Flowing juices. Creative ones, obviously.


To quote the much maligned and dearly beloved late 90’s nu-metal band, ‘Stain’d’ – “It’s been a while”.

Several moons have passed since I last put finger to keyboard and mined literary goldust in the much loved Ross report. I could tell you that it was due to a creative funk, or I could even tell you it was because I have been far too busy hacking away at a forest of publishers, magazines and other literary guff peddlers – each clamouring for a piece of the artist formerly known as Ross. But, of course this would be false, and I would therefore be a liar. And I am not a liar, just a little bit of a dick.

The true reason for my absence has been much more mundane. Essentially, hammering out five blogs a week was a big ask and one that I could not realistically maintain without imploding like a beautiful, but dying star. So, as swiftly as I crashed head first into the literary atmosphere (forever changing how human’s percieved blog writing), I left it.

Well, nation, I have returned. For how long I cannot say. Possibly, until this ferocious black coffee I just sucked down has worn off and I collapse into a caffiene-related fug of sleepiness. But, for now I throw myself at your feet, my creative love muscle spewing forth words – pump after pump of consonants, vowels and….erm, full stops I guess.

What’s new Ross? One of you quietly whispers. Well, in fact life is bubbling over nicely in 2013. I am a week and a half from Tough Mudder. I have trained relentlessly for this brute and as it slowly slides into focus on my horizon, I no longer fear this spitting, raging slut. I embrace her and feel confident I will beat her soundly. I should stop using the word “her” as this could also be construed as a carrying a domestic-y violence vibe. Never pleasant. No. Ahem.

I have run two 12 miler’s and have dropped 8lbs since New Years Eve. Granted, five of those pounds possibly were deposited in the toilets of White Hart Lane on New Years day, as I proudly watched my beloved Tottenham Hotspur scithe through Reading with a hangover akin to being nose-fucked by deranged donkey – whom was partial to coitus with a human nostril.

Domestic violence and beastiality. Yep, the ross report is definitely back.

What else? In two weeks time, a road trip to the sleepy German vista of Stuttgart begins.  Handily scheduled to coincide with the massive beer festival. A quick glance at google maps reveals that our hotel is 100 yards from a beer tent. However, my suggestion of growing out a blonde maine and wearing blue contact lenses to “fit in” was shouted down. Primarily because I struggle with hair growth as a rule and some other ‘political’ reasons.

Also, I have been asked to be the best man for my friend Thomas Bradbury Esq. If a man be judged on his appearances as a best man (best being the operative word) then this would be my second show-stopping gig. The first one, for my big brother garnered rave reviews from two seperate pissed and distant relatives in the lavvy, to quote, “Best speech I’ve ever heard lad”. High praise. Plus, there were at least three women crying when I switched the speech from witty to earnest. Suffice to say, Thomas, I will not let you down.

Now, at the risk of spouting on and on like a fucked up oil rig, I will call a halt to this five star return blog. I cannot promise there will be more but I will try.

Things are looking up nation, of that I am certain. Peace-out, A-town.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Wednesday Watch: ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’.


I had a cat once. I dropped a sofa on it. It was a write-off, so I stood on its head.” – Dean Learner

You would be forgiven for not having been aware of today’s recommendation. Criminally, this excellent and ground-breaking televisual feast was given a graveyard slot on channel four, subjected to a piss-poor marketing campaign and lost in amongst the dank fug of tripe being peddled out by mid 2000’s channel four.

Thankfully, in this case, quality lasts and inevitably shines through, and no other show that I can think of glistens with the comedic sheen that ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ does. Broadcasted in 2004 ‘Darkplace’ was and remains a cult show that truly defines the term, clasped lovingly to the collective breasts of its loyal fan base and revered by many as the funniest show to grace UK screens of the last decade. High praise indeed when we consider this a time of relative success in terms of UK comedy – think ‘The Office’ and ‘Peep Show’.

There will be some reading this who know of ‘Darkplace’, and it is likely that they are already fervent fans. However, as mentioned earlier, this slipped under the radar of many. Mostly due to a minimal advertising campaign that failed to translate exactly what the show was about and also a late night slot apparently designed promote to failure.

‘Darkplace’ is the twitching brainchild of creator Matthew Holness and is presented as a lost classic: a television series produced in the 1980s, though never broadcast at the time. The presentation features commentary from many of the “original” cast, where characters such as ‘Garth Marenghi’ and ‘Dean Learner’ reflect on making the show.

The beauty of the comedy is how the entire debacle is played completely straight, the talking head interviews are note perfect and exhibit the acting brilliance of Holness as well as ‘editor’ Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade) and Todd Rivers (Matt Berry). What makes things massively hilarious is how terrible the original show was. ‘Darkplace’ parodies numerous aspects of ’80s low-budget television, including fashion, special effects, production gaffs, and music. The dubbing, jump cuts, wooden acting all create a heady mix of pure comedic genius, allowing for very little respite to collect air from guffawing so much. It’s that good folks.

In the eyes of ‘Marenghi’ and ‘Learner’ this was cutting edge, era defining television. The joke lies within how it most certainly was not.

Unfortunately, ’Darkplace’ only lasted a meager six episodes. In some ways this is probably the perfect way for the show to remain as each episode is a comedy classic with stories ranging from a mutated eye-child called ‘Skipper’ to Sanchez falling in love with a woman who turns in to a stick of broccoli. To continue would potentially have led to a drop in quality albeit unlikely with the talent involved. Channel four in an admission of their almighty balls up, re-ran the series and cobbled together a fantastic DVD package a couple of years after the show aired – definitely worth picking up for a few quid.

Since its release, Ayoade has moved on to ‘The I.T Crowd’ and directing with the brilliant ‘Submarine’ and recently starring in a Hollywood comedy with A-list big dicks Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill. Similarly, Matt Berry also starred in ‘The I.T Crowd’ taking over the enormous shoes of legend Chris Morris.

I cannot recommend this show enough, it is utterly exceptional and sits amongst greats such as ‘Alan Partidge’ and ‘Brass Eye’ in my personal, awesome opinion.

I will leave it to Garth sum up…

“Greetings traveler. I’m Garth Marenghi, horror writer. Most of you will probably know me already from my extensive canon of chillers, including Afterbirth, in which a mutated placenta attacks Bristol. Back in the 1980s, I wrote, directed and starred in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, a television program so radical, so risky, so dangerous, so goddamn crazy, that the so-called powers that be became too scared to show it, and gypped me. Much in the same way women have done ever since they sniffed out my money.” – Garth Marenghi

Enjoy pilgrims…

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Monday Movie Review: ‘Ruby Sparks’ (2012).

Whilst I attempt to keep up appearances as a chap of meaty, man-size proportions, I tragically have a dirty, sordid secret. One that if known would wipe all remnants of my masculinity away in one foul swoop. I am not speaking of a concealed vagina nor a third nipple (that has long since gone) but I do have a soft and tickly spot for something no man should really ever claim to have.

That vice is the romantic comedy.

Whoa there sport! I’m not talking gloopy sugar-fests like ‘Love Actually’ or ‘The Notebook’, so please lower those furrowed brows. My kind of romantic comedies, or I should say romantic dramas, have a twitching brain and an ability to spark genuine thought and post-film pondering. To give you a scent of what I dig, my ‘rom-com-dram’ favourites range from ‘Vanilla Sky’, ‘Knocked Up’, ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ to today’s reviewed movie-film, ‘Ruby Sparks’.

“Ruby what?!” You yell, and you may have a point, but please stop yelling, your voice is whiny and annoying.

Released this year, ‘Ruby Sparks’ stealthily slipped under the prying eyes of the masses and was subject to a very selected release in the UK which was reflected in meagre box office performance. But, don’t let that stop you from checking this one out because ‘Ruby Sparks’ is a stone cold fox of a release. I skipped in with fairly muted expectations on a wet Thursday afternoon but waltzed out a jaunty and exultant young man after witnessing a movie that jockeyed position to take number three on my top five flicks of 2012. (Skipped, waltzed and jockeyed – maybe I should be concerned).

‘Ruby Sparks’ is the tale of a young writer-type, Calvin (Paul Dano), who is struggling with chronic writers block. Crumpling under the weight of his early but now waning success after writing a bestseller at the precocious age of 19, Calvin has been unable to finish a novel since. His life is one of mundane routine and he deeply craves the love of another woman. Calvin, after a dream whereupon he meets a young girl, begins to write a story based on the female. To his amazement, the female then becomes real. Her every thought and move mirroring the words that Calvin types.

You would be excused to think it all sounds massively hokey and a bit like a 2012 re-imagining of ‘Mannequin’ but you would be bloody wrong as this a very smart and original film. Chiefly, this is testament to a script that is punchy, original and smacks of reality. To achieve this is impressive considering the premise of the story being so unbelievable. I sympathised with Calvin and wanted him to find a woman who satisfied his wants and aspirations but similarly I felt for Ruby who was essentially being manipulated and bent to his will.

Thankfully, Ruby’s character isn’t written as an irritating ‘Juno’ type pixie girl either, and this benefits the story. As Calvin is effectively creating his dream spouse it is hard to not empathise as their relationship inevitably descends in to chaos. She is blameless throughout yet punished when she does not abide to Calvin’s preconceived notions of what he wants the relationship to be. This could easily have been ham fisted in its approach and Ruby, in the wrong hands, would have been a massively annoying twerp.

The early sparks of love are translated perfectly as Calvin’s life immeasurably improves the more that Ruby (Zoe Kazan) bleeds into it. There are definite echoes of 500 Days of Summer in the light but tragic style in which the narrative is delivered.

Paul Dano is brilliant as the young writer and convincingly portrays a fragile but talented scribe, so much so that I intend to watch a few more of his canon. Zoe Kazan, as Ruby is not at all irritating and kooky and cute enough to make Calvin’s love for her seem plausible. There is notable support in the shape of Steve Coogan, Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas.

The film chugs along at decent pace shifting from a bright and breezy introduction before moving in to dark more thought provoking territory. After the credits rolled, I was left quite affected. Much in the same way I felt after watching ‘500 Days of Summer’. Rather than fluffily investigating love, jealousy and solitude, Kazan’s narrative attacks those subjects in a unique and original manner.

Essential viewing.

Furthermore, The Ross Report is changing formats to three days a week. Circumstances dictate that I must pull back a little, so please bear with me and keep on reading, its massively appreciated.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Thursday Sad Face: No Ross report this week.

Unforseen circumstances dictate that there will be no further blogs this week.

Ta, Ross.

Tuesday Training: Nerve inhibition and bonus BANE!


I woke up this morning aching, pissed off and unrested. Another setback has befallen my bumpy road to full fitness and recovery. After my trip to the GP’s three weeks ago I was given the prognosis that I had some mild tendonitis in my left shoulder. That was a steaming pile of *cough* horse-shit.

At the time of the appointment I felt slightly relieved, following the prior amateur diagnosis from my big brother that I may have had a minor stroke. Tendonitis is manageable and strokes tend to be a smidge more difficult to overcome. Just a tiddy bit.

Anyway, three weeks of rest and a sedentary lifestyle came and went. As expected I became a misery and irritable. I had started to hammer the CV but swiftly recognised that even a running movement was aggravating my shoulder. My sleep pattern suffered due to not exhausting myself through the day, and anyone who has the misfortune of sharing a bed with me will know I am a massive mental when I sleep. But, I kept to the plan as per the doc’s recommendation like a good little boy with the distant hope that I would be back to full Hulk mode in a month.

So, the pain had subsided to a point where I decided it was time to dip my toe in the water and give the shoulder a little workout.

This turned out to be foolish.

My shoulder had about 40% of the strength that it ordinarily pumps out, I was wincing with every lift and unable to support even the lightest of loads. This culminated in an incline bench movement whereby my left arm gave out completely causing me to launch the bar back in to the notch to prevent a premature beheading. Consequently, I stormed out of the weights area and straight into the changing room with a major grump on. I didn’t even shower, you heard me right, not even a splash around the pits and ball-sack.

Yesterday I bit the bullet and booked a physio appointment. 45 notes lighter, I had a new prognosis – nerve inhibition. Essentially, my rhomboid muscles are freakishly over-developed and have encroached on my shoulder blades, shoving them up and forward. Consequently, the shoulder blades are applying pressure to the scapula and inhibiting the nerves in my shoulders, particularly my left, causing the nerves to wave the white flag when asked to work.

Also, I was joyful to learn that I have awful posture problems. 27 years of hunching over have taken their grizzly toll on my shoulders. I was interested to learn how much damage a poor posture can have on the body. When I say mine was bad, it wasn’t god-awful, but the physio was adamant I needed to transform how I carry myself when walking, standing, sitting and sleeping…for life.

If you can picture the scene in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ where Bane is sat hunched over in the sewer and presented with the battered Commissioner Gordon, well, that is pretty much how my posture is. (Piccy-wic included). Yes, I did just compare myself to Bane – deal with it.

Right now the pain is fairly prominent, I am certain that when I lifted two days ago I over compensated and have in turn strained my left bicep as well – Great stuff.

The outlook for the next month would therefore appear to be rest, posture improvement and several more sessions with the work physio (free) and lots of finger and bollock crossing that I repair.

One thing I have learned is that when I do get back into the iron lifting game, I will be dropping back on the weights. I have surpassed what I realistically should be lifting which is a damn good thing but also an achievement that has come with a painful cost. Plus, Tough Mudder is on the horizon and I MUST be ready for that.

I apologise if this has been a particularly self-centred entry, but I needed to vent my spleen.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Monday Movie Review: ‘End of Watch’ (2012).

Buddy cop films have been around since the dawn of time – not literally but you get my drift. A list that is seemingly endless when we consider flicks such as ‘Turner and Hooch’,’ K-9’, ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, ‘Dragnet’ and so on. I have barely scraped the surface with that little lot, and in amongst this genre have been some fantastic blockbuster movies, carving lasting characters in to our memories, most notably probably being the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series.

Today’s movie review is a stark change from the norm, thus far I have re-opened case files on some older favourites of mine, but today I am going to be current. Excited? You should be a bit.

As touched on in last week’s ‘Wednesday Watch’, the general public (although mostly moronic), possess an infatuation with Police and their day to day experiences. Unfortunately, thanks to below par television and wildly creative but ultimately bullshit movies, the general public only get a skewed version of patrol life.

Thankfully, every once in a while, a movie like ‘End of Watch’ explodes on to the screen and re-invigorates and re-imagines how Police can be portrayed on the silver screen. Before I go in to full gush mode, let me just say this is in my top five films of 2012.

I had very high expectations going in and was relieved that my early optimism was not misplaced. David Ayer, the director, is a chap I have grown a true affinity for over the last decade. His first foray into plod territory came in the brilliant ‘Training Day’, before moving on to the below the radar but equally fantastic ‘Harsh Times’. Mostly, his stories are punchy, affecting, and original and contain fractured characters that are very well rounded and believable. Much of this same is contained in ‘End of Watch’.

‘End of Watch’ marks Ayer’s directorial debut, the script was written over a period of days and the entire production process was speedily wrapped up in just over 18 months. Similarly, the narrative rockets along and rarely lets up marking an interesting parallel with the original creative process. The film feels urgent and fizzes along with a frantic energy.


Initially, the jumpy handheld nature of the filming is jarring and not particularly comfortable but this is smoothed out as the characters develop and the action ratchets up. The glue that holds all this frenetic energy together is the truthful relationship between the two protagonists, Brian Taylor (Jake Gylenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena). As we dip in and out of the myriad of action set pieces, much screen time is spent within the confines of their patrol car. The two leads bullshit each other and discuss their deficiencies, families and deepest concerns. Whilst there is a slight overuse of “bro” talk, Ayer’s script deftly brings the viewer into this private arena and consequently allows us to understand both men, who are at the end of the day, simply humans doing a job.

These interchanges between the very likeable characters are the highlights of the film, which is a huge compliment considering how excellent the action is. Essentially, each grizzly incident that Taylor and Zavala come across is handled expertly. The shaky cam adds another angle to proceedings and throws the viewer full force in to the throng of the gun-fights. Interspersed with the violence are several disturbing locations that the two officers happen upon and they leave a memorable impression The film is shot in a similar vein to something Michael Mann might produce given the same subject matter, the colours are vibrant and much of the action is under the cover of darkness only elevating the atmosphere of fear and tension.

I am not going to say that everything rings true though. One particular scene where Pena’s character has a brawl with a local hoodlum was a little contrived and pushed the limits of believability. Plus, the third act dices with blockbuster standards of action. But, the film gets away with this and that is down to the work put in to develop the characters early on and also the way in which those set-pieces are delivered. This is not Michael Bay.

Gylenhaal and Pena are excellent throughout. You can tell that the prior research put in has been taken seriously and the performances that they put in are of the highest quality, with particular credit to Gylenhaal. It’s great to see this fine actor in something vital again, after turgid blockbuster fayre like ‘The Prince of Persia’. He excels here and is ably supported by the accomplished Pena.

As the credits began to roll, I felt a genuine warmth for what had proceeded, without ruining the ending it is difficult to translate my emotions but I cared for the characters, in the same way I cared for Christian Bale’s doomed character in ‘Harsh Times’. I will continue to watch Ayer’s career with great interest.

David Ayer, congratulations, you have done ‘the job’ proud.

Tagged , , , , ,

Friday Filth: Kate Upton (trust me on this) and Channing Tatum.


It’s grot-day, otherwise known on the Ross report as Filth Friday. Due to my 12 hour working day this will be the briefest of brief blogs.

A wise pervert once said that a picture tells a thousand words. Well, that’s dandy because I’ve got a stack of snaps to share.

My choice was difficult this week after being inundated with requests from work colleagues, but I’ve stuck to my massive guns and selected a lady I think you will all dig.

Today’s eye candy hails from the States, allow me to introduce the saintly Kate Upton as this weeks object of affection. From what I can muster, Miss Upton is known chiefly for her sizeable assets and a collection of trouser tearing viral videos.

Take a look at this ‘Cat Daddy’ vid. It makes no sense, but who really cares when making no sense is this foxy.

As for the females, I’m throwing you a morsel of man. It may seem an obvious choice but I also realise that including this chap in my blog will, without fail, drive traffic and views to the site.

No apologies for that.

Therefore, bean flick yourselves to Mr Channing Totum, I mean Tatum. Tee-hee.

Plus, ‘Magic Mike’ was very decent and his comedic chops were earned in ’21, Jump Street’ alongside the human version of a deflated skin balloon, Jonah Hill.

Enjoy and I’ll be coming back-atcha like Cleopatra on Monday.


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday Tune: Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’ (2002)

Is this the best music video of all time?

In my opinion, unequivocally yes. If you have not watched the above YouTube video, please stop reading, watch it and prepare to be moved – there’s no need to be a fan of Johnny Cash, or the exemplary ‘Nine Inch Nails’ original, but merely a human with a beating heart and brain capable of feeling emotions.This is painfully emotive music.

Done? Then let’s move on.

Before I discuss this sparkling example of a music television, I want to share a personal musing.

This is about our memories, the important ones. The experiences that are seared onto the psyche, the sort of memory you can smell, taste and re-visit as if they happened mere minutes before. Particular songs possess that magical ability to trigger those memories, and drag you back to times in your existence, good or bad, happy or sad

Some of my earliest memories revolve around being driven to lower school in my Dad’s old maroon Vauxhall Cavalier and the music that provided the soundtrack to those short journeys. If Mum was driving, a mix of ‘The B-52’s’, ‘Simply Red’ and ‘Marvin Gaye’ would boom from the tinny speakers. However, if Pop Bilko was at the wheel, ‘Pink Floyd, ‘Genesis’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, ‘The Who, and of course ,‘Johnny Cash’, served as my pre-school musical breakfast – that and a sizeable bowl of Ricicles…always Ricicles.

I was blissfully unaware that this early exposure to a rich and varied smorgasbord of singer types would result in their lyrics writing themselves in to the blueprint of my brainbox. Even today, if I hear ‘Invisible Touch’, the words reverberate effortlessly from my underappreciated vocal chords, similarly if ‘Comfortably Numb’ catches me off guard in B&Q, I am powerless to its charm and find myself chirping out the lyrics like a mental.

Essentially, there are songs for everybody that serve as emotional triggers.

“No shit Sherlock!” I hear you cry, well I don’t hear ‘you’ because ‘you’ is a computer, and computers can’t talk. Actually Siri can talk, but Siri is a disobedient, useless prick that mocks my requests for “Nandos near my location”, instead searching for “Banjo’s near my probation”.

Phew, slight digression. I recognise this blog is in risk of entering in to a massive, fiery nosedive so I’ll cut straight to the chase.

Johnny Cash’s 2002 B-side ‘Hurt’ reduces me to a blubbery husk. Here is a triple threat of revered musical royalty, a heart-breaking video and an already brilliant original song. I won’t pretend I had heard Nine Inch Nails original before hearing Cash’s interpretation, but both are flat-out outstanding. Lyrically, this is dark stuff, touching on suicide, self-harm and mortality but also in a bizarre way euphoric.

NIN’s original is a slow burner incorporating those hallmark industrial crunches and writer/vocalist Trent Reznor’s fractured, frail voice that overlays the morbid proceedings. It is excellent, but today is about Mr Cash’s interpretation.

Cash’s version is similar but manages to bring its own meaning and emotion to the lyrics. Calling this a cover seems unfair, both are unique and equally epic. Reznor penned the original whilst fighting with thoughts of suicide and depression. Cash knew his demise was near and his reading of Reznor’s lyrics gain new meaning.

They dont make ’em like him anymore.

The 2002 Cash cover was recorded and released just months before his death and it’s impossible to not consider this recording to be Johnny’s epitaph of sorts. The video, set in the now defunct ‘House of Cash’ museum, was long since derelict and coated with a layer of regretful dust. The artefacts from bygone years scattered amongst the video serve to effectively taunt the ageing singer as if to say, “that was who you once were, but this is who you are now.”

Director Mark Romanek said, “It had been closed for a long time; the place was in such a state of dereliction. That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny’s health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.”

Stark images of rotting fruit pepper the video spliced between shots of Cash’s late wife, June Carter Cash, watching over her one true love. Tragically, she passed away three months after the video was filmed. Not a second or frame is wasted by director Romanek, each vivid image supplementing the beautiful music.

To watch Cash as a frail, clearly unhealthy and elderly man is difficult. This is underpinned by accompanying shots of a youthful Cash in vibrant Technicolor, bringing forth a jarring contrast of a vital young man that once was to the old man that now exists in his place. His eyes still flicker with the adolescent fire that once burned so furiously but are lined with salty tears as Cash depresses the keys on his piano. Each word appears to punch its way out of Cash’s mouth, the weight of the lyrics weighing heavy on his failing frame.

As the song builds and reaches a near din, I challenge you to not feel tingles. For me, this heady sensation then moves deep into my throat as an inevitable lump grows – tears sometimes follow dependent on where I am or what I am doing. As a fan of Cash, the video is tough to digest. The visual climax is deathly poignant and smacks of finality and closure. As Cash delicately closes the piano lid, we are fortunate to witness the ending to a fantastic and unforgettable career and life.

Widely recognised as the one of the best music videos of all time, Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ transports me to a particular moment in my life, one that I am loathe to reveal on this blog. Yet, my point remains, that music unlike any other medium does possess that freakish ability to trigger untapped sources of pure emotion.

R.I.P Johnny Cash – (February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003)

Below is a live video of the original version by the Nine Inch Nails, both are equally beautiful.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday Watch: ‘Southland’.

Is there a more pillaged genre than the cop drama?

I’d wager my modest savings (half a curly-wurly and a full collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles commemorative coins), that there is not. Either side of the pond, channels and networks are swamped with carbon copy Police guff, offering up the same trite, clichéd, grizzled tales.

There was public outrage and lynching’s post cancellation of ITV bull-shit fest, ‘The Bill’ – which only emphasises how starved of decent Police drama us Brits have been. Not only was it crap telly, ‘The Bill’ and similar shows were offensive to the regular bobby. With ‘creative’ liberties taken in order to shit out an easily digestible half hour of brainless television. This was not the Police – not at all.

Rarely, are we party to true brilliance on television, even more so when tales of the daily exploits of the Police are involved. The last evidence of this was HBO’s ‘The Wire’. Not only was this unrivalled in terms of its storytelling, character development and honesty, David Simon’s creation happened to be arguably the best television show ever committed to film -that or ‘The Sopranos’.

To stand tall amongst the dross takes a great deal of ingenuity and bravery. Thankfully, in the wake of shows like ‘The Wire’, a vibrant and more urgent approach has been adopted to television, and no more so than in the fantastic ‘Southland’.

‘Southland’ follows the capers of South LA beat police. Each hour long episode intertwines several narratives leading to a climatic finale, much like any drama, but it is the style in which this is delivered to the viewer that sets ‘Southland’ apart from the baying crowd.

The show is shot in a now familiar documentary style and the broken, bloodied streets of South L.A are comprised of a vibrant palette of colours. The production is slick and impatient, forcing the viewer in to the searing heat of the conflicts that are so readily and frequently pelted in the face of the officers.

It is uncomfortable at times, incredibly gory and also tremendously moving. The relationships are believable, with due diligence paid to the monotonous nature of modern Policing and the relationships that are built over long night shifts and brutal early turns. You are in that patrol car with the characters and therefore it is difficult to not empathise and become emotionally attached to them as a result.

This is cemented by a fine array of character actors making up the cast with no outright ‘stars’ to distract, but more a collection recognisable faces from this show or that film you have seen. This works in favour of the show, building upon the everyman nature of the characters.

Michael Cudlitz is the pick of a very talented bunch as veteran senior beat officer ‘John Cooper’ – a ruthlessly by the book officer who nurses a painkiller addiction and complicated private life. It may sound cliché on paper but on screen this is electric, important television and the characters are clearly defined and expertly drawn out.

As television continues to push boundaries and bleed into film, ‘Southland’ leads the charge. It is criminally under viewed but critically lauded. This is cult television at its strongest.

Yes, that is the chap from ‘The O.C’.

‘Southland’s’ footprint can also be seen in this week’s fine cinema release, ‘End of Watch’ (to be reviewed Monday), that also utilises similar cinematography and is stooped in an immediate and frantic style. It is unsurprising that David Ayer, the director adopted this style to the film, ‘the job’ needs to be documented that way for the sheer danger and unpredictability to be translated truthfully to the screen. Take note BBC.

Four seasons in and the show has survived massive budget cuts and countless threats of cancellation, similar to the heritage of ‘The Wire’. Yet, in the face of this adversity, ‘Southland’ has improved immeasurably, continuing to shock and move on a weekly basis. This is now important television and can be mentioned in the same whiskey soaked breath as ‘Hill Street Blues’ or NYPD Blue’. If you have the smallest interest in TV drama or Police, do get involved.

‘Southland’ can be seen on More Four or picked up on DVD/Blu-ray.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Training: The tragic and cautionary tale of ‘Zyzz’.

Aziz 'Zyzz' Shavershian (1989 -2011)


Each of us, as humans, have the ability to become obsessed. It is both a brilliant and potentially dangerous facet of the human condition. Mostly, we are aware when passion morphs into obsession and we are able to curb it, identify and consequently mould it into the muse we want it to be.

A key example of unbridled obsession would be the former England rugby legend, Jonny Wilkinson. Infintitely talented on a rugby paddock and relentlessly devoted to success, a character driven by unbridled passion. As a personality, he was revered constantly, and unfairly, as a rugby droid, purely because he would not go out shagging vapid trollopes every weekend, or provide a cutting soundbite to the press.

Here was a man obsessed with two goals – to captain England and the second, you guessed it, to lift the Webb Ellis trophy and be a world champion. Everything else was subsidary.

The kick that changed history.

The reason I mention Wilko is two fold. On the surface was a consumate professional and a cast iron role model. His obsession and unflinching desire paid massive dividends. On November 22nd 2003, his world was replaced with a new alien existence. Jonny became a national hero and icon, prime press fodder.

Post World Cup final, his finely tuned body began to creak and misfire. Injury upon injury followed, form dissapeared. Wilkinson slowly slipped from the public conscious. All the seconds, minutes, days and hours spent carving his psyche and technique to becoming a world champion reared themselves in the years that preceded that glittering November evening at the Telstra stadium.In a cruel twist, the work he had done was now creeping up and tearing him apart.

Jonny entered a spiral of deep depression and suffocating anxiety. Silently, he became a recluse – angry at the sport that he once adored and the spotlight that shone so brightly on his career.

From hero to an ongoing joke of the sport, famed once for his consumate temperment, now for his broken body and failed comebacks. His obsession led to the heights he craved but similarly it also culminated in to the darkest, lonliest period of his life.

Fortunately, Jonny eventually recognised this and relaxed his obsessive regimen and learned to enjoy his rugby, moving to Toulon and rebooting his stuttering career and personal life. He identified his demons before they swallowed him entirely.

‘Zyzz’ however, did not.

Aziz ‘Zyzz’ Shavershian

I stumbled across ‘Zyzz’ a couple of months ago on youtube whilst I was searching for a couple of motivational videos prior to throwing stuff about at the gym. The picture heading this blog previewed the video and so my curiosity was tickled and I watched the four minute video that followed.

What a cock,” was my immediate thought.

A minute later, “Cripes, he is in great shape though”.

Three minutes in, “He’s rather funny is this Aussie chap”.

The video ends, “What the shit?!! He’s DEAD?”.

I have a healthy morbid curiosity, maybe it links to the job I do (I’m not a contract killer, despite my obvious resemblance to Agent 47 of the Hitman games). My research began and I started to learn more and more about this internet sensation and cult hero, who was simply known as ‘Zyzz’.

Here was a very young man, who whilst in his teens was trapped within the body of an ectomorph. He craved, like a vast bulk of us gents do, women and he believed that being shredded was the answer. Therefore he began to train….hard. Results came quickly and with his new found adonis-like physique, as did a new personality that would inspire and repulse in equal measures.

‘Zyzz’ was the phyical embodiment of an internet troll, he became a minor celebrity down under. This was reflected following his premature passing with the search term ‘Zyzz’ being more popular than that of the Australian Prime minister.

Watching his videos, ‘Zyzz’ fist pumps and flexes his enviable physique in all manner of inappropriate situations.Whether you approve or not, he coined a number of phrases, that no douby you will have heard farting out of the mouths of teenage plebs at your local gymnasium.

“You mirin’?!” – You admiring?

“Come at me bro!” – self explanatory.

“Sick C*nt” – again, self explanatory.

“FUUUUUUAAAAAARK” – see above.

All inspired, Shakespeare standard fayre I am sure you will agree.

Watching his videos, it is simple to dismiss ‘Zyzz’ as a bit of an Aussie prick – and he is, but this is also a slight disservice. Away from the camera, he openly confided in his fans that the entire ‘Zyzz’ character was just that, a fabricated figurehead for his obsession – to be the king of aesthetic bodybuilding.

His transformation from stick insect to aesthetic god has inspired many. He is also despised by those who consider him a fraud, and understandbly so, I am undecided, but once you click through a few of his videos and read his dry and sometimes hilarious quotes, it’s difficult to not feel an ounce of sadness for his untimely passing. There is certainly a presence about him, good or bad.

Aziz ‘Zyzz‘ Shavershian died in a sauna in Bangkok, aged 22. It is widely reported that he was on a very intensive steroid and fat burner cycle and this coupled with an unknown heart condition put paid to his legacy. Despite his continual protestations that he was a natural bodybuilder, the general consensus was that he indeed did abuse steroids.

I dont ask that you like or approve him, I just consider his story to be quite an intriguing one.

His obsession snuffed out his young life. Dont let obession rule yours.

RIP Aziz ‘Zyzz’ Shavershian March 24, 1989 – August 5, 2011


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,