Thursday, 30 September 2010

rory kinnear as laertes

Yesterday I read a Daily Telegraph email which reminded me that Rory Kinnear as Hamlet at the National Theatre was coming up sooner than I thought, ie first preview tonight. Looked online and saw they had tickets for the previews, so got one for tomorrow night, fourth row centre, somehow. Maybe it'll overrun by two hours, I wouldn't mind that.

Anyway, I found this interview-based Guardian article of 19 September on Rory Kinnear. Favourite bit:

'He hasn't seen Hamlet on stage since appearing in Trevor Nunn's Old Vic production in 2004, playing Laertes to Ben Whishaw's Hamlet. Hytner had already picked him for the part by the time Law and Tennant took the stage, so he avoided both productions. "I thought, if they've had a good idea, then I will probably try and not do it. If I end up recreating the exact idea, at least I will have done it with impunity."
'As for the Whishaw production, he hardly remembers it: Laertes has a two-and-a-half hour break in the show, so "I wasn't around much". Wasn't he backstage? He looks sheepish: at the time, Kinnear lived 10 minutes' walk from the Old Vic, so would pop home to eat dinner and watch the European Championships on TV, "then return for a quick fence and a howl".'

london park hotel

We were in St Mary's Churchyard playpark on Saturday when a suitcase-dragging North American asked me where the London Park Hotel was. I had to tell him that he was in the right place, but that it had been knocked down (about three years ago, in fact), leaving just the waste ground behind the hoardings. He said there were still signs up for it. We directed him to the other side of the IWM where there are a couple of chain hotels.

Unlike the Strata tower, the redevelopment there wasn't far enough ahead of the credit crunch when it came. It was going to be the same size of tower, plus a low rise development the rest of the block, including various amenities including a new theatre for the Southwark Playhouse, which is still doing fine in its post-industrial venue off Tooley Street.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

sid james infirmary

Mark Ellen: Word reader Alan Davies has just emailed me about his latest composition, Sid James Infirmary - which suggests an amusing Massive-related thread in the making. Any more Pro-Celebrity Song Titles? The Paul Greengrass Of Home?
- a thread from the Word forum. A lot to wade through, but some gems.

martin sheen on religion

Interviewer: I really appreciate that you're trying to deal with religion and spirituality in this movie in an open-minded, non-cynical fashion, without totally embracing it or totally rejecting it. That's a difficult thing to do. Our country is so messed up around religion.

M.S.: No kidding! [Laughter.]

Interviewer: I know -- what a brilliant observation, right? But you guys call our attention here to a tradition of Western spirituality that runs deep in our European roots and has very little to do with organized religion. The Camino de Santiago is a perfect example. I feel like so many educated Westerners go toward the Eastern spiritual traditions partly because they don't see that or understand it.

E.E.: Sure, they want a response to the dogma of Christianity. They go to Hinduism, they go to Buddhism, just because it's something different than their parents. They want to get away from that. I think it's a knee-jerk reaction.

M.S.: Religions separate us, by their very nature. Spirituality unites us. That's the key, and if spirituality is not about humanity, it's not spiritual. I am a practicing Catholic. I love the faith. I'm not nuts about the institution, but the faith is mine, everywhere I go in the world. The belief that God became human -- that's genius, man. And that God would choose to dwell where we would least likely look, inside ourselves and each other. The genius of God in our humanity, I love that.

Every culture has that -- the Hindus, Muslims, all of them have it. That's the fundamental belief in all true believers, that God is present, God suffers and is broken with us. That's why the Catholics never removed the corpse from the cross. Our hero is a convicted criminal. He was tried and convicted in a kangaroo court and then he was murdered. That's God. We're embraced by that. The most fundamental, most basic, most sincere beliefs -- that's not religion. It's spirituality. It's transcendence. People are looking for transcendence now more than ever, I think. Sometimes our transcendence becomes drugs, alcohol, money, power, sex, and they're so shallow. It's we ourselves, we must surrender ourselves to our brokenness. That's the beginning of community, and that's what this film is all about.

- Salon interview, 18 September, with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez on their new film. Somehow Catholics in the USA don't seem to have the same view of the incompatibility of religion and left-wing politics which evangelicals unfortunately have.

Friday, 24 September 2010

south london's heygate estate mourned by locals – and hollywood

Crumbling flats provided gritty, urban backdrop for Clint Eastwood film and TV shows including The Bill and Spooks
- Guardian, 3 September

Thursday, 23 September 2010

nine nine nine

I phoned for an ambulance yesterday for the first time ever. A collision between a bike and motorbike across St George's Road from me, at Princess St junction; I didn't see it, but heard it and saw things go flying; they were both on the ground and I started dialling straight away. It would be interesting to hear a recording of my call, because by the end I was being apologetic and saying that perhaps I shouldn't have rung, since they were both up and seemed okay, but the operator said not to worry and better safe than sorry. An ambulance and ambulance motorbike were there in three or four minutes. The motorbike didn't stay long but I was in a way, well, not pleased exactly but happy that I wasn't wasn't wasting ambulance time, that the cyclist was taken into the ambulance adn was still there by the time I left. A policeman came along in a car before too long also, as I thought might happen, and got statements from the two ladies who had been passing and who had seen it and had been attending to the lady cyclist. The motorcyclist was still there too. I don't know who was at fault.

Monday, 20 September 2010

why norman davies wrote 'the isles'

From the pile, a radio listing for 27 September 2000 torn out of Time Out containing a very striking fact:
Sunday Feature - The John Tusa Interview 5.45-6.30 R3
Norman Davies, Emeritus Professor of History at London University and author of two 1,000-page bestsellers: first 'Europe - A History' and more recently, 'The Isles', is in to defend his controversial approach to history. Sitting on a university examination committee, he discovered that out of 400 questions on British history, 399 were actually about English history. In 'The Isles', he set out to redress the balance.

the pile

I've also been going through my pile of various forms of printed paper, and have made a start at throwing some of it away, mainly old newspapers. The things that need filing or reading, or typing up, will take longer to work through. The oldest substantial layer was from 2005, well back into the period where finding an online link to the interesting thing in the paper wasn't an option, so lots of things of that nature (to add to the dedicated pile of cuttings which formerly sat on the shelf beside me until it got too precipitous and precarious and was put into a bag for life of its own, which I have just now moved to my bedside 'for the moment'. Also the period where there are lists of things I've worked out and drawn up for myself which I would now just Google and find online, like discographies. It made me think of Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, which featured a mathematical hermit of a previous century, spending a lifetime working out calculations which could be done in the twinkling of an eye on a computer today.

carpet cleaning

We had our carpets and sofas cleaned last Tuesday, fairly successfully, which in turn led to the filling of several recycling and rubbish bags, as we tried to sort through some of our piles and boxes rather than just putting them all back where they were before. The under-bed boxes in particular got a good going over; I rationalised my 'archives' of publications I have written/edited over the last nineteen years to one copy of each thing; next time I suspect I might rationalise them to no copies at all. It's an odd thing seeing your work time encased in four small boxes, which realistically you'll never refer to. Similarly we have a tower of boxes containing all our photos, between the wardrobe and the outside wall, which we've never looked at since I sorted them away there. People sometimes say of digital photos that you will never look at them because you don't print them out, but we certainly look at the photos on our laptop much more than we ever looked at our prints.

Many of the recycling bags are filled with baby clothes, bedding and paraphernalia. It's highly unlikely we will regret this unprecipitate action...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

mark david chapman, fame monster

Mark David Chapman, fame monster: Newly released transcripts of John Lennon's killer reveal his surprising insights into modern celebrity culture
Before the Internet, it was a lot harder for crazy people to get attention. On a December night in 1980, Mark David Chapman stood outside an Upper West Side apartment building and put four bullets into a Beatle. His admitted motive – one that has not wavered in all the ensuing years – seemed a peculiarly cruel anomaly then. He was chasing fame. Thirty years later, who isn't?
Speaking to Larry King a decade ago, Chapman talked about the "rock bottom" self-esteem of celebrity stalkers, noting, "They feel that by writing fan letters or actually coming in close contact with a celebrity, they feel important. If you have nothing to start with, and your life consists of fantasizing about celebrities or being with them, that can become very dangerous. And that is a phenomenon in this country now that has to be addressed." This may sound strange, but that psycho killer has a good point.
The fact that movie stars are not routinely gunned down makes it clear that Chapman's particular brand of mental illness hasn't become epidemic. But his weird notion that getting on TV or a mention on the news is the eminently desirable has taken off like gangbusters. The difference between today and 1980 is that you don't have to kill to get a celebrity to notice you. You can just buy that. But as John Lennon's killer explains, "Somebodies are people that have worked for their fame [and] achieved something special." Chapman knows, despite his ability to get in the papers, "I am not anybody special."
- Salon, 17 September. My memory of the time is that the talk then was of split personality and that he'd believed he had become John Lennon. Reading this made me think of the Peter Gabriel song, Family Snapshot (which Wikipedia entry brings as news to me, though it shouldn't, that XTC's Dave Gregory played guitar on that, and presumably throughout the album).

Saturday, 18 September 2010

'the sort of person whose circle of friends...'

[In interviewing people] Tatchell keeps drawing the viewer's attention back to him, with interjections that repeat to us what we have just heard for ourselves. Tatchell, of course, is a long-time campaigner for gay and lesbian rights, and that's fine, but you get the very strong impression he is the sort of person whose circle of friends must include, above all, good listeners.
- The Square Fellow, the Free Press's TV columnist, this week, in his report of a Peter-Tatchell-presented doc on the Pope. It's the description of his circle of friends which I like. I saw Peter Tatchell in our Tesco a few months ago, in fact, late on a Saturday evening.

I also see from this week's Free Press that I could go to the Guardian offices and see the Murdo Macleod photo exhibition we saw at An Lanntair last month. And that if I was in Portree this coming Tuesday I could hear Jeremy Brooks give the talk on the Scottish Reformation that he gave in London on Thursday night (but I didn't go to that).

murdanie mast's brushes with death

In 1946, Murdanie joined the Merchant Navy and sailed the world several times over. His travels provided the raw material for a lifetime of great stories and even better songs. They also brought at least two very close calls with death.
In 1955, Murdanie went to the whaling in South Georgia. The New Year found him down at the Ice Barrier where no alcohol was allowed so he and three mates from Lewis celebrated by dividing an apple among them. Not long afterwards, Murdanie slipped a disc and was sent home on the first available ship. The three Lewismen with whom he had shared the apple never made it home. Kenneth Finlayson from Shawbost, Alasdair MacDonald from Achmore and Angus MacLeod from Ranish all died from poisonous gasses that had built up in the hold of their ship, which had been carrying bonemeal in the tropical heat.
A few years later and just after he married Louisa - who was, quite literally, the 'girl next door' in Marbhaig - Murdanie signed on to a coaster, the 'St Ronan', so that he could be home at weekends. Their first cargo was bound for Rotterdam but they hit terrible fog in the English Channel and another ship - 'like Mount Everest coming out of the fog' - cut straight through the 'St Ronan'. Three men drowned but seven were saved, largely due to the fact that the night before Murdanie had studied the instructions on the safety raft and managed to inflate it.
- from his obituary in this week's Free Press

The miracle of Google leads me to this Ships Nostalgia thread, which reveals the collision was with the Mount Athos in 1959.

michael sheen's musical tastes

In just a few hours, Michael Sheen will be flying from Heathrow to Denver, Colarado, and he's clearly excited. His ultimate destination is Red Rock, an outdoor ampitheatre where he'll watch some of his boyhood musical heroes perform. 'I got a record player recently and so started rebuying albums I loved as a teenager. Then I started looking up the bands online, found that two of my very favourites were on tour this summer and vowed to get myself tickets. Jethro Tull I saw recently in Toronto and they were brilliant. Now I'm going to be seeing Rush. I can hardly wait.'
- from an interview article in this week's Radio Times. Distance no object, clearly

Saturday, 11 September 2010

michael collins

The Dervla Kirwan episode of Who Do You Think You Are? makes one thing clear: Michael Collins looked a lot like Kenneth Branagh and not much like Liam Neeson. (Dervla is Michael's great-great-niece.)

before coronation street

Casting was another challenge. Northerners were still so marginalised by the television industry that finding actors who were equal to Warren's demanding writing was tough. They went to a couple of veterans, Doris Speed [who would become Ena Sharples] and Violet Carson (Annie Walker], with whom Warren had workd on radio and television. Both had effectively given up on acting. Speed, already 60, was working as a secretary in a Guinness factory.
- article in this week's Radio Times on a drama re the beginnings of Coronation Street

lost property at football grounds

"One of our supporters has reported the loss of a personal item following Saturday's home match with Morecambe. The item - a light blue sweater - was lost around Row K, Seat 75 in the South Stand Lower after the end of the game. Any supporters with information regarding the missing item are asked to contact the club on 01865 337500" - An urgent lost-and-found message on the Oxford United website. You wouldn't get that at the Old Trafford or the Emirates, would you?
- Quote of the Day, Guardian Fiver, Tue 7 September

"Re: the lost sweater at Oxford Utd (yesterday's quote of the day). I brought my son to Eastlands about two months after the Sheikhs' takeover and left a bag with a new kids' home shirt in it under the seat at the end of the game. Not 20 seconds later I realised this and went back to find said bag gone. With upset kid in tow, I asked the security people if there was a lost and found stall or, even better, perhaps they could check on CCTV who picked the bag up. I was then met with the perfect response from Moneybags FC: 'Sorry, nothing we can do, you could always go back across to the megastore and buy the lad another shirt.' Welcome to the Premier League son" Les Hickey.
- letter, Guardian Fiver, Wed 8 September

"Re: lost property at football (Fiver passim). I sat in the away end to watch Leicester v QPR on a freezing night in January 2006. On my return home I discovered that, in the excitement of a dramatic away win, I was without my wedding ring (after fewer than six months of marriage). A few frantic phone calls to bus operators revealed nothing so I put in a less-than-hopeful call to Loftus Road. After explaining my predicament, a chap from security advised the School End was currently being cleaned and, if I could remember my seat number, he would have a look and call me back. After 15 tense minutes the phone did ring and my wedding ring had been retrieved, after spending a cold night in the stand. We were reunited that evening and, am still wearing it as I type, thanks to the Super Hoops" - Kevin Wesson.
- letter, Guardian Fiver, Thu 9 September

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

crampton school developments

Good news in the pipeline for Crampton Primary School
Crampton Primary School in Iliffe Street, SE17 (behind Kennington tube) have submitted a planning application for an extension to build:

* A new entrance and reception for the school
* A new classroom
* Additional accommodation for multi-use teaching room and space for breakfast club
* Additional accommodation for an enlarged library
* A pedestrian entrance on Iliffe Street and new staffroom

- continues on the Lurking about SE11 blog.

Here's the planning application on the Southwark council website.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

undercover among the evangelicals

Undercover Among the Evangelicals: They're nice, but they don't know how to think.
- book review, Books & Culture, July/August 2010

In the Land of Believers concludes with this earnest plea:
"If we don't love Evangelicals, if we don't make an effort to understand and accept them, to eat the fish even as it wriggles in our hands, we'll always be each other's nemeses. We'll always be trying to drown each other out. Threaten them, ridicule them, celebrate their humiliation, and you create a toxic dump, fertile ground for a ferocious adversary to rise, again and again. But listen to them, include them in the public conversation, understand the sentiments behind their convictions, and you invent the possibility of kinship."
Apart from the creepy and inexplicable metaphor, this sounds good—until you realize that "understand the sentiments behind their convictions" is exactly what Welch means. She may claim to be portraying the evangelical mind, but her entire narrative is marked by a determined refusal to comprehend that there *is* one.
"[H]ow was I to find a place among people indifferent to facts?", Welch writes in her introduction. It is an opinion that never shifts a millimeter. Listening to Jerry Falwell preach about the offense of the cross, she muses: "By embracing the inscrutable cross, Christians were comfortable not fully comprehending the concepts around which they built their lives." Christian beliefs bypass the brain altogether; the whole notion of the Trinity, she remarks, "reminded me of nothing more than Dracula's ability to transmute into a bat or mist." She is tone-deaf to conviction, unable to comprehend that doctrine has anything to do with the behavior of the people she claims to love.
Which is simpler for her, because she can blame everything she dislikes about evangelicals on cultural influence, and cultivate her affection for them without having to think about what they actually *believe*.

Monday, 6 September 2010

digby chick review

Restaurant review: Digby Chick. The last thing you'd expect in this distant corner of Scotland is a smart, buzzy outpost of Islington…
- Observer, 5 September

A good review. We didn't eat there this year, unusually.

guga complainers

Almost every year there's press coverage of complaints about the guga hunt. Here's this year's, in the Guardian, of 25 August:

Cliffhanger for a bloody tradition as last of Scotland's gannet hunters set sail
• Animal charity seeks end to 'cruel cull' of guga chicks
• Hebrides' seabird delicacy splits conservationists

gallows hill

A YouTube video, 360 degrees video from Gallows Hill.

west gallery music

I'm thinking of going along to the London Gallery Quire on Wednesday to try it out - Bethan's at the Barts Choir tonight starting Verdi's Requiem.

Some information on West Gallery music. Wikipedia. West Gallery Music Association. West Gallery Music.

how panhandlers use free credit cards

What would happen if, instead of spare change, you handed a person in need the means to shop for whatever they needed? What would they buy? Can you spare your credit card, sir?
- Toronto Star, 28 August

End of article:
How the cards were used
Card 1: $50, handed to Jason. Spends $8.69 at McDonald’s. Returns card.
Card 2: $50, to Mark. Spends $21.64 at The Corner Place restaurant. Doesn’t return. Later spends $15.50 at the LCBO.
Card 3: $75, to Joanne. Card is stolen. Over two days, $24.95 spent at McDonald’s, $38.35 at the LCBO.
Card 4: $50, to Al. Card unreturned. Balance remains at $50
Card 5: $75. Laurie buys $74.61 worth of food, phone minutes and cigarettes at a gas station convenience store. Returns card.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

technological developments

Maintaining my reputation as a late adopter, a couple of things happened during our Lewis holiday:
- we used our laptop on my mother's wifi successfully, and yesterday took delivery of a BT wireless Home Hub, which we are now using
- we signed up for BT Fon/Openzone, which is free if you are BT Broadband at home, and tried that out successfully in Lewis too
- my iPod died, and looking into replacing it it looked like the best option was an iPod Touch, which I reckoned, and which it turns out everyone reckons, is essentially an iPhone without a phone in it. So I bought one of those on Wednesday, the day before - I discovered today - the big (annual?) Apple announcement of their new and upgraded products, doubtless pushing my model down to the bottom rung of the ladder, if that. Still, I'm liking it so far. And I successfully went online using that on our Home Hub yesterday. In fact, looking at the apple and John Lewis websites today, they newly-upgraded versions of the Touch are on sale now, £50 more expensive than the one I bought for extra features that I won't miss.
- Bethan would have bought a Samsung netbook on Wednesday too, if they'd had it in stock (John Lewis). And we will do a bit more research before we buy a new digital/fm/ipod-dock radio for the kitchen.

I told Douglas about this great leap forward and he reported this conversation with James:
Welcome to the world of wireless. I mentioned your advancement to James which provoked
"what! He has never been on the internet?"
"No he has used the internet and email for a very long time."
"But how could he connect to the internet without wi-fi?"
"He would use a cable."
"And plug it in?" Simulates the motion with a puzzled look.

It's one thing when technology from your own childhood seems positively primitive to your children, but another when it's technology from what seems like just yesterday.

The Touch is of course a double-edged sword, opening yet another way for the overwhelming torrent of information and entertainment. I'm not sure yet how I will use the Touch beyond music, but that will unfold gradually I expect. I have already watched something on it on the BBC iPlayer (and listened to the iPlayer on the laptop in the kitchen). I sent a short email to Bethan on it, but don't imagine I'll be doing a lot of typing on it.