Monday, 30 May 2011

Ant Music

The Climb

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

Friday, 20 May 2011

Is The Writing On The Wall For Writing?

At the age of 11 I realied that almost everything I had learned so far in life was wrong.

I'd already learned by then that I was stupid: this fact had been repeated to me again and again by every teacher (these days we have things like positive encouragement, but back then you were just constantly belitled), but now I found myself arriving at a new school I had to add to my stupidity the fact that what little I had learned was utterly, totally wrong.

This mainly related to my handwriting: at junior school (ages 7-11) we had been tought an extremely stylised form of writing - cursive script, single letters, mostly italics.  Looking at my few remaining school books from that time is like looking at the scratchings of someone marking the days going by on a prison cell wall. 

This was at a school where the desks still had inkwells (albiet redundant ones) and we had to write with messy cartridge pens and blot our writing because ballpoints were considered too common (resulting in many a blue stain on my school clothes)

But upon arriving at my senior school I was told that my writing was illegible, that I had an extremely odd style and forced to re-learn entirely how to write.  I spent an entire year in special lessons with a ruler under my chin to get the right distance from the desk: because handwriting was important.

People could tell what kind of a Decent Chap you were from your writing, it would come in useful in every walk of life.  You have great ideas, I was told, but if only we could read them...

Now, we're not talking about the middle ages here - old as I may be.  We had typewriters, oh yes - and some computers as well (Mr Babbage for Maths?  Not quite, but close) - but it wasn't the Done Thing to give a child a machine to do his thinking - and so my handwriting had to improve.

Of course it never did.  The main problem has always been that my hand can't keep up with my brain.  Learning to type properly was a total release for me - finally I could start to keep up with the flow of my thought and not be dragged down.  My handwriting still looks like a bag of ferrets have escaped and done some serious damage

But then whilst I was thinking about this last night I suddenly asked myself how long it had been since I had actually sat down and done some serious writing by hand.  I'm not just talking notes to myself during meetings here, I did that on Friday: i'm talking about actually writing a letter or message to another person.

How long, come to that, since I actually wrote someone a letter and sent it through the post - whether by pen or by typed?  It could be as long as 15-20 years ago.  It's all email and SMS TXT these days - and most likely by direct brain transplant of thought at some point in the next few.

Not that there's anything wrong with email, or text - although there is.  Emails are a very impersonal way of communicating and can often be mis-read or mis-interpreted.  Text, whilst very handy, tends to result in a shortening of language.  Ys I txt spk, btw - but I do worry that in order to break the rules of sentence, grammar and structure you first should understand at least the rudiments (and be able to use words like "rudiments" in anger and understand them!) of the rules - and that from what I see on facebook the Kids Of Today don't (be fair here - people of my generation don't either)

So what I wanted to do here today was to try and encourage y'all that read this to sit down at a desk with a pen and paper and write someone a letter - it doesn't have to be anything particularly revelatory or personal.  You can write to the Queen's Lady In Waiting if you so wish (the Queen gets enough letters, and its always the Lady In Waiting that replies - so take pity on the poor, unloved soul)

And you don't even have to send it afterwards (although that would be good too) - just sit down, write it, and come back and tell me how wierd it felt.  Like something you might read by Charles Dickens

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Double-0 Heaven?

Here we are again, time for another list o'things

This time we're going to talk about one of the longest running film series - James Bond movies.  As you long suffering readers will know what usually happens with these posts is I pick five examples of something I like and then ramble on about why I like them in the hope of persuading you likewise.  However, with this particular list it would seem churlish to miss out any of the actors who have played 007 and so I'm going to talk briefly about each and tell you which of their films is my favourite from each actor - however, we're only counting official movie Bond's so I'm afraid that legendary Blockbusters' host Bob Holness is omitted.

#1: Sean Connery
Arguably, and in many people's opinion, the Best Bond Sean Connery was not the original choice for the role Connery had previously worked as a milk delivery man.  Connery is remarkable for having returned twice to the role (Diamonds Are Forever is after Lazenby's turn, and also Never Say Never Again)

My personal favourite: From Russia With Love because not only is it very close to the novel, but it's a cracking spy story - and You Only Live Twice

#2: George Lazenby
A tricky one to pick a "favourite" here because Lazenby famously believed that one would be enough.  And ok, so there's a lot wrong with On Her Majesty's Secret Service (including the alleged fact that Lazenby had to be dubbed by another actor), but it still manages to be one of my guilty favourites of the series and contains a cracking soundtrack (Including Louis Armstrong's "We Have All The Time In The World") - again, almost an exact adaptation of the original book

#3: Roger Moore
Previously famous for playing Simon Templar in The Saint Moore is not to everyone's taste.  There are many, and who can blame them, that argue that the series got too silly in the latter half of his tenure.  Still, as with all things, your Bond is very much the one you first discovered - making Roger Moore very much my Bond.  True he stayed on one, if not two, films too many - but there's some good ones in there

My favourite: his first, Live And Let Die - and, inevitably, the one with the underwater car (The Spy Who Loved Me)

#4: Timothy Dalton
Dalton joined the franchise at a difficult time.  Firstly the format was starting to look a little old, secondly he had to follow the increasingly jokey Moore.  He also suffered from a first script that was written for Moore and from a loss of rights that left the series in hiatus for several years

Favourite film: Despite all of this Licence To Kill remains one of my favourite from the series - including, as it does, a plot taken from one of Fleming's original stories (Bond going AWOL to seek revenge on the people who attack Felix Leiter)

#5: Pierce Brosnan
Rather remarkably the former Remington Steele actor seems to have managed to make himself one of the most popular incarnations of James Bond.  This despite some very poor storylines (two so poor that I can't remember a thing about them).  My main issue by this point is the increase of daft gadgets (specifically the invisible car), but to be fair Brosnan is the best thing in the films

Best one: Goldeneye is the only one with a half decent script.  Half-way through the motorbike chase in Tomorrow Never Dies I realised that I just didn't care - and the less said about Die Another Day the better

#6: Daniel Craig
Shock horror, a blonde Bond - surely not?  There were many who balked at such a thing, believe it or not.  However Craig soon silenced his critics with a back to basics, heavily Bourne-Identity inspired first movie.  Admittedly the plot of the second one made no sense whatsoever and it remains unclear if he will make a third (with the copyright holders in financial meltdown)

Best one - Casino Royale was half an hour too long, and clearly an attempt to capitalise on the recent success of another character with the same initials - but still a great film. Speaking of which...

#7: David Niven
Of course, technically everyone in the more miss than hit comedy spoof version of Casino Royale played James Bond including Ursula Andress, Peter Sellars and many more (but not Woody Allen - who played Jimmy Bond) - but only Niven was the "true" retired agent, Sir James Bond

Sadly the humour doesn't quite make the grade and the ending is confused, but still worth a mention

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Girl Who Wanted To Be God

She watched from the window as the flames from the mountain came closer.  The crops were smouldering now, ash falling on the ramshackle roof and sparking like fireworks.

The children were screaming, lungs already congealing from the smoke.  There was still no sign of the air rescue: the radio dead now for more than half an hour, the last dying echo of a voice swallowed by the static of the erruption.

She turned towards the mountain.  How many times had she climbed its surface, feeling the rock beneath her skin?  Everyone had been so certain that it was dead: that it would never erupt again.  They had been wrong: so, so wrong: and now they would have to pay for that mistake.

She closed her eyes, holding her hand out: wishing that she had the power to stop the oncoming storm.  And in that second, had the Devil appeared unto her, she would have happily sold her soul: just to save one child

Just one...

Lyrics by Bradfield/Wire/Edwards/Moore

There are no sunsets just silence
You could see that she was true and faithless
But see through the future and forget all the lies
Black out the words for the blind have eyes

I am the girl who wanted to be God
I am the girl who wanted to be God

There are times when you feel hopeless
Just for once for no-one else we are blameless
The dawn is still breaking its heaven is so high
She told the truth, told the truth and then she lied

I am the girl who wanted to be God
I am the girl who wanted to be God

Hold me she said love me to death

I am the girl who wanted to be God
I am the girl who wanted to be God
I am the girl who wanted to be God
I am the girl who wanted to be God