Culture

28 September 2011
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Travesty

Went to see the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie the other day.  It is difficult to watch this having previously read the book and watched the TV series.  The TV series seared itself into the memory.  So, I am not sure if I understood things through watching the film or because I had previously seen the TV series.  So, I won’t talk about how easy to follow it may or may not be.

Things that definitely differ from the book:

  1. The Americans don’t have Karla tortured
  2. Peter Guillam is not gay
  3. Peter Guillam drives a sports car not a saloon
  4. Jim Prideaux is shot in Czechoslovakia not Hungary
  5. Ricky Tarr goes out to Hong Kong, not Istanbul
  6. Ricky Tarr’s secret is not accepting money from the Russians but trying to get his family to safety
  7. Ricky Tarr starts the fight not Guillam.
  8. Irina is not shot in front of Prideaux

Things that probably differ from the book (I don’t have time to check):

  1. There was no Christmas Party
  2. Smiley does not make any promises to Tarr
  3. I don’t think anyone thought Prideaux had been killed.
  4. Tufty Thesinger is not killed
  5. Haydon is not shot. 

Not all of these changes are important but they combine to significantly change the meaning of the book.  Where, in the book, there was a clear distinction made between East and West, the movie manages to muddy that distinction.  This is unforgivable.  Communism was appalling.  It killed and impoverished millions.  Sure, the West wasn’t perfect.  The book acknowledges this in spades but always makes it clear that the West is much, much better.

Other faults:

  • Boy, it drags.  It even manages to feel slower than the 1970s TV series which in terms of running time was much longer.  Way too much effort goes into creating a world of brown, orange and grey and then taking long, lingering shots of it.
  • Ciaran Hands (playing Roy Bland) doesn’t, if I recall correctly, say a word.  Not a word.  What a waste.

Things that I am pretty sure they did have in the 1970s but don’t appear in the movie:

  • Flares

Things they got right:

  • Gary Oldman
  • Colin Firth

01 July 2011
Podcast: Michael Jennings and I talk about what you can learn from watching TV in bars and cafés abroad

Quite a lot, as it turns out, though not, sadly, in the case of that enigma wrapped up in a mystery that is Australia.



06 December 2010
Authors often complain when their books get turned into films. They get particularly narked when they've sold the rights to someone who they thought would make a good job of it and then didn't.

Which got me wondering. What would happen if an author waived his rights? Just said: "Anyone can turn this into a film, play, tv series. I really don't care and I won't try any legal way to stop you."

Would it be that the wannabe film makers would have to be that much more careful? Because all of a sudden they no longer have exclusivity. If they fuck it all up then not only will the author tell the world what a load of old rubbish it is but the chances would be that there would be a better version coming along in the not-too-distant future.

14 August 2010
Siren

The other day I did something I haven’t done in 15 years.  Yes, that’s right: I watched a play.  The play in question was resting blogger, Peter Briffa’s Siren.  It was staged at the Etcetera Theatre which sounds terribly grand until you realise that it’s based above a pub and sits about 40.  And it’s run lasted 4 nights.  Last night was… it’s last night.  Last of four.  So, that’s about 160 people who watched it. Which means I can say more or less what I like about it without much fear of contradiction.

I had thought it was going to be about a bank heist.  Turned out it was about prostitution.  Hey ho.  And it was presented in flashback. Think of it as Memento meets Pretty Woman

And, as you can probably guess from the setting it had a small cast.  Two in fact.

Did I like it?  Don’t know.  However, I can say it was better than anything the BBC’s done in ten years.  Perhaps, that’s damning it with faint praise.  It was also better than any play I have seen in London since Amadeus in 1981.  That’s probably also damning it with faint praise.  Especially, since I haven’t seen a whole load of other plays in that time.  But I was glad I went.

Peter reckons it’s more or less impossible for an otherwise normal 40-something to get a play put on in London.  What with the setting it rather put me in mind of stories of Soviet Shakespearophiles having to put on Hamlet and Macbeth in private houses.  Yes, in Soviet Russia Hamlet and Macbeth were banned.  Apparently.

04 August 2009
Was that the last of Top Gear?

The other night saw the last in the current series of Top Gear.  And the last item, with Clarkson driving a V12 Aston Martin to the sound of churchy music and being uncharacteristically quiet and downbeat, forced a sad thought to cross my mind.  Could it be that that’s the end for Top Gear?

If it were it would be the latest in a long series of parallels with the career of the Beatles - its nearest cultural equivalent.

Just look at the way the two spanned the decade.  The Beatles’ recording years were 1962-69.  Top Gear’s: 2002-9. The end coming in August both times.

Both were hugely successful, going way beyond their origins.  Top Gear has never really been about just cars in much the same way the Beatles were never just about good tunes.  New ideas attached themselves to both.  Stars wanted to be associated with both.  And the Establishment hated both.

Even the main participants seem to find equivalents in the Beatles.  Clarkson is Paul McCartney, Hammond: George Harrison and James May: Ringo.

So, who is John Lennon?  That’s easy: Andy Willman, producer of the show and long-time Clarkson associate.

Hey, it’s even had its own “Pete Best” moment in the sacking of Jason Dawe just after the first season.

OK, so what is Top Gear’s “Revolver” - that moment when they were absolutely at their peak?  There was a show at the end of 2007 which had Hammond driving an F1 car, Clarkson and May pratting about in vintage cars and Lewis Hamilton as the special guest.  Car shows just don’t get any better.

But, Crozier, do you really think Top Gear can truly be put in the same category as the Beatles - the very symbol of a profound and dramatic cultural shift?  Well, not really.  At least, not yet.  The change that the Beatles symbolised was there for all to see by 1969.  Top Gear far less so.  But who knows where the ideas - in essence: it’s alright to be a bloke - might go. 

At very least - and I accept it’s difficult to give TG all the credit - there seem to be far fewer speed cameras around the place nowadays.

05 June 2009
Why is Top Gear so successful?

It is hugely successful.  It attracts a large audience, a big fan base and a huge waiting list for studio tickets.  It has spawned DVDs, a live show and local versions in the US, Australia and Russia.  Satellite channel, Dave, has based an entire business model around Top Gear repeats.  Stars clamour to drive its Reasonably Priced Car and a nation held its breath when one of its presenters was badly hurt in a 300mph car crash.

Jeremy Clarkson even once got a custard pie in the face from an environmentalist.  High praise indeed.

All this for a show based around two elements, namely: cars and blokes - neither of which the BBC, the show’s broadcaster, particularly likes.

So, why is it so successful?  I think it revolves around two elements.

First of all, it brings out the nine-year-old in all of us.  So, it has the values of a nine-year old.  Speed?  Good.  Power?  Good.  Noise?  Good.  Futuristic looks?  Good.  Gadgets?  Good.  Worries about global warming?  Boring.  Sure Mr Megastar you’re a star but how fast are you in a Suzuki Liana?

But it also asks the questions a nine-year old asks:

  • Can you turn a car into a boat?
  • Why don’t you have convertible people carriers?
  • Can you drive to the North Pole?
  • Which is faster, a car or a train?  Or a plane?  Or a boat?
  • What happens if you put Boadicea spikes on your wheels or drive into a brick wall?  In a lorry?
  • Or if you strap a Reliant Robin to a rocket?

Top Gear has at one point or another asked all these questions usually with results that are as disastrous as they are predictable as they are hilarious.  No wonder “ambitious but rubbish” has become the show’s unofficial motto.

Secondly, and this is thing they keep quiet about, Top Gear is clearly the result of a lot of hard work.  Don’t believe me?  Watch any episode and ask yourself where the camera is.  You’ll quickly realise that that it’s in all sorts of funny places.  The other day I spotted that they’d managed to get on the top of a suspension bridge.  Think of the health and safety forms.  But often it’s a helicopter.  Think of the cost.  Oh, and the co-ordination.

One of the sadnesses of this is that you realise that if the races themselves are not fakes, most of the shots are. 

But the hard work continues.  There is frequently a dialogue between narrator and presenter.  Often the same person.  But often it reveals an extraordinary degree of planning an preparation.  Let me put is like this. Top Gear presenters do not simply jump in a car and ad lib.  They write it down first.  Top Gear is quite prepared to put a day’s work into 5 seconds of footage.

Or, to put it another way, you have to be awfully grown up if you want to be that childish.

Top Gear is also remarkable for the way it survives repetition.  I have watched some of the Dave repeats 3 or 4 times.  This is partly because they are very funny.  Watching a man attempt to negotiate his Triumph Dolomite Sprint over a cobbled road with a collander full of eggs directly above his head usually is.  And it is partly because of the in-jokes that you miss first time round.  It took me ages to realise that there’s one running joke about Jeremy believing that for every mechanical problem there’s a hammer-based solution, another involving James May having no sense of direction and another involving Hammond crashing into May.  I don’t believe for a minute that all this isn’t also carefully planned.

To sum up, Top Gear is successful because it deserves to be. 

01 April 2009
Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

So, the News of the World runs an article claiming that Gordon Ramsay isn’t the saviour of failing restaurants that the TV claims he is.

So, a huge numbers of commenters, many apparently chefs themselves, come to Ramsay’s defence.

29 March 2009
In praise of The Professionals

The Professionals, ah yes, Bodie and Doyle, Bonehead and Foil, bubble perms, flares, dodgy leather jackets, Capris and RS2000s (thrashed).

A bit flash when it’s not totally brain dead. Not really our kind of show.

Well, over the last few weeks, with the aid of the repeats on ITV4, I’ve been able to reassess the bien pensant view of the 1970s cop/shy show.

And guess what?  I, and they, were wrong.  It’s brilliant.

Good plots, good characterisation, well acted, well scripted.  And brain dead?  Heck no.  This is a show that is constantly examining the dilemmas and ironies present in the exercise of state power.

The repeats have also provided a good opportunity to reassess the relative acting merits of Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw.

The general view is that of the two only Shaw was the proper actor.  Which is odd because it is Collins who nails his character right from the beginning while Shaw is constantly struggling.  In his defence Doyle - the heavy with a heart - was always going to be a struggle for actor and scriptwriter alike but still…

Anyway, time for those immortal opening titles:

12 February 2009
The Real Baby Boom

The baby boom.  That’s all the servicemen returning from the Second World War and starting families, causing a huge temporary surge in the population, right?

True, but there’s a bigger one.  Look:

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Click to enlarge
The surge in the 1960s peaks at about the same level as the 1940s and is wider - meaning more people.

Just in case you were wondering, I took 1980 as the date because it shows the 60s boom and it’s before the post-War crowd started to die off in any significant numbers (cancer starts to kick in in the mid-50s).  I am assuming that deaths up to this point among the post-War Baby Boomers were largely confined to pop stars.

I, of course, am right bang in the middle of the Real Boom.  I do not expect to draw a state pension.

All this came from here.  Not the greatest source but I’d challenge even them to get this very wrong.

12 September 2008

“Comedy shows, like universities, are where ideas go to die.” Brian Micklethwait.

Heh.

29 January 2008
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a Croziervision podcast

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Buffy (in case you didn’t
already know)
The other day Michael Jennings and I sat down to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the American TV series, which ran from 1997 to 2003.

Here are some highlights.

Michael is in the enviable position (in that I envy him) of having watched the series when it was first on while I am very much a Johnny-come-lately.  Not that it matters much - we both love the show - as you may be able to tell.

Warning: there be spoilers.  Though I guess anyone who hasn’t watched it yet probably never will.



02 December 2007
Film Review: Control

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Sam Riley as Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis (in case you didn’t already know) was the lead singer of Joy Division.  He committed suicide in 1980 after which the surviving members went on to form New Order.  Control, a biopic of Curtis’s life was released earlier this year.  I went to see it.

Some thoughts:

1. It brings the music to life in a way the albums and CDs never could.  I never went to a Joy Division concert but this film feels like the nearest thing.  I cannot tell if what I am hearing is genuine Joy Division or a soundalike2.  Someone earnt his money that’s for sure.

2. I remember little about Ian Curtis’s death. I knew who Joy Division were.  I knew that all sorts of people in the know thought that they would be the next big thing.  I think I had listened to Unknown Pleasures.  I think I had because while discussing its gloomy content, a schoolmate advanced the opinion that Curtis’s talking about depression could help the rest of us.  It’s not exactly the thing you would say after Curtis’s death.

3. One of the great tragedies of Curtis’s suicide is that it launched Love will tear us apart to a wider audience.  This was a pity as it meant that Joy Division’s weakest track become its best known - giving many a totally false impression of what their music was like.  It would be a bit like basing your opinion of Paul McCartney on The Frog Chorus1.  Or the career of Field Marshal Montgomery on Arnhem.

4. Sam Riley does an amazing impersonation of Curtis.  But - and this is by no means a criticism of Riley - at the end we still have no clear idea why he killed himself.  We understand that he is desperately torn between the family man and the rock star - a tear embodied by the two women in his life - his faithful wife and his rock chick mistress.  In the end we are able to feel sympathy for all of them.

5. The film also fails to explain the origin of his gloomy lyrics.  He does not appear to have suffered from a history of depression.  Unknown Pleasures and to a lesser extent Closer evoke a world of darkness, decay, isolation, fear and desperation.  But I get very little sense of this world from the film despite being filmed in black and white.  Even the constant reminders that Curtis came from Macclesfield fail to invoke the expected feelings of despondency.

6. Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis is fantastic.

7. Tony Wilson is credited as Executive Producer.  Tony Wilson comes off well.  Surprise, surprise.  May he rest in peace.

Notes

1.  Actually, I quite like The Frog Chorus.
2.  According to Wikipedia one of the tracks was indeed recorded by the actors.  Kudos to them.

24 October 2007
Podcast #7: Brian and I talk about architecture

Particularly “modern” architecture.  Hmm, one wonders if that phrase will ever come to mean contemporary architecture rather than architecture from age that sanity and taste forgot. 

Main points: Modern architecture was, indeed, awful.  It even represented bad economics.  Things are starting to get better.

Brian wanted it to be known that he wasn’t coming to this as a complete amateur and so e-mailed me with the following:

At the start of the conversation I forgot to say what got me interested in architecture in the first place.  The answer is that for two years around 1970 I was, briefly, a failed architecture student.  I confused being interested in architecture with wanting to be an architect.  But I had no talent for architecture, and quite lacked the skill of architectural drawing in any way.  I should have realised sooner, but did eventually, and carried on simply being an enthusiastic observer of architecture.

But, having been an architecture student I did acquire and insider knowledge of how architecture people thought and felt.

I would add that the process of me working out what was wrong with the thinking behind the Modern Movement in Architecture and the process of becoming a libertarian were one and the same process.

That bit at the end could make a jolly good podcast in and of itself.  Some other time perhaps.

In case some listeners were unfamiliar with some of the buildings and structures mentioned here are some photos:

Gherkin
Gherkin
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Centrepoint
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Charing Cross

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Lemon squeezer
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Woolworth
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St Pancras

 



25 September 2007
Wow!
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From Theo Spark

Update And he’s got another good one here.

30 August 2007
Things that really matter in life

Japanese pen tricks!

(Hat-tip: Japan Probe)

22 August 2007
The best thing on television at the moment…

...is Arrested Development, which BBC2 in their wisdom are screening at between 1 and 2.30 in the morning.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be too hard on them.  They are actually screening it after all.

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07 July 2007
Went to see the Lives of Others the other day. Thought it very good. So did Adriana who has some personal reflections on life under communism.
10 May 2007
TV Alert - Theatre of Blood

Yup, the greatest film ever returns to our screens.  Starring Vincent Price and Diana Rigg at her pre-flying buttress finest.  Jack Hawkins stars in his last ever role.  Non-speaking but then that’s what happens when you have your voice box removed.  And Eric Sykes’s part is simply smashing.

Brilliant despite being partly scripted by William Shakespeare.  Though his bits do feature some cuts.  Quite a lot actually.  Hence the title of the film.

Theatre of Blood, 1.20am, Saturday 12 May, BBC1.

04 May 2007
Wormholes and womance

Should film-makers try to combine chick flicks with sci-fi?  Let Noreen be your guide:

Why fuck about with something that works? Jesus Christ, those Hollywood cunts! No, twice recently, I have bought a film with a picture of two middle-aged people nuzzling each other on the front, the woman looking slightly sad. And I have put the thing on, and it starts off all normal - people going around, the woman a bit scatty or worthy, the man a bit of an old rake, then suddenly the reason they cannot be together is not a sensible reason like one of them having a husband, or a wife, no. It is because they are in different time dimensions - sometimes parallel universes, other times time warps…

...there is absolutely no such thing as a wormhole, and if there were there would be far better things to do with it than use it to get a ride. How about jumping ahead and finding out how to cure AIDS, or going back in time and telling Ghandhi he was a cunt…

I guess that’s probably a “no”.

04 March 2006
Downfall

Last night Channel 4 screened Downfall, the film about Hitler’s last days.

My thoughts:

  • It’s a great movie
  • It goes someway to explaining why the Germans followed Hitler for as long as they did
  • It demonstrates (for the first time I know about) the devastating effects of artillery
  • (I feel) it is at times a bit stilted.  (As I understand it) there are good reasons for this
  • It’s tempting to think: there but for the grace of God go we.  In other words, that it would have been, (indeed could be) quite easy for us to go down a similar path
  • That’s no reason to indulge in self-loathing
  • How did Traudl Junge get through Soviet lines?  She was (obviously) a woman and she was wearing an SS uniform - either of which (one would have thought) would have put her in line for a pretty hard time.

So, why did they follow Hitler for as long as they did?
Because:

  • He could sell them dreams.  For most of Downfall, Hitler is demented but on at least one occasion he calms down and convinces those around him that there are all sorts of secret resources that he can call upon and that all will be well.
  • (believing in his specialness) many had sworn oaths to him personally, which they felt honour-bound to obey.  Why, I don’t know.
  • The “stab in the back” myth of 1918.  This was the (laughable) idea that had the German Army kept on fighting it would have won.  The consequence was that this time around many were determined not to repeat that “mistake”

The devastating effects of artillery?
For example:

  • 60% of First World War casualties were caused by artillery
  • I have been told (here, I think) that a high explosive shell has the same energy on detonation as an express train travelling at 90mph - though not, sadly, the number of carriages
  • An HE shell will blow a man apart to such an extent that not a trace can be found.  That would have been the fate of the most of the 50,000 missing in action whose names are listed on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres

Why the temptation to think that we could go the same way?
Because (it seems to me) that the British are not that different from the Germans

But that shouldn’t force us to question ourselves?
No, because:

  • No other civilisation has ever done any better
  • The economic forces that made the Second World War so destructive are the same ones that gave us the extraordinary prosperity (of all kinds) that we enjoy today. 

Stilted?  Why?
It seems to me that the film is entirely based on eyewitness testimony.  The upside is that we know that this is what actually happened.  The downside is that it jerks about a bit depending on which eyewitness supplied the testimony.  I am rather glad the producers avoided the temptation to make things up.  It is just too important that everything we see is true, or, at least, as near to the truth as we are ever likely to get.

28 February 2006
If you are in the early stages of a Mishima infatuation, my advice is to quit now

I was struck by this book review (via A&L) by Victoria James.  She says:

For most of 1998, I read nothing but the works of Yukio Mishima. The following year, having consumed everything available in English translation, I moved to Tokyo to learn Japanese, the better to read the rest: 40 novels, 20 volumes of short stories and almost that number of plays. I stayed in Japan for five years, as did Christopher Ross, the author of Mishima’s Sword.

Some thoughts:

  • I may not have gone quite that far but at about the same time I did pick up a fair number of his novels.  I eventually came to the conclusion that his writing was pretty much worthless.
  • I think there are all sorts of reasons why so many are fascinated by him in the West.  Mainly due to the manner of his death.
  • We probably shouldn’t be so fascinated.

So, who is this Mishima guy?

  • Japanese novelist and playwright.  On 25 November 1970, he and four colleagues entered the headquarters of the Tokyo garrison of Japan’s Self-Defence Force, taking its commander hostage.  Having failed to induce the garrison to rebel, Mishima and a colleague committed suicide by ritual disembowelment (seppuku)

So, why are so many fascinated by him?

  • I think it is largely the nature of his death. 
    • Western democracy is (thankfully) rather dull and predictable.  Those who think they can inject some drama into proceedings (Tejero is another example) are few and far between.
    • He committed ritual suicide.  That takes a lot of guts (so to speak) - especially when you don’t have a superior or some sort of code of honour to encourage you.  One tends to think he must have meant something by his actions.
  • He also managed to inspire a great movie
  • I can’t help but think that the date of his death is in some way significant.  1970 was the year the Sixties ended, culturally as well as numerically.  Idealism was giving way to disillusion.

So, did his death have meaning?

  • I’m sure he meant something by it but that doesn’t mean he was right.  History is littered with the corpses of men who were both brave and wrong - Adolf Hitler, Patrick Pearse, Guy Fawkes, Mohammed Atta just to name a few.

By the way, what did he want?

  • Difficult to say.  He didn’t exactly leave behind a detailed manifesto.  It was something about Japan regaining its soul.  Anyway, it may not have been an entirely political act.  One of his worries was growing old and ugly.  He may just have wanted to check out before it was too late.

27 February 2006
The Conspiracy

Ken Windschuttle (via A&L) talks about the modern left:

For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed.

Meanwhile Eric S Raymond talks about the damage done when the Soviets stated reading Gramsci:

The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.

And RottyPup (noting how Gramsicians and Islamists seem to be best buddies nowadays) supposes that:

To most Gramscians, the bearded crazies are simply next in line for an extinction-event after all those pesky rich, white males have been dealt with.

(Though he thinks the crazies may have other plans)

A few thoughts:

  1. I am pretty sure there is a conspiracy out there and that it is aimed at the destruction of Western civilisation.  It helps explain a lot of what the left say and do.
  2. I don’t think it’s the sort of conspiracy carried out in hushed tones in dark, smokeless rooms.  No, it’s more one where the actors, having read a bit of Gramsci don’t have to be told what to do and when to do it.
  3. I am never quite sure whether to mention it or not.  It’s really for internal (right-wing) consumption only.  I rather feel that arguments have to be won on their merits.  I am also aware that the Gramscians get a lot of support from people who have never read Gramsci - people who are convinced by the arguments - or whatever it is that they are convinced by.  I am not sure it’s helpful to tell these people that they are nihilist cat’s paws.
  4. Gramsci was jailed by Mussolini.  Say what you like about the bald Italian dictator but he knew a bad ‘un when he saw one.

02 July 2005
Goodbye, Richard Whiteley, great man

I was saddened by the death, earlier this week, of Richard Whiteley, normally best known as the presenter of Channel Four’s gameshow, Countdown, though sometimes as the presenter who got bitten by that ferret.

For many years I have mentally referred to him as the “Great” Richard Whiteley.  This is not because I particularly liked seeing him on the screen.  In the days when I used to watch Countdown, before they moved its timeslot (bastards) I used to switch off the sound when he was on.  No, I used the term “Great” to refer to his ability to just keep going.  Countdown was an island of charm and civility in a sea of Johnny Vaughan. Producing bad pun after bad pun day after day, year after year while retaining your good humour couldn’t have been easy.

I wonder what Top Gear is going to make of it this Sunday.  For some time Whiteley has been propping up their Star in the Reasonably Priced Car leader board.  I suppose they’ll say that this is proof that slow speed kills.

Last night a friend and I were speculating on who would replace him.  Part of the trouble is that he and Carol Vorderman were very much a double act.  So were Morecombe and Wise but Carol is no straight man to Whiteley’s genius.  I guess they’ll end up promoting someone from Dictionary Corner.  At least that way there’ll be some element of continuity and also the element of keeping it in the Countdown family.  Geoffrey Durham, Martin Jarvis, Phillip Franks, Nicholas Parsons would all be good candidates. 

19 June 2005
Croziervision Quote of the Day

Harry Hutton:

...England is on the cusp of the Chav event-horizon, after which it will be irrecoverable. The rest of us will go the way of the red squirrel, in my opinion.

12 June 2005
More books

Seems I have managed to start something off in our corner of the Blogosphere (never thought of myself as a trend setter before).  Mark and Jackie come out as fellow shelves-are-too-precious-to-be-sacrificed-to-books-ers while Andy Wood and David Farrer don’t.  I liked Andy’s description of one of his favourite books:

“University Physics, Francis W. Sears, Mark W. Zemansky, Hugh D. Young. I read this when I was fourteen and thought “this relativity malarky isn’t as difficult as everyone pretends”. At that moment, I decided I wanted to be a physicist when I grew up. And so I became one.”

Heh.

11 June 2005
Books, schmooks

Well, even I’ve been tagged (by Tim Hall should you want to know) so here goes:

How many books do you own?

Maybe 30.  In my lifetime I have perhaps owned 200, most of which were textbooks.

Here’s the shallow explanation.  I have had to move a fair few times over recent years and often I haven’t had that much space.  On one occasion I had to throw some books away.  I didn’t miss, them.  I couldn’t even tell you what they were.  Since then, I’ve been pretty ruthless about throwing books away when space is getting short.  I cannot recall an occasion when I have regretted it.

But that’s not the whole story.  I never had that many to start off with.  In truth I don’t really like books.  I cannot see the point of fiction.  They say there have been no good books published since 1960.  What they neglect to mention is that there were precious few published before.  God knows I’ve tried.  Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, Bronte.  Utter, incomprehensible rubbish one and all.

So, that leaves us with non-fiction books.  I don’t really like them either.  They cost a fortune, they’re filled with padding and when you’re finished with them, then what?  All they do is take up shelfspace.  This is one of the principal reasons why I will take my chances with libraries.

It is one of my great hopes that the internet will finally put paid to the great book con.  So, Amazon are making money hand over fist, today but tomorrow is another day…

Last book read

Plumer, the Soldier’s General by Geoffrey Powell.  Great general, lousy archive (he destroyed all his personal papers).  So, the author has to scrabble around for bits and bobs.  And when he fails he puts in filler.  Oh well.

Last book(s) purchased

Plumer (see above)
All the Kaiser’s Men, Ian Passingham
The Voluntary City, Independent Institute
The Welfare State We’re In, James Bartholomew.

Name five books that mean a lot to you

Let’s change that.  Five books that have meant a lot to me:

Animal Farm, George Orwell
The Guiness Book of Records
Battle Tactics of the Western Front, Paddy Griffith
How I found freedom in an unfree world, Harry Browne
Smiley’s People, John Le Carre

Five people to tag

Like they’ll respond.  Brian Micklethwait, Michael Jennings, Jackie D, Scott Campbell, Andy Wood.

23 May 2005
Some searched for El Dorado - and some for contemporary writers worth reading. Let's just hope he has an exit strategy …link
 
14 May 2005
Introducing the Lucas - the new way of measuring crimes against celluloid …link
 
10 May 2005
Want to be smarter? - then power up that Nintendo. Popular culture is making us clever. (Via A&L Daily) …link
 
19 April 2005
Why do rockers keep their hair? - And is it anything to do with the hours they keep? …link
 
03 April 2005
“At Australian wineries it is possible to buy port in ten litre containers.” -  …link
 
22 March 2005
Northerners have no imagination - half a mile of restaurants and they're all the bleedin' same. Geras blogs from some rainswept, northern craphouse …link
 
23 February 2005
Quote of the Day

The problem with the counterculture was that it was only - and literally - a counterculture. It knew what it was against (the existing culture), but not what it was for. Thirty-five years on the counterculture still doesn’t know. Against the war in Iraq ? Check. Against Saddam’s evil ? Check. What are you going to do short of war ? ”I don’t know, but there must be another way”.

Laban Tall while commenting on that Hunter S Thompson bloke.

22 February 2005
Hunter S Thompson is dead - which is news to those of us who knew neither that he was alive nor who he was. Briffa marks the event in his own unique style …link
 
19 February 2005
If you live by the state you die by the state - Brian finds an example from Luvvieland …link
 
18 February 2005
Columbo Alert

Here’s a real treat for all you Columbo fans (eg me).  On Saturday, at 2:35pm Channel 5 is showing Prescription: Murder, the very first ever Peter Falk Columbo.  So, you thought Peter Falk was the only ever Columbo?  Not quite

This 1968 pilot was only one of many steps in bringing Link and Levinson’s dream to the small screen.  In all it took three pilots and 10 years to see the emergence (in 1971) of one of the most popular detective series ever.

17 February 2005
Quote of the Day

Helen Szamuely on Rod Liddle on celebs:

Mr Liddle is a little too liberal and generous for my tastes. He thinks that in a democracy celebrities “have as much right to get exercised by things as plumbers, traffic wardens and insurance loss-adjusters”. Don’t know about that.

From EU Referendum

13 February 2005
Why is the Eiffel Tower now uglier? - because they changed its appearance in order to bring it into copyright …link
 
Things that make you go hmm…

Justin Timberlake...made an appearance on a New York radio station and failed to finish the French toast he was served. The partially eaten toast sold on eBay for more than $3,100.

Via Marginal Revolution.

11 February 2005
America, f*ck yeah! - the Social Affairs Unit reviews Team America: World Police …link
 
05 February 2005
We’ve had the shouting - now, for the kicking and screaming. Yes, the Normblog all time Bloggers' Top 100 is out …link
 
03 February 2005
What went wrong with classical music? -  …link
 
16 January 2005
Truth in film (reviews)

Eye of the Needle was on the box this afternoon and (as so often) I decided to look it up on IMDB and there I found a rather amusing review by some bloke called Gary.  So, I went off looking for some of his other reviews.  This is what he had to say about Taxi Driver:

...if all the prints of this film mysteriously burnt overnight, it wouldn’t be missed.

Quite. And this about Lawrence of Arabia:

Why we’re all expected to swoon over this film I don’t know. I always found it a colossal bore.

Heh.  And he’s not finished yet.  Here he is on the Silence of the Lambs:

Hackneyed dialogue, direction-by-numbers, corny music and silly performances make this one to remember.

And here he is on the Sopranos:

I’ve lost count of how many films have started to treat the mob as almost lovable and acceptable,… Boring, elliptical, nasty and mediocre, it hits the same note on the keyboard week after week and the psychiatrist plot is piffle. It’s so called insightful writing flatters to deceive. There is nothing ironic, funny or remotely interesting about it, it merely perpetuates the mindlessness of the viewing public who seem prepared to swallow the premise like so much sheep. Underneath it all is a moral cowardice. “Come in me old mafiosi, and have a cappuccino.” This series sucks up to criminals and smacks of appeasement, and all just for a corporate buck.

About Bloody Time.  And to that list, and from slightly different genres, I might add Ali G and the Office.

Mind you all this does raise some rather awkward questions about the things that get raved about.  Was it always thus or do we live in an age where people are particularly susceptible to Emperor-has-no-clothes-style Group Think?

15 January 2005
Brian reckons the distinction between public and private is getting rather blurry these days
 
12 January 2005
Christie writes about the exhibition of the works of political cartoonist, Strube
 
11 December 2004