How to Save Money on a Heat Pump in Auckland


Heat pumps are a great way to save money on energy bills. A heat pump can lower your heating bills significantly by taking some of the strain off your main system. The process is not instant, but if you do it correctly the savings can add up very quickly. If you’re looking to install one, then you’ll find there are plenty of different models out there to choose from, so you will want to spend some time researching what is available for you.

Making the most of your equipment can be a common mistake that homeowners make. Some people think that because the unit is new, they should be prepared to pay more for it than an older model. In reality, your costs are going to be the same no matter what the age of the unit. This means you’ll want to look for any warranties that may be offered with the unit, as well as any maintenance and repair services that are included.

Make sure you are prepared to pay for installation as well. Installation is costly, especially if you are choosing a prefabricated heat pump. It will be your responsibility to pay for this part of the installation, but don’t let that put you off trying to save money. It’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to get a rebate on your installation, so you should still expect to pay the full amount in order to get a pump that works well.

Get the unit fitted before you install it in your home, as it will come with a manual that will explain how to set up the pump. Always make sure you read the manual thoroughly to find out exactly how to use your unit. You don’t want to get any problems with it, as it could have been a lot easier to deal with if you had done it properly.

Take a look at the sales of other new pumps in the area, and see if there are any in stock that you can take advantage of. You may find that it’s cheaper to purchase these units, as you will be getting them much sooner. Keep in mind that this may mean that you will have to pay for delivery, as many of these pumps have a very large size. You can also be charged shipping and handling fees, which can add up quite quickly.

A new heat pump will need to be returned to the manufacturer if it doesn’t work correctly or is broken. If you have decided to purchase an energy efficient pump, then this may be one of the best ways to save money, as it means that you’ll be able to find another unit that is already working. This means that you can get a heat pump in Auckland that is cheaper than you might otherwise have been able to.

In colder climates where the amount of natural heat is often very low, a heat pump can be an excellent source of heat. It can allow you to sleep in at night and wake up to a comfortable temperature in your home. Whether you are looking to heat the water for your swimming pool, or just to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, a heat pump can help.

As long as you do everything right, a heat pump in Auckland will help you reduce your overall energy costs. It is possible to save a significant amount of money over the years, especially when you consider that you can install and maintain it yourself. Take some time to research the different models available, and you’ll soon see that these units can help you live comfortably in any climate.

What Landscaping Companies Are All About?

The Auckland cityscape is full of the handiwork of some of the best landscape architects in the country. Many Landscaping companies are located throughout Auckland, providing the same quality service that they provide in all other areas of New Zealand.

One of the most popular designs of African influence is near the southern suburbs of the city, at the Interisland Link. The route links Pelion to the township of Karangahape. Pelion has been well known for it’s famous wooden bridge that crosses a creek.

Some of the designs of African influence on the city are present on streets and alleyways, in the form of elaborate fountains and water lilies. Gardeners have created a beautiful eco friendly garden and while some may prefer to pay the fees of other companies, the level of experience and knowledge within the design team may make the extra investment worthwhile.

One of the main sites of African influence is on the largest commercial block in the city, located on Henderson Street, in the suburb of Queen Street. This design, with its narrow driveways and ferns, has attracted many African designers. Many buildings in this area have been designed with an African influence, the design of which has included fountains, carvings and stones.

One of the most popular features of African influences is in the bay area, on the South West side of Auckland. Many of the structures along the bay are examples of the craftsmanship of a designer, and many have a high level of intricacy and detail.

These sites have incorporated themes and designs of African influence and design into the design. Some of the highlights include:

Not all of the designers you see in the city are native to the city. Some of the companies may have trained and gained experience in other areas of the country. The amount of experience between designers in different cities can vary greatly, but when it comes to the designs of African influence, many different design teams from different cities across the country have the skills required to design a design that is not only unique, but reflects the individuality of each designer.

There are other areas of the city that are of interest to architects, and a number of these areas are based in the suburbs. These areas include Mt Eden, Taihape, Manukau, Temuka and Selwyn. These locations include some of the most beautiful landscapes and the highest levels of complexity and ornamentation.

The main sites of African influence in the city include:

It is important to note that each company will have their own unique styles and designs. Most are expert designers that have successfully integrated local and overseas experience to produce outstanding pieces. They often have experience working alongside many other companies as well.

How to Lose Weight Without Surgery

The Auckland Gastric Band is a new type of weight loss surgery that uses hypnosis to help patients lose weight safely and easily. Not only does it help people shed pounds quickly, but it also can help you live healthier lives. What makes this method so unique is that it’s not invasive and there are no invasive procedures involved.

The Auckland Gastric Band works by using a small flexible band that is surgically implanted around the stomach and the lower part of the small intestine. After a few months you will be able to eat just about anything without worrying about feeling full. You can be free of eating disorders like binge eating. The Auckland band can help you reach your ideal weight and have a better lifestyle, and all without the use of surgery.

This method of gastric banding is very different from traditional gastric banding. It is a less invasive method of reducing the amount of calories that are taken in while at the same time it helps you control your appetite.

This process is more like an implant than a tube that you put inside your stomach. If the band is made of an advanced material, it will be able to contract or tighten depending on the amount of food intake that you have had.

During this procedure your doctor will start with a consultation, which will involve a series of questions. Your doctor will then explain to you what is involved in the procedure, how the band is fitted, and how much weight you can expect to lose.

The doctor will then take steps to ensure that you are comfortable with the procedure. During this time the doctor will ask you to keep a diary of your eating habits and activities and to record the results in a chart.

Another point is that the doctors will also tell you how much sleep you should get before the procedure, how long you should expect to feel light headed or nauseous, and to check whether or not you are feeling well. All these points will help you to fully understand the procedure and give you the proper time to prepare.

Once you have decided to go ahead with the procedure, the doctors will give you a consultation where they will discuss what the procedure entails, what you should expect during the operation, and any possible complications. In addition, the doctor will set out what precautions should be taken during the recovery period.

The most important question you may have is why choosing the Auckland Hypnotic Gastric Band? Why not just try to lose weight by taking diet pills, or do something simple like walking, doing stretching exercises, or eating healthy foods?

Of course, the most effective way to achieve good results is by following the recommended dietary and exercise plans for safe weight loss surgeries. These plans have been tried and tested over many years to improve and maintain healthy weight.

Also, if you are already working full time, it can be extremely difficult to make the time for regular exercise. By using a gastric band you will be able to have some peace of mind that you are still able to meet the daily physical activity requirements for you to lose weight without having to worry about how much time you have available.

In conclusion, the Auckland Gastric Band is an excellent way to lose weight fast. It is easy to perform, the procedure takes a few hours, and it can be done from home, so you can enjoy a quiet life in your own bed!

What You Need to Know About Car Wreckers and Their Tactics

In the case of your car accident, there are two kinds of people that you may come across: those who are directly affected by your auto mishap and those who have a personal interest in seeing that you have to undergo expensive medical bills, so they can reap some profits. You will come across car wreckers Auckland who wants to profit from you. Some car wreckers try to take advantage of their victims, knowing that they will eventually be in need of some of your time and resources. In this article, you will learn more about car wreckers.

What is Car Wreckers? These people are professional auto accident insurance adjusters.

They are known as damage adjusters because they work with insurance companies to negotiate a lower settlement for you. By negotiation, we mean by working to lower the amount of compensation that you are awarded in your case. As stated earlier, this usually comes at a cost. On average, there are four levels of payment. These levels include:

It does not matter how high the claim amount is or what the total compensation is, the car wreckers will keep you guessing. Their tactics are often less than professional.

When they contact you, what do you do next? The first thing you should do is call an auto accident lawyer. There are certain laws that protect you from being duped by these wreckers, and you need to know what they are.

Once you decide to represent yourself, you should ask for a settlement that will protect you from different damages and injury claims. You should also ask for a figure that will allow you to get through with your daily expenses. It is important to always remember that the settlement figures you are given are averages and you may not have a lot of funds to spare for medical expenses or repair costs.

Once you receive all the documents necessary to file your case, consult with your personal injury attorney. The lawyers will help you in filing your claim.

With the proper legal representation, you will be able to get the best results. This will help you get the compensation you deserve after being physically and emotionally harmed.

What You Can Learn From Interior Painters in Auckland

Interior painters are one of the most common forms of art form in New Zealand. When they are good they become local, and they are able to make a huge difference to the way you feel and look at things. Whether you want to buy one of their work, or you just want to learn more about what they can do, take a look at this article.

To start with, interior painters in Auckland are a very diverse bunch. For example, you will see a lot of classical, minimalist work and also a lot of abstract, surrealist work that has become very popular in the last few years. However, most of the work that you will see is contemporary and it is a work which is always changing and this often results in there being too much to show for people who come to visit.

The reason for this is because many people, when they go to galleries, museums and exhibitions, which are dedicated to art, tend to not be aware of the work that is on display. This means that they are not aware of some of the newer works and so it is sometimes hard to find something that they know. This means that they are not likely to stay long enough to see all the work that is on display, and this leaves them feeling a little underwhelmed. The same goes for when they go to fine dining restaurants or even high end shopping centres, because there is not enough choice.

This is why interior painters in Auckland have so much to offer their visitors. They can create a world for them to explore that they will not find anywhere else, and they will therefore keep coming back.

There are a few reasons for this, and the first is that they are constantly bringing in artists who will be using a variety of different, interesting design concepts. There is something for everyone here and many of the different artistic styles will offer something for everyone to see. They are all different in their own ways and so you are sure to find something to compliment your taste and your style.

If you are looking for something unique, then these artists can help you too, with many of them offering a range of different pieces that will be ideal for giving as a gift, or as presents for someone special. You may get some really beautiful gifts such as sculptures, watercolours, paintings, or even furniture. Anybody looking for something unique and special should really consider this type of art form, because it is not found anywhere else.

They also offer you a selection of unique designs for wall coverings and vases, as well as all the great designs that will help you make some wonderful pieces of art. Some of the most common designs will include abstract or painterly style designs, which will be perfect for any decorator or anyone who wants to look at ways to personalise their home. You will find very large ranges of ideas for decoration here, and they are always changing, so if you are looking for something that will be suitable for you and your lifestyle then this is definitely the place to find it.

With all the great choices that you have, whether you want something for yourself or as a gift, there is no doubt that you will enjoy your experience when you go to interior painters in Auckland. Once you have made your choice you can relax and let them do their thing and you will soon be wanting to come back again to see what else they have to offer.


The Baby Wars
Sunday 14th October 2007
If you don’t have a child under ten, you’re unlikely to appreciate the significance of Gina Ford’s attack on Claire Verity last week. Verity is the 41-year-old “supernanny” who is currently appearing on a Channel 4 series called Bringing Up Baby in which she advocates a return to the Spartan child-rearing philosophy of Truby King. King was a Victorian health reformer who believed it is in a baby’s best interest to be kept on a strict routine when it comes to feeding, sleeping and bowel movements — an attitude that was passionately argued against by Dr Spock, the American pediatrician who advocated a much more flexible approach, including feeding-on-demand.

Ford’s attack came in the form of a letter to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in which she accused Verity of “child abuse” and the reason it was such a surprise is that most people think of Ford as being in the anti-Spock camp. Ford’s main claim to fame is The Contended Little Baby Book, a child-rearing manual based on her own experiences as a maternity nurse in which she argues for a return to routine. The crucial distinction between her and Verity — the reason Ford has “gone nuclear” in the Baby Wars, so to speak — is that Verity believes parents should feed small babies every four hours, whereas Ford believes they should be fed every two or three hours, depending on their size and weight. In addition, while both are passionately opposed to feeding-on-demand, Verity recommends ignoring babies who cry in between feeds, whereas Ford believes in trying to “settle” them.

To those of us with small children, it is not surprising that such infinitesimally small differences should provoke such a ferocious dispute. Among my peers, no topic is more likely to polarize dinner-party conversation than child-rearing techniques. The War in Iraq pales into insignificance by comparison. I imagine that it is now one of those subjects that ambassadors are trained not to bring up at state dinners, alongside religion and politics.

Why should this be so? My theory is that childrearing has become the new battleground in which the ideological disputes that divide Generation X are being fought out. The main fault line is between those who were brought up in liberal households and have reacted by becoming more conservative and those who were brought up in more conventional circumstances and now embrace a hedonistic libertarianism. The former subscribe to the childrearing philosophy of Gina Ford, while the latter adopt a more laissez-faire attitude, often presented as a more “natural” approach. The irony, of course, is that the Fordists are the products of Dr Spock’s teachings — Spock was very popular with liberal parents — while the parents of the Back-to-Nature brigade are more likely to have been influenced by Truby King.

The conclusion would appear to be that no member of my generation wants their children to turn out like them. (For a different take, see this piece by Frank Furedi, the author of Paranoid Parenting.)


The Muhammad Ali of British Politics
Wednesday 10th October 2007

Has David Cameron rope-a-doped Gordon Brown? “Rope-a-dope” was the phrase coined by Muhammad Ali to describe the strategy he used to achieve his famous victory over George Foreman in the 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. In essence, it involved lying back against the ropes during the first six rounds of the fight and allowing Foreman to punch himself out before launching a ruthless counter-attack in the eighth round that culminated in a knock-out punch.

There’s certainly a striking similarity between the Rumble in the Jungle and the battle between Brown and Cameron. Foreman was an old-fashioned heavyweight, relying on his punching power and methodical cunning to win his fights, while Ali was much more agile and light on his feet. During the bout, Foreman looked much stronger than Ali in the first five rounds, just as Brown completely dominated Cameron during the first three months of his premiership. By the sixth round, however, Foreman was clearly exhausted and his punches became increasingly wild, just as Brown’s have done in the past 48 hours.

In this context, Cameron’s performance in the House of Commons today was the verbal equivalent of the devastating combination of punches that Ali used to finish off Foreman in the last 20 seconds of the eighth round. Ali preceded his onslaught by taunting Foreman — “Fight hard. I thought you had some punches?” — just as Cameron has urged Brown to call a General Election. Then, Ali unleashed his barrage. Here is Norman Mailer’s description of it in *The Fight*:

Now Ali struck him a combination of punches fast as the punches of the first round, but harder and more consecutive, three capital rights in a row struck Foreman, then a left, and for an instant on Foreman’s face appeared the knowledge that he was in danger and must start to look to his last protection. His opponent was attacking, and there were no ropes behind the opponent. What a dislocation: the axes of his existence were reversed! He was the man on the ropes! Then a big projectile exactly the size of a fist in a glove drove into the middle of Foreman’s mind, the best punch of the startled night, the blow Ali saved for a career. Foreman’s arms flew out to the side like a man with a parachute jumping out of a plane, and in his doubled-over position he tried to wander out to the center of the ring.

Of course, the analogy’s hardly perfect. There was no moment of fatal hesitation on Foreman’s part just before Ali turned the tables on him — on the contrary, he was going after him, hell for leather, from the very beginning — and Brown clearly isn’t about to fall to the canvas. Nevertheless, there are enough similarities for Cameron to have earned the right to be called the Muhammad Ali of British politics, particularly after today’s performance at the dispatch box.


Moonlight & Magnolias
Monday 8th October 2007
“The movies are one of the bad habits that corrupted our century,” wrote Ben Hecht, the veteran Hollywood screenwriter. He claimed that of the sixty movies he wrote, more than half were completed in two weeks or less — and he bragged about using the two Oscars he’d won as doorstops.

Fifty years ago, when Hecht wrote those words, such sentiments were fashionable among the literary intelligentsia — and even today most intellectuals still look down their noses at Hollywood. Small, independent films are one thing, but how can a movie created for the sole purpose of making money be considered art? By its very nature, a big-budget studio picture will have to appeal to a huge number of people if it’s going to recoup its costs — and the only way to do that is to pander to the lowest common denominator.

Against this can be arrayed the dozens of Hollywood films that were made for purely commercial reasons, but are now acclaimed as masterpieces — films like ‘Gone With the Wind’, generally considered the first ever blockbuster. Ironically, Ben Hecht was one of the many uncredited writers on ‘Gone With the Wind’, having been locked in a room by the film’s producer, David Selznick, and told to come up with a screenplay within seven days. Hecht didn’t have time to read Margaret Mitchell’s book, so Selznick and the film’s director, Victor Fleming, acted it out for him, scene by scene — an episode now regarded as a quintessential example of the seat-of-the-pants style in which films were made during Hollywood’s golden age.

The week that Hecht, Selznick and Fleming spent locked up together has been turned into a terrific new play at the Tricycle Theatre by Ron Hutchinson, himself a veteran screenwriter. Called ‘Moonlight & Magnolias’, it manages to combine a good deal of low comedy — Selznick insisted on restricting Hecht’s diet to peanuts and bananas, which he regarded as “brain food” — with a high-minded exploration of the art v commerce theme. What makes it particularly interesting is that Hutchinson is at least as sympathetic to the film’s producer as he is to the writer, portraying Selznick as a visionary prepared to risk everything in pursuit of a dream and Hecht as a talented, but self-loathing hack.

Of course, it is hardly news that great art is often created for low-minded reasons. Samuel Johnson famously said that anyone who doesn’t write for money is a fool and there are countless examples of classic novels being written by authors to pay off their debts, beginning with Walter Scott’s ‘Waverley’. Nevertheless, ‘Moonlight & Magnolia’ is a salutary reminder that the films regarded as great works of art in their day — such as Antonioni’s ‘L’avventura’ — are nearly always forgotten, while the studio pictures dismissed as schlock often go on to achieve immortality.

‘Moonlight & Magnolias’ is running at the Tricycle until November 3. For tickets call 020-7328-1000 or click here.


The New Sloane Ranger Handbook
Monday 1st October 2007
In 1956, Nancy Mitford wrote a famous article in ‘Encounter’ in which she outlined the various linguistic rules whereby the Upper Classes differentiate themselves from everybody else. Thus, “napkin” is U, while “serviette” is Non-U. It was the first example of what would become a journalistic staple: a posh writer unravels the mysteries of the Upper Classes for the benefit of the General Reader.

This tradition reached its zenith with the publication of ‘The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook’ in 1982. Co-authored by Ann Barr and Peter York, it did for the British aristocracy what John James Audubon did for the birds of America and was a massive bestseller — thanks, in part, to the recent emergence of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Now, 25 years later, the book has been updated, though with Olivia Stewart-Liberty standing in for Ann Barr. This time round, the authors distinguish between eight different types of Sloane and claim that, contrary to appearances, they are more plentiful than ever. The message of ‘Cooler, Faster, More Expensive: The Return of the Sloane Ranger’ couldn’t be clearer: the efforts of Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair to usher in a more meritocratic society have failed. The British aristocracy is still going strong.

Less clear is whether the book’s authors approve or disapprove of this state of affairs. ‘The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook’ anatomized its subjects with a good deal of affection — partly because Barr herself is a Sloane. The attitude of York and his new collaborator is more ambiguous, something that’s reflected in the names they’ve come up with for their different sub-species: Chav Sloane, Thumping Sloane, Turbo Sloane, Euro Sloane, Sleek Sloane, Eco Sloane, Party Sloane and Bongo Sloane.

“These are not the decent Sloanes I wrote about,” says Barr. “They are basically selfish jet-setters.”

Could it be that the authors of this new work are closet socialists? Is this book a thinly-veiled attack on David Cameron? York himself is certainly no Tory. Educated at a progressive school in North London, he now runs a successful market research company called SRU — and his own fortunes have been closely intertwined with those of New Labour. Indeed, he once employed Peter Mandelson. It may be that ‘Cooler, Faster, More Expensive’ is a gift to the new Prime Minister, a silver bullet that Gordon Brown can use to assassinate his Eton-and-Oxford educated Conservative rival.

Interestingly, Evelyn Waugh came to a similar conclusion in his assessment of Nancy Mitford’s article. He summarized its message as follows: “Hear me, comrades. I come from the heart of the enemy’s camp. You think they have lost heart for the fight. I have sat with them round their camp fires and heard them laughing. They are laughing at you.They are not beaten yet, comrades. Up and at them again.”


Boris Johnson’s Mayoral Campaign: A Disgraceful Attack
Friday 28th September 2007


Can Food Criticism Ever be Objective?
Monday 12th November 2007
In an interview on Classic FM recently, Gordon Ramsay kindly offered to do the canapés at the funerals of food critics free of charge. The question that prompted this outburst was about Frank Bruni, the chief food critic of the New York Times, who had the temerity to give Ramsay’s Manhattan restaurant a bad review Ramsay isn’t the only restaurateur to express doubts about the infallibility of food critics — and a recent scientific experiment in France would appear to bear out such skepticism. Frédéric Brochet, a Ph.D. student in oenology at the University of Bordeaux, conducted a study in which he invited 57 wine experts to taste an inexpensive Bordeaux that he poured from a bottle with a label saying it was vin ordinaire. The following week, he served the same wine to the same people, but this time from a bottle indicating that the wine was grand cru.

The tasters described the wine from the first bottle as “simple”, “unbalanced” and “weak”, whereas the wine from the second was acclaimed as “complex”, “balanced” and “full”. The conclusion, obviously, is that a wine connoisseur’s judgment about the quality of a particular wine isn’t simply a matter of how it tastes; it is inextricably linked to the cognitive parts of the brain. (My source for this story is a recent piece in the New Yorker that you can read here.)

It seems a fairly small leap to extend the same conclusion to the opinions of food critics. As someone who worked as a food critic for five years, I know from experience that my particular view of a restaurant’s cuisine was inseparable from such factors as how long I’d been made to wait, where I was seated, who my dining companions were, who else was seated nearby … and so on. The best restaurant critics — such as Adrian Gill — are almost wantonly capricious, capable of wild over-reactions to seemingly meaningless details. Indeed, it is this volatility that makes them so entertaining to read.

Interestingly, the one restaurateur who takes this subjectivity on board is Heston Blumenthal. Indeed, the tasting menu at the Fat Duck is based on this idea, with the Professor Brainstorm of the kitchen constantly demonstrating to his customers that their perception of whatever it is they are eating is intimately bound up with a range of completely arbitrary psychological factors. He is, in effect, proving that the way something tastes changes from individual to individual and that any definitive pronouncements on the subject, purporting to be objective, are nothing more than hot air.

And how have the critics reacted to this lesson in humility? They have repeatedly acclaimed Blumenthal as a genius and declared the Fat Duck to be the best restaurant in the world.


No More Films About the War, Please
Monday 5th November 2007
In Hollywood, it is generally believed that the reason so many great films were made in the 1970s was due to the national crisis of confidence prompted by Watergate and Vietnam. In trying to articulate this disquiet, filmmakers like Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola redefined mainstream cinema and — for a time, at least — placed it at the heart of America’s ongoing conversation with itself.

This may help explain why there is suddenly a glut of studio pictures dealing with America’s military presence in Iraq and the War on Terror, including A Mighty Heart, The Kingdom, Rendition, Redacted, In The Valley of Elah and Charlie Wilson’s War. The writers and directors responsible for these movies — as well as the executives who have released the money to finance them — may well be under the impression that getting to grips with these big, political issues is a sign of great filmmaking. Certainly, the reason they are all being released this autumn is because the studios regard them as their best bets when it comes to the Oscars.

This Friday sees the release of what may be the highest-profile film in this category, Lions For Lambs. Directed by Robert Redford and starring Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, it is an unapologetically didactic attack on the foreign policy of the Bush administration and its allies in Congress. Indeed, Redford himself plays a college professor and about a third of the film consists of him delivering a stern lecture to a smart, but apathetic student who is repeatedly told, in effect, that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

The problem with Lions For Lambs, as with the majority of these films, isn’t simply that its treatment of its subject matter is entirely one-sided; it is that no attempt has been made to dramatise the issues. If you compare the approach of the current generation of anti-War filmmakers to their 1970s counterparts, they emerge as disappointingly unimaginative. Their idea of how to persuade people that the War on Terror is wrong is to recreate some appalling event that actually happened — such as the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi schoolgirl by US soldiers that forms the subject of Redacted — and depict the American political and military high-ups who either condoned it or covered it up as Very Bad Men.

In the 1970s, by contrast, writers and directors understood that a less direct approach could be much more powerful. Thus, when Coppola wanted to explore the issues surrounding Watergate, he chose to make The Conversation. Similarly, when Sam Peckinpah decided to take on America’s military-industrial complex he opted for Cross of Iron. Even MASH, the most famous anti-war film of the period, is set in Korea rather than Vietnam.

What this earlier generation grasped — and the reason they made so many great films — is that a well-chosen metaphor can be a much more effective way of making your point than tackling an issue head-on.


Death at a Funeral
Sunday 28th October 2007

The traditional British farce hasn’t been doing very well lately. The Whitehall Theatre has been re-invented as Trafalgar Studios, Alan Ayckbourn hasn’t had a new play in the West End since 2001 and Ray Cooney doesn’t even get a mention in State of the Nation, Michael Billington’s recent history of British theatre. Is the bedroom door about to slam for the last time on this well-loved comic form?

I’m happy to report that the answer is no — at least, not yet. Next week sees the release of Death at a Funeral, a dazzling example of the genre directed by Frank Oz and written by Dean Craig. Set in a country house, the film unfolds over the course of a single day in which an extended family gather to attend the funeral of the clan’s patriarch. The tone is set in the opening scene when the undertakers turn up with the wrong corpse and it isn’t long before a combination of hallucinogenic drugs, a wheelchair-bound uncle and a homosexual dwarf are threatening to derail the proceedings.

The reason it works so well is that Craig, a 33-year-old British screenwriter, has managed to retain the essential components of the form while jettisoning some of its more out-dated aspects. For instance, at no point are any of the male characters discovered with their trousers round their ankles and there are no cases of mistaken identity. The problem with most farces, in my experience, is that they require too great a suspension of disbelief. Events unfold — and people behave — in a way that stretches an audience’s credulity to breaking point. That doesn’t matter if you’re a member of that generation who grew up with the genre — you’ll be willing to accept its bizarre conventions — but modern audiences tend to baulk at just how implausible the farcical universe is.

Fortunately, Dean Craig has injected a much-needed dose of realism into the genre. There’s nothing too theatrical or over-the-top in Death at a Funeral; the big comic set-pieces seem to emerge, organically, from the situation. Far from being comic stereotypes, the characters are people we are familiar with from our own lives and they behave in recognisable ways. In this regard, Craig and his director are helped considerably by an extremely talented British cast, particularly Matthew Macfadyen as the put-upon male lead, Andy Nyman as his hypochondriac cousin and Daisy Donavan as the closest thing Death at a Funeral has to a sexpot.

It is particularly heart-warming to see a British farce work so well on the big screen. In recent years, the most successful celluloid farces have all been the work of a Frenchman named Francis Verber, the writer and director of La Doublure, Le Placard and Le Diner de cons. In Dean Craig — who has already directed two shorts and is about to direct his first feature — we could have found the British equivalent.


Abigail’s 30th Birthday Party
Saturday 20th October 2007

Next week sees the 30th anniversary of a significant cultural event in Britain’s post-war history: the television broadcast of Abigail’s Party. At the time, the BBC had little idea of just how iconic this one-off comedy would turn out to be. It was running as a stage play at the Hampstead Theatre and, rather than commission Mike Leigh to adapt it for television, Margaret Matheson, the producer of Play For Today, decided to transplant the stage production into a television studio and shoot it over four days. The production values were low — Leigh says he can’t watch it without wincing with pain — but Matheson succeeded in capturing lightening in a bottle. In the list of 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, Abigail’s Party was ranked number 11.

Why should this 90-minute play have become such a classic? Well, for one thing, the comedy is played out against the backdrop of the English class system and that is a feature of British life that hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years ago. The central character, Beverly, is still a recognizable national stereotype: the petit bourgeois social climber whose constant stream of snobbish remarks inadvertently reveals his or her lack of sophistication. There are echoes of Beverly in David Brent, the character played by Ricky Gervais in The Office, and, indeed, Mike Leigh more or less invented the comic genre that The Office falls into: the comedy of embarrassment. (For my 2003 tribute to The Office, click here.)

Then there’s the fact that Abigail’s Party is so controversial. A few days after it was broadcast, Dennis Potter condemned it as “a prolonged jeer, twitching with genuine hatred, about the dreadful suburban tastes of the dreadful lower middle classes” and, to this day, people are bitterly divided as to whether Abigail’s Party is an instance of the snobbery it purports to condemn. Are we being invited to sympathise with Beverly as someone whose life has been blighted by class consciousness — or merely laugh at her because she gets everything so hopelessly wrong? Leigh is adamant that it is the former, claiming that Abigail’s Party “is not a play about them, it’s about us.” Whichever side you come down on, the fact that the reaction to the play is so polarized — and can provide the fuel for endless dinner party discussions — is a guarantor of its longevity.

Finally, there’s something monstrous about Beverly that strikes a chord with people the world over, not merely in Britain. (There’s currently a production of Abigail’s Party running in San Paulo.) She’s the Lady Macbeth of the suburbs, a castrating bitch-goddess of the type that has transfixed audiences since the beginning of theatre itself. In Abigail’s Party, Mike Leigh and his collaborators succeeded in creating a Medea for our times.

*BBC4 is devoting an entire night to Abigail’s Party on October 28.*


The New York Times Reports on the Making of How to Lose Friends
Sunday 14th October 2007
There’s a piece in today’s New York Times about the film version of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.


American vs British Women
Tuesday 11th December 2007
There’s an amusing article in today’s Times by Tad Safran about the poor personal grooming habits of British women. I wrote a piece for the Standard in 2002 about the shortcomings of American women that works as a sort of riposte.


Teaser for How to Lose Friends on YouTube
Monday 10th December 2007


Why Do British Comedies Get Bad Reviews?
Saturday 1st December 2007

I recently had lunch with the writer of a British comedy that had just opened in cinemas. He had spent the past 24 hours pouring over the reviews — and the expression on his face was one of wounded bewilderment.

“Why did they hate it so much?” he asked. “I simply don’t understand.”

This was no isolated incident. British film critics are more hostile to home grown comedies than they are to any other genre. To take a few recent examples, Sixty Six, Driving Lessons, Confetti, Starter For Ten, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Mr Bean’s Holiday, Magicians , I Want Candy, Run Fat Boy Run, Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution and Death at a Funeral have all been poorly reviewed. Some of these films, such as Mr Bean’s Holiday, have had large enough P & A budgets to survive this onslaught, but the majority have not. In effect, the critics have succeeded in killing them stone dead.

The obvious explanation is that the films in question aren’t any good — but that simply isn’t true. Some have deserved the mauling they received — perhaps even most — but certainly not all. Death at a Funeral, for instance, is a well-crafted, Ayckbournesque farce that has won two international awards, yet it was universally panned on its home turf. One reviewer even described it as “the most ineptly-written film of the year”. The critics have a bias against British comedies that not even this little gem could overcome.

Why should this be? One theory is that the critics watch most of the films they review in small, half-empty screening theatres at 10.30AM — hardly the sort of circumstances likely to provoke gales of hysterical laughter. Yet this doesn’t account for why they are particularly hostile to British comedies. Why not all comedies? In my experience — and I’ve been reviewing films on and off for 21 years — American comedies are much more likely to be judged on their merits.

A more convincing explanation, I think, is that many of the critics are themselves frustrated comedy writers. In their heart of hearts, they would much prefer to be writing comic films than reviewing them — as is evident from their attempt to shoehorn gags into their copy at every opportunity. The reason they hold homegrown comedies to such a high standard is to justify their choice of career. If comedy writing was any easier, they would have no excuse for not pursuing their dreams, but because it is so hard — as they prove week after week by mercilessly laying into the local talent — they convince themselves that they are just being prudent. “Where fools rush in,” they tell themselves, as the bile pours from their pens.

In some cases, the vitriol is well-deserved, but in others it is not — and the pity is that many British comedies that deserve to find an audience end up sinking without a trace.


A Defense of Reality Television
Sunday 25th November 2007

The popularity of reality shows is often cited as evidence that British television is “dumbing down”. Typically, a highbrow critic will contrast Kenneth Clarke’s Civilisation with I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here to illustrate just how far we have fallen. Lord Reith, we are told, would be spinning in his grave.

Two things can be said against this.

First, the “golden age” of broadcasting, which the BBC is believed to have embodied once upon a time, never existed. In the 1930s, when the Beeb consisted of a single radio station, it was routinely lambasted for broadcasting more light music, comedy and vaudeville than any other radio station in Europe. Indeed, Reith himself was often singled out by these critics who believed that his commitment to creating an inclusive, accessible, national broadcasting system would inevitably lead to the debasement of British culture.

Secondly, most reality shows aren’t nearly as “dumb” as they look. On the contrary, they embody the principles of classical drama as set out by Aristotle in The Poetics. In the case of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, a group of people are jolted out of their complacent existence, they are then forced to undergo a series of “trials” in which they’re pitted against the forces of nature and, while most succumb to the fates, some manage to wrest control of their destiny. The winner of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here is nearly always the person who combines strength, stamina and fortitude with a willingness to sacrifice their own interests to those of the group. In other words, a typical Greek hero.

To my mind, the question isn’t why popular entertainment has “dumbed down”, but why the public has lost faith in more conventional forms of storytelling. Why do we now look to the factual entertainment departments of national broadcasters to deliver the deep satisfaction that a well-constructed narrative can provide, rather than the drama departments? Audiences of reality shows are often criticised for being too credulous — don’t they realise it is no more “real” than a soap opera? — but the interesting question is why those same audiences are no longer willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to scripted drama?

No doubt contemporary novelists and playwrights would claim that the declining interest in their work is, in itself, a form of “dumbing down”. But they only have themselves to blame. The practitioners of high culture in this country took a disastrous wrong-turning when they embraced modernism at the beginning of the last century. This involved abandoning the universal principles on which all great narratives are based in favour of turgid little exercises in formal experimentation. The result has been a vacuum at the heart of our culture that the producers of reality shows are more than happy to fill.


Hollywood’s Two Cultures
Sunday 18th November 2007

In 1959, C. P. Snow delivered a lecture called ‘The Two Cultures’ in which he lamented the fact that educated people in modern society were divided into two camps: those with a background in the sciences and those with a background in the humanities. Reading between the lines, it was clear that he thought the former were more intelligent than the latter.

This same division exists in Hollywood where, if anything, the intellectual gulf between the “two cultures” is even more pronounced. In the past 50 years, the science and technology of filmmaking has advanced in leaps and bounds and has now reached a point where literally anything dreamt up by a person’s imagination can be reproduced on screen. The more “artistic” aspects of the profession, by contrast, have hardly changed — and when it comes to the most important “creative” component of all, namely, the script, we’re actually worse off now than we were in the 1930s.

A case in point is Beowulf, the new film by Robert Zemeckis. From a purely technical point of view, *Beowulf* is breathtaking. It utilises the “motion capture” technique that Zemeckis and his team of computer nerds pioneered in his previous film, The Polar Express, and combines it with the very latest 3-D technology to create an entirely new cinematic experience. It is hard to know how to categorize it, since, to look at, it sits somewhere between digital animation and live action, but you’re left in no doubt that this is where the future lies. Indeed, some of the special effects are so dazzling you get an inkling of what it must have been like for an audience that grew up in the silent era to watch a “talkie” for the very first time.

As a piece of writing, however, Beowulf is woeful. “Just don’t take any class where you have to read Beowulf,” Woody Allen said to Diane Keaton in Annie Hall — and the same applies to students on screenwriting courses. A joint effort by Neil Gaman and Roger Avary, Beowulf reduces the epic poem about a Norse legend to a finger-wagging parable about the risks of infidelity. They even make the elementary mistake of not providing the hero with a fatal weakness — he’s Superman without the Kryptonite. The fact that he’s completely invulnerable means that there’s no suspense when he takes on a succession of demons and monsters. Gaman and Avary achieve something I would not have thought possible: they make a fight between a lone warrior and a fire-breathing dragon seem boring.

The Hollywood writers’ union is currently out on strike, aggrieved that they aren’t receiving their due when it comes to dividing up the spoils generated by New Media. But if Beowulf is anything to go by, it is the techies who work behind-the-scenes that should be paid more, not the screenwriters.


Movie Poster
Wednesday 2nd January 2008

Here’s the first poster for the forthcoming film. Strangely, my name doesn’t appear to be on it. Click here for the official website.


Why is A Christmas Carol still so popular?
Sunday 23rd December 2007

George Orwell said that the best test of literary merit is survival and, by that standard, A Christmas Carol must rank as one of the greatest works of literature ever produced. Scarcely a December has gone by since it first appeared in 1843 in which a stage adaptation hasn’t been performed somewhere in London — there’s currently a production at The Young Vic by a South African company — and it has been made into countless films, the latest being Robert Zemeckis’s which is due for release in 2009. If Dickens had written just this one story and no other, his immortality would still be guaranteed.

Yet set against his body of work, A Christmas Carol seems like pretty thin gruel. For one thing, it runs to only 74 pages in the Oxford University Press edition. Contrast this with the same publisher’s edition of Bleak House which runs to 914 pages.

Nor was it written in circumstances likely to produce great art. Sales of Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens’s latest novel, were beginning to fall off in the autumn of 1843 and his wife, Catherine, had just become pregnant with a fifth child. A Christmas Carol was conceived as a quick money maker. He wrote it in just over six weeks, making sure it was ready in time for the Christmas market, and published it himself, calculating that his share of the profits would be greater than any fees he might get from a publisher. Admittedly, as Dr Johnson pointed out, only a fool doesn’t write for money, but few authors can have been as mercenary as Dickens when he sat down to compose A Christmas Carol.

Of course, these facts alone don’t mean it isn’t any good, but even his most generous critics wouldn’t rank it in the first tier of Dickens’s work. It embodies the same sledgehammer sentimentality that Oscar Wilde complained of in The Old Curiosity Shop. Tiny Tim, who bore “a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame”, is a character unworthy of the novelist who created Mr Micawber and Mrs Havisham. As Margaret Oliphant put it, A Christmas Carol is the “apotheosis of turkey and plum pudding”.

How to account for its longevity, then? The answer is simple: it has become inextricably bound up with Christmas in the public imagination. It has survived for the same reason that ‘Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ have survived — not because they’re any good, but because they’re guaranteed to get an airing every December. I’m not saying that there’s something about Christmas in particular that robs people of their judgment, only that if a piece of work can attach itself to an annual festival, it’s place in the canon is guaranteed.

Orwell was wrong. Survival, by itself, isn’t proof of literary merit. Provided a piece of work can become a seasonal staple, it can stand the test of time and still be second rate.


Movie News
Friday 21st December 2007

Channel 4 Film has just posted a piece about the forthcoming adaptation of How To Lose Friends & Alienate People and you can read an interview with the director, Bob Weide, here. Scheduled release date in the UK is October 3, 2008.


Is it curtains for Alan Ayckbourn?
Sunday 16th December 2007

Is Alan Ayckbourn still capable of putting bums on seats? Last Tuesday saw the West End opening of Absurd Person Singular, his 1972 comedy about three couples whose marriages are in varying states of disarray. It has an excellent cast (Jane Horrocks, John Gordon Sinclair, Jenny Seagrove, David Bamber, Lia Williams and David Horovitch), but will that be enough to guarantee commercial success? Or is Ayckbourn’s 40-year-run as Britain’s most performed living playwright finally coming to an end?

There’s no doubt that Absurd Person Singular is extremely dated. In one scene, the character played by John Gordon Sinclair tells his wife that he’s leaving her for another woman, but expresses the hope that they can still have sex from time to time. She doesn’t say anything in response and he becomes so infuriated by this that he threatens to “take a swing” at her. In a contemporary play, such behaviour would put this character completely beyond the pale — it would be a way for the dramatist to convey that he’s an out-and-out monster — but Ayckbourn stops short of this. The husband is not supposed to be sympathetic, exactly, but Ayckbourn expects us to be pleased for his wife when, in the following scene, they’re reconciled. So much for discouraging women from remaining in abusive relationships.

To get around problems like this, the director has decided to set the play in the decade in which it was written, but that is only a partial solution. There’s a more fundamental issue, which is that Ayckbourn’s style of comedy seems out of date, too. Absurd Person Singular is no door-slamming farce, but a large percentage of the gags are of the slapstick variety, with the characters suffering a wide variety of accidents. The problem isn’t that physical comedy has ceased to be funny — just look at the opening scene of There’s Something About Mary — but that it no longer works on stage. It is simply too unrealistic.

For instance, there’s a scene in which the character played by David Horovitch gets electrocuted while trying to fix a broken light fitting. He does his best to fizz and pop authentically, but no amount of artistry on his part can make it look convincing. Back in the 70s, when Absurd Person Singular ran on Broadway for 591 performances, audiences were willing to suspend disbelief. They were accustomed to things not looking real on stage and they were willing to accept it. Today, audiences have higher standards. The widespread use of special effects in film and television has raised their expectations. Unless an illusion is completely seamless, they’ll be too busy noticing its shortcomings for the scene to achieve its dramatic effect.

I enjoyed Absurd Person Singular and I hope it’s a hit. But I suspect that Ayckbourn’s time has passed.


How to Lose Friends: The Radio Play
Saturday 15th December 2007
Last year, Al Murray appeared as me in the radio adaptation of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. You can download this by clicking here.



Curb Your Enthusiasm
Monday 21st January 2008

Season six of Curb Your Enthusiasm debuts on More4 this evening at 10.35pm. Click here for a good piece about Curb in Saturday’s Guardian or here for my fawning Larry David tribute that appeared in the Independent on Sunday in 2006.


Should Theatre be Subsidised?
Monday 21st January 2008

Britain’s luvvies are currently up in arms about the Arts Council’s proposed funding cuts to various regional theatres. They are concerned that many of the venues that depend on Arts Council subsidies — such as the Bristol Old Vic, the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond — will be forced to close if their annual grants are cut. (For a summary of the proposal and its likely impact on six performing arts centres, see this piece by Laura Barnett in last week’s Guardian.)

I’m skeptical about this. Surely, the theatres in question will only go out of business if they continue to put on plays that fail to capture the public’s imagination. It is only because they don’t sell enough tickets that they’re forced to depend on state handouts. If the artistic directors responsible for programming these venues were a little more in touch with the taste of ordinary theatregoers, their survival wouldn’t be in jeopardy.

The standard reply to this argument is that adopting such a safe, commercial approach would inevitably lead to the end of the risk-taking that is a necessary condition of creative vitality. In this light, subsidized theatres are the laboratories in which young writers and innovative directors are free to experiment. The vast majority of these productions will fail to put bums on seats, but some will be such artistic successes that they will go on to play to packed houses in the West End. A case in point is Jerry Springer: The Opera, which began life at the heavily-subsidized Battersea Arts Centre. (For a version of this argument, see this piece by Richard Morrison in Saturday’s Times.)

I’m not convinced. Take the Menier Chocolate Factory. This 200-seat venue, which opened in 2004, is among the two or three most successful fringe theatres in the UK and yet it has never received a penny of public funding. The production of Dealer’s Choice that is currently playing at Trafalgar Studios began life at the Menier, as did the production of Sunday in the Park With George that is about to open on Broadway. It’s latest production — a revival of La Cage aux Folles — has received glowing reviews and will almost certainly transfer to the West End later this year.

While the Menier’s success can partly be chalked up to the entrepreneurial zeal of its two founders, David Babani and Danielle Tarento (who run a 60-seat restaurant alongside the theatre), it also finds space for new work in its repertoire. In 2005, for instance, a play by Ryan Craig called What We Did to Weinstein was short-listed for the Evening Standard’s “Most Promising Playwright” award. It is doubtful that the Menier would have been so artistically successful if its directors had the safety net of an Arts Council grant.

The real dispute here isn’t between commercially-minded philistines and high-minded theatre-lovers. Rather, the issue turns on who you consider the best judges of artistic merit: the theatre-going public or a bunch of Government-appointed apparatchiks. The success of the Menier chocolate Factory implies it is the former.


The Culture Show
Thursday 17th January 2008

This Saturday’s episode of The Culture Show, the BBC arts programme, contained a 10-minute film about the making of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. For those who are interested in seeing it, click here and fast forward to the 22 minutes, 20 seconds mark.


The Cold War Revisited
Saturday 12th January 2008
With five Golden Globe nominations and seven nominations on the Bafta long list, Charlie Wilson’s War looks set to be one of the big winners of the awards season. This is partly thanks to the star turns delivered by Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but also because it harkens back to a period in America’s post-war history when its foreign policy commanded much more support. It is the first example of what may become a new cultural trend: Cold War nostalgia.
Charlie Wilson’s War is a lighthearted romp — based on a true story — about the part played by a renegade Congressman in kicking the Russians out of Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson was a hard-partying member of the House of Representatives who, in addition to being implicated in a number of scandals, was instrumental in increasing the budget for the CIA’s covert funding of the Afghan Mujahideen. If any single individual can be credited with bringing down the Soviet Union, Charlie Wilson is that man.

What is fascinating about the film is its completely revisionist attitude towards the Cold War. The conventional view of this conflict, as propagated by novelists like John Le Carre, is that it was characterized by deep psychological unease and moral uncertainty in which both the Soviet Union and its Western opponents were fatally compromised. Not so, according to Charlie Wilson’s War, which depicts the 1980s as a period of almost carefree innocence. Back then, we knew who are enemies were, we knew where they were and, most importantly, we knew how to defeat them. Contrast this with the geopolitical quagmire we find ourselves in today.

Of course, one of the main reasons we can now look back on the Cold War era as the Good Old Days is because the West came out on top. Waging a covert military operation — and winning it — seems infinitely preferable to waging an actual war and losing it. Nowhere is this more apparent than if you contrast the record of the West’s intelligence services in Afghanistan in the 1980s with the record of their armed services in the same region twenty years later. How could a few well-placed operatives mastermind a successful war against the Soviet Union, while the combined might of our armed forces be humbled by a handful of Islamists? No wonder we feel nostalgic about the recent past.

The other appealing thing about Charlie Wilson’s War is that it conjures up a period when the public did not require its leaders to be quite so virtuous. Wilson’s scandalous personal life didn’t stop the voters of Texas’s 2nd Congressional District re-electing him (and nor should it have done). Perhaps the lesson is that if we want to win the War Against Terror we’ll have to replace men like George W Bush and Tony Blair with men more like Charlie Wilson.


Things to Look Forward to in 2008
Monday 7th January 2008
Only a fool would recommend something he hasn’t seen or heard yet, but hope springs eternal. So here are the things I’m most looking forward to in 2008:

1. Charlie Wilson’s War. A political comedy in which a corrupt congressman finds redemption by helping the Mujahideen kick the Russians out of Afghanistan. With Tom Hanks as the hard-partying Congressman, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a renegade CIA officer and Julia Roberts as a rich widow. Opens Jan 11.

2. The Vertical Hour. I prefer David Hare when he’s got his reporter’s notebook in hand than when he’s inventing things out of whole cloth and The Vertical Hour falls into the latter camp. To make matters worse, a production has already been staged on Broadway where it opened to lukewarm reviews two years ago. Nevertheless, it will still be worth a look. Opens Jan 17.

3. Uncle Vanya. Peter Hall directs a new translation of Chekhov’s masterpiece at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. With Nicholas Le Prevost in the central role, this promises to be the theatrical event of the year. Opens Jan 25.

4. Juno. After the success of Knocked Up, you’d have to be a very confident director indeed to attempt another romantic comedy revolving around an unwanted pregnancy. Luckily, Jason Reitman is that man. Released February 8.

5. Major Barbara. Nicholas Hytner directs Simon Russell Beale, Clare Higgins and Hayley Atwell in a revival of Shaw’s provocative attack on high-minded do-goodery. Opens March 4.

6. Something to Tell You. More middle-aged angst from Hanif Kureishi, this time in the form of a novel set in Shepherd’s Bush about a successful psychoanalyst struggling to come to terms with the sins of his youth. Published March 6.

7. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Anthony Minghella directs this one-off BBC adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s novel from a script by Richard Curtis. March.

8. The Second Plane. Martin Amis’s fiction may not be what it once was, but, as a critic and polemicist, he is as strong as ever. The centerpiece of this collection is ‘Terror and Boredom’, a long essay on the West’s inability to respond to the challenge posed by Islamic fundamentalism. April.

9. The Dark Knight. British director Christopher Nolan just gets better and better and this follow-up to Batman Returns looks set to be the biggest blockbuster of the summer. Opens July 25.

10. How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. It’s shameless, I know, but the thing I’m most looking forward to in 2008 is the big-screen adaptation of my own best-selling memoir about working for Vanity Fair in New York. Starring Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst and Jeff Bridges. Opens October 3.