Sunday, 31 August 2008

dad affleck

Interesting fact from this week's Radio Times' film review section: Ben Affleck's father was once a janitor at MIT college, the same job Matt Damon's character has in Good Will Hunting (which Matt and Ben wrote and starred in, winning an Oscar for their script).

search terms

It's always interesting to see the search terms that have led people to a website - bloggers often post about it, here's one such post from Diddums.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

olympics snippets

Good to see that the Beijing authorities have acceded to media pressure and finally released details of the application procedure for those disgruntled citizens wishing to use the offical "protest zones" in parks across the city. There have been, authorities said, 77 requests for the right to protest from 149 people. Encouraging news for freedom of speech activists everywhere then. Except that, ah, 74 of those requests were "withdrawn after amicable settlements between the authorities and the parties concerned". Two more were "suspended due to incomplete procedures" and the 77th was "rejected because it was in violation of demonstration law". All of which brings the grand total of protesters to have made it through the paperwork to the parks themselves to, umm, zero.
Shelly-Ann Fraser has put her 100m victory down to genetics, after noting how her mother was an extremely fast woman herself. Her evidence? That her mum used to regularly outsprint police when they caught her trading illegally in their Jamaican ghetto.

- from the Guardian's Beijinger (their daily Olympic email) of Tuesday 19 August. (Since I've been having my holiday treat of getting a paper most days, and also not been reading my emails, I've got something of a backlog of this kind of stuff to add to my existing backlog. We didn't watch any of the Olympics until our holiday, and then we watched quite a bit.)

bfi on youtube

The BFI now have a channel on YouTube, with some lovely old clips highlighted by SE1.

lewis mortification

I've added another event to my cringe memory box, and it's another Lewis one. On the way into town on Thursday lunchtime to get the ferry, we stopped at Engie's and I queued up to pay for my Guardian. The queue was getting huge, with no obvious progress being made. Someone opened a new till and said 'next please' - no one moved, and then I - being in supermarket (play Runaround and dash for the newly-opened till) rather than post office ('cashier number four') mode - did. She said, 'I'm sorry, there's a queue.' I held out my 80p and said 'here's 80p', perfectly ready to drop it on the counter and just go off with the paper if she wasn't prepared to scan the paper. She scanned it and muttered something, I think to the effect that this wasn't a place to come just to buy a paper, and off I went out past the queue. Now I wonder if I'll be too embarrassed to go to Engie's next time we're up, and if there was anyone in the queue who recognised me.

Two things which still make me shudder when I think of them now, over twenty years later, both from the Coffee Pot.
- I paid for my food with a fiver and the girl gave me a change for a tenner. I told her she'd made a mistake, but she was sure she hadn't. Mrs Cabrelli came over and told her she was lucky the customer was so honest with her making a mistake like that. I gave the fiver back. I went back to my table. I checked my money again. The girl was right: I had paid her with a tenner. I went back and told her. She gave me my fiver back, but Mrs Cabrelli wasn't there to see her being proved right. If looks could kill...
- I was at the Coffee Pot table first. I didn't smoke, so I put the ashtray on the table behind me. Friends came later who did smoke, but there was no ashtray. No problem, I thought, and turned round and lifted the ashtray off the table behind us. Unfortunately in the meantime someone had taken the extra ashtray off that table and two smoking ladies had sat down there. 'The cheek!', they said as they retrieved their ashtray I'd so brazenly purloined. I was, of course, mortified.

For a long time - during university years and after moving to London - when travelling to and from Lewis I would assume that people wouldn't remember me, or that if they did recognise me they wouldn't be interested in talking to me and that we'd have nothing to talk about. This made sense from the inside, but from the outside undoubtedly looked like someone rudely ignoring or pretending they didn't know anyone. I remember in particular sitting quite near Anne Murray and not talking to her, which still makes me feel bad when I think of it. Now, of course, it is of course much more realistic to think that people don't recognise me. Except, doubtless, everyone in that queue in Engie's.

empire in space

Two space-related links from the Empire magazine email:
- proof the moon landings were fake
- splendid photos of earth's skies from space

Sunday, 17 August 2008

town and country differences no 97

In the country it's dark at night when it's cloudy and bright when it's cloudless, moon permitting. In the city it's dark at night when it's cloudless and bright when it's cloudy, thanks to the light pollution bouncing back off the clouds.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

hamlet - mel gibson

I watched Mel Gibson as Hamlet again last week, on DVD. I saw it in the cinema first time round. The two things I remembered about it were a bit in which he jumps on top of a table, and that the exteriors of Elsinore were of Dunottar Castle, which I felt local (university) pride about. Seeing it again, it was a bit dry; the dialogue seemed detached from the visuals, a sense that it was recorded in a dubbing studio (which may often be the case, but not usually so obvious); not much in the way of background or ambient noise. I guess it was designed that way by Franco Zeffirelli. The jumping on the table was after he'd lugged off Polonius's body and been taken before Claudius, not during his fight with Laertes, as I'd half-remembered. There was a lot of eye acting - Mel rolling, Helena (Ophelia) her often-seen darting. Not really memorable or special, either on the whole or in any individual performances or scenes (although it was packed with fine actors). I thought it was fine when I saw it first; I was less impressed this time around. And no DVD extras at all. Lots of cuts, of course: the whole Fortinbras thing gone - it's often the first to go. More interestingly, they cut the early battlements scenes, so that the first inkling we have of the ghost is when Horatio comes to tell Hamlet about it, and we first see the ghost when Hamlet does.

Pages on IMDB, Wikipedia and Amazon. The Wikipedia entry gives a couple of 'interesting' interpretations, but also answers something I wondered about - Glenn Close (Gertrude) is only nine years older than Mel.

Friday, 15 August 2008

the circus

I saw The Circus today as part of a weekend of free family events at Somerset House. It was okay; I've never warmed to Charlie Chaplin, really, not finding him anywhere near as funny as Laurel and Hardy. It was interesting to see it on a big screen, though, along with others who were enjoying it a lot more than we were, especially the mums. Amazing to learn from the Wikipedia entry that it was the 7th-highest grossing silent film of all time, and that he was nominated for the best actor Oscar for this, and was given a special Oscar for his multitasking on the film. The bit I did like was where he was being chased by a policeman because they thought he was a pickpocket and found himself running alongside the actual pickpocket who was also being chased by a policeman, and they looked at each other in a mixture of puzzlement and understanding. It was around an hour long. Info on the official Charlie Chaplin site and the IMDB.


Last Saturday we visited Waterperry Gardens; I say visited, we were there for quite a while but didn't go into the paying bit because it was pouring with rain the whole time. The church, St Mary the Virgin, which was in the grounds, was worth popping in to, with its box pews, brasses and old stained glass.

yoko artwork

On a visit to the National Gallery this morning, my companion and I contributed to a Yoko Ono artwork which was there as part of a Love exhibition - there were postit notes and pens, and Yoko invited us to write messages to loved ones on the notes and stick them on her boards, or stick photos of loved ones on the boards. The boards would then be sent to Yoko when the exhibition finished. My companion wrote 'granny' on her postit and stuck it on; I stuck on a blank postit, which I thought was very much in the spirit of Yoko and which she would appreciate - I say that knowing she will never see it, but it amused me to do it and to imagine she would spot this blank one with a smile of appreciation.

john burridge

[Of goalkeeper John Burridge] As a former Aston Villa team-mate Andy Gray recalls of their time sharing a house together: 'On Friday nights Budge would come down into the sitting room wearing his goalkeeping gloves and sit down on the sofa in front of the TV. My job was to test his reflexes by hurling bits of fruit at him when he least expected it.'
- from The Season, 'introduction to the football season' supplement which came with the Guardian of Monday 11 August.

Growing up we were always mindful of the fact that Andy Gray had a Lewis connection, specifically Back I think, although I'm not sure how strong it was.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

the who effect

We walked past the Duke of York's theatre after lunch today and there were several people hanging about the entrance to the stage door alleyway, some with cameras, some looking like they had things to sign. It's Under The Blue Sky, not a major play or a big theatre, nor with a major star in it, so it was a bit puzzling, until I remembered Catherine Tate was in it. The Doctor Who effect. Doctor Who's really been rehabilitated since its relaunch. I read yesterday that at the RSC Hamlet they're only allowing Hamlet/RSC-related things to be brought for signing, and not Doctor Who (David T) or Star Trek (Patrick S) stuff. It makes me slightly tetchy in a pompous theatrical way to think that I probably won't get to see that Hamlet because of Trekkies and Whovians who aren't that interested in Hamlet, and who didn't see David T first time round in Taking Over The Asylum, which made his name first and which has its relevance to Hamlet. Bitter old snob that I am.

A couple of seconds further down St Martin's Lane, passed Moira Stewart coming the other way.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

what we did on our long weekend

(Two weekends ago)

Dropped in on Gainsthorpe deserted medieval village off the former Ermine Street between Peterborough and Scunthorpe. It was nice to pop in since we were passing, just a couple of minutes off our route and a chance to stretch our legs, but I'm glad we didn't make a special trip: the aerial photo on the information board was the most interesting thing about it, otherwise it was just a lumpy field with some cows in it. But some info online. Some Google images. The Wikipedia page, which actually has a photo of the info board. The English Heritage page, and another one. And the best one, from an amateur site on the Lost Villages of Lincolnshire.

Went to Stephen and Amy's wedding in Hull.

Spent time in Ripon, which was a nice wee place, staying in Box Tree Cottages, which was also a nice wee place (we were in bedroom 6). We arrived on Sunday morning and went straight to church at Bethel Evangelical Church. In the afternoon we heard the Ripon City Band in Spa Gardens.

On Monday we visited Ripon Cathedral and Newby Hall and Gardens, including a sculpture park, children's playpark and miniature railway. Newby Hall is still lived in, and one of the bedrooms we toured round had been slept in by the queen mother in the Eighties, which reminds you that the stately homes that we visit aren't just a historic thing of the past but still the regular accommodation that a class of people live and socialise in. Then back to Ripon and the funfair in the market square.

On Monday morning, before going home in the afternoon, we visited Ripley (here's a tourist info page) and Ripley Castle grounds, which was a bit disappointing not because of the rain - it rained pretty much all day - but because the castle itself was only visitable by guided tour and there was one family tour a day but for age 5+ only. The town was very interesting, as a rebuilt estate town - another reminder of the class system. The castle and village seem to live off their picturesqueness and tourist value, and why not.

Monday, 11 August 2008

k d lang's travelling habits

In the Word's subscribers covering letter this month, David Hepworth writes about the books and music you take on holiday and travelling and says that K D Lang 'told me that when she gets on a plane it's with a bottle of water and nothing else. She likes to look out of the window and just think.'

barbados v grenada

Snopes's account of one of those peculiar stories that turns out to be true, the Barbados v Grenada group match in 1994 where Barbados progressed by deliberately scoring against themselves.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

the king of yugoslavia's chair

At a Fabian event David Blunkett expresses his dislike of the monarchy, and of being forced to stand on ceremony, so to speak. "The Queen Mother died when I was home secretary and I had to go to a memorial. I went to sit down and a civil servant said, 'That's reserved for the King of Yugoslavia.' 'But there is no King of Yugoslavia,' I replied. 'No, not right now there isn't, but constitutionally, there could be one. And this is his seat.'" The king is dead, long live the chair.
- from the Guardian Backbencher email, 2 July

Saturday, 9 August 2008

bernice bobs her hair

You can't judge a book by its title, but it can make you want to read it. If On A Winter's Night A Traveller..., by Italo Calvino, was one, and it was disappointing. We Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Partly Right, by Tony Campolo, was another, and that was good. Bernice Bobs Her Hair is an F Scott Fitzgerald story which I read at the weekend which I'd heard of long ago; it was quite good.

Friday, 8 August 2008

telegraph hamlet

Unsurprisingly, a lot of Hamlet coverage at the moment, with 'Doctor Who' and 'Captain Pickard' doing their RSC turn - well received, unsurprisingly, since they're both very good actors. Here's hoping for a return ticket when it comes to London. From the Telegraph, here's Richard Eyre on Hamlet, Gregory Doran on the production, David Tennant as Hamlet in pictures, and Charles Spencer's review, which also has a link to a set of photos of every Hamlet he's seen, which I don't seem to be able to link to directly.

names of meals

There have doubtless been written learned dissertations on what is revealed about a person's class and place of origin by what they call the meals they eat during the day. My three meals growing up were called breakfast, dinner and supper; Bethan's were breakfast, lunch and dinner.

beatles covers

Having done complete cover CDs of covers of Revolver and Sgt Pepper's, Mojo is this month and next month doing the White Album, which will eat a bit further into my list of Beatles songs for which I don't yet own a cover version.

Current list:
All I’ve Got To Do With The Beatles
All Together Now Yellow Submarine
Ask Me Why Please Please Me
Baby You’re A Rich Man Magical Mystery Tour
Cry Baby Cry The Beatles
Dig A Pony Let It Be
Dig It Let It Be
Every Little Thing Beatles for Sale
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey The Beatles
For You Blue Let It Be
Free As A Bird Anthology
Hold Me Tight With The Beatles
I Me Mine Let It Be
I Need You Help!
I’ll Get You Past Masters Vol 1
I’m Down Past Masters Vol 1
I’ve Got A Feeling Let It Be
If I Fell A Hard Day’s Night
It Won’t Be Long With The Beatles
It’s Only Love Help!
Love Me Do Please Please Me
Misery Please Please Me
No Reply Beatles For Sale
Not A Second Time With The Beatles
Oh! Darling Abbey Road
Old Brown Shoe Past Masters Vol 2
Only A Northern Song Yellow Submarine
P.S. I Love You Please Please Me
Real Love Anthology
Revolution No 9 The Beatles
Sexy Sadie The Beatles
Thank You Girl Past Masters Vol 1
The Ballad Of John And Yoko Past Masters Vol 2
The Inner Light Past Masters Vol 2
What You’re Doing Beatles For Sale
When I Get Home A Hard Day’s Night
Yer Blues Let It Be
You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) Past Masters Vol 2
You Like Me Too Much Help!
You’re Going To Lose That Girl Help!

Thre are some there I'm surprised I don't have covers of, while some are quite predictable. It's likely that I'll never get cover versions of Real Love and Free As A Bird. But I will get all the others, especially if people keep putting out whole album covers.