I was just pootling around the Barbican website looking to see what’s on, when I came upon a listing for The Singing Ringing Tree. Sadly adults unaccompanied by a child are not allowed to attend, and I don’t think Pashazade counts. Most of the time. Blatant bloody ageism, that’s what it is. Not to mention discrimatory against those of us not blessed with children. I would write to my MP but he’s a notorious arse.
Slightly random title courtesy of the film of Cold Comfort Farm, playing in the background on BBC4 and which I've never seen before. Stephen Fry an interesting Mybug: not quite the casting I'd have made. Sadly I am short on sleep and in court, albeit on what should be a fairly straightforward directions hearing, tomorrow morning, so really ought to go to bed.
I am making a New Year's Resolution, my first in more years than I can remember, to have fewer hangovers in 2007. Starting with not having this one.
Nephew is apparently improving, platelet count, which I understand should be 100+ is now at 70 something, as opposed to 31...
Not out of the woods yet but definitely more positive.
Went to see Brief Encounter at The Scoop (the odd open air auditorium next to the GLA Building) last night, fabulous as ever. And still somewhat surprising to me that it could be made and be successful when it was. Completely failed to find Ksta, found Cybik instead by complete coincidence. Then realised that I had no bike lights on me...
Yes, I have given the weather and the fact my Oystercard monthly ran out last Friday, taken my life in my hands every day since and cycled in. Getting the hang of central London cycling now, the only bits I really don't like on my route are the Aldgate junction and the Bank, and I'm gradually finding rat runs round both of those. Not sure how long this will last, and suspect the health benefits are more than offset by the pollution, but still, I missed it more than I expected when I came back from the Channel Islands.
Just saw that Studio Ghibli have an Earthsea film (fairly clearly an adaptation of The Farthest Shore) coming out this July. After the mini-series fiasco (which I admit I never felt the urge to see, but everyone I know who did was appalled) my immediate instinct is scepticism, but Studio Ghibli have a deservedly high reputation.
... passes and I inch closer to home. I still haven't arranged how, precisely, I intend to reach home.. maybe I should do something about that. Spent most of the weekend working, and sheltering from the howling gales that continue to sweep the island (and the buggers shift, so they do, the wind is always against me when I'm cycling, no matter which way I'm headed). Ringing Frankie to find out if she was back resulted, given that she wasn't, in a half-hour long mildly drunken ramble in the general direction of The Blonde, for which I apologise, other than that the high point of the weekend was Poirot (which seems to be headed in the ludicrous direction ITV have taken the Marples). Somewhat frustratingly I don't at present have a working DVD player (to be more pseudo-geekily accurate, I don't have libdvdcss enabled on my laptop), so the growing pile of cheap DVDs accumulated as I take advantage of the Island's current no-sales tax regime while I may (Howl's Moving Castle, Serenity, and Nine Queens, which I loved when I saw it in the cinema are the current hot favourites, but there are more) is useless until I sort that out.
Ho hum. In my last few weeks here I am suddenly involved in enormously complicated and interesting work. I could wish these things had cropped up earlier.
The Geeklawyer (who writes about things legal much better than I do) points out why he is anonymous. This is why, despite my real name not being a secret as such, I prefer it not to be used: mainly innocuous though my open posts here are I don't really want people googling for me professionally to end up here first...
Stayed up way too late watching The Actors on Channel 4 last night. With a bottle of Glenmorangie. Plus I have horrible fencing bruises all over my body. Ughughugh.
Grabbing a few moments on Frankie's shiny new mac while she makes me breakfast to wish everyone a Happy New Year. (Her suggestion that having missed the last train back to Hampshire her spare room was possibly a more comfortable place to spend the night than my office was unsurprisingly accurate.) Narnia last night in the company of various people, of which more later: in short, generally good but too slow at the start and too rushed in the middle.
Christmas generally pretty good. Back to Jersey tomorrow afternoon chiz chiz. Ho hum.
I have mixed feelings, given I loved the original. One part of me wants to know what really did happen. Did Egg ever work out what he wanted to do with his life? Is Anna in rehab? How long did Miles' marriage last? (Can Nardini, let alone Amita Dhiri, possibly command equal billing with Davenport, or even Lincoln)
On the other hand, that moment is possibly one of the best tv drama endings ever. A definitive answer to "what happened next" would rather spoil it.
I genuinely found it staggeringly good. Those who criticise it for making Hitler and his inner circle seem human seem to me to be utterly missing the point. That is the point, that they weren't aliens from the planet Zog. Like it or not, the message is, ordinary humans are capable of extraordinary evil - and then of being very kind to their secretaries. And that the secretaries, like Traudl Junge, on whose book the film is partly based and from whose point of view it is told, can, as she effectively admitted in an interview made shortly before her death in 2002 shown at the end of the film, close their eyes to it. She says for many years she felt detached from it all, that it was nothing to do with her. And then, at a memorial to a White Rose girl of her own age, killed around the time she was being interviewed for her job by Hitler at Wolf's Lair, she says she realised - she could have found out what was really happening. If she had wanted to do so.
Beautifully shot, and a convincing portrayal of a city under siege. The characters are brilliantly played, so friendly and kind from her point of view (with the exception of Goebbels, where they seem to have given up and decided to portray him as pretty much insane throughout). Most of the film takes place in the last week of Hitler's life, with Traudl awaking in the bunker to realise "those aren't bombs. That's artillery." Eva Braun, desparately trying to believe everything is going to be fine. Hitler himself, one moment the kindly grandfather, the next accusing everyone of treachery, ordering divisions that no longer effectively existed to move on Berlin and contemplating how they're going to recapture oilfields after they've dealt with all this. Frau Goebbels, devastated at Hitler's decision to die, and then calmly, efficiently, executing each of her children rather than let them live in a world without National Socialism. That rather pleasant plump bloke, who's he.... oh, you realise in the titles, that was Bormann. Speer, an enigma in the film as he is, to me at least, in reality. Hitler's personal SS detachment, resolving to fight to the last bullet. So brave, you think, and then you think again.
And that's the thing about the film - it can only make its point against the background of what you know about these people. But surely its right: if Hitler and his inner circle were somehow other, then how could there be a lesson for us worth remembering?
One odd historical point I didn't know, but assume wasn't made up. Himmler, early on, mentions secret negotiations with Eisenhower with the aim of a managed peace, and others in the bunker raise the same idea later. I can see why the Americans and British would have been interested - they were already thinking ahead and worrying about Stalin - but I'd have thought by then it would be far too late.
Having nothing better to do (cancelled party, nothing to hand I feel like reading, no energy to do anything and Saturday night TV is rubbish) I just sat here and watched the DVD of Van Helsing I picked up for a couple of quid in some sale or other. Rather to my surprise, I enjoyed it immensely. Admittedly this was through a haze of painkillers and whisky but surely no one ever thought this was supposed to be taken seriously? It's just a vast mishmash of in-jokes.
My shoulder's no better, and I now have a streaming cold, which makes me sneeze epically (is this a word, and if so, is it spelled like this?) every five minutes or so, thus causing spasms through the shoulder... I hate my life and everybody in it. Apart from the beautiful women obvs, but I have a nasty suspicion they're hallucinations.
I'm just back from three hours of historical epic: the short version - I rather liked it and don't think it deserves the slating it's had, though it has many failings. I would, however, like to know what someone who hasn't read Mary Renault's Alexander Trilogy several times since they were 10ish makes of it.
Apropos of which... that trilogy is quite blatantly the foundation of the film -of the way the story was told and the characters were portrayed-, and so far as I could see it wasn't explicitly acknowledged, though admittedly although I stayed for most of the titles because there were so many people in the cast we'd sat there thinking "oh, that's wossname", I didn't stay to the very end (it was 10 to 11) and there may have been an acknowledgment there. In particular the very first sequence after Old Ptolemy's framework introduction is the beginning of Fire from Heaven: an episode which I'm fairly comes almost entirely from Renault's imagination and serves to set out the emotional relationship between Phillip, Olympias and Alexander, one of the driving themes of both her trilogy and the film - and, quite probably, of the real Alexander's psychological makeup to be fair. Stone goes on to point a big red arrow at what, so far as I remember, Renault leaves as a join the dots exercise for the reader by having Philip include in a discussion with Alexander about mythical heroes not only Achilles and Prometheus but also Oedipus, and a warning about women. That isn't the only bit where I saw her hand but it is the most explicit.
There's nothing wrong with that: her trilogy is probably the best fictionalisation of Alexander's career out there, far better than Maurice Druon's Alexander the God, particularly if you're looking to portray him reasonably positively. But it would have been good to see it acknowledged. I suppose that scene may itself have been Stone's nod to her, but still.
Score a typical Vangelis score: I didn't know for a fact it was him until the credits but would have staggered to find it wasn't. Large chunks of it sounded very much the 1492 score (which I rather like).
One of the reviews I read said Farrell gave a strong performance but was let down by a weak script. While the script is indeed weak, particularly in Farrell's major speeches, his performance was bloody awful, the worst element of the film by a long way. And they really ought to have bleached his eyebrows as well as his hair. The best performance, by far, was Angelina Jolie as Olympias (though I'm biased here). Hopkins as Old Ptolemy was, I thought, fine but there was too much at the end of him summing up.
By and large it seemed pretty close to the historical narrative as I remembered it (I did wonder whether they'd changed the order of his marriages but that was the only significant point). I'd have preferred it had they left it ambiguous whether Alexander was involved in his father's death before the fact: for most of that sequence I wasn't sure how whether Alexander knew what was going to happen or not and then they went and answered a question which should have been left, as it in truth is, open.
Only two battles are included -Gaugamela and, presumably, the battle of the Hydaspes in India but, frankly, wow. I can't remember many better battle scenes. Far and away the high points of the film, excepting only, possibly, Alexander standing looking over the Hindu Kush, and beautifully shot (classic Stone stuff here), particularly the latter. The former in particular had Lane Fox written all over it - a really quite unnecessarily (in that unless you already knew how the battle worked you probably wouldn't get it) accurate account of the battle that shows Alexander for one of the greatest military tacticians of recorded history.
I'm just back from seeing A Series of Unfortunate Events with Steph (I wouldn't bother, a poor substitute for LotR and/or HP as a pre-Christmas escape: despite reasonable to good performances by the kids and Carrey the film just doesn't work at all, largely because they've hacked three books into one movie) and two of the trailers caught my eye. The first was for Spielberg's War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise, which looks godawful. Far, far, more important is... the film of The Magic Roundabout.
With Ian McKellen as Zebedee, Joanna Lumley as Ermintrude, Bill Nighy as Dylan, and, er, Robbie Williams (yes, Robbie, not Robin) as Dougal and, I really can't believe this, Kylie as Florence.
Incidentally, after a bit of googling I came up with this BBC story. I love the way they skate from
The Magic Roundabout was a television hit for years after it was first created in the mid-Sixties for French TV by Serge Danot to
actress Emma Thompson's father Eric created the programme's storylines and characterisation when the programme was broadcast on the BBC. Why not just come out and say it:
well, we had this incomprehensible tape which was all in Foreign so we made up a plot that seemed to fit.
In other news, Bambi has been
"restored so that it's better than it was in the first place". This is obviously some novel use of the word "restored" of which I was previously unaware.
Oi like Zummerzet.
I've been in Taunton all day. Well, or on trains to and back from Taunton (and if I ever find the moron whose decision to go rambling on the high speed line somewhere between Pewsey and Newbury meant we did that stretch at about five miles an hour on the way back they're going to wish God's Wonderful Railway hadn't bothered to slow us down). A vaguely existensialist hearing, as my sole purpose in appearing was to ask the other side (or the one of the three other sides whose responsibility it was) why I was there, a question which they failed to answer once I'd pointed out that the relevant rule in the CPR said "may" not "must", and then to get them to pay for the fact I was there.
Are you all lost yet? Good, proves there's a purpose to my professional existence. Anyway, gorgeous part of the world, even the weather was significantly better than in London, and to my vague surprise Castle Cary does actually exist apart from during the first weekend after the summer solstice (when it's the railway station for the Glastonbury Festival). Having done my stuff discovered there was an hour and a half before the next train, so wandered round the Museum of Somerset and the church of St Mary Magdalene.
Few bits of linkage: the Law Lords kick a man when he's down and good for them: the UK's answer to Guantanamo -though to be fair nowhere near as bad in practice or principle as that hellhole- was something of which we should have been ashamed. Given that a normal judicial committee of the House of Lords consists of five members, seven being called in when they're considering upsetting the applecart, the fact they had nine sitting was something of a hint there was a possibility the shit might hit the fan. When I was a pupil we had an appeal to their Lordships where we were asking them to extend a principle in a rather dubious case they'd decided some years before still further. When, two days before the hearing, word came down that their Lordships required an addititional two copies of the papers, ie making seven, we began to get worried (as it happens they stuck with five and we still lost).
ETA: coo, someone at Bailii is in a hurry to get the judgment up. I wouldn't have expected to see it until next week. Seems they didn't even bother to call on counsel instructed by the Treas. Sol. on behalf of the applicants (who were unable to discuss matters fully with their real clients) but just heard from Amnesty and Liberty.
I particularly like Hoffman at paras 86ff:
"# This is one of the most important cases which the House has had to decide in recent years. It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. The power which the Home Secretary seeks to uphold is a power to detain people indefinitely without charge or trial. Nothing could be more antithetical to the instincts and traditions of the people of the United Kingdom.
# At present, the power cannot be exercised against citizens of this country. First, it applies only to foreigners whom the Home Secretary would otherwise be able to deport. But the power to deport foreigners is extremely wide. Secondly, it requires that the Home Secretary should reasonably suspect the foreigners of a variety of activities or attitudes in connection with terrorism, including supporting a group influenced from abroad whom the Home Secretary suspects of being concerned in terrorism. If the finger of suspicion has pointed and the suspect is detained, his detention must be reviewed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. They can decide that there were no reasonable grounds for the Home Secretary's suspicion. But the suspect is not entitled to be told the grounds upon which he has been suspected. So he may not find it easy to explain that the suspicion is groundless. In any case, suspicion of being a supporter is one thing and proof of wrongdoing is another. Someone who has never committed any offence and has no intention of doing anything wrong may be reasonably suspected of being a supporter on the basis of some heated remarks overheard in a pub. The question in this case is whether the United Kingdom should be a country in which the police can come to such a person's house and take him away to be detained indefinitely without trial."
(I think in Latin that question would begin "Num".)
and at 97:
"The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."
Completely irrelevant to that, but for those who haven't seen it yet, Ursula LeGuin has been narked enough by comments made by the director of the TV adaptation of A Wizard of Earthsea to break her frosty silence (and see also here, for further more extensive criticism - both links from the Culture list).
On yet another tack, this, from Tim Lambert, is one of the funnier smackdowns (on bonkers arguments against climate change theory) I've read recently:
It takes a rare kind of talent to present an argument on climate change that is inconsistent with the existence of seasons
It also seems a little odd that if the Medieval Warm Period ended with the Earth shifting its axis of rotation, that no-one wrote down something like “Holy Cow! The constellations are in a different place!”. You’d think they would have noticed.
being particular high points.
Finally, What is Happening to Me?. Worth a look.
Both of the email lists that, together with the blogosphere, drain away such an alarming proportion of my time have been discussing this story today:
The director and screenwriter of the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is to remove references to God and the church in the movie.
Chris Weitz, director of About a Boy, said the changes were being made after film studio New Line expressed concern.
I confess myself to be somewhat mystified, not least by the claim that Pullman has approved the change (and incidentally, what happened to Uncle Tom Stoppard, who was writing the screenplay last I heard?). I do find myself wondering, on that score, whether the truth is closer to what I heard Pullman say at the ICA a couple of years ago - that his attitude was that he'd sold the film rights, taken the money, and run, and wasn't taking any part or interest in what happened next.
You may love the books or loathe the books; generally sympathise with Pullman's views or not; find Pullman slightly irritating or charming. Personally I love the books, sort of half sympathise with his views, and find the man's preachiness more than a little irritating.
Whatever you feel about it, I am incapable of understanding how a sequence of books which, I think, is essentially an attempt to take Paradise Lost, imagine it written by Blake instead, and then turn the result into a children's fantasy; and which was also, quite expressly, conceived as an extended disagreement with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe et al, can possibly have the religion taken out. I despair, I really do. Joff said months ago he smelled an approaching train wreck and I told him he was over-pessimistic.
ETA: oh look, why don't I just stick to ghost-posting the chaps on Crooked Timber - first thing I read after I hit send and says it much better.
Good weekend, slightly less good Monday. Saturday was Clique Christmas Dinner at Katy's (if you don't know, don't ask) which finally wound up at about 3.30-4 in the morning, then poured self into taxi back to Rob and Steph's with them and Joff, flaking out fairly soon after. Sunday I sat around with them all day because the world was frankly horrible outside, and watched Harry Potter 3 again.
Didn't do too well in court this morning: won but frankly that was because it would have required a certain amount of effort to lose. Kept calling a Circuit Judge "Sir" (instead of "Your Honour": Sir or Madam is only appropriate for a District Judge, a Master in the High Court or a JP) and then apologising, fortunately he was a genial chap and pretended he still found it amusing the fourth time. Quite unlike HHJ Nameless a while back, who I called Your Honour on the basis that's what he is normally, forgetting he was sitting as a Section 9 Judge (really, don't ask) and therefore in that hearing correctly "My Lord": it's never good when, after you've set out your stall on what should have been a brief non-contentious case-management hearing, the icy response from the bench, tongue quite clearly nowhere near cheek, is "first of all, I'm my Lord...."
Shared a table in Maison Bertaux at lunch with a v. cute woman who turned out to be a ZZ-List celebrity. Well, a presenter on some satellite Chanel 9 style outfit the actual name of which I forget. Now sitting around staring into space, listening to Goldfrapp, wondering if I exceeded even my customary dosage of coffee today, and writing tedious posts here.
The commenters on the most recent post on Boris' blog have been quick in sympathising with his departure from the Conservative front bench.
Foolish move on Howard's part I reckon. Also just wrong: I live in hope that one day when some sex scandal breaks about a politician their party will quite properly shrug and point out that it's irrelevant.
Just back from seeing Hero with Katy and Joff. Very good, though not quite as impressive as Crouching Tiger, and slightly marred by the blatant totalitarian sub-text (I may be slow, but I didn't notice a subversive sub-sub-text).
Whiled away this afternoon watching Harry Potter with Steph, in sharp contrast to yesterday's ridiculous excesses of drink...
A significantly better film than the other two, the plot sensibly cut, and the direction far more interesting. The kids are becoming better actors too, particularly Hermione. Shame if they aren't going to keep this director, frankly.
The Today programme this morning had several slots on various aspects of the obesity report put out yesterday, the very last item being Norman Tebbit and Boris Johnston, not that I could quite understand why (I was in the
whosershower when they started).
According to Uncle Norm, the rise in obesity is due to this government "doing everything it can to encourage buggery".
Que? Something about destruction of the family it seems.
Cue Humphries effectively telling him to shut up and Boris coming out with some polite variant on "what a load of rubbish". Oh, and then he started banging on about how it used to be possible to bring up families on one income so the woman (obvs) could stay at home, but mercifully the beeps came. Honestly, why do we give these loonies airtime? And why does anyone care? Same goes for Princess Michael of Kent. Why does anyone care? One can usually get even fairly devout royalists to admit that she's particularly stupid, ignorant, arrogant and unpleasant so why the surprise? The only question is why Her Lizzyness allows a relatively third-rate royal who by all accounts she personally dislikes; with a cloud over her re use of grace and favour apartments and a habit worst than Philip's of opening her mouth before engaging what it pleases her to call a brain; to do these junkets at all.
Heigh ho. Been fairly busy, went to see Almodovar's Bad Education with Anna-who-lives-upstairs Tuesday (worth seeing, full of Almodovar's usual things, perhaps not his best though) and dinner with the lovely Frankie last night.
Was coming out of the Winding-Up court yesterday morning in full get-up and a very cute member of a party of American tourists/exchange lawyers/whatever who were wandering through the costume exhibition evidently thought I looked great. Remind me to see if I can change my vote in the internal survey on court dress to keeping wig and gown... (though it would be better if we came out of mourning for Queen Anne (? I think) and went back to red robes).