Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Beat Goes on, Damned United, Up Periscope, Hairspray,Carry on Dick and Tom Jones

Today I was to have a urine sample to the GP practice Health centre and had a blood sample in preparation for the annual check up review after the trip to Manchester for the cricket. However I had a restless night and could not resist eating just three or four liquorice twists, forgetting that I had needed to fast until the samples were taken. I would have to repeat the action the following day. Having risen early to put the waste bin out I decided to go and register for the reduce rate promotion at the Seaburn Marriot Leisure Club. It is one of the better decision of recent times. Although it is perhaps seven years since I was last a member I was able to complete 14 lengths 140 meters of the pool in two attempts together with two sessions in the sauna I have felt 100% better since returning home having walked from the supermarket to get some of the cherries and some grapes at the station grocers and then had a good shop back at the supermarket with a dozen packets of the transparent pockets at £1 per 100 instead of the usual £1.80 and higher at staples. I will have to see if there are others at the Bolden Azda.

The other pleasing aspect of the visit to Leisure Cub is that as once junior assistant is now the manager and recognised me when I went to investigate on Friday and that immediately on entering and then at departure I encountered two individuals who I have known over the year as well as making friends with a more recent member.

Tuesday was an even better at the pool as I managed 20 length and a good sauna. It is having a good effect on my metabolism and my feet. Wednesday was not so good because I delayed departure and although I had a good stint of 12 lengths before the Sauna it became crowded with families. I will try and make it four days in a row before the Oxford trip with an early start. In more than one respect I have had second thoughts about the Oxford trip.

Sunday evening proved an exceptionally interesting one although whether it will be regarded as make believe or a reality will not be revealed until the next 24 to 48 hours passes by! Later I revised this to another 24 to 72.

When listing recently seen films I omitted to mention Damn United originally based ob the book about the 40 odd days which Brian Clough spent as Manager of United. The family understandably were unhappy with the book although I thought film captured the essence of Brian’s life as it placed what happened at Leeds in the perspective of his careers as a professional footballer and then as Manager.

I liked the situation at Derby which showed the double slight which Don Revie then Manager at Leeds showed Brian first by ignoring him as he went to the stadium entrance to greet the man he admired, his team having won promotion to the then First division. Revie had the habit of stopping the team coach outside the gates of the stadium and walking the last 100 yards. He then doubled the slight by immediately leaving the ground with the team without stopping to have a drink with Clough. Clough never forgot that incident and there was a bury Revie mentality which took him to Leeds. He also right the Leeds were a dirty team who won by force rather than skill but the idea that you can change such a team by your personality was a serious mistake although understandable.

He had taken Derby from relegation threats at the bottom of the second division to winning the championship but he then fell out with the management as his career as a TV personality took over. He then had a short spell at Brighton before the Leeds challenge came and he eat humble pie with Peter Taylor before the call to Notts Forest arrived as they performed their magic with the team winning the European Championship not once, but twice and in succession.

One of the great tragedies was their final disagreement which meant that Peter died without the two having spoken to each other. Brian the retreated into drink once the door have been closed to the England job. He remains one of he great achievers in football both as a goal scorer and as a manger but someone whose life had its tragic moments.

I have seen four films since although one Hairspray the musical I only experienced part of as it was excruciatingly awful other than a homage to fatties everywhere. It does however manage to combine horrendous stereotyping teen dancing with the serious subject of the segregation which existed in USA societies until the latter part of the last century, officially. However is has had considerable popular success as a West End and Broadway musical and as a school musical along with High School the musical in addition to commercial.

Up Periscope is one of those World war II films which portrayed the command structure as a talking rule book with no flexibility to manoeuvre according the circumstances of war and armed combat. It was also vehicle of semi straight James Gardner, where there were only occasional flashes of his sardonic manner. The movie is itself a homage to the 1943Destination Tokyo. Edmund Obrien played the rule book quoting captain of the submarine taking Gardner to an island where he has to steal a codebook.

The Carry on series with the busty Barbara Windsor and her secret real life lover Sid James is also a standard fairly innocent Bawdy Romp playing the possible meanings of the Dick of Dick Turpin. In this instance the Highway is played by Sid James the local Robin Hood Vicar who with his assistant Barbara hold up the rich to give their clothes and baubles to the parish poor. Although this is the contradiction because the film portrays the parish as fornicating, lecherous drunkards. Hattie Jacques plays the long suffering Vicar’s housekeeper, Kenneth Williams plays the stupid worse than Clousseau Kenneth Connor plays one of two Bow Street Runners sent by Bernard Breslaw. Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Bill Maynard and Joan Sims make up the team. Capturing Dick is based on the theme that the villain as a birthmark you know where

I did also catch parts of the Tom Fielding classic romp of Tom Jones, brought to the screen by Tony Richardson and John Osborn with Albert Finney and Susannah York, and with David Warner making his first appearance along with stalwarts of Dame Edith Evans, High Griffiths.

I have mislaid by bank card and reported it missing and was promised a new one would arrive in 3 to five working days. I should have telephone last Thursday or Friday as the request had not been recorded but fortunately the bank statement shows there has been no misuse. The assistant offered to speak to the supervisor to see if a new card could be issued and posted to arrive before Thursday. He phoned to say that the best was likely to be Friday however this morning it arrived and I was able to make the monthly credit card payment without interest

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Eclipse, Manchurian Candidate, Farewell to the King, The 39 Steps, A Funny Thing Happened

I write for publication the first time in what is probably a month and only the second time in six weeks. I have written to individuals all over the world extensively during this time, mostly emails, sometimes instant messaging and in two instances video calls and while I am yet to complete records, as the activity will continue until the end of the month. I am yet to work out how many individuals there have been but 500 give or take 50 could be the number. I will be surprised if the total record pages is less than 3500. I may publish a review in due course but as the individuals are all living the material is confidential as is the subject.

There has been much sport, many films and international and national developments which had also engaged my attention. There was one major mistake in that I missed the last Whitley Bay Jazz festival and the Mouth of the Tyne Festival by a week. I phoned the Festival office to buy a ticket for the Friday and spoke to the son of the organiser who explained it had been successfully held the week before. Part of the error was that I had decided against a ticket for the Midnight to Mayfair concert of British Band Music of the 30’s to 50’s held at the Sage on the Thursday. I have two CD collections of the band music of the era which I should review and which I sometimes play to remind of my childhood listening to the music on the radio in the forties before I moved into Swing with Benny Goodman and discovered the Blues and Trad, and then Modern. After attending the recreation of Goodman’s Carnegie Hall Concert in 2008 and of the Armstrong’s Hot Five and Seven last year, this concert had less appeal.

Since discovering the existence of the Jazz Festival when attending the North Bank River festival at Tynemouth and finding that 3 Trad Jazz or swing bands played on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons on the green outside the Rock of Gibraltar Pub close to the entrance of the Castle and Priory. I switched my interest from South Shields events, taking the ferry across the river and then the special bus to the start of the Tynemouth High Street on both days

During the six weeks I only went once to the cinema to see a film and three times to see relayed football, once in 3D. The film was the third rendering in the Twilight Saga, The Eclipse. The plan had been to go to the Jazz Festival on the Friday session held from noon to midnight at hotel on the other side of the Tyne Tunnel close to the Silverlink retail park and entertainment centre, and to visit other general bands and entertainments on the Saturday at Tynemouth Priory grounds, returning for a meal and then going out to the evening moving art installation from Gypsy Green to just below here on the hill, for the fireworks, and then staying in South Shields on the Sunday for the multicultural bands and food event or going to the Emirates Riverside for the Durham 20 20 game which could clinch a place in the quarter finals. And then I missed it all and woe has been me.

I will begin with the films and more than a mention of the Twilight Saga and the Eclipse, having not seen the previous two films or read Stephen Meyer’s 2007 novel. The series has proved one of the great money spinners of all time with this film costing $68 billion and grossing so far in excess of a half a billion. So why the fuss? At one level it follows recent interest in Vampires and Wolves and their mutual aversion although in this instances the local Werewolf pack joins with the local Vampires to defeat an assault from an avenging vampire who has created a little army of newbees- ....Newbees are newly created vampire who are stronger than ongoing creatures because they still retain human aggressive skills.

At a second level it is a teenage heartthrob romantic drama with the lead lady, Kristen Stewart as Bella Swann, a normal girl, who is courted by Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen the Vampire boyfriend, and Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, the werewolf.

At the third level, and the one I appreciated most, it is a story of those normals who not only feel but know they are different from everyone else, whether they fit into society as Bella or are outsiders from an early age, such as me, they struggle between the requirements and conventions of society and the call of their true nature.

The story begins as the threesome are about to graduate from High School and Bella’s Father, a senior cop, played by Billy Burke, dislikes Cullen who he fear has already taken his daughter’s virginity and who appears an intellectual cold fish, while he hopes she will take up with Black who appears to him a typical hot blooded man’s man teenager. I use the expression hot blooded advisedly of course. Black is able to offer Bella a normal healthy hot blooded sexual relationship as long as she does not mind him turning into werewolf when the moon rises and romping off to play with the both sex others in the pack.

The father warms to Cullen when he finds that his daughter still a virgin, and would have approved even more so had it known the Youngman has refused her advances until they have an earthly wedding and not just to have normal sex will be dangerous for her. He is also ambivalent about her surrendering her earthly body into the cold eternity of the vampire hood, he having been taken as an innocent old fashioned gentleman officer of the south in the US civil war. As the action progresses and Bella becomes increasingly in peril she admits attraction and gratitude towards Black who saves her life nearly surrendering his own, but she chooses Cullen not because she loves him more, but decides she wants to give way to her deepest inner nature and desires. A girl has got be what a girl has gotta be.

I liked the film, against all expectations, for the script which made all three characters real despite their absurdity, for the decision not to indulge in technical wizardry, including 3D and because of the old fashioned messages of honour and duty and above all that we need to be our true selves irrespective of where being so takes us.

I had to leave the writing to go out for black cartridges in town although it has remain wet, cold and windy all day. A nasty miserable day. I parked at the supermarket and walked over to the computer store to find they only had three black inks and took magenta as the fourth, only to find on return that I also needed to replace the magenta. I also check out cherries at the grocers under the Metro station find three full boxes of large dark red cherries. I bought close to three pounds weight for £3.90 which should keep going for most of the weekend although I will get some more before they are sold out on Saturday. On the way I noted activity at the former Azda door down the hill to discovered in the local free news appear that Morrison’s is scheduled to take this over. So we are to go full circle. I have to say this is a amazing turn of events. I bought some raspberries at Azda along with milk to cover the weekend. I enjoyed some previously bought cherries and a carton of raspberries during the day, with the renewed salad at lunch time and a good piece of steak in the evening.

I have been successful in buying reduce priced fish at the supermarket but did not enjoy a packet of six large sardines which I baked yesterday with some badly made white fish sauce. I had managed to get my weight under 17 stones but the past week has seen it slowly rise especially after enjoying a bar or two of cheap Azda chocolate at 27p.

A film which has been updated but where the original remains better is the Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, based on the 1959 Richard Condon novel of what Chinese and Russian brainwashing techniques used on captured prisoners during the Korean war. The story is fundamentally flawed in the main individual brainwashed happens to be son of sleeper communist Angela Lansbury who it the wife of a top ant communist fighter politician in the USA close to the Presidency. He is conditioned to kill the Party head and President elect at the convention where he is the Vice Presidential candidate, but instead kills his step mother and father and then himself as he comes to realise the truth arising from his association with his former senior officer, played by Sinatra. The two, plus other were captured together and afterwards Sinatra ahs confirmed the heroic role of Harvey which leads to the Congressional Medal of Honour. The past begins to knaw at him until he begins to unravel what happened with the help of his girl friend played by Janet Leigh. Once you accept the implausibility of he role of the mother played by Lansbury the film remains a good thriller.

Another gem of a film is Farewell to the King with Nigel Havers and Nick Nolte as he king. The film is a good follow up to recent films about lone British or American officers who create armies in the Far East during the Second World War to undermine the roll of the Japanese, In this instance British Officer Havers finds a US army deserter who has escaped a Japanese firing squad adopted by a tribe of Head Hunters who make him their King. The two go through many adventures together with Havers persuading his commanding officer played by James Fox to accept the reality of the role played by Nolte. The film has several tragic moments as the horror of war unfolds.

This also reminds of another film of this period in which a group of US service men including radio operator are sent on mission to contact an agent who turn out to the a former USA Malayan young woman now acting as Geisha courtesan to the Japanese command seeing information which will help the proposed return of General MacArthur. Everyone including Mickey Rooney is killed except the radio officer who manages to be picked up by the planned submarine.

A different side submarine pick up is portrayed in one of the later versions of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps. This made for TV version in 2008 has Rupert Penry Jones as Hanny with a nice twist at the end.

The Funny film, which I have not previously seen is a musical version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in which Frankie Howard made his name in the British version. The US version has Buster Keaton in a secondary role but loses out by omitting all the double meanings. It is not really worth using valuable time writing about. Nor is Gargoyle which passed the time during a tired period this afternoon. I am sure there were several other films viewed which I failed to note titles so cannot recall the subjects or my reactions.

Next is catch up on all the sport.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Red Mercury

As the end of the day rapidly approached, I was tired but not inclined to go to bed as it was before ten pm I selected a film to watch because the briefest of notes said it was a film which involved terrorists taking over a restaurant and where the chief investigator was Juliet Stevenson as an MI5 special agent and Pete Postlethwaite as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, theoretically responsible for deciding how the hostage siege situation should be dealt with, Stockyard Channing has the part of a Greek restaurant owner, once married to a Turkish Muslim. The film, Red Mercury was made in 2005, does not appear to have been released for the cinema theatre as there is no review but is as interesting and question raising as the best of Spooks where a new spin off series is to be shown shortly. The combination of some fine actors and an eloquent and knowledgeable script held my attention although I worked out the punch point long before it was formally revealed. It is the plausibility of the of the plot which interested me and caused me to debate writing about the experience and in what way, I am going to write in the chronological time sequence of the experience. Three young Muslim men are part of a cell brought together by a fourth to create a dirty bomb which could devastate a city and which is to be used to blackmail the British Government into meeting a number of demands, but the authorities are topped off about their work and it is during their attempt to escape with the unmade device that they enter the restaurant. Juliet has a similar role to Denzil Washington in déjà vu and also the similar ability to see what others do not. She senses there is something not right about the situation especially when the media gets hold of information about the identity of two of the three Muslims. In order to confirm her suspicions about what the group are up to she consults her former husband who is an academic who retains security clearance and he explains that Red Mercury is a theoretical substance which it was for a time believed the Russians had developed in order to create a dirty bomb, but was a myth promoted to cause fear an side track Russia's enemies. It emerges that in order to smoke out home grown terrorists the British Government arranged for Russia to provide the substance) which they know does not work) as a means of identifying and capturing potential suicide bombers, which is fair enough, but the government is shown to be not adverse to bringing in the SAS to bring the siege to an speedy end and where the level of casualties can be expected to be high, the film suggests over 75%. For some reason the film implies that by using the police led anti terrorists squad when shooting breaks out in the restaurant there will be fewer casualties and the film implies that he real baddies are the politicians and that the terrorists are nice guys from good families who would not have come to behave as they do if they had been treated with more love and greater respect by society in general. The main sub theme of the film is that Muslim if a good religion because it preaches a good way of life whereas the way western Christian behave immorally and socially divisive. Juliet's daughter is a suicidal, self harming drug addicts who cannot connect with her mother or father but is helped by a thoughtful, understanding and supportive black man from a 'West Indian' background. One of the three has a white protecting mother who lives behind bars on a poor estate in London whose Asian father has disappeared and had a history of trouble at school and involvement in minor car crime until finding faith and preaching against drugs and crime to the latest generation of former school mates. By one of many unbelievable coincidences in this film he was influenced positively by a book written by one of the hostages who he is able to save from the wrath of another terrorist when the man challenges, taunts and provokes by exposing the hypocrisy of their behaviour. Another in the restaurant is an illicit couple, a major international corporate figure out for a discrete meal with his Personal Assistant and young mother whose husband believes she has been called way to an event in Edinburgh. The bomb maker is an intellectually bright young man who has become an expert in nuclear physics and special metals and who father is an honest and kindly Asian trader where his son is also able to give him advice on wines his rue love rather than become a PH.D. Earlier I had watched one of several short films about present day China in which a young and extremely wealthy female wine maker explains the opportunities now emerging in her country where one if five of the new four million business enterprises are also female. Depressingly another film was a series of interviews with young men and women all anxious to but the most fashionable of goods in a situation where the manufacturers of these goods are going to great lengths to gain a piece of the action regardless of the consequences upon China and the rest of us of uncontrolled consumerism lacking any sense of moral or social purpose. The interest of the main theme that governments have to use challenging methods in the interests of the overall security of the nation and which will involve innocent casualties, together with detailing aspects of the story and its characters would not have been as great had I not decided to check the internet about Red Mercury and immediately came across a factual BBC news Story dated 25th July 2006 emphasising that the film was released in 2005. What is Red Mercury, is the headline. " three men have been cleared of trying to procure the raw ingredients for a dirty bomb which the prosecution claimed could have devastated a British City if it fell into the hands of terrorists. But mystery surrounds the material at the centre of the plot., begins the story written by Chris Summers., He explained that no one in court could be certain that the terrifying substance upon which the prosecution case was based existed. The story explained that it did not matter if the substance existed but the issue was that the three men with others were attempting to acquire and use the substance. An undercover reporter, Mazher Mahmood is said to have been farcical conversations with the prospective buyers. The article gives the impression that the substance is regarded as a medicine with uses ranging from impotency to extending life. The main accused had searched the internet for information and in particular an article from About.Com. Chemistry is quoted at length in the BBC report which provides a link to the article by Dr Anne Marie Helmenstein. This explains that science newsgroups have been a-buzz about a 2 kiloton yield Russian Red Mercury fusion device, theoretically in the possession of terrorists. The article goes on to explain what is possible accurate and what is not. It is undated. I then turned to Wikipedia which explained that articles about the substance first appeared in the late 1980's and then people started to but it. By the late 1990 there was reports of the substance having a market value of one to three hundred thousand dollars a kilogram. The three young men were arrested in 2004, in eh year before the film was released.. The News of the World provided the fake Sheik. The Wikipedia article claims that Samuel Cohen, the father of the neutron bomb had been stating for sometime that the chemical known as ballotechnic had even perfected into a bomb by Soviet scientists in the form of several softball size pure fusion bombs which were then made in large numbers. The Wikipedia article then lists the various books, programmes and Video games which feature the substance, including novel called Red Mercury by Max Barclay and Red Mercury Blues an Artie Cohen mystery by Reggie Nevelson published 1995 and reissued in 2006. It was also used in third series Spooks as bait for an Al-Qaeda style terrorists group! Who therefore is kidding who and about what? I watched Middlesex do to Somerset what they did to Durham in the 20 20. Although they lost have their side for a handful of runs, Shah and Henderson performed as they did in the 20 20, Henderson getting 50 and Shah 96. Udall who was about to play for Henley on Thames until Middlesex resurrected his career and Kartick bowled tightly and Marcus Trescothick scored only 50. The cricket news of the day was the appointment of Kevin Petersen as captain for all three sides( Test, 1 day and 20 20) but only Bopara was added to the Test side in place of Vaughan and there is no place for those who have shown recent great form such as Shah or Napier in the one day squad who took 3 for 33 in six overs demolishing Northants in the Pro 40 last night. I had a workmanlike day going to the supermarket early for milk, bread, salad and stir fry, and then calling at the post office for AOL wireless internet delivered while I was away. I did the ironing and finished writing Blogs bringing this aspect of my work up-to-date. I enjoyed playing chess and Hearts. And sorting out papers but the prescription sun glasses remain missing and presumed lost while away. I will write to the garage in case there were left in the loaned vehicle. I did some more work on the plants and began to count the true financial cost of the trip. I continue to be self indulgent re food with a large portion of stir fry in the evening but the lunchtime salad was OK with one slice of bread and then offset by a small quantity of peanuts with a quarter glass of wine and the remaining three orange jam biscuits, after toasting the remaining roll for breakfast and having cereal later in the day.