Gold Quilted Jacket: Ralph Lauren Shines

I was about to declare how quilted coats are thoroughly over. I was going to zap readers of Jack of Hearts with an electrifyingly short post about how naff they have become, chiefly because the naffffest of boys have started wearing them on top of their lurid Lynx-soaked 'OSAKA 6' tees and those god-awful mass-produced ‘retro’ sweaters depicting dolphins and howling wolves.

But I had to swallow my pride and consequently change my tune. Just as I was meandering through Google images, looking for a photo of a knob wearing a quilted Barbour jacket to illustrate my grief – I came across these images of Ralph Lauren’s new gold quilted coat… and boy, it’s just heavenly. Look at it!

It’s a double whammy, because I also pet-loath Ralph Lauren. Despite the fact that Christian Bale doppelganger Ignacio Figueras (pictured below) is doing a bloody good job on their campaign, Ralph Lauren essentially dangles a very English fairytale ‘old money’ prestige in front of a ghastly ‘new money’ American clientele.

I once read an interview in which Nicholas Coleridge spoke to a book-buyer for Ralph Lauren. He essentially scoured secondhand bookshops in England, and took the books across to the US where they would fashionably adorn the store, creating that much-sought bookish look which of course has nothing to do with American wealth, but everything to do with American wealth fantasy.

In my experience, boys who wear a lot of Ralph Lauren are not the most avid readers. They subscribe to the Jack Wills handbook, read the shark-attack tell-alls in FHM and might occasionally stretch as far as borrowing a John Grisham off their Dad on holiday, to put their sun cream bottle on top of by the poolside.

So to conclude, the quilted jacket is clearly still in action. But only if…
A) It’s a perfect fit. None of this baggy and saggy crap.
B) It’s a bold colour or a bizarre metallic shade.
C) You have a pretty face. So no glum fat-faced stubbly pricks trying to evoke a sense of land ownership.
D) You’re not a candidate on the BBC’s The Apprentice

It seems this year a lot of designers are simply making more of what sells, as opposed to taking large risks, and so we can expect to see plenty more of the plain quilted jackets from Burberry and John Richmond. Just think hard before you pick one up though, after all, summer is a comin in… and quilted jackets will be deemed utterly useless as you loudly sing cuckoo… you’d be better off with a cute white hoodie, a Celine visa cap and Dior shorts.

Eurovision 2009: Jack's Top 5

This year was the first Eurovision that I followed attentively, and I think I may have found a new annual obsession. From the controversy of the heats and the scandals of the semi-finals, the glittery global politics... not only about wars but about which countries have the best TV presenters. It's such an exciting, twisted, malformed and yet beautiful contest. There are so many intricate rules too: the length of the songs, the amount of dancers allowed on stage, the usage of props, the organisation of the line-up, scoreboard and voting system... it's so anal, and so entertaining! Also, it was so funny when Dima messed up his Fuerza Bruta intro routine and got his jacket caught in the cables.

ANYWAY. Here's the Jack of Hearts' Top 5 acts from Eurovision 2009. I know Alexander Rybak is sugar and spice and all things nice... but he doesn't feature on my list, in fact, I feel he was marked far too generously.

1) Estonia - "Rändajad"
I was astounded by Sandra Nurmsalu. Her voice was magnificent as the eery song slowly crept up on the audience. Visually she looks like she just rocked up from Rivendell, really piercing and brilliant eyes. The hair's so Toni & Guy. She won the contest in my opinion. I wonder if she's just pretending to play the violin though in an effort to win Alexander Rybak's little heart.
2) Turkey - "Dum Tek Tek"
Three songs this year attempted to be Shakira, but this was the catchiest of them all. Dum Tek Tek sounds a bit like chickens squawking around a farmyard, but Hadise is a fiery Turkish pop star. She reminded me of Cora Corman, the fictional bimbo pop heroine in the movie Music & Lyrics (starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant). Her attitude is priceless. Oh Turkey!
3) Greece - "This Is Our Night"
Wow. Sakis Rouvas is a Eurovision veteran. He came third in Eurovision 2004 and he presented the tournament once too. For a man of his age, his body is just incredible, it has a life of its own. Okay, he thinks he's John Travolta, and he's very shiny, but he gave a breathtaking performance on the night. Sakis has a strong voice, he is utterly in love with himself and he wore white jeans better than anyone else in Eurovision this year. I'm definitely downloading his music for the summer (apparently he has a groovey number called 'Shake It'). He's amongst the best acts in Eurovision, although it's a bit naff that he won't give up on trying to win it. Still, I'm keeping my eye out for the Sakis Rouvas calendar. Also - Google Image searching him is v.amusing and 10 minutes well spent I say!

4) Armenia - "Nor Par Jan Jan"
I don't know how Armenia managed to find two women who are so exceptionally ugly, and at the sametime kind of alluring. They're actually stars over there, called Inga & Anush. They wore tambarines on their heads and danced around in strangely villainous dresses, like Disney witches. In fact, their entire set looked like a medieval brothel. The song Nor Par Jan Jan was weirdly powerful. I'm ashamed to say.. I loved it! It's definitely going into an iPod playlist this week.

5) Ukraine - "Be My Valentine"

Svetlana Loboda looks a lot older than a woman who was born in 1982. Also, I can't imagine her being the type to take Valentines all that seriously. The beat of her song is practically 'Everybody Dance Now', but the dancing made this song amazing... she brought along her three musclemen dancers who apparently go with her everywhere, a sort of testosterone entourgage. She's a big star in Europe too. This year she made her muscle boys dress up like Roman centurions with shoulder pads and bare chests revealing their 8 packs! Russia's camera angles on the night were a bit biased against this tune, they kept panning out and randomly sweeping across the audience, so we couldn't actually see enough of her naked muscle men, or her wonderful self. That's why I put her in my Top 5.

So, a whole year to wait now until we join Alexander Rybak in Norway. Let's hope they go for an outdoor lakeside setting, with Hollywood lights lit up across a Norwegian mountain, and plenty of trolls with multicoloured hair and gem stone belly buttons. Yay.

Vivienne Westwood: Latitude Festival Appearance

Vivienne Westwood will be appearing at Latitude festival in Suffolk this July. The venerable lady will read from her socio-political manifesto Active Resistance to Propaganda, known as AR (not to be confused with Art Review). Adding to the timeless discussion that has been pursued by Plato, Shelley and Warhol before her… VW’s manifesto explores notions that art is an antidote to the world’s problems. The reading will be followed by a Q&A session.

Vivienne Westwood interests me. The Miss Haversham of fashion, we all love her eccentricity and powerful collections, not to mention her 1980s legacy in punk attire… but safety-clips aside… has she not become a capitalist super-brand herself? If you walk into the Vivienne Westwood store in Leeds you will find a tiny boutique that sells little regal-themed pin-brooches for £200, while about nine members of staff with vacuum-packed testicles slowly close in around you like a sequin-clad SS squad. Her creative genius has always been apparent, but I feel perhaps the intelligence of her brand is under threat. The children who work in her stores certainly don’t understand her concepts, that’s for sure.

Still, I’m excited to see her in July! The exhibition of her work in Sheffield last year was just great. She will be in the literary arena where other notable writers this year include Brian Patten, Simon Armitage and Jackie Kay.

Below is a montage image of my Top 6 acts appearing at Latitude festival this year:
1) Grace Jones 2) Pet Shop Boys 3) Patrick Wolf 4) Little Boots 5) Passion Pit 6) Bat For Lashes

The Jack of Hearts is written by Jack Cullen
For Vivienne Westwood's manifesto visit

Be@rbricks: Series 18 Revealed!

Internet leaks have revealed that amongst the Series 18 bears will be a Nintendo Tetris style bear, a Nickelodean sponsored bear and Termintor Salvation will feature as the horror-theme bear.
I've collected Be@bricks for two years now, the Japanese vinyl toy produced by major adult toy manufacturer MediCom. I know collecting plastic bears seems a bit childish and geeky to most people... but believe me... considering the superficiality and sheer consumerism that lies at the heart of collecting expensive pieces of plastic.... it's remarkably fulfilling!

My interest was initially sparked by the Karl Lagerfeld Be@rbricks... which are near impossible to come across since he only distributed the limited run amongst his closest friends, which sadly doesn't include Jack Cullen, yet. Vivienne Westwood, Fendi and Commes Des Garcons are amongst several major fashion designers to have created their own bears.

My collection is currently at 36 bears, below is a photo of my Top 20 in their own display case (Muji sell some cool little plastic display cases for about £10). Amongst my most prizes bears are the Detroit Metal City limited editions (top left) and Elvis (approx centre).
This blog belongs to Jack Cullen.
Relocated Blog Post re: Bearbricks Series 20!! :

It only seems like yesterday that series 11 was hot out on the shelves but here we are, June 2010, and Series 20 is out! My Bearbricks collection froze in December 2009, the last addition to my collection being a cool felt-covered bear, a gift from Hans @COMMEdesGARCONS, but this new series is so cool I think I'll bring my collection out from semi-retirement.

The 20th series includes a Bearbrick with “articulated feat” (a nod towards the first ever 2001 basics) plus designs from Krooked and SSUR (pictured above, far right). The flag this time is fittingly South Africa as a nod towards the World Cup. There’s a Lots-O-Huggin Bearbrick from Toy Story 3 (far left, above), a Gremlins character Mogwai for horror (next along), Iron Man and Captain Action. The jelly Bearbrick is a rainbow bear for Series 20, possibly the first official gay Bearbrick? The first hidden Bearbrick from Series 20 that I’ve seen so far is a variation on Hiroshi Fujiwara’s fragmented bear, a cool pink and yellow lightning version, very Sex Pistols.

Browse Series 20 on the website High Snobiety.

Ciara: 'Fantasy Ride' Review

Being an R n' B fan in the UK is like being a surfer in the UK. You wait, and you wait, and you wait for that big wave, while over in America the scene is seemingly bustling with hot acts and new material all the time. Over here we have to make do with a bit of Rihanna and then listen to Chris Moyles for another two hours. A lot of acts like Amerie, Paula Deanda and Cassie are barely even promoted here. So when a new album does come out it’s an event worthy of celebration… if only because the videos might change for once on TMF in the gym (Die Gaga and Chontelle)

And here we have it, after a dry patch, and just in time for summer… Ciara’s back!

Despite one or two killer singles back in the mid noughties, Ciara’s last album flopped sadly. Save for a sickly-sweet appearance on the Sex and the City soundtrack with Click Flash, not much has come from Missy Elliot’s star pupil.

Ciara’s a hard act to sell, her voice is average and she looks a bit like everyone else. It’s all about producers, and for Fantasy Ride they’ve certainly picked out a strong bench.

Admitted: she’s still trying to be Beyonce, to the point that her album art is indistinguishable from I Am....Sasha Fierce. But it’s a perfectly sufficient album to pop onto the surround sound system in your pool house while you crack open some Bollinger. Or alternatively down a few Bacardis in your bach-pad before a night out in Leeds.

Here’s the Jack of Hearts track-by-track lowdown:

Ciara To The Stage: A sultry slow jam intro with a comeback from Justin Timberlake’sMy LovePingu sound effects. She repeats “I’m coming”… in reference to taking to the stage, and even tries her hand at a bit of a rap.

Love Sex Magic: You all know this tune. But yeah, basically the big-time lead single that was hastily added to the CD in post-production. A great track all the same, it brings out the best of Ciara’s over-arching girly harmonies.

High Price: Ludacris pops in to say hi on this dark urban sleaze track that occupies very late 90s Jamelia ‘DRAMA’ territory, which is fine since nobody knew of Jamelia before Superstar. Louis Vuitton namedrop – check.

Turntables: Chris Brown appears this time for Ciara’s Bollywood take on Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop The Music. It’ll be a big hit because it’s samey and simple. Pass the Nurofen.

Like A Surgeon: Ciara takes on a bit of role-play in this doctor-patient pun-mania. “You’re my best patient” and “Book your next appointment” – Fine. “My ears will be your stethoscope” – Ciara you’re scaring us babe.

Never Ever: This is my favourite song on the album. It will no doubt annoy some, with its blatant rip-off of ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, but I can’t get enough of Ciara’s sugary Barbie vocals, gently skipping along a mellow and summery guitar melody which sounds like a slowed down carousel version of M.I.A’sPaper Planes’. Illegally catchy. She even quotes herself from 1,2,Step, bless.

Lover's Thing: Like most of the stuff on Ciara’s last album, this is a very laidback r’n’b threnody. The Dream’s bunged-up nose wingey contributions begin to grate, but all in all – a sweet little song.

Work: Reeeeeeeeeeeee-wind. Missy Melissa Misdemeanor Elliot (M.E.) whips up her usual foot-stamping dance floor filler. A sped-up version of Work It, without the word It. Missy addresses the ladies and hot girls a lot more in this song than anything else… not that I’m suggesting anything.

Pucker Up: Jamie Oliver must be in heaven, as must the head of marketing over at Pukka Pies HQ.

G Is For Girl (A-Z): Ciara self-titles herself as original in the lyrics to this song. Shame it’s a rip-off of PSD’s Buttons. Still, a sexy track with some funky zig-zag twisty groove thing going down…with catchy over-rhyming alphabet-based lyrics. Ends up sounding a bit like "Your leg bone's connected to your......"

Keep Dancin' On Me: Really interesting, not sure what to make of this one. It’s a bit 808s & Heartbreaks, she even mentions flashing lights. Moody and atmospheric, nice minimal keyboards, I like it.

Tell Me What Your Name Is: Quite Mariah, especially the wealth-fantasy lyrics…. “flying first-class to the Philippines” – well done Ciara, do you want a medal?

I Don't Remember: That’s right - it’s an Ode to the morning after a one-night stand, a bit like Britney’s “Blur”. It’s a fresh sound, but the lyrics are inevitably gash - “I can’t feel my face” … is that an Americanism or is the song darker than we think?

Echo: Ciara tries to be Keri Hilson, but it’s the end of the album and you’re already skipping back to tracks 3 and 6. Good effort though.

Jack of Hearts gives this album 7/10

Words by Jack Cullen

Mashepest: Not Just A Pretty Hairstyle

New name to look out for – Mashepest (pictured above and below). His electro synth-heavy “psych-disco freak out” is so interesting and listenable it should have come out of France not the UK. Apparently the kid was classically trained.

Like me, are you in need of some fresh electronica? Are you tired ofgoing to parties and watching people become ecstatic over Justice’s hits from 2005?

The answer is in blogs. The problem with the mainstream music industry is that there’s too much politics and maths involved. Sure, incredible electro artists are certainly well promoted, eventually, like Crystal Castles, Friendly Fires, Passion Pit and Laidback Luke (to pick an alliterative quadro of acts). All strong acts will claim their moment in the spotlight, but it''s more fun to cut the crap and just jump the gun.

It will take a long time before Valerie Records (acts include College and Anoraak) receive the publicity Ed Banger Records (acts include Uffie, Mr Oizo, Justice and So Me) received, we’re talking two years, if you’re hanging onto printed media to inform you.
Magazines are brilliant for interviews, discussions, editorial shoots, reviews and opinion pieces… they have the financial weight to pull big names and intelligent writers.

However, if you’re looking for a bright and zany new track to step out of the shower to.. you need to rely on teenagers’ blogs, like DiscoHands, PalmOutSounds, DISCODUST and Fluo Kids.
This guy featured on my blog today is called Mashepest, and I found him on DiscoHands. He’s an up and coming producer from the UK, and several of the tracks from his first record are available free on DiscoHands, including ‘So Young’, ‘Million’ and his remix of Lemonade’s ‘Slime’.

My favourite track from the all new Mashepest has to be ‘Mineral’ though. For me ‘Mineral’ evokes a lazy early 90s Sunday morning, watching the title page of Sonic upload, slurping the lemon-tinted milk at the bottom of your cereal, and then that powerful second, just as you’re watching the distant traffic outside pushing up a rain-stricken hill, that awe-inspiring wave – and you realise that you’re going to upturn all of this suburban crap and really make something of your life.

Pay a visit to now, and claim your free Mashepest digital heirlooms!

Words, Jack Cullen

Carol Ann Duffy: Poetry's Wife

Poetry is now perhaps one of the most underrepresented areas of the arts, and so it is quite pleasing to see the newspapers dedicate so many inches to Carol Ann Duffy this week.

The photo above is from last July when I met her. Excuse my dishevelled hair and anorak - it was at Latitude festival, the morning after a woodland rave, at which Ethan from Crystal Castles was on the decks. Despite my hangover, Carol Ann Duffy read with such power and conviction, I promptly set about buying all of her books... and boy have they comforted and entertained me in odd solitary moments. Mind you, my Mum's 'borrowed' most of them now, so I'll be lucky to see them again.

If only she had been given the post ten years ago we would all have been saved from the over-exposure of Andrew Motion’s tired and drivelling poetry, which ranges from ponderings on a lady’s missing glove to that desperately cringe-inducing rap to mark Prince William’s 21st. Rumour has it Blair rejected Duffy in 1999 on the basis that she was in a relationship with the novelist Jackie Kay.

Sexuality is perhaps the most interesting political hub of the Laureate Duffy story. Chiefly because some newspapers seem to think she is the first gay poet to take the position… Oh how wrong they are. Amidst those state-funded crates of sherry, the throne of the poet laureate has faced the other way a few times...

The post, although not officially titled, was effectively put into place for Ben Jonson in 1617 by James I, a homosexual monarch, whose residence Apethorpe Hall had secret passages linking his bedchambers to those of his favourite courtiers. Here on Jack of Hearts I have briefly looked into three other poet laureates with same-sex stories to tell...

Robert Bridges
Bridges built a strong and close friendship with Gerard Manley Hopkins, the pair were at Oxford University together in the 1860s (around the time that the word homosexual took on its common usage). Hopkins fell in love with Bridge’s younger cousin Digby Dolben, a pupil at Eton, and wrote spouts of erotic verse in his diary about him. At Dolben’s 17th birthday party, Bridges invited Hopkins along, to tragic affect. The young Dolben drowned a year later. Bridges, who outlived Hopkins, heavily edited his diaries and poetry to apparently spare his reputation.

John Betjeman
Not a homosexual, but culturally was at his best when being linguistally overt with a generous touch of camp. His career was believed to have benefited from the mid 20th century conspiracy-theory group ‘Homintern’ (!)

Lord Tennyson
In Memoriam, one of the greatest pieces of Victorian literature, marks Tennyson’s distress and inner-turmoil over the young death of his best friend and lover Arthur Hallam.

The truth is, homosexuals have been prevalent and will prevail throughout literature forever. Carol Ann Duffy will be fantastic as the new face to this ever-changing story of that wonderfully bizarre, eccentric and powerful voice – English poetry. Her sexuality, like those of her predecessors, is as public or private as she chooses. For she has found success not through that, but through her individualism, her humour, her intelligene, her popularity and her talent.

Below: portrait of Digby Mackworth Dolben

The Jack of Hearts is written by Jack Cullen