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Miss Ntertainment

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  1. Go to Boston for the first time ever as a reporter covering the marathon bombings. Be so moved by the tenacity of the city that you vow you’ll be back the next year to cheer. Vow, above that, you’ll be back to run it yourself.
  2. Realize how far-fetched and absolutely ludicrous this idea is. Remember that you were never a runner at school, that you’re not really “good” at running.
  3. Realize how far-fetched and absolutely ludicrous it was to move to NYC from South Africa with a suitcase and a dream to interview Meryl Streep over lunch.
  4. Start to imagine what it would mean to qualify to run the world’s greatest marathon. Start to think about ways to knock time off your previous marathon, your second ever.
  5. Commit to it half-heartedly; tell people half-heartedly. Sort of aim for it at the Chicago Marathon. Miss it by just over 2 mins. Get bummed, but still celebrate, because it’s your 3rd marathon, and hey, a 15 min PR is nothing to be bummed about. Randomly bump into one of Nelson Mandela’s grandsons at the afterparty.
  6. Decide a few weeks later this is something you really want and so commit 100% to it. Sign up for the Paris Marathon, thinking it’s one of the Big 6. It’s not. (Unlike Tokyo, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Berlin & London.)
  7. Train harder than you ever have before – in between film festivals, interviews with Mark Wahlberg & Denzel Washington, 1-night trips to LA and late-paid invoices.
  8. Travel to Paris. Have a huge fight with one of the girls you’re staying with. Get over-emotional about her getting over-emotional. Find yourself crying in a Parisian coffee shop at 5pm, the day before the race. Think about all the things you failed at in life. Mull over all the ways you don’t deserve to be here. Feel like the loneliest girl in all of Paris. Marvel at how romantic the situation would be if it weren’t so sad.
  9. Make up with the friend, all go out and eat pasta. Try to sleep. Fail at that too.
  10. With renewed spirits, hit the streets of Paris, but at Mile 18, feel the lack of Gatorade and water and abundance of dried fruit and sun knock you down with each compounding mile. Reach the finish line and collapse into the arms of a person who takes you to the medic tent. Be pumped with glucose and reply to questions of “what day is it?” and “what is your name?” with “what was my time?” and “do I still get a medal?”
  11. Sit outside the apartment you are staying at, waiting for the others to finish and come back with the only key, crying over the 39 seconds that stood between you and a qualifying time. Cry a lot. Feel, again, like the loneliest girl in Paris – this time, covered in a heat sheet. Feel pathetic. Feel silly. Eat more than your bodyweight in French pastries.
  12. Go home on a super cheap but super long flight back to NYC via St Petersburg. Take a few weeks to re-think it all, and come to realize what Boston really means – and requires of you. Re-think everything you thought you knew about running a marathon. Re-think everything you thought you knew about physical strength. Re-think everything you thought you knew about mental fortitude.
  13. Come to a weird kind of understanding about the limits that we put ourselves and how they’re only as limiting as we, ourselves, make them to be. Feel more emboldened than ever.
  14. Commit to qualifying before your 35th birthday, after which the qualifying time lowers. Tell yourself you committed to a 3:30 time, and by darn it, a 3:30 is what you’re going for.
  15. Look for a marathon that fits in with your work travels and the cut-off month. Settle on the New Jersey Marathon. Train harder than you ever have before – in between film festivals, interviews with Mark Wahlberg & Will Ferrell, 1-night trips to LA and late-paid invoices.
  16. Be excited that you get sent to London to interview Meryl Streep for her movie Florence Foster Jenkins. Be bummed it’s at the same time as the NJ Marathon. Drop out of NJ. Email the London Marathon organizers begging for a highly-improbable-but-have-to-try-anyway entry. Feel them laugh at you through the polite email of ‘no’ they send back.
  17. Put Boston aside for a few weeks as you carry on life as a Professional Namedropper (entertainment journalist), while still maintaining the fitness you’ve gained.
  18. Open an email, on a day when you’re feeling particularly low, that has a link to a marathon that won’t cost you hundreds of dollars to enter or to get to, happening in a month.
  19. Tell no-one else about it, except two of your friends, who, on the day, drive with you at 5am to a very dark and deserted parking lot in Upstate New York to support you.
  20. Run 9 laps of Rocklands State Park. Wonder if the nuns playing tambourines as they cheer you on are real or figments of a tired mind. Win your first ever trophy for running by coming 3rd out of the oh-so-big field of 40 women.
  21. Feel euphoric for a week. Get incredibly drunk for a week.
  22. Send in your entry and pray you make the cut off for number of places they have in your age group. When you do, high-five yourself, and get ready to train harder than you ever have before – in between film festivals, interviews with Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman, 1-night-trips to LA and late-paid invoices.

Thanks to the friend of a friend who couldn’t make it at the last minute, I bagged myself a ticket to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, where ELO, Yes, Joan Baez, Journey, Nile Rodgers, Tupac and Pearl Jam were being honoured. It’s basically like one big music history lesson inside a mini-concert/giant karaoke session, with a few thank you speeches peppered in between and some surprise guest appearances. In other words, a pretty good time, if a very long evening. Here then, some of my highlights:
  1. ELO opening with a tribute to the late Chuck Berry, the first person to be inducted into the RRHOF 32 years ago. This happened after being inducted by Dhani Harrison, who regaled us with stories of his father George taking him to see ELO for his first concert at age 7.
  2. Silver-haired Joan Baez bringing her flower-power spirit of protest, singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, taking a small dig at President Donald Trump, saying even he would be carried home. She also spoke to her age, saying a lot of people don’t know who she is – “even my granddaughter didn’t know who I was. Until I took her backstage at a Taylor Swift concert.” When she brought out the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter to sing Woodie Guthrie’s Deportee it felt like I finally had a glimpse of what going to Lilith Fair must’ve been like.
  3. Members of Rush inducting members of YES – including South African Trevor Rabin, who wrote Owner of a Lonely Heart, which they all then played to great delight.
  4. Pharrell waxing lyrical, very literally, about Nile Rodgers and the first time he heard Get Lucky (“It reminded me of a party on an exotic island on another planet”), and then Nile saying all he ever wanted was to have one hit song. $3 billion worth of hits’ later…
  5. Snoop Dogg talked about how he and Tupac shared many firsts – Pac gave him his first joint, and they went parasailing together for the first time.
  6. David Letterman explaining how this video came to be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwmlzDaRoI4
  7. Michael J Fox being in the audience as Vedder thanked him for talking about how much the song Given to Fly, meant to him in his book.
  8. The Pearl Jam medley which had 99% of the arena in a fan frenzy.
    As song after amazing song was performed, it just reaffirmed that the musician may be getting older (some, very old!), but the songs never do.

Within the first few moments of One More Time with Feeling, I felt myself want to look at the friend who came with me to see it, and mouth the words “what’s happening?”, as we sat in the dark, watching Nick Cave uncomfortably follow direction from the filmmaker about re-doing a set-up shot and re-speaking words that were clearly difficult to get out in the first place, because they were working with fancy cameras no-one seemed entirely sure exactly how to use. It felt awkward because it was awkward – Cave was talking about his child’s death. Arthur, one of his twin sons, fell off a cliff in East Sussex in July 2015, after taking LSD for the first time. 
The filmmaker – Andrew Dominik (who’s made noir-ish crime films like Killing Them Softly and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) clearly wanted the audience to go with the seemingly unvarnished start to the film – he is showing us he isn’t quite sure what was going to unfold, and neither are we, really. It represents something Cave says about the whole tragedy – that he hasn’t been able to distill it down into an easy-to-refer-to statement, a simple platitude, that he can pass on to others.  “People say, ‘he lives in your heart,’ ” Cave says, in one interview scene. “Well, yes, he is in my heart,” he says. “But he doesn’t live.” It’s a moment so stark in truth it’s uncomfortable to hear.
In the same way, the documentary does not offer a simple trajectory about what happened, how it affected Cave and what we, as the audience and fans of his music, are meant to now know about the musician and his work. Through a series of black and white footage shot inside the studio and outside, in Brighton, and interviews with Cave in his home and in a cab, Dominik brings the different aspects of this time in Cave’s life, to us, to try experience how the work continued for him, as it had to. He literally works through this – both the literal sense of making the album and dealing with the grief and sadness of the ‘trauma,’ as Cave refers to it, in his journal-like entries and matter-of-fact answers to questions posed to him. 
It’s haunting, sad, cathartic, beautiful, difficult, and ultimately a deeply moving way to experience Cave’s music. The music, the lyrics, wash over you in between the moments that Cave wanted to create as a way not to have to deal with questions from journalists while promoting the film. In the end, it’s a truly majestic accompaniment to the album.  I urge you to seek it out – preferably with a great sound system so you can truly appreciate the music as it was created.

NYC wins at many things in life, namely, lining up for crazy food trends. For this week’s episode of The Rundown, I created a route that takes in some of the trends that’ve inspired long queues lately (at least, they usually have) and end at the newest item that will surely inspire a number of Instagram pics to come!

If you want to know the route – or places visited – here it is (with a bonus stop at Boba Guys along the way!)

I wrote this story for the Sunday Times to coincide with the cinema release of Rock Dog, in which Eddie Izzard voices the character of Angus Scattergood. 
It was right around this time last year that Eddie Izzard set about doing the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. For someone who’s life has been filled with hard things – dealing with the loss of his mother to cancer when he was 5 years old, coming out as a transvestite in his 20s, living with dyslexia – it was always going to be a feat among feats. But, when Izzard completed 27 marathons in 27 days in March 2016, to honour the spirit of Nelson Mandela, he’d raised over a million pounds for Sport Relief and capped off a second attempt to cover more than 700 gruelling miles across Madiba’s South Africa.
Lending his talent, then, to an animated film is perhaps one of the easier things Izzard’s done in recent times, but it doesn’t mean the Emmy-winning comedian and actor has let up the pace of his life. He’s currently in the middle of a marathon of a different kind – his most extensive comedy tour ever, Force Majeure, which began in 2013, seeing him perform from Cardiff to Cape Town and Moscow to Montreal, covering 30 countries across Europe, Africa, the US, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and now Nepal and the Far East. When we speak over the phone, it’s the day of his 55th birthday, and he’s making his way from Spain to India.
Although he doesn’t voice the lead character in Rock Dog – in which a feisty young pup leaves his village in the mountains of Tibet to become a musician – Izzard knows all about chasing dreams, which is at the heart of the story, based on a Chinese graphic novel. In Rock Dog, he voices a cool cat named Angus Scattergood, a washed-up rockstar he says he relished playing around with. But going from a street performer to one of the world’s most well-loved comedians means Izzard himself is more in line with the dogged determination of the lead character, Bodi voiced by Luke Wilson.
“My autobiography is coming out in June and that covers a lot about how early on I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he says. “At age 7, I knew I wanted to act, but I didn’t know if it would work.” Having parents who weren’t in the field at all, Izzard says he had no idea it would be a viable path to follow in life. “It’s not like growing up in a family where your parents were actors and so they gave credibility to the idea, or having it be a genetic thing, or whatever, I didn’t have that. My dad wasn’t creative and my mum was in nursing, and they had their own adventure to get to where they did. So I do believe some of it is built in, and if you’re motivated, you’ll be determined. If you’re not motivated, you won’t be determined. It’s feast or famine – or at least it is with me.”
Born in Aden, a British colony in South Yemen, to father who’d been working as an accountant for British Petroleum, and a mother who was a midwife, Izzard became used to travelling around a lot from a young age, and figuring out how to pursue his acting dreams along the way, going on to fill his life with theatre work, and a rich life off-stage too. Building upon roles in films like Ocean’s Twelve and Valkyrie, he recently appeared opposite South African actor Sharlto Copley in the Playstation series Powers, and will be seen in the forthcoming Stephen Frears film Victoria and Abbul. It’s natural to wonder how he fits it all in around his stand-up globe criss-crossing.
“Oh, but it’s the other way around, you see,” he says. “I make time for the drama – the film and TV work. That is more important to me because that is what I first wanted to do, and I didn’t realize you could separate them. My drama work started much later than my comedy so I still have a lot of catching up to do.”
Izzard feels he’s only just started making strides into this part of his career. “I want lead roles in big meaty dramas with great directors,” he says, with a smile you can hear beaming through the telephone line. He’s also just finished co-writing a script he’s been working on with his friend, Kevin Jones, for a film of his own. “I’d say it took my whole life to write because it’s an idea I’ve had for ages. I didn’t quite believe in my ability as a scriptwriter, so I needed someone to tell me I was on the right track, and believe in me too.”
For someone who’s been tested beyond any ordinary setting in running marathon after marathon for 27 days in a row, surely he’d be convinced of his capabilities by now? He laughs a little before explaining how he views his accomplishment – and what it means – in hindsight.
“There are hard things in the world and they don’t get easier. But just to think about how Madiba stayed with it – the cause that he was fighting for – even without being absolutely sure it would work out, is something that really left an impression on me…I’m going into politics in 4 years’ time, and I have Madiba and Abraham Lincoln as my guiding lights.”
Izzard has made his political inclinations well known – having been outspoken against Brexit or “Brexhate” as he calls it. He hasn’t let losing his bid for a spot on the Labour Party’s executive committee last year deter him, and still aims to run for London Mayor in 2020, buoyed by all he’s learnt about Mandela’s life. “He was a very thoughtful person – not a saint, but an incredible man. That he only wanted to do one term of office, and wanted to be alive to see someone else rule as president, and that he left prison without resentment – these are incredible feats. The fact that he learned Afrikaans. I’m on my 4th language for this stand-up tour that I’m doing, and it’s not easy at all.”
As part of Izzard’s latest comedy tour, he’s been learning languages of the countries he’s performing in along the way. As much as he wanted to pick up one of South Africa’s 11 official languages, that hasn’t been practical, he admits. But his attachment to the country remains beyond the marathons he achieved last year. “Mandela fought through. When the Apartheid government was in its final days, negotiating with him, when he didn’t know what the other guys were being told and what was going to happen, he fought through. To do good and positive things.” Izzard has been keeping that thought fore in his mind.
And to those good and positive things with flair. “I ran through Africa with painted nails!” he says. “I hope in the future Africa will chill the hell out about LBGT people. And remember that a transgendered guy ran through South Africa. I challenge anyone – LGBT or not – to do it. I know Uganda is the problem, but we have to stay on top of this. Now more than ever.”
Keeping his political streak alive while feeding his acting career seems to be the course Izzard is on for now, even if it means taking on another hard feat. “Running a marathon is clear,” he says. “You run, you push through to inspire, to raise money and awareness. it’s quite clear. But with politics, it’s two steps forward, and then you’re going back to Thatcher and Regan eras – where they were helping Apartheid and not working to end it.” Looking at the current situation in the US and the UK, he feels disappointed. “We’ve either gone back to the ‘80s or the ‘30s,” he says. “We do this as human beings. We keep making decisions emotionally.” But he keeps the lesson he picked up from conquering 700 miles in one go, simple as it is, in his mind always. “We’ve got to keep pushing forward. That’s all we can do.”