Thursday, 25 November 2010

When I was younger, so much younger

The stage and screen actor, Victor Spinetti, tells a story of how during the filming of Help, the Beatles appeared on a balcony in Austria and gave the Nazi salute to thousands of adoring fans below. Naturally they screamed their appreciation at the stupidity of the gesture. Imagine what the reaction would be today.

Sometimes I think we’re more prudish, but then there was Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” comment kicking off a huge fuss at the time that would now be unlikely to elicit anything more than a few raised eyebrows. The changing relevance of the subject or perhaps our changing fear on what the subject represents plays a part, however the feeling persists that in some ways we have become more puritanical; throwing morality into the mix and passing laws accordingly.

For example, when I was younger the solution to my dislike of fox hunting appeared obvious - ban it – but much as I abhor making sport from such an activity, I find suspect this idea that we can legislate people into becoming ‘better’ human beings. More than that, it demonstrates intolerance; we have failed to persuade so we impose our belief.

And I am guilty too, for in just over four weeks I will have animals killed for my enjoyment of a Christmas meal. I’m not sure where this sits on the shifting moral compass, though since I could never kill an animal myself I am at the very least a hypocrite.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


This weekend I managed three. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so good they split it into two films. Well… it was better than most of the Potter films (Azkaban being the best) though still a little too long. Also, and I only realised this after the film, it is dominated by Harry and/or his two chums appearing in nearly every scene, normally you bring in other characters if only for dramatic relief. I wonder if that’s really the case or my memory playing tricks? All will be forgiven if they address the balance in part two, but long emotional farewells will not be tolerated.

The Iron Giant on the other hand is a short film that could have been longer. Easily one of the best animations around, it may not have the technological marvel of a Pixar production but like that studio it understands that a good story is the key.

However the worst film of the weekend - by far - was Goal! I can think of only three decent films on football. One is The Damned United, which I saw recently. Another is Fever Pitch, which culminates with a famous Arsenal victory over Liverpool; I remember watching that game and the Michael Thomas goal which stole the title away. The other film is Mike Bassett: England Manager, a none-too-subtle but very funny satire on the state of the English game; almost as funny as the running joke in Goal! where we’re supposed to believe in a Newcastle team challenging for a place in the Champions League. Comedy gold!

Friday, 19 November 2010

There goes the holiday

When this is over I shall console myself with the thought that, not allowed to carry the days forward, I was using up holiday. The truth is that when Mrs R mentioned another Church course I was very keen that she should go, and then when she fell ill I rather selfishly rued the missed opportunity. I did get to see No Country for Old Men and The Damned United, both good films but it’s a poor return for a three day break. Add to that the school run, meals in the evening, cleaning up, badly, not sleeping well, trying to change the car battery, failing, it’s all a bit of a mess.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Joking aside

It’s not been a very good week has it? Paul Chambers had his conviction upheld for a bit of nonsense written on Twitter, and on the same day councillor Gareth Compton was arrested for posting the following:
Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really. #R5L
I smiled when I read this because I guessed the context in which the statement had been made. Without context it’s incitement, ‘with’ and you have something we call a joke. It’s not very nice but, you know what, sometimes jokes can be a little bit nasty. For example there’s this from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown herself when questioning our former Prime Minister:
Are they not children, Mr Brown? You still cry for your own baby, who died so young.
Oh no wait, that’s just nasty.

Compton’s post was in response to an interview on the radio (he even tags his tweet to indicate this) in which Alibhai-Brown said that British politicians had no right to comment on human rights abuses in countries such as China and Iran; this apparently includes the stoning to death of women. Such a ludicrous position deserves to be lampooned but I’d suggest politicians leave the task to more accomplished satirists. Chris Morris made a film about four suicide bombers not so long ago and I don’t think they’ve locked him up... yet.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

There are four lights

It was Anthony Burgess in a television interview that first impressed upon me the power of language, though at the time I didn’t appreciate the significance. I only thought of the positive, the “beauty is truth, truth beauty” though I’ve never really understood those two lines of Keats. I was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan back then:
When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, not the fact.
This dangerous aphorism from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was used in the introduction to a Springsteen biography I read many years ago, but the timing was unfortunate; right about the time I was reading the final chapters, describing in loving detail his marriage to Julianne Phillips, the news broke of his relationship with backing singer Patti Scialfa. It served as an early warning that passion, whether written, music or any other form, has little bearing on that truth that exists outside of art.

I sometimes think of this when I read the comments section in The Guardian or, if I’m feeling really brave, an article in The New Statesman.

For whilst I remember the 1980’s as a time of great upheaval, terrible hardship for some and excessive greed by a few, I also remember the Free Nelson Mandela concert, Live Aid, Children in Need and unprecedented levels of charity. It turned out that given economic freedom most were more than willing to do the right thing, yet much of the recent ‘history’ paints a colourful picture of cartoon villainy; beware the evil Thatcher beast that would ‘cheerfully’ destroy communities and ‘gladly attack’ the poor. A litany repeated whilst staring down those who would point out the folly of this thinking seems designed to silence the critics - for who would be associated with such monsters?

I would. I have my truth. What's yours?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Bonfire night: special edition

Last night was dry, which made a change from the previous day where every time I looked up I got a face full of water. It’s not easy watching fireworks in the rain, but we had a good time and knew we had the main show the following day. We didn’t stay for the whole display, it was good but it was incidental. Little Miss R got her overpriced piece of plastic flashing crap and smiled a lot, so I smiled a lot. It’s the sense of occasion we look forward to and possibly for my daughter the knowledge that I’d carry her home. My shoulders ache but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Ending the week

I’m tired. I’ve spent the home part of my week adapting to the school run, housework, cooking the dinner and trying to watch re-runs of Star Trek: DS9. I’ve spent the work part of my week grappling with legacy code, though in the absence of an environment in which to ask questions or generate ideas it’s a solitary experience. That’s not a criticism, merely acknowledging the realities of working in such a small office. It’s not dissimilar to my first job in which I spent six years with ever-decreasing staff numbers before deciding to take a peek at the world outside. This time we are at least connected, you and I, though whether we’ll ever understand each other. The internet brings us together and emphasises the distance between, provides answers and a constant reminder of how little I know.

So I looked forward to the supporting act to this weekend’s firework displays. Little Miss R and I forsook the car and umbrellas and instead took a short walk to watch a quick display of very loud bangs and dazzling colour. It tipped down. We had a lot of fun.