puzzles special

Can YOU solve Plan B’s logic problem, spot the ball with Frank Ocean or help Usher find his climax? Find out in my Albums of the Year Puzzle Special!

10. Jessie Ware – Devotion

9. Bright Light Bright Light – Make Me Believe In Hope

8. Gossip – A Joyful Noise

Three very thoughtful, quietly euphoric albums to start us off. So let’s have a thoughtful and quietly euphoric teaser:

buffet riddle

You are queueing for the buffet at a music industry awards ceremony with Rod Thomas, Jessie Ware and Beth Ditto. You know that one of them always tells the truth, one of them always lies, and one can either lie or tell the truth as they choose. Rod says “The salmon en croute is nice! Don’t listen to Beth by the way, she always lies.” Jessie says “The profiteroles are lovely. And you can trust Rod, he always tells the truth.” Beth says “I do lie sometimes but I can tell the truth too if I want to! By the way the mushroom vol-au-vents are delicious.”

Which is the only food you can put on your plate with confidence?

7. Usher – Looking 4 Myself

I’m on my own with this one, I think. At least, I haven’t seen anyone else raving about it in end-of-year lists. Too much dance-pop for the R&B crowd? Too R&B for the pop crowd? Too cheesy for everyone else? Actually that last one doesn’t need a question mark. But I like it a lot. The centrepiece is of course Climax, a cleverly named song as Usher never actually reaches one. But can YOU help him get there?

ushers climax

 6. Angel Haze – Reservation

It’s not until you put an album on at work and everyone goes rigid with horror that you notice quite how sweary it is. The words in the puzzle are all taken from Angel’s lyrics. When fitted correctly into the grid, the shaded squares will reveal a special bonus word! What is it?

angel haze cross words

5. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

franks ballsCan YOU see Frank’s balls in this picture? Mark with a cross where you think they are.

4. Plan B – Ill Manors

It’s a horrible world depicted in the film Ill Manors, with relentlessly awful things happening to everyone in it. The accompanying album is just as revolting and upsetting, but of course it’s all set to brilliant music. Plan B has drafted his plans for the sequel in the form of a logic problem – solve it if you dare!

ill manors

3. Tyson – Die On The Dancefloor

Here was a 2012 surprise – a concept album about morbidity delivered as a series of falsetto Hi-NRG bangers. Bloody great. So here’s a puzzle based on Tyson’s twin obsessions of disco and death.

tyson puzzle

2. Metric – Synthetica

I think Metric’s dark, sugary synth-rock is sounding better than ever, and these songs haunted and inspired me all year. Join the fun by solving the riddle to find a word associated with metric measurements.

metric riddle

1. Cassie – The Unreleased Classics Trilogy

CASSIE MYSTERYWell here’s a puzzle. A singer releases a very good first album and goes on to record stacks of even better material for a second album which six years later shows no sign of ever materialising. No don’t write in, there isn’t an answer to this one. But Cassie’s work since 2006 has now been collated and packaged up as a set of three downloads comprising 66 tracks. That’s right, my album of the year isn’t even a proper album and some of the tracks are years old. But to my tastes, out of this bonanza of material you could get at least two full albums that would wipe the floor with anything else from this year. It’s a collection of cold, sexy, sweet and surprising electro that at its best makes me think of Janet Jackson singing her way through Britney’s Blackout. But don’t take my word for it – it’s free!

If you want solutions to the puzzles, they’re here. And if you want a soundtrack to working them out, my songs of the year are in a playlist in the previous post. Happy New Year x