Monday, 31 August 2009

Titanics and a lot more

For a brief moment on Sunday lunchtime I thought I had unintentionally deleted the file of completed MySpace Blogs from 2008 onwards from the desktop. I was relaxed because I only recently made a copy on disc and guessed that the more likely explanation was than had unintentionally transferred the file to within another file, and which proved to be what had happened. I would not have been surprised if I had deleted the file such was my relaxed and lazy condition of the morning. I had gone to bed late for the second night in succession having plated free games on the internet I had searched for these having enjoyed playing the undeleted Acer games on the lap top as they are good test of visual awareness and manual dexterity and understanding as well as seeing what is there and responding to the immediate rather than reflection. However it is important to also remember the sequence of the games and the pattern of variations.

My enthusiasm for games originated with one of the he earliest consoles sold on the market. This had a simple green screen and was marketed as a tennis game. However it was quickly evident that whoever had one of the two sides had the advantage and won. On progressing to the Commodore sixty four the games had to be loaded from tapes. They varied from a game of cricket to Alice which had several levels and was very enjoyable, to patience a game which in its different forms I have been playing for over twenty years. I then moved to the green screen Amstrad era of the 256 and 512 and concentrated on word processing, spread sheets and databases without games of any kind. The purchase of an Amstrad with colour screen, TV and Telephone link introduced to the game of patience called hearts where I had a spell of completing 0-10000 in sequence. I invested in joystick for Fury and shootem game. The Joy stick has an old connection as the hand held games player. However they still work on the Amstrad Integra.

My exploration of free games on line led to the discovery of a replica of Deal or not Deal in which there are 25 cases and you select one hoping it contains 3,4,5, 750000 million dollars to 1million or settle for the offer from the Banker which he raises or reduces according to the whether large amounts remain possibilities against the smaller ones of under $5000. Having played about a dozen times only once did I deal for a sum lower than in the case 19000 instead of £50000, whereas in accepting offers of between 30000 and 25000 these were all major good decision with the amount in the case $10000 at the most.

I have played three other games with a monopoly games taking up over an hour last night until it ended just as I was about to reap the reward of being able to cheat a fictitious human opponent when I was invited to purchase the full edition as the trial has ended.

There are two sites with hundreds of games which one doe snot have to buy although one offers the opportunity of a full screen. On this there the game of Zuma shooting game which is also available on the lap top and another shooting game with duck and terrorist penguins! Before going to bed I tried to become a master chocolatier but sleep beckoned I shall investigate further when I have made progress on other matters. The playing of game sums the weekend which at best can be recorded as a lost one, without memorable new experience or work productivity.

I had some good fortune after lunch on Saturday, I had walked into the town centre to purchase some glue to finish the kitchen floor from Wilkinson’s. At the entry there was a sale of back to school items and there was some pockets of the better quality usually 95 pence fro 50 but £1 for two in the sale which is super value. I then discovered there was a new supply of the 40 page display albums with eight blue and six black available. The problem is that this became a heavy load even with the back shoulder bag. I thought it was worthwhile checking the time of the 500 but to the Lawe Top just across the flat of Market square and although it only operates once an hour on Saturdays, one was due within five minutes excellent. This is the first time I have used the bus and wondered about the route. It goes up the Roman Road to the road before the school and then turns horizontally to Law Road, going up to the turning circle before going down to the Park. I had a short walk down hill from the stop.

I needed some joy as Durham were blitzed by Sussex in everyway last night after losing the toss with a glued pitch with Sussex 277 for 6 and then collapsing with James Kirtley taking five opening batsmen for 26 and all out for 84 in only 24 of the 40 overs. Although they had rested some key bowlers and Benkenstein Mustard Smith Chanderpaul and Coetzer where there with Ben Harmison Breeze and Plunket are also able to bat so there is no excuse except they knew they had to go for the runs. Afterwards I watched a couple of episodes of Taggart back to back one with the Mark McManus which took me through to 2am.

There was additional joy on Saturday afternoon when Warrington won the Rugby League challenge Cup at Wembley after blitzing Huddersfield by three tries to 1 in the first fifteen minutes. Huddersfield made mistakes in what remained an open contest during the rest of the first half. The game tightened during the second period and Huddersfield came back at one point but never were able to make significant challenge with the final result

However Sunderland lost 1.0 to stoke and on Sunday Manchester rain prevented the kind of rout which Durham experienced at Sussex as England were 4 runs for two wickets in response to Australia’s 145 for their 20 overs. The large crowd had paid a lot of money for this miserable outing. As expected the three first division games ended in draws so that unless Durham lose all four remaining games gaining say 20 bonus points and making a total of 296 and Notts and Somerset win of their three remaining games, including games against Durham at the Riverside to overtake them. The position could be settled this week as Durham take on Somerset on Tuesday. Notts take on Yorks on Thursday so by Sunday the championship could be Durham’s. Hopefully the weather will improve.

The weekend also provided the opportunity to compare two films about the sinking of the Titanic, Fortunately the ship was only two thirds of its maximum occupancy because there were only lifeboats for one third of the capacity. However because of the criminal negligence of the chairman of the line and the captain and his senior crew less than a third of those on board survived when in fact it should have been as high as 50%given the space on the lifeboats it carried. Of course the ship should never have hit the iceberg if warnings has been properly dealt with and the ship had travelled at a more reasonable speed until it engines had been run in. It was badly designed with its emphasis upon 1st Class passengers 329 who paid something like $80000 £50000 dollars for the crossing. Just over 60% survived. There were also 285 second class passengers with 41% surviving but only 24.5 of those in third class 710 and under 24% of the 899 crew. 706 of the 2223 on survived.

That more first and second class passengers survived than third also a deliberate decision taken by the ship’s management at the time. A night to remember had the affable and inoffensive Kenneth More and highlighted the fact that third class male passengers were only allowed on deck after the lifeboats had put to sea. Titanic the 1997film with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio has become the best grossing film world wide and won 11 Oscars. It is romantic and sentimental love story fantasy which nevertheless does cover some of management negligence and upper class snobbery of the day.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Volver and Herbie

I saw Volver in theatre soon after it was released and decided it was the best Almodovar experienced so finding that it was being shown on Film Four on Thursday evening I could not. The film has its dark side than previously appreciated although it is rightly branded as a comedy noir. I also enjoyed more of the one liners especially one at the beginning when Penelope and her daughter visit their aunt in the home village. The pay respects at the grave her mother who dies with her father in a fire and mother explains to the daughter that it is the custom in the village to buy a plot for themselves and then tender the spot weekly throughout their lives as if it was a weekend country cottage.

The darkness is the basic story. Penelope regrets that did not have closer contact with her mother before her death having broken relations when she married and moved to Madrid. The reason is that she was raped (effectively) by her father and pregnant had married had severed relations blaming her mother for more realising what had been happening to her. At the beginning the film, unknowing of this background Penelope’s daughter accidentally kills her step father for attempting to sexually her.

Given that the aunt is nearly blind and is suffering from severe memory, Penelope is surprise how the woman is coping although she has the support of a neighbour who has been wrestling with cancer over recent years and whose mother disappeared on the same day as the parents died in the fire. She and her sister have the wish to know what to their mother four years ago. The other sister works for a TV company and in order for the other sister to be sent to the USA for a treatment possible cure she ahs to agree to appear on a programme and reveal the scandal that the husband killed in the fire was a notorious ladies man and that this was an important aspects of the parental disappearance. I cannot remember if she was aware that her mother had been having an affair with the man.

Back in Madrid Penelope has been asked to keep an eye on the restaurant which a neighbour has decided to sell because of the lack of business. Penelope hides her husbands body in the freezer until she can arrange its disposal. Meanwhile a film company is shooting nearby and the crew manager asks if the restaurant can provide refreshment during the day for a two week period which Penelope obliges with the help of friends and this is a great success so much so that Penelope decides to continue with the restaurant negotiating a deal on rent with the owner. She hires a van and with the help of a friend, an illegal immigrant who works as a prostitute she buries her husband in the freezer close to a river which he loved about 180 Kilometres from where she now lives.

The commitment to the business not she has become a single parent prevents her from attending the unreal of her aunt when she dies. But she is represented by her sister who works illegally as a hairdresser from her apartment home. While at the funeral she hears rumours that her mother’s ghost has been appearing and taking care of her aunt and when in the aunt’s house she thinks she has seen her mother who then hitches a ride in the boot of her car giving her a great shock when she arrives back and realises it is not a ghost.

The true story emerges that the mother finding out that her mothers was having an affair and that he had fathered a child by his daughter, causes the fire which kills him and his lover. She then spends the next four years caring for her sister who because of her disease accepts her sister as if she has never been away from the former family home and although she keeps to the house neighbours have heard one sister talking the other and some have seen her from outside the property. Although she is not know where her daughter lives she is passed to the customers as a refugee from Russia who cannot speak Spanish. The grand daughter is the next to meet the deceased woman after being required to be looked after by her mother overnight when she buries her husband. Finally she meets up with her mother and they re reconciled. They return to the village, stopping at the place where the husband is buried and a favourite family picnic spot.

Earlier the woman with cancer has asked Penelope that if she encounters the ghost of her mother to ask her if she knows what happened to her mother and under pressure she decides not raise the matter at the TV show losing the opportunity to go to the Houston USA for a cure. She has an operation in Spain which fails and has only short time to live. Penelope’s mother decides to stay in village and look after the daughter of the woman she burnt to death with her husband.

This is a film where women are the hero’s doing what has to be done to survive and protect their own. The script it witty and sharp, The camera work delicious especially on Penelope.

Just a little word about Herbie goes bananas. Herbie is the Volkswagen Beetle with attitude and a fighting spirit as well as romantic inclinations. It was the fourth and last of the original series until twenty five years later the concept as resurrected in 2005 and short lived. It is aimed at a children family audience but these days the age limit should be five years or over seventies!.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Il Sahara Segreto, Torchwood, Mike Hammar

It is 10 am Sunday in August. I cannot be immediately precise because the calendar, temperature and other info on the desk top did not appear when I logged on. The computer has been playing up over the past week, shutting everything down and then starting up of its own accord, if left on while I watched TV.

I did not have a good night. I remember the dreams which I broadly understand, full of journeys and situation which did not turn out as they should in normal circumstances. It is in fact 23rd of August as the info became available when later in the day rebooted because the mouse was playing up. Some time ago, over a year and perhaps more than two I bought a wireless mouse but was not wireless organised at the time. I searched found the control unit which I then discovered had inbuilt software after searching for what I believed was a small disk and then changed the batteries and it worked so I can complete writing these notes which cover part of the last three days.

I have watched a lot of TV, and eat more than I should without much exercise, went to bed when tired and had the normal ration of sleep. I have also lost my mobile phone somewhere in the house. I sent a text yesterday morning. I remember checking it once during the day. I have not been out of the house and I feel too physically lazy to go in search at this moment but I am in the mood to write. I also have a vague notion of a theme for today with having commenced watching the 4400, a DVD gift set to mark the 70th birthday, prompted by watching another episode of Torchwood, recognising that the Torchwood time traveller had also appeared in a similar role in several episodes of Dr Who and where a preoccupation with children is of interest, understandable perhaps in view of the target audience, except that it is not the usual theme of Dr Who.

I also watched a strange Spaghetti Arabian on Saturday nights called il segreto del Sahara with Michael York, Ben Kingsley, David Soul and Andy MacDowell.

There was also James Wood as Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Stacey Keach in a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer. The latter two are out there on their own.

A mobile phone cannot disappear in a house so I will wash and shave and try to find it before getting down to the writing. The idea of where the phone might be came to me while shaving after washing my hair. I was right and it was tucked in under the cover of the settee around the side corner. That has cheered me up a little. Most of yesterday was spent watching sport as I also plan today but first the Mike Hammer, working backwards to paradise, walking backwards reminds Helen Shapiro.

I had seen the Mikey Spillane before but I still got the plot wrong. The child of an actress is kidnapped while protected by Mike Hammer and for most of the film he suspects the child’s father as being implicated, correctly, and then the child’s mother, which was my belief. The child is recovered and the father was implicated because of gambling debt but the mystery focus was on a rogue Vietnam war unit which had originally smuggled Vietnam children into the USA for adoption but later kidnapped children in the USA, with the money used to fund the returning veterans who could not cope with living in the USA again. To enjoy you just have to like Stacey Keach and Mike Hammer for their middle aged angry man act. The story line does not really matter.

I am still not sure what I made the of the Rudy Giuliani story. The film tried to present him in a good light but still managed to reveal that he is a typical American politician, mortgaged to the political bosses and the conflicting interest groups while wrestling with his internal demons as an ordinary male human being.

My main interest as always is how far the film followed his recent image due to the 9/11 horror or provided an account of his life in the round. It attempted to do both through flashbacks to the past and to indicate something of the man behind the political mask through aspects of his private life. Born in 1944, he married after graduating from law school a second cousin Catholic. A fact which he used to gain an annulment having not obtained the required dispensation from the church prior to the marriage. My understanding is that obtaining an annulment depends on who you know and how much to are able to fund the church in different countries and at different times, so I am not in a position on how far that Rudi as an influential lawyer working in the office of the Attorney General in Washington helped his cause to marry the new love, a television personality, in 1982. The relationship lasted a dozen years during which two children were born.

He then became involved with his communications director with the relationship he attempted to keep secret until the story broke in Vanity Fair in 1997. Two years later he became involved with a fourth individual which he kept secret for over a year but then for some extraordinary reason announced the end of his marriage on Television before advising his legal wife of the decision. Understandably his wife was not impressed with his actions and disagreed with his belief that she also wanted the marriage to end.

The debate about how far the behaviour of a politician in his private life should affect his public will remain ongoing and I suspect depends on how the media respond to disclosure and the relationship which the individual has with his local community. Labour lost the by election at Norwich after the sitting member was told he would not be allowed to sit, following a National executive inquisition held in response to media criticism for a few of the Members because of the use of public money as expenses and which to his local community and the rest of us appeared to have been without rhyme or reason given that he did no differently from a significant number of members of the Cabinet and government notably the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The film presented Giuliani has having an exceptionally poor public political popularity rating shortly before the events of 9/11. He then divorced his wife and married the person who had help him overcome treatment for a prostate cancer from which his father had died at the age of 73. He is reported to have become estranged from his children.

What is without question among political interests on both sides of the Atlantic is that Rudy responded to the events of 9/11 in such a way which united the city and which behind the scenes organised the recovery in an exceptionally efficient way. Whereas the American President went to ground acting on advice, Giuliani was on the scene from the outset. He received an honorary knighthood from the Queen of England and Time Magazine named him person of the year. Since leaving the Mayoralty he ran for President last year, dropping out at the beginning of 2008 after having done well in the previous year. He has become a partner in a law firm which immediately changed their name to incorporate his.

I watched the first of the new X Factor competition last night which although allocated a 90 minute peak evening session was full of long advertisement breaks. The new series of TV auditions has been changed in that instead of singing without a backing tape before judges, each artist has a backing tape and sings not just to the judges but to a live audience of several thousand. During the week I heard a short radio contribution from someone who arrived at the 02 arena at 9am, and was given his audition at 11pm. The thousands who attended, an estimated 20000 were shown together on the outside concourse. This is presumably because the programme organisers did not want us to see that in fact while everyone has an audition it was in wooden cubicles before two judges. There is no information on the numbers excluded or on those who are allowed to by pass the first stage because of their proven singing experience and who may even be put through to the third stage of the new public audience auditions.

There was one aspect of the radio caller which also caught my attention in that the impression obtained was the 99.99 percent of those attending were serious competitors which only the occasional fancy dressed individual who could not sing. This could indicate that such individuals are trawled separately from those who in general attend the auditions. It is evident that the programme creating are looking for an unknown they can make into a start, for a dozen outstanding individuals who will creating a series of engaging finals and conduct a commercially successful tour following the final, and for other acts who will entertain the TV public during the audition series. They are interested in individuals having a good popular TV image, a commanding and engaging presence before a large live audience and who can go on to hack it as a recording star. Few have gone to make it longer that a year. Will Young and Leona Lewis are the exceptions although a few have continued to entertain through live appearances.

One aspect which I noted last year is that many of those who are selected for the boot camp are showed briefly without the opportunity for the TV audience to hear them sing. I suspect that the audition series is not edited until after boot camp and the selection of those to be managed by the four judges has been made. Therefore we are shown these individuals in the auditions and it is rare for those highlighted in the audition programmes not make the final selections. To counter this suggestion, this year selected individuals are being shown with their family support which in the instance of a young pop star male singer from South Shields, included his whole family. I shall buy the local papers tomorrow where I expect there will be further information about them.

I described earlier Il Segreto del Sahara as a Spaghetti Arabian because it has the format of the Spaghetti western, a traditional film story with twists, an epic quality, in terms of scenery, cast and film length together with an all start cast. Their full Italian edition is six hours with this TV English language over two. The music signals the emotions in a heavy handed manner. There is nothing subtle. Michael York is an archaeologist seeking a lost city which reminds of Petra in Jordan, in this instance a mountain where there is said to be treasure. The treasure attracts the attention of a vicious Foreign Legionnaire, Lieutenant Ryker(David Soul) who at the end close of finding out the secret but is killed by Michael York in a sword dual. It also attracts the attention of the local bigwig in the walled city who captures York during the film after he has become blind and after failing to reveal that he knows anything about the secret mountain is employed as a medicine man.

York has become blind after getting to the Secret having encountered Ben Kingsley as a local Sheik in control of a community around an Oasis. This is the first surprise because Kingsley plays a Polish Jew married to a Muslim with a daughter brought up in the two faiths and someone who provides the moral philosophy of the film. He had is wife and community are slaughtered by Ryker and other mercenaries even though his wife has revealed the way to the Secret Mountain.

Early in the film York rescues the beautiful Queen guardian of the Secret Mountain (played by Andy McDowell) from the clutches of Ryker, and she rewards his action later when he reaches the mountain and should be put to death. He is however blinded by the light which dominates the secret although the sight is recovered through the tears of the Queen later. Although they have become lovers their destiny does not appear together as she is duty bound to marry the custodian of the Secret, but when he is killed in a fight with Ryker the two are free. York also has a son although I am not clear if this a biological or adopted son, of the circumstances of the relationship. I believe he is brought up by Ben Kingsley’s family.

And now we come to the Secret. This follows on a long tradition of science fiction belief that human progress occurred because of the intervention of superior beings who inhabit distant places in the galaxy. The blinding light is in fact nuclear energy which at the end of the film is able to power the space vehicle back to its origins, however leaving an enlightened York with his Arabian Queen with supernatural powers, and his son, to live a happy ever after human existence.

I also mentioned earlier that by excellent programme planning a Sky Channel featured an episode of Dr Who which included the Time traveller of Torchwood. In the Torchwood the earth, and London in particular was threatened by the younger brother of the Time Traveller who he had to leave but for which he had never been forgiven. In the prior episode of Dr Who the Time Traveller had been involved in the serial which involved children being used.

This bring me to the 4400 and Sky 1 project where the first disk contain the double episode starter pilot and first of the subsequent series. Something unexpected enters the earth atmosphere at great speed slows up and bring 4400 people who have disappeared over the past century to one spot where in the USA where the majority decide to remain. After testing and observation over several months the families successfully petition the USA Supreme Court for their relatives to be released on the community. The pilot concentrates on a Korean War veteran who had a relationship with a white girl for which he was beaten up by his white comrades. He now found a country where inter racial relationships have become common place, but his home has been developed into a road underpass and he finds himself alone. While in quarantine he meets a girl who likes his former love and finds that she is the grand daughter although they are now of the same age. She is married with a baby daughter now a young girl and her husband has had her declared dead so he could remarry someone who the daughter believes to be her mother. These two displaced individuals strike up a relationship after she finds she has been returned diagnosed pregnant by her husband a decade before and no longer wants to have contact with her, One of the men finds his aged wife in a squalid institution and cannot cope when she dies and on finding that he has been bought out in his absence from the business cofounder and in his anger about not been given a position is able to use the anger to in effect blows out the man’s brains at a distance. Later it is discovered that the killed man was defrauding customers on the grand scale and the investigating team suspect that the 4400 have been returned for some purpose.

This appears to the so in the first of series proper in which one the returnees who works in the fish department of the of the local supermarket finds that the park has become over run by drug addicts and criminals and starts a clean up campaign so eh can return to place where he proposed to his wife and enjoyed picnics. He goes out at night to commence the clean up and prevents a girl being gang raped but in a later instance is killed by a knife. This appears to knock on the head the theory about being returned for a purpose until the local residents take it upon themselves to clean up the park.

There are two investigators appointed to try and find out why the 4400 were returned to earth, a mist unlikely scenario in reality and but one of the major flaws arising from the opening episodes. The continuity between the opening and next episode is a young girl who is able to predict aspects of the future and cannot help blurt out the truth despite advice that to do so will make her position difficult. Her parents are long since dead and she is unsuccessfully placed with foster parents who cannot cope with her predictions. She goes to live with the female investigator as an alternative to the girl becoming the subject of intensive and prolonged physical investigation and social observation in confined conditions. One feels she may well pose the answer to question where have the 4400 been and what is the collective as well as individual purpose of their return. I look forward to experiencing the next disk

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Shadows in the Sun and a Western Dragoon Wells Massacre and Wallander TV

After watching an episode of the original Wallander series last night between 9 and 10.30pm I decided to look in on the first of the three programmes about people who were bringing up or had close relationships with their grandchildren. Despite knowing that I could watch the programmes on the i player at a more convenient time I stayed engaged with the programmes until 1.30am. Although clearly staged and strongly edited the three one hour programmes about three different family situations were outstanding.

The focus of the first programme was Ian Batten who took his seven wide age range grandchildren on a day out at the seaside. Ian was presented as a successful clothes designer for men and women in the USA, Italy and Japan as well as the UK who became a parent in the sixties and who admitted as did his children as having a laid back liberal approach to parenthood as he has had to life. Now in his sixties, he lives with a girl a third of his age in a small flat and appears to only see his grandchildren from time to time, bringing them presents from his travels abroad. While aspects of his lifestyle do not fit in with the contemporary attitudes, the programme was noteworthy for the warm good feelings and relaxed approach of the children towards their father, although they admitted they had become stronger disciplinarians, setting clear boundaries for their children, who nevertheless appeared to have become creative individualists.

My reaction to the programme was that no one was harmed by the exposure and everyone came out well although I felt we were getting one slice of the story of Mt Batten. It is interesting that Mr Batten does not yet have a Wikipedia entry. However his children and grand children communicated themselves as intelligent, loving individuals whatever experience they had had to undergo in the past.

There were aspects of second programme which alarmed me considerably in terms of the impact upon the two grandchildren in question although it is to be hoped that the programme enabled the grandparents and grand children to sort out the understandable problems which have arisen from the great tragedy that had beset them. Val and Ron Little were required to take on the care of two of their seven grandchildren, after their mother was killed by their father, a paranoid schizophrenic, who was committed to a psychiatric institution, but is now released and seeking to have contact with his children.

The programme highlighted the strong emotions which the grand parents and grand children have about their predicament. The grand parents had been looking forward to developing their own lives in retirement as well a enjoying relationships with all their children and grand children and there was resentment at having to give this up to concentrate on the two children, especially when the eldest became a Bolshie teenager, particularly towards her grandmother, who was able to give as much as she got. However never far away from the day to day experience was the fact that the girl has lost her mother in such dreadful circumstances and grandmother her daughter. The daughter appeared to accept that her father had been ill and wanted to have a relationship with him while understandably the grandparents remained concerned about the extent of his recovery. I would have been surprised if the girl had not exhibited problems arising from her situation and my concern remains as to how she will view the exposure in later life. I would be surprised if the programme makers had not gone to great lengths to be certain that good and not harm came out for the two generations of participants. It was great TB+V but my reservations about this programme being shown remain.

The star performance of the evening, after that of Wallander and his daughter, was from Avril Pengilly a 78 year old who had given up her home to help look after two grandchildren of the daughter from her second marriage after her husband died several years before. While not hiding the sense of loss after the death of the love of her life and losing the independence of her own home Avril demonstrated the ability to become a valued member of her daughter‘s family and retained a separate life both within house and the local community where she had been a teacher and continued to play an active role. There were several great moments but for me it was that which occurred during the return to Clovelly where she had gone with her three children after her first marriage ended. She nearly fell flat on her face stumbling on the cobbled roadway. She had already fallen in the house and broken her arm. This time she managed to regain her balance. Having fallen over four times during the past two years and had a couple of near misses, I understand only too well that even with taking extra care most of the time it only takes one moment’s lack of attention and a fall can create major problems, especially as in my case, I live on my own. Yet as her daughter stated in the film, it is this refusing to accept that one has become old which prevents one from getting old old, or least that is what I keep telling myself

The Wallander episode was also excellent, in major part because of the development of the relationship between father and daughter after her relationship with a colleague at the station ends. The story involved an American World Food Organisation volunteer who is murdered after coming to the country to visit a photographer with whom she had has had contact Afghanistan or was it Iraq, after she has been expelled for alleging being involved in the disappearance of small national treasures. She is also found to be pregnant and the photographer who has a police record is the obvious suspect. The husband, an academic comes to identify the body and strikes up a relationship with Wallander. As a consequence of good work by his daughter in particular and information from the wrongly accused photographer the mystery is resolved with the husband the culprit having killed his wife when she found out he was behind the theft of the national artefacts.

I also viewed the previous episode shown while I was in London called the Tricksters which was about blackmail (what we do and who we do it with lives with us and for eternity) In this instance the culprit is the husband of one of the blackmail victims. It is during this episode that Wallander has an affair with a Doctor whose husband and adult children are away. He wants the relationship to continue but she sees it more as interlude. In the most recent episode he attempts to progress the relationship but she refuses. He and his daughters settle for each other‘s company one evening

I have also watched a western, the Dragoon Wells Massacre 1957. Dennis O’Keefe is an army captain who survives an Indian attack along with an Indian Trader and who then encounters a Sheriff transporting two gunmen being taken for trial and a stage coach on which his young girl friend has decided to go back East with someone else. They join forces in an attempt to get to a staging post to summon help, without realising that the Indians are friends of the Indian Trader who has 25 of the famous Winchester 45 repeating riffles and ammunition for them, as well as Whisky. While the group discover this treachery, they face increasing dangers as first the trading post has been destroyed and then the nearest fort and where the sole survivor is a child. The core of the film is the relationship which develops between the military officer captain and a worldly saloon entertainer and between his former girl friend and one of the gunmen, played by Barry Sullivan. Because of heroic actions and an understanding of the background and nature of the gunman’s killing the Sheriff lets him go as the end of the film and he rides off into the sunset with the girl. In the final words of the films the girl offers to accompany the gun man, “ for as long as you want me,” which in my book gives the film that touch of reality which made it of interest despite the familiarity of the story line.

A very different film is Shadows of the Sun 2009, not to be confused with another film with the same name set in Tuscany. This film also has some splendid photography and tells of the last days of a grandmother, played by Jean Simmons, with James Wilby, her son and his two children. The plot, in so far as the film needs a plot, because it is a story of old age, and relationships between generations in the mode of Merchant Ivory, is that the son has come to persuade his mother to sell the family home, a home in which his father’s ashes have been buried in the grounds and where his mother hopes that hers will lay alongside. His mother has already sold a collection of first editions in order to keep the property going and the son wants to sell the property so he can be closer to her ans she and he to his children who live separately with their mother..

The sub plot is the relationship between his mother and a young male traveller who earns his keep helping with the local fishing and doing odd jobs around the house. He also establishes a relationship with the son and then seduces the daughter. He saves the life of the son from drowning who has reacted on finding out that the closeness of his relationship with the young man has been overtaken by that with his older sister, During the film the son has encountered a group of Shakespearean actors rehearsing on the beach having taken a nearby property for the summer and they come and perform scenes for the grandmother before her death. The level of writing, characterization and acting is at a fine level and I liked the way the family appreciate what has happened between his daughter and the traveller advising her that she does not need to tell her mother unless she wants to. He respects and understands the importance of the event to his daughter and that she needs to work out her feelings

I am not surprised the film has been shown on TV and to DVD without a cinema release. It would not fit into the taste of the summer holiday thrill seeking young people or the weekend teenagers and dating young men and women. I was unclear if at the end if father remained at the home after the children returned to live with their mother in order to try and save it for the family or for it to be sold.

In the last of the three films about Grandparents what struck me most was the sense of continuity and looking out for each other that exists in the village. While the sad reality is that in all marriage one partner dies before the other, too often the choice is between living in isolation in the family hope and giving up independence and possessions to share a home with children, or to be restricted to the loss of most things and live in residential care among strangers. Growing old can be a sad and challenging experience

Monday, 17 August 2009

Harry Potter and half Blood Prince and heroes of First World War

On Sunday evening, 9th August 2009, a week ago, a BBC documentary tribute was paid to five men who were members of British armed forces and had survived the first world war, the war to end all wars and lived for over one hundred years. Shortly before the programme the last man to have seen action in the Western front, Harry Patch, died, July 25th, aged 111. He had become the third oldest man alive, the oldest man living in Europe and one of the oldest 70 oldest men recorded.

The others featured in the programme were Claude Choules who died at the age of 108, a man who served for forty years in the Navy from 1916 and went to Australia after the second World war with his wife of 80 years, the 8th longest marriage recorded. Arthur Halestrap also served in both World Wars, serving in the Special Operations Executive and lived to 106. William, Sandy Young who served in the First World War was captured by the Japanese in Borneo and survived a P.O.W camp and learnt only at thee end of the war that his wife and son had escaped to Australia. He lived for 107 years. Bill Stone was a seaman who served in both wars and lived to 109.

Henry John “Harry” Patch was born on 17th June 1898. Harry was born in Somerset, His father was a stone mason and he left school at in 1913 and started work as an apprentice plumber in Bath. In 1916 he was conscripted as a private in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. He fought in the battle of Passendale (third battle of Ypres) and was injured in the groin when a shell exploded above his head killing three of his friends and comrades. The incident occurred on 22nd September 1917 when he was nineteen years. He was recovering on the Isle of Wight when the armistice was declared.

Harry continued as a plumber after the war and eventually ran his own company until his retirement at the age of 65. He married first in 1918 and his wife died in 1976. He married again at the age of 81 but his second wife also died in 184. He established a relationship for the third time at the nursing home where he lived in his later years and she also died in 2007. His two sons by his first a marriage in 1984 and 2002. Harry declared that if any man said they were not afraid to go up and out of a trench to face the enemy they were lying and as with the other veterans they mourned their lost comrades, the honoured the sacrifice of the young lives and they hated war. He has confessed that when confronted by an individual member of the enemy he could not kill him but aimed to bring him down injured which he did. In 2004 aged 106 he met a German survivor of the same battle, then aged 107 and they exchanged gifts commenting that they were both in favour of a united Europe and peace. After writing his story he used the proceeds to fund a new inshore Lifeboat and then in September 2008 he provide funds for a plaque and stone at the point where he and his comrades crossed the river Steinbeck in memory of fallen comrades and also marks his having become the last surviving veteran of the trenches. He died seven days after Henry Allingham.

Although Allingham did not feature in the BBC documentary who died at the age of 113 years and 13 days. For one month he had become the oldest man in the world. He was the oldest ever surviving member of the war and the 14th oldest man of all time. From 2001 he was the worldwide known face of the First World War Veteran’s association. He was born in 1896 at Clapton in London and his father died of TB when he was only 14 months of age and was brought up by his mother and grandmother at Clapham in South London. He commenced work as a surgical instrument maker and then worked for a coach builder of car bodies. He remembers watching W G Grace playing cricket and seeing men returning from fighting in the Boer War. He did not join up until 1915 as his mother had become critically ill. He went onto serve as an air craft mechanic for the Naval Air Service. He served on the Western front as part of a training squadron and was involved in preparing the first aircraft with cameras for recognisance purposes. He became part of the RAF in 1918 and became the oldest surviving member of the service. He was married with two daughters one of whom survived him together with seven grandchildren, 14 great grand children and one great great grandchild. During the second world war he was involved with providing counter measures against German magnetic mines. He attended the cenotaph with three other veterans to mark the 90th anniversary of the start the Great War.

Claude Choules was the last seaman to, He was born in Worcestershire on 3rd March 1901 have served in World War 1 and the last veteran to have served in both World Wars. He is 108 years of ages and lives in Australia. He Joined the Royal Navy in 1916 and while serving on board HMS Revenge he witnessed the surrender of the German Imperial Navy and he also witnessed the scuttling of the German Fleet. In 1926 he travelled to Australia as an Instructor and transferred to the Australian Navy in 1931. He became involved with Acting Torpedo Work and Demolition and was given responsibilities to sabotage Fremantle harbours in the event of a Japanese invasion. Claude was married for a total of eighty years and until the death of his wife in 2006 had the 28th longest recorded marriage. He has three children, 11 grand children and twenty two great grand children. He became blind and death from old age but retained high spirits and a love of life.

Arthur Halstrap was born in Southampton in in 1898 and was first refused enlistment because of his age but in 1916 he became a signal man and sent to France in 1918 He worked for Marconi after the war and during the second was appointed to the Special Operations Executive where he provided radio training for those who went into enemy territory, He continued to serve as a member of the Allied Control Commission in Germany and then as a member of the Diplomatic Wireless service, He was married and lost his only child, a son in World War 2. He died at Kings Sutton in 2004 where he had lived since the 1960’s.

William Alexander Smillie Young, Sandy, was born in 1900 and lived for 107 years. He also emigrated to Australia but after the second world war. He was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the eldest of six children. But moved to Hayes in Middlesex when he father became the manager of a Jam making factory. On his eighteen birthday he signed up with the Royal signals and became a wireless operator providing gunners with information for targets. After the War he was one of those who contracted the deadly Spanish Flu Virus which killed over a million people world wide. He recovered was assigned to the army of occupation near Cologne.

After the war he married and worked in the then colonies, sending his family to Australia after the Japanese attacked Pearly Harbour. He was captured and became a Japanese Prisoner of War as a civilian internee. After the war he was reunited with his wife and son returning for a while to Borneo and then emigrating to Australia..

The passing of these men brings to a close the survivors of one of the worst example of the slaughter for young men in the name of a cause which few of them understood or respected.

The First World is still regarded by some as a conflict between good and evil but for those who spent the final part of their young lives in cold, wet and mud of the trenches it was a Gothic horror in which were victims. On the middle day of the my three day visit I went to see the sixth Harry Potter film- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. A Gothic film if ever there is one.

Without reading the book(or any of the books for the matter), or immediately remembering the great themes of the series and feeling tired from the outset I failed to understand let alone enjoy the film, falling asleep at one point and missing a crucial explanation. I therefore read what is available on return home and was able to put the film is some perspective.

The World of Harry is a world divided into Muggles, that is you and me and Wizards although not having read the books I am not clear if wizards do more than interact with each other. The series of seven books is centred on a Wizard Voldemort who has become the most evil anyone can remember and has killed Harry’s parents who were good wizards. Again I do not know if we have been told why they were killed and why Voldemort disappeared after attempting to kill the baby Harry and this has given Harry a status as the instrument of ending the reign of terror of Voldemort. I have found out that one aspect of the Voldemort reign was the importance he attached to racial purity that is that wizard should be children of Wizard and not of mixed unions or unions of Muggles Wizards can be born to Muggles and this is the position of Hermoine. Emily Watson, the close friend of Harry Potter(Daniel Radcliffe, along with Ron (Rupert Grint)

In the first book Harry aged eleven is in the care of non magical relatives who treat him abominably, favouring their own child and it is only at the age of 11 does he become aware of his powers and that he is to go to national school of Wizards for seven years, called Hogwarts,. The school is residential and the head Professor Dumbledore takes a special interest in Harry who is quickly marked out as the chosen one .

I feature of the series of six films to date is the continuity of characters, except for Professor Albus Dumbledore

Where the role has been taken over by Sir Michael Gabon after the death of Richard Harris. Alan Rickman plays Severus Snape a leading member of the staff who is a dark character, hostile to Harry, but is someone I suspect of having another side and purpose.

The school is divided into houses who compete against each other and from the outset a rival to Harry is Draco Malfroy whose activities are promoted and protected by Severus. Harry finds life at Hogwarts difficult having lived in the Muggle world and is befriended by the game keeper who is also the Teacher about the Care of Magical Creatures played is played by Robbie Coltrane. Dame Maggie Smith is another teacher Minerva McGonagall the teacher of Transfiguration and Julie Walters plays the mother of Ron and treats Harry like a son. Helena Bonham Carter plays one of Lord Voldemort’s principal agents called a Death Eater and she is the sister of Draco’s mother.

Each film has a similar pattern and ingredients. The young people, or at least a majority of them take a train which commences from London, departing became from a platform with a secret entrance (a platform at Kings Cross was used and became very popular when the first book was made into a film). The train and other places are in different dimensions so cannot be seen or experienced by Muggles in normal circumstances.

There is an aerial game or aerial games where Harry first became proficient and a leader, called Quiddich and in the most recent film, it is Ron who is the star although he needs support when his confidence is shaken by a new rival challenger. Most of the action occurs in and around Hogwarts which has the appearance of an old large castle with moving staircase and pictures on the walls which in effect video screens. Originally when the first film came out but now available on every High Street to display favoured photos and short films of families and. friends Every film also has scenes at a Dickensian Street of Wizard stores which appears to be located in London.

Each book and story is self contained within the overall theme of Harry Potter having a destiny which will involve confrontation and final defeat of the killer of his parents or will it?

A major feature of the films which last an average of two and half hours is their strict adherence to the story and events of each book. The author J K Rowling has sold more books than anyone before, in their hundreds of millions and these have been translated into 67 languages and are a world wide phenomenon as are the films. One reason for the success is the attention to creative detail and the development of the relationships between the three friends and over the last three years their romantic interests and the problems associated with first love and becoming adults. The stories also encompass many of the traditional themes of fairy tales and more contemporary adventures with those of Enid Blyton coming to mind with the Five and Sevens, Tom Browns School days, Alice in Wonderland, Somewhere over the Rainbow Jack and the Beanstalk and such like. Because of the development of screen trickery and the precision of the writing, the wizardry is always credible and the films are therefore not suitable for young children. The most recent film is the darkest of the six to date.

In the first book Harry Potter and Philosophers Stone, Harry discovers an attempt to steal the stone by an agent of Lord Voldemort so as to enable his return to power. The villain is thought to be Severus but is in fact another Professor.

In The second book Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets Lord Voldemort attempts to come back to power through a diary and Harry’s intervention is needed to save Ron’s sister. Whereas the first film is an exposition of the current Wizard world, the second goes into the history and background, .

Lord Voldemort does not feature directly in the third book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban but the story concerns the threat to Harry as someone who is believed to have assisted in the murder of his parents has escaped from captivity but in Harry’s world nothing is ever as simple or straightforward as it appears to seem.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry finds himself forced to take part in a tournament with young wizards from other countries. The book and films opens with Harry invited to join Ron and his family and Hermione at the Quiddich World games, the aerial game played at Hogwarts and the trio are confronted by the Death Eaters, the agents of Voldemort. Harry success in winning the international tournament despite the Voldemort plot for him to fail and the books also marks the entry of the three into adolescence and all that goes with it.

In the fifth volume Harry has to confront the reappearance of Lord Voldemort and to help him Dumbledore, summons the Order of the Phoenix. A major problem arises when the Ministry of Magic refuses to accept that Voldemort has returned and appoints a strict adherent to the rule book to effectively take over the school putting the school and the rest of the world into great peril.

In the sixth story Dumbledore enlists Harry’s help to gain the trust of a retired Professor Horace Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent, and entice him back to the school to become Professor of Potions (with Severus switching to Magic) as a means of finding out about the early life of Voldemort who Slughorn tutored when he was at Hogwarts. Voldemort is using the Death Eaters in such a way that the Muggles are noticing that strange things are happening. He arranges for Draco to assassinate Dumbledore before the truth of the background can be found out. Severus Snape offers to help Draco but his help is rejected. Meanwhile there are complication as the trio fall in love with people who do not love them and there is much use of love potions which brings me to the Shakespeare influence and A Midsummer’s Nights Dream.

I slept through the vital moment when Slughorn reveals that through him Voldemort was able to divide and hide his soul into seven parts and that if these are destroyed he cannot return. Meanwhile the first two attempts of Draco to kill Dumbledore misfire and in the third Severus takes over and destroys the head of the school having entered into a pact with Draco’s mother. The implication behind the development is that Severus is related to Draco and his mother and to Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore appears to know what is going to happen and advises Harry to lay low as does Severus because his main role is to come. I have read a summary of the seventh and final volume, so all is a lot more clear.

I also watched another film about adventuring children, designed more for a family audience. The 1958 film, the Explorers, is also about three young friends, one of whom designs a small DIY craft capable of flying into space from parts of a washing machine, a television and fairground ride. Their craft is swept into an alien craft where they are examine and find the aliens preoccupied with TV and a perception gained of earth planet from the television. When this space craft is swept up into a much larger vessel the earth trio discovers that their encounter is with alien young people who have gone for a ride in effect one of their father’s cars. The alien children are told off and the earth trio sent home but with a present. The present is in effect a contemporary today state of the art phone which provides the youngsters with information on how to build an even more advance space craft and joined by a would be girl friend, the four contemplate new adventures together. The films starred River Phoenix who died from a drug overdose when 23. Four brothers and sisters are all actors including award winning Joaquin Phoenix. Another of the trio Ethan Hawke developed into a fine film and theatre actor who has also become a film Director. The Explorers attempts to show that although those living on other planets may look different from human beings they probably have more similarities than differences, although I am not sure if this is a good thing!

The Monday evening moral tale this week was The Street where the subject is alcoholism and the inability of the character to break the addiction although he has tried. He is then confronted by his former wife because their unknown to him mentally disabled son wants to meet his father. The programme shows just how difficult to impossible it is to break the addiction despite the incentive of a relationship with a loving affectionate son and the possibility of friendship with his former wife. The film ends on an optimistic note after the character joins Alcoholics Anonymous and is rewarded with further contact after being clear for six months.

This reminds of an episode of series about a five star Hotel Babylon which reveals the interacting lives of owners, managers and staff at the hotel as well as guests who have the money to get what they want. At one point the concierge attempts to help a drug addict determined to kick his habit to have contact with his two children, but then finds the experience too much and persuades the concierge to get a fix from his dealer. When he does this the concierge finds himself the subject of a raid from the drug squad accused of being a dealer, only to find that this is a wind up from his colleagues in other hotels, The drug addict is another colleague who had been an actor. In the same episode a woman played by Michelle Collins formerly of Eastenders, has the role of divorcee conning her way into a lonely hearts club for the wealthy and well connected and in her distress and anger at being found out reveals to the owner of the hotel who is about to get back with his divorced wife that she aborted their child when the relationship broke up. As is usual with this excellent series there are a dozen sub plots continuing with the main one uncovering the writer of erotic novels which the barman, who finds the manuscript, thinks is written by a female staff member with the hots for him. He is shocked when the author is a male colleague with a profitable contract to write the stuff. The theme of the episode is that everyone has secrets, some darker than others and that no one is a saint or without a past they would prefer to remain uncovered.

I watched part of the second half of the International friendly between England and Holland when James Milner made the goal which enabled a 2.2 draw after Holland had delighted their home crowd by taking a 2.O first half lead. I kept in touch with Durham’s game against Lancashire in which Durham twice looked as if they were able to put Lancashire on the rack, with Ian Blackwell destroying the heart of Lancashire batting after Durham had toiled to a score in the 260’s. Lancs recovered to give Durham only five run first innings lead. Durham then batted throughout the third day into the morning of the fourth to set Lancs the challenge of over 300 runs to win. At one point it looked as if Durham would win as Lancs lost their first three wickets when the score was only 4 and a fourth at 56. However Chilton and Du Plessis had a partnership of over 100 before and bad light stopped play. The two teams were awarded 9 points each for the match, four for the draw and five bonus. Lancs needed a win to have a chance of taking the championship title and now have 130 points from 12 matches, one more than the rest of the Division with Somerset 136, and Notts 139 behind Durham’s 167 and which makes Durham two home games against these two sides championship deciders. First they need to beat Warwickshire this week who are fifth with 116 points. Yorkshire had their first home win for two years beating Hampshire and ending their title hopes while Sussex had an expected win against Worcestershire. Kent look likely to get promotion but my hopes of a match at the Oval and Lords are as remote, as they have been for the last couple of years as Surrey

Monday, 10 August 2009

Shout the Devil and Trasure Island in Space

This morning, Sunday August 9th, I had one of the moments of confusion when I awoke before getting up when dreams and reality become merged and one is not sure what is which or which is what.

Saturday was a good day, relaxed without the pressure which I generate upon myself before a trip.

The highlight of the day was a performance of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, perhaps one of the most popular classical pieces in the world for its romanticism and exhibitionistic artistry, played by the National Youth orchestra, whose 160 members aged 14 to 19 have completed a summer school rehearsals for this performance and the rest of the evening programme as Henry Wood Promenade Concert number 31. This was the first concert by the N.Y.O‘s new young Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko aged 33, having been educated at St Petersburg and rose to prominence in 1994 when he became chief conductor for the State Academy and resident conductor for the Petersburg Opera and Ballet Theatre. He came to Britain in 2004 to conduct the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and was one of the directors to sign a manifesto proposing that school children should be given free entry to a classical music concert to encourage their interest and participation in the music. It was therefore not surprising that he became an ideal choice for the National Youth Orchestra. My prediction is that he will become a long term star on the world’s concert platforms long after I am writing!

The soloist was Stephen Hough born at Hoylake in Cheshire bringing back my time in the county and living at Bromborough in the Wirral, just as the Proms also brings back my first year at work at the age of sixteen when I bought a season ticket for the first 20 concerts of the Proms. Aged 48 he is a Professor of Music at the Royal Academy as well as a Composer, Transcriber and Soloist.

The Proms Internet site continues to improve year upon year with the ability to download the full programme for seven days. Although now hearing the concerto again on the i player while writing this afternoon I did not linger to hear again the two other works by Lutostawski and Resphighi, although they did provide opportunity for all 160 members of the orchestra to play at the same time.

I half watched two films. One in the morning with a mixture of disbelief and amazement was called Treasure Island in Space, closely followed the original story with the same names except that it was Long John Silver and the Space Pirates. This was an Italian production with some arty modern music. It was a hoot.

One of my favourite films is The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart as the drunk making a living in Africa and Katherine Hepburn as the sister of a missionary who gets caught up in the first World War and who together successfully blow up a German gun boat which patrols a large lake after a series of great adventures and hardships which brings the unlikely two together.

Thinking that the late night showing on a free film Channel called Shout the Devil meant a Satanic horror I then discovered that it is a pale version of the African Queen with Lee Marvin as the drunk adventurer with a an attractive daughter, Barbara Perkins, who takes a shine for Roger Moore, an English remittance man who jumps ship on his way to sheep farm in Australia and after an elephant shoot, well the film was made in 1976, gets caught up in the German British conflict in Africa as part of the first World War. The film has a serious side as the local German commander kills the baby daughter of Roger and Barbara in an attempt to find the two men and what they are up to. Lee Marvin gives up his life at the end of the film in order to enable Roger to rescue his daughter who has been taken on board the German gunboat which is in hiding being repaired and where Roger has previously boarded in disguise and laid a time bomb at the request of the British government, and which goes off seconds after the couple escape from the ship.. The German local commander also escapes but Roger is able to kill him before he kills them and all ends happy ever afters.

The weekend was full of sport with claps of one minute before every game for the life of Bobby Robson. I cannot help thinking that the Football authorities are using Bobby to cover up the shortcoming of the wages and life style of professional footballers in these times when hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs or been unable to obtain a first job on graduating from first degrees and professional training courses.

The County Cricket championship has reached the crucial part of the season when the outcome can be determined by the next couple of games. Somerset have now played one more game than Durham who still have a lead margin of 22 and have to play them at the Riverside. All the others except Hampshire who Durham play at the Rose bowl in penultimate match have played the same number of games as Durham. Hampshire 66 points behind the leaders so even if they take maximum points from their extra game and win against Durham twice, Durham still have an overall winning margin. Lancashire who Durham play next need to win to keep the possibility open but even if they do Durham will still lead by some 30 points. Notts are also still there with 30 points to make up. Notts visit to Durham in September will settle the outcome between them and Notts will want to avenge their humiliation at Trent Bridge. All in all Durham remain in a strong position

England will want to do more than avenge their innings drubbing at Headingley within there days. The opening and middle order failed for the second time in three days. Nottingham pair Chris Broad and Swann hit a spectacular 120 partnership before lunch to day to give the crowd something to shout about. Ian Botham suggested that for the next match the bowlers should open the innings, given that they have to score a third more runs in this series than the recognised batsmen.

I must admit I went to sleep at the interval of the game between Newcastle and West Bromwich at the Hawthorns. The Hawthorns suggests a rural or countryside atmosphere location but having passed the ground my memory is of a stadium located within a poor area of an economic struggling West Midlands. I cannot remember why I was passing the stadium at the time. Newcastle started well enough and overall and command of much of the play. However they only managed one good shot on goal which is not surprising given that they have sold off their main striking power of Owens, Viduka and Martens and the Spanish young man brought in against Keegan was rightly dropped after poor showing in his first games. This leaves well intention local lad Carroll a good man but at lower level and Ameobi was Ameobi, unpredictable and more likely to squander any chances than take the opportunity. Joey Barton was brought on for Carroll in the last 20 minuets which says everything. At least they did manage to equalise the opening goal by West Brom who always looked dangerous when they countered Newcastle moves which always failed to reach someone in the box or then came quickly to nothing. They are likely to survive but on this showing mid table is the best they can hope for.

I had a peek on Ipswich under Roy Keane playing at Coventry who beat them 2.1 which confirms my suspicion that Roy has a long way to go before he achieves his ambition of being a top flight manager. On Saturday Norwich were smashed 7.1 at home which caused mayhem in the East Anglian community and the former English team captain Spen who has become Director of Football at lowly Notts City saw his team win 5.1 in their first match and where he has told the coach manager and the football world only promotion into division 1 is acceptable. I suspect that the Championship and the lower divisions are going to be more interesting this year than the Premiership which Chelsea and Manchester United look on paper a cut above Arsenal and Liverpool. The interest will be to see if Manchester City who have bought well for £100000 but could not lure John Terry, have bought their way unto the top four. For the rest including Sunderland their is Premiership survival and the cups to play for.

This appeared to be the confirmed position when Chelsea as FA Cup Winners played Manchester United as Premiership winners in the Charity Shield at Wembley. This was a good match with Man U scoring first and then Chelsea equalising and then taking the lead until the dying seconds of extra time when Wayne Rooney got the equaliser. I had switch off by then and only found out when I decided to find out what was on and later and discovered the penalty shoot out had commenced. Chelsea won this and will take heart under their latest new manager, an Italian.

I took the car to buy rolls for the trip and a cake and some fruit. Shirts were ironed and there was much playing of games with the best effort on Spider patience so that 888 games have been won out of 910, some 97% with the latest run 62 and 241 the best. There was also some telephone calls and emails.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Mission to Mars and Italian for Beginners

A disadvantage of writing about contemporary experience which includes events in the world outside the confines of my home, is that within hours, let alone days or weeks, what was has written may not just be out of date but proven wrong. The corollary is also true and over the past 24 hours of writing about space and time and what we can do now and cannot had been shown in one aspect to be more accurate that I imagined. I had believed that my original writing for yesterday and been recorded on disk from the desk top which I write to the lap used for the internet, but I had not completed the process and therefore there is opportunity to reconsider what was written yesterday about Thursday and Friday, this Sunday morning. However what I have decided to do is to make this note then stop and then produce a new version of what was written in the light of the aspects of my experience over the past 24 hours, thus making the point that if I could have created a different version, so can others with the technology to intervene in my or your work at anytime and anywhere. End of to day's note.

I am a fan of the late night shown programme this week in which the highlights of the previous week are discussed by a regular participants chaired by Andrew Neil and former Ministers Ms Abbot and Mr Portillo together with an assortment of studio guests some more articulate and of substances than others, Last night one subject which appeared to unite the regulars and those who appeared on Question Time beforehand was the disclosure that conversations between a Member of Parliament and a constituent had been monitored on the authority of the police. The studio guest made the point that the controlled work of the official British Security Services was only a fraction of the extent to which public and private agencies were empowered to monitor and collate information and although this was said in defence of the official security services it is point the implications of which needs to be better known. It should be self evident that this means the official security services do not need to undertake much of the surveillance and monitoring work themselves but can make use of the information of all the others whose number is said to run into the hundreds if not thousands and these do not include the work of other nations, especially those with resources which can be used from bases outside the UK and from space. There is the argument that if you have not done anything wrong you do not need to worry about being observed and a feature of my work is that what we do and say can be viewed, recorded and the record altered by anyone with the technology anywhere and at anytime. It is only recognition of the innate inclination to an exhibitionist and voyeur in all of us. The problem is that the major villains are always one step ahead and probably in control of much of the unofficial and illegal monitoring and recording.

I was also delighted to witness an exchange on the Daily Politics Show that politicians are beginning to understand the law of unintended consequences. Most politicians, the media and most of the general public take no interest in the implementation of new legislation and monitoring its effectiveness and usually the interest is only aroused when something goes wrong. Most legislation is not in fact implemented as intended by the Government or those within Parliament who scrutinise and debate. Sometimes the government does not introduce specific changes, although this usually happens when governments change and the usually way to achieve inaction is not to subsequently approve the finance and the staffing required. Usually however the problem is that insufficient attention is given to unintended consequences. This is typical of bureaucracies especially those led by politicians. In business before any new plan or development is given the go ahead there is a detailed investigation into things like potential markets and costs and options available, but also to what can go wrong in relation to materials, and government and trade union involvements, hence the wisdom of moving production to countries with loss cost and fewest regulatory controls and that most companies aim to spread their interests between countries so that no one country can have a disproportionate influence over the direction and profitability of the company. I find it difficult to believe that governments of recent decades do not undertake an analysis of unintended consequences whenever legislation is brought before the Parliament in relation to new legislation, This used to be the situation and I retain the vivid memory on a visit to the House of Lords where I was monitoring the passage of legislation and had access to the visitors area on the floor of the House, where the Commons stands for the Queen's speech at the state opening of Parliament, to be advised that following representations by an interest over a good meal the Minister had instruction a new amendment which meant that an independent person had to be appointed in situations where a young person in what had been an approved school and which became a community home with education on the premises has been resident for three months without a visitor. Previously the responsibility for visiting such children had rested with the probation service and there was anxiety in some quarters about child care workers undertaking this role. However the amendment was introduced and passed in the lords, reported to the Commons who also agreed and the matter became law. Now here is the rub, when the matter came to be implemented it was discovered that no one in the approved schools/community homes with education on the premises qualified for the appointment of any independent visitor who had to be selected, trained and worked organised and monitored. However it was then discovered that the legislation did apply to special schools where overall responsibility rested with the Education Ministry. This was clearly a good things although it was an unintended consequence.

The film of the day was the 2002 film Mission to Mars which I had intended to see in theatre but had not done so. The film was the subject of much adverse comment by the professional critics and by those in the space industry because of a number of technical inaccuracies and improbabilities but I thoroughly enjoyed and thought the film was good successor to 2001 and 2010 which influenced me greatly at the time they were first released and their the black monoliths were one inspiration for the conception of creating black monolithical constructions, large black four drawer filing cabinets with welded fronts to enclose the confidential volumes as part of my 100.75 artman project The premise of Mission to Mars is credible in that millions of years ago Mars was a living planet inhabited by a colony of advanced humans a vast distance away from their home planet. When the colony faced destruction they returned home or went off to settle in new worlds but in relation to our planetary system they took two decisions. The first was to launch human DNA potential on to the one planet which also had the potential to sustain similar beings, hence the comparatively sudden evolution of humankind on earth and secondly they left a construction on mars which comprised a hologram explanation what happened to the colony, the decisions then taken and the early development of beings into human kind on the earth. They also provided one space vehicle to transport any enquiring and adventuresome human being to the home planet a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The film also poses the existence of other beings without compatible human characteristics as when the construction has a defence mechanism to ward off non humans and an entrance code puzzle. If as what happens when the first Mars landing expedition arrives the visitors are not quick enough to work out the sound code emitted by the structure and use explorative force to investigate, however unintentional and without hostile motives, the structure defends itself, turning the mountainous rock into a vortex of destructive particles. Fortunately one the party survives to send a message to the world space centre in orbit around the earth and is then able to work the air, water and food producing unit to survive the year it takes for a what happened second land mission to arrive not just to tell tale but to explain that he has worked out what the sound means when converted into a pictorial message. The film is paced at the same level as 2001 and 2010 which will not have appealed to those who prefer the fast moving action space adventure of more recent times although I thought the life in the space vehicles and the representation of the red planet was convincing. There was also some good points about team work, the sacrifices made to become an astronaut, including self sacrifice, and the spirit of human enquiry. It was purely coincidental that the film arrived within days of talking about the mind boggling endlessness of space and the possibility of individual human life existing in different dimensions. Increasingly I am of the view that although human beings have existed in their billions, speak different languages are of different skin colours and appearances their behaviour is remarkably similar at its core, There is the endeavour to create clones when is seems to me we are cloned already and given the collective sub conscious and collective memory it is understandable that we come to believe we have existed in different times.

A very different film on DVD is Italian for Beginners. A delightful Danish speaking project in which a group of lonely individuals struggling to find happiness and meaning to their lives are drawn into a small group learning Italian at further education college or centre. There are three ladies possibly sisters who weave and out of the film but are not central characters, there is the kindly Christian receptionist factotum at the local hotel where a new guest is the young first job clergyman temporarily replacing the vicar who lost his faith and thrown the organist into hospital, there is the young worker trying to hold the forty third job since leaving school who has a severe lack of hand and eye coordination caring for her father and a hairdresser caring for her demanding mother, where both parents die and become linked to the young clergyman who in turn joins the class, who lose their teacher and where the job is taken over by the foul mouthed manager of a restaurant at the local football club owned by the hotel, and who previously was a member of the group and a friend of the hotel receptionist and having a essentially sexual relationship with the hairdresser, together with the Italian waitress at the restaurant, who speaks only a little Danish and fancies the hotel receptionist to bits. There is a delightful happy ending sequence in Venice. I saw the film in theatre on a visit to London after extending the Cineworld pass to the capital and added to the DVD internet mail delivered club when the second list of films to see was created, some 100 or so, and where which film is sent depends on availability, so that it was another of those coincidences that sometimes appear to govern my life that it arrived just as I was thinking about where I would live if I won the a chunk of the 95 million last night Euro lottery money or the £7 million this evening, Gibraltar where the kind of property is limited and expensive, somewhere in the Spanish hills in Andalusia, Italian Tuscany with access to Rome, a Greek Island near to Athens, on a little hill town in Southern France where I once hired a villa with a pool, although if I had won the £95 million I could have had million pound homes in all five locations, overlooking a Scottish Lock or Cumbrian Loch, a penthouse suit overlooking the Thames and a property large enough to house and display my installation project, with plenty of change to look after the rest of the extended family and friends and my favourite charities. Ah what dreams may come?
The TV evening ended with the 2008 World film awards from the National Film Theatre which has become a curious affair in which there is a brief review of the films released over the past 15 months which some how enabled Pan's Labyrinth to be included and win the 2008 award and not 2007 when it received three Oscars in the ceremony which takes place after the London World event. The format of the award, there is only one is unusual because in addition to the usual onscreen extracts from each of the five films nominated there are also extracts of a discussion involving three selected panellists which this year included a surprisingly articulate Christopher Eccleston. Jonathan Ross some of whose work and approach I dislike and avoid was the presenter and chair of the panel discussions. The guest of honour was Catherine Deneuvre and Gullerno Del Toro was has come to visit England and Scotland on a regular basis was present to pick up the unusual object of presentation. What was odd is that in the run through of interesting and meritorious films released of the past 12 months there was the Oscar nominated La Vie en Rose, Letter from Iwo Jima and Apocalypto, Curse of the Golden Flower and others which appeared to me to whose selection would have been more justified than the other four works, where admittedly I could only judge on the extracts shown. Perhaps the whole thing is in effect a year in arrears, although I would rate Pan's Labyrinth above La Vie en Rose which I had problems with in terms of its construction but where its brilliance rests with the performance fo the actor playing Edith Piaf. The programme also gave brief reference to the deaths of Ingmar Bergman and Antonioni.

La Husard sur ler Toit

Today is the day of testing the great experiment. One of the castors on my work chair snapped and the first reaction was to utter a mild expletive and investigate the cost of an inexpensive replacement, as I am at the desk for long periods almost every day and to have a wonky seat is an inconvenience which the expenditure of £50 or so could quickly resolve. Too often in the past I have accepted an unsatisfactory situation which could be remedied because of a lack of confidence, bouts of laziness or because I did not think clearly enough, quick enough. Then, but the was after two maybe three days, when I considered going in search of a replacement, I examined what had happened closer and remember the small nozzle heated glue gun I had acquired during last year for a purpose I can no longer remember except that it was successful. I decided to leave the repair for 24 hours before testing. It will be a symbolic achievement if successful. Alas the experiment failed although it may its execution and I will have another bash tomorrow.

I have also reached the point when I cannot understand how I managed in the kitchen without the laminated floor, it is warmer, brighter and that much easier to clean and to want to keep clean. It was only around 5 when I checked what was on the telly that I discovered that England were playing Switzerland in a friendly in the evening. I knew it was around this time as the squad was announced without David Beckham and then that Michael Owen would be benched. The new Italian winning manager appeared determined to make his mark by playing a 1-4- 4 formation with Rooney on his own up front and with a new man on one wing and also playing Jenas ex Newcastle where he failed to perform, and Tottenham where he has become a different inspirational player during the last two months of the present season, scoring goals and creating goals for others. It was evident he had used the time since his appointment wisely noting the players whop were presently in form, bringing them together for four training sessions with the simple message, you must strengthen the defence to be hard to beat ansd then move forward with determination and passion to excite your fans. This requires intense discipline, and self confident conviction which was decidedly lacking and which is where one felt the previous manager always failed as at the Boro. Some people have the personality to achieve what they want and to persuade others in the enterprise. Whereas Keegan has the personality it is questionable if he has the will, the strength to translate his ability into long term success. He had this as a player although was prepared to move from situation to situation to perform being a true creative and his leadership skill suffered when things did not according to intention when dependent on the work of others. The new man has been branded the headmaster and appears to have the presence of authority and determination which has taken him to winning trophy after trophy as an Italian player and then as manager coach. His response to after match questions on a mixture of a 2.1 win, with goals by Jenas and Wright Phillips who scored shortly after coming on with Peter Crouch, was to explain the first twenty minutes when they failed to hold the ball or move it about accurately and appeared nervous as if they never played together, was that they were still dominated by the failure to qualify for the European cup. The second half was very different and they played better than witnessed fro a long time, passing the ball from player to player with purpose so that the build up led to many scoring opportunities. The second goal was more English than continental passing movement with only three or four immediate passes. Players came on and immediately fitted into how they had been asked to play. When interviewed about the new manager the players were understandable cautions knowing the media would be on the look out for any indication of dissent or criticism. There was also loyalty towards the previous manager, rightly as it was the players who had failed and it has to be remembered that had the opposition goal not be scored in the last 15 minutes, and England qualified the manager would not have been changed. There was nearly a full house for a friendly of no consequence with the thought that many went to celebrate the 100th cap of David Beckham, I think not. The view of one BBC pundit was that he should have been trhere, brought on for the last ten minutes to qualify for his cap and then sidelined as there are two replacement both who did well, for his position. This would have been a mistake for several reasons. It would have taken away from the need of the new manager to take control of the situation and to make the point that there is no room for sentimentality if the objective is to win trophies and keep winning them, and it would have been a slap to the individual left out playing his socks off over recent weeks while Mr Beckham recovered from injury, yet again after playing in a indifferent team in an indifferent league of no standing or consequence. Well done the new manager and well done the players for showing signs of growing up. The Labour Party and a large number of back benchers please note.

I was tired and should have gone to bed to get up for another sporting event the enjoyable 20 20 competition which has launched the English visit to New Zealand, I think, I check to be sure although having missed the English innings I will watch the whole match at midday rather than the New Zealand response live. I became so involved in something else that I missed the noon showing and had to wait until 4,30. And the just at crucial time in the English innings I became tired and went to sleep and was quiet groggy for a while although I did witness the demolition of the New Zealand response for the second time, although I did not see the first.

I do not regret the late start this morning which made the early evening siesta the more surprising, because I stayed up to watch the full length version of The Horseman on the Roof, La Husard sur le Toit, which includes the brilliant Juliet Binoche of the English Patient and Chocolate This is a 1995 French film based on the 1951 book of the same name by Jean Giano.

It has taken time for me to work the time in France when the film is set as one reviewer suggest is was at the turn of the 1800 century before the Napoleonic wars. I believe it is possible to be more precise and suggest 1849 which was the year of the second Cholera Pandemic when 1000000 people died in France and an estimated 20000 in the city of Paris with a population said to be 650000. This was also the second year of the first Austrian Italian war ( there were three before Italy was united under the leadership of Piedmont) over a decade later.

This is a beautiful set and photographed film which captures the panic which swept through France with the second cholera pandemic at a time still when people thought the fatal disease was transmitted from person to person and was airborne. In the film there are two instances when people react angrily as the main character seeks water, rightly signally that it was through contaminated water supply that the diseased was spread. I had no knowledge of cholera until looking up the disease and which in turn explained the actions of the film's hero on several occasions throughout the film and which leads him to trying to save the life of Juliet Binoche as the film ends.

The disease is intensely virulent, which I thought was a fever and which brought back memories of what happened to me after Christmas when one moment I had just a bad cold and then undiagnosed urinary tract infection and next an intense fever with water pouring off and struggling for breath. It lasted only three hours or so, and disappeared as quickly as it had come after I followed the advice from a nurse on the NHS hot line, drank lots of water and took a brand powder in hot water. What I did not understand is why in the film the hero immediately appeared to undress the lower body and tear at their linen and cover the patient with water, something which he does to the naked, near death Juliet. The explanation is that the patient suffers an intense diarrhoea and severe dehydration and goes into what can be, and was then usually, a fatal state of shock. Clean water and electrolyte replacement are the essential treatments and prompt rehydration therapy is highly effective. This explains the behaviour of the hero.

The story is of a young Piedmont army Colonel fighting for the independence of his country from Austria and the unification of Italy, who flees with friends to southern France, but who has to take to road as the Cholera spreads from the south and because his whereabouts have been betrayed by a friend to the Austrian authorities. Because France and the other nations beset by the pandemic did not understand its cause, the approach was to use the army to restrict movement and to hold travellers in quarantine. I did not note how much time had elapsed before the hero reaches the town where Juliet Binoche as the wife of a landed aristocrat invites him into the house where she staying among the bodies of the family who have already succumbed to the disease, but an hour of the two hours and twenty minutes may have passed by. Although the two are attracted to each other there is almost no contact between them, because she is married, to a man twice her age, and he is driven by his cause, and with the conduct of a gentleman. The magnificence of this film, apart from the scenery and the portrayal of individual and collective reactions to the pandemic, is the controlled passion of the two who know what duty and commitment means. Time and time again the hero potentially sacrifices his own life in an attempt to save a comrade, a stranger and the woman he admires, respects and comes to love, but throughout he is restrained with an eye on the proprieties and the lady's honour. This is why the film, and presumably the book, are one of the great love stories of literature and deserve worldwide recognition. I will not spoil the ending other than to add that it can be found in the character of the husband and that the Italian struggles to be free of Austria and all the other European interests who plundered and exploited the differences and rivalries within the peninsular which lasted from 1848 until the mid 1860's when my maternal great grandfather left Calne to join the army, making his way to Gibraltar to marry a Spanish girl from Andalusia, Benalauria, regarded as one of the most beautiful of villages in the Serrania de Ronda 30km from the Town of Ronda and with a present day population fo only 500.

At this point I decided to look up Benalauria on the internet and discovered a comprehensive village site, with 105 photographs, which is amazing given it size and resident population, although is evident that tourism has become important especially the annual fiesta which in this part of Spain the cultures which were part of the region over many centuries. There are several questions about my maternal great grandmother which remain unanswered. The most interesting is did she really live in a cave like dwelling in her later life when he mental health was said by my aunt who had to use a donkey to approach where she was living. What kind of a riding stable was her father involved with and was this in Gibraltar or Spain? Where did they marry? Where is she married? Where did they live when their second daughter was born in the village? Is it correct that there are no records because they were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War? There is one property for sale in the village at the present time with three bedrooms a town house for £171000, and at Ronda there is a mini estate for £1,million. If I had the means I would spend time again in the countries of the Mediterranean, Southern France, Italy, Spain, and Greece, perhaps with Gibraltar as my base for part of the year, but there would have to be compelling reasons for me to leave Tyneside altogether.

This evening while working I paid half attention to a Kung Fu movie set in a post earthquake California where gangs were allowed to roam the streets at night while a curfew restricted the movement of everyone else, but more enjoyable was Trouble in the Glen in which a blacked up Orson Wells had become the laid of the manor who had been a sort of feudal lord in a south American country, with Margaret Lockwood as his daughter, and he alienates the tenants and villages by close a road provoked by tinkers who make their home on the estate for part of the year. Fortunately another American arrives back in the village to see his 11 year old daughter brought up by his wife sisters and her husband after his dies when the child was only ten days of age. He was a bomber pilot during the war and his daughter who is recovery from polio is deprived of the traffic and individuals who used the closed toad which passed under a window from which she could see them. This mid 1950's film has been surprising contemporary themes and tried hard to avoid too much stereotyping although is full of sentiment and has a happy ending. Orson Wells seems out of place in every sense and I kept thinking of Iago in Othello but it was enjoyable light relief around lunchtime I worked hard during the rest of the day as the piles of files on the floor in this room and the artman cards drying in the room next door indicate, Tomorrow I ill finish this work and go back to the spring clean and house repair work after the weekend. .in good order awaiting finishing work. There was an important programme on Television the evening followed by Question Time and weekly political review.