Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: Why I Love TV's Trashiest and Happiest Show

Published by Sabotage Times

I’m a 27-year-old man. I like walks in the Cotswolds, oak furniture, and single malt whisky – particularly from the Islay region. My history degree is printed in Latin. I’ve read the complete works of Raymond Carver, and I don’t watch much TV – but by God, I love Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC.

The reality show follows the redneck Thompson family – child beauty pageant contestant Alana “Honey Boo Boo”, stay-at-home Mama June, chalk-mining dad “Sugar Bear”, sisters Lauryn “Pumpkin”, Jessica “Chubbs”, Anna “Chickadee”, and her baby Kaitlyn, who was born with three thumbs.

Mountains of coupon-bought toilet rolls line the dining room walls of their crowded house in out-in-the-sticks McIntyre, Georgia. Freight trains pass loudly through the yard, and there’s an abundance of flesh-chewing gnats in the stuffy air. It’s as grim as life gets in America’s Dirty South – at least outside of the motels and trailer parks – but it doesn’t seem so bad, because their home is probably happier than yours.

The TV is always turned off, and there are no laptops or smart phones – so the kids make their own entertainment. This includes the Mystery Mouth challenge, which involves trying to guess the mixtures of food players are hiding in their gobs, and a farting game called Doorknob.

They cook together all the time. One of Mama June’s recipes is ‘sketti’ – spaghetti noodles topped with criminal heaps of butter and ketchup – and that old Southern favourite, pork and beans. There are mass gatherings, with “Poodle”, the homosexual brother of “Sugar Bear”, and, where budgets allow, family outings. Each moment of every day is enjoyed communally, and nothing fazes any of them – “it is what it is” being Mama June’s words to live by.

Yes it’s so very, very trashy, and yes it’s television, but theirs is a refreshing approach to a life in which they don’t have any more than they need, and there’s very little to worry about. Somehow their anti-American Dream seems more fun than the real thing.

So what can we learn from a bunch of good-for-nothing rednecks, with their high levels of cholesterol and often unintelligible patter? Quite a lot, as it turns out.


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The Former Sports Star

“Some people belong in school.”

The former sports star grinned annoyingly as he stood at the bar with his upper body wrapped in a pink shirt, the collar raised. His hair looked every hour that had passed since it was wet-combed, and his fingertips were all yellow from smoking. A cheap tattoo struggled to make its banal point over the acne scars on his neck. The former sports star laughed and spoke loudly with his two broad-shouldered buddies, who wore similar clothes. They pushed each other around playfully, spilling beer from the branded glasses they were holding, onto a floor peppered with their smudged footprints. Their shadows danced across the TV screen on the wall. It was noon. Long rectangles of sunlight moved gradually north-west across the bar's open-brick interior, as a man with a soul patch read a newspaper and a young couple ate brunch. A barmaid made a coffee machine hiss and splutter. Sting played on the radio.

The former sports star didn’t like it when his two buddies left him. He found himself drinking faster while he waited for them to return. The vermillion red of the former sports star's flushed face appeared at odds with eyes still wild from the previous night's chemicals. Beads of sweat made his temples shine. It was winter and the radiators had been going all day. He felt the couple eating brunch looking his way, and wondered whether his posture was questionable. After pretending to admire the generic canvas prints lining the walls, his gaze fell inevitably on the TV screen, which was showing football. It showed little else.

Between the ages of 11 and about 18, the former sports star played football at every competitive junior level. He’d captained teams in tournament finals, scored important goals, made rousing half-time speeches, and got pretty close to the summit of what a young footballer could achieve. Throughout the transcendental highs and lows, and the pervasive, harassing pressure from his coaches, the whole sporting experience had conditioned him to believe that the only ability absolutely necessary in a person was the ability to deal effectively with abuse and criticism. This explained why he'd picked on weaker kids back in school. It wasn’t about demonstrating his authority – it was about encouraging them to stand up for themselves, and he became offended when people like Stone wouldn't. He did stuff to Stone that neither of them told anyone about, for opposite reasons.

Even in his best years, there were times when the former sports star would be sat in Geography, looking out over the dark trees, the wind and the rain, despairing as he remembered that he had morning practice in an hour. His life changed when he met Kate. With every confidence he was doing the right thing, he sacrificed the seven years of training and a more-or-less-guaranteed career for that long, perfect summer when neither of them had any worries in the world. They became each other's first times. They made plans for the future. She went to university and got into books, while he got a job and saved. He went to visit her a couple months later, when she'd started calling herself Rice. When she kissed differently. When it was all over. He blamed her for changing, and himself for not. It was around then that he began needing a strong drink after every shift at work.

The former sports star watched the TV screen with a clenched jaw. His two buddies were unconscious upstairs. The couple eating brunch were still looking at him.

“Some people just belong in school...” Stone said again to Rice, wiping his mouth with a napkin.


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Theatre review: Blood and Chocolate @ York Theatre Royal (well, sort of)

Published by theartsdesk

VIDEO: Blood and Chocolate trailer

Never before has “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” been a more fitting opening gambit. This sprawling wartime spectacle knew few bounds as it marched across York’s cobbled streets for an evening that produced watery eyes, open mouths and, admittedly, tired legs.

Treading the ever-narrowing waters between theatre and cinema was a travelling audience that followed the action through the city centre while listening on headphones. From the starting point in Exhibition Square, where young lad George (played by Luke Adamson) and his sweetheart Maisie (Edith Kirkwood) were introduced in a flickering projection on the neo-classical De Grey Rooms building, to the stirring finish at Clifford’s Tower – every minute beggared belief.

This innovative collaboration between York Theatre Royal, Pilot Theatre and Slung Low builds on the concept of Mapping the City – a smaller-scale theatrical experiment that took place around Hull as part of the Cultural Olympiad – and of course last year’s remarkable outdoor Mystery Plays in the York Museum Gardens.

Blood and Chocolate’s cast of 180, boosted by the 600-odd volunteers, was what it took to make Anna Gooch’s mobile set as epic as Olivier Award-winner Mike Kenny’s script, which examines the First World War’s transformative effects on some of York’s residents.

“There’s nowt to worry about,” says George, as, preparing to join the front line in 1914, he tries to reassure his mother (Lisa Howard) about his safety. With the conflict looking like it will continue past Christmas, the Lord Mayor of York decides to send a tin of Rowntree’s chocolate to every serving soldier from the city. “It smells jus’ like ‘ome,” George giddily tells another Tommy, opening his tasty treat while bombs explode on distant battlefields.

Maisie, meanwhile, has found work in the chocolate factory, and waits for George to return home. And waits. But when he does, shell-shock prevents him from functioning in society. “I imagined myself taking care of his bairns on a weekend,” says George’s mother between teary gasps. “We’ll have to think of something else to do with the rest of our lives.”

Couples and families huddled closer in those final moments – and not entirely because it was 9.30pm on an October night. The past-present juxtaposition on the city-wide stage made this tale of human love, loss, strength and weakness in times of war particularly heart-wrenching.

It was touching just seeing these wartime friends, lovers and dreamers lining the same streets as their bemused real-life counterparts who, standing by at cashpoints and outside pubs, might easily have been part of the lost generation themselves. (Although, on the night, they might have been forgiven for confusing some of the actors for Freshers in fancy dress.)

The marketing buzzwords “theatrical experience” are a thousand miles from summing up the sheer impact of Blood and Chocolate, which, quite simply, needs to be seen to be believed.


Blood and Chocolate continues until 20 October.
All performances are now sold out.


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Album review: Repent Replenish Repeat by Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip and Flux Pavilion - Gold Teeth (official music video)

Scroobius Pip is a poet capable of silencing arena crowds with his spellbinding rhymes – so why does he choose such unflattering musical wallpaper?

The poignant stories, tragic characters and blunt pieces of advice behind his brilliant spoken-word passages are damaged, if not completely massacred, by the half-baked electronic beats and bleeps of Essex buddy Dan le Sac on the duo’s third album Repent Replenish Repeat.

Terminal and Porter are the tracks performing the rescue act here, and it’s no coincidence that they’re the closest it gets to acapella.

New single Gold Teeth sums up the truly rotten brand of hip-hop that blights 70 per cent of the record – which serves as an ugly introduction to Pip’s beautiful prose, but nothing more.



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