Saturday, February 02, 2008

 

Challinor's challenge


Evidently it's etiquettesque to respond to this kind of post so I'll comply. Philip would like me to be nice for a change, so here are seven things I'm in favour of (the 'don't end a sentence with a preposition' rule was apparently imposed by Gallic linguofascists in the 18th century, so fuck that for a game of legionnaires):


1. The Labour Party


I can't let a single thought about them flit across my consciousness without falling to my knees, loosening my belt and masturbating volcanically. The Labour Party have turned what was a nation in terminal decline for a thousand years into an economic, social and sexual powerhouse. The smiles on the faces of the health staff are broader, the operation scars on the vic... the patients are less infected, and the hard-ons paraded around the halls of Whitehall are more rampant than in the 950-odd years since King Harold never recovered from that mother of all symbolic cumshots in his eye. Finally, we have a leader who will stand up against the tyranny of binocular vision. Go get 'em (from one side), Gordon! (etc, etc)



2. The Conservative Party


The sight of David Cameron on the television drives me into the streets, weeping with excitement at the new dawn he promises! O David, you are truly worthy of your namesake, opposed as you are to your political Goliath. Just sling a few of those stunningly original projectiles of yours at his forehead - those 'er... you naughty Muslim bombers' or 'umm... I think you should try to cut down on your carbon climates, chaps' or 'thank Christ, one of you has paid his son for doing nothing - now that's something I can actually understand!' - and the populace will line up behind you and usher you in come 2010. Then we can all bend over again for another five years, till Labour start nudging you and you feel the need to take down Syria. (etc, etc)



3. Sarcasm
(The sarcasm ends here)


4. Amateur dramatics


Do yourself a favour and hie you to your local am-dram group. Every town has one - every town, every village, every hamlet, every borough, even, for you townies - so you can stick that excuse. The great thing about these groups is not the excitement they allow you to experience when you stand on stage playing Willie Loman or Hamlet or the third German or whoever; it's the spirit of community they foster. My group is wonderful: we meet two or three times a week, and whether we're the lead actor or the lowliest prop supplier for that production (and we take turns), we're all equal when we're out on the street touting for revenue or in the pub knocking back the pints after a great, great show.



5. Victorian novels


I know it's not very fashionable to read these books nowadays - James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and that crowd and their drooling followers have pretty much fucked this genre over - but if you're stuck for a good read on a beach, on a long train journey or in the bay window of your Wiltshire manse on a drenched winter afternoon, you could do worse than an 'old Vic'. I've just read Bleak House for the second time, and it kicks arse, all 1,012 pages of it. Nicholas Nickelby is just as good (and features the best - and perviest - character name in all of fiction: Wackford Squeers). David Copperfield is good but overrated; Great Expectations and Hard Times are brilliant. But then so is anyone who debates Dickens, no matter what your preferences. Wilkie Collins is stunning, and Thomas Hardy astonishes... but George Eliot soars over all of them, Middlemarch triumphing as the greatest work of fiction in the history of Western literature. Mmmmm - mm! Do your mind a favour and give them a try.



6. Stevie Ray Vaughan


He was the greatest guitarist who ever lived, a shy, humble man who squeezed more elegant, complicated and downright stinking riffs out of his Fender Strat that any other human has ever managed. He would have died if he hadn't kicked his alcohol and cocaine habits in 1986; then he went on to get himself killed in a helicopter crash in 1990. Listen to what I think is his magnum opus, The Things That I Used To Do, and try to suppress the gooseflesh that creeps down your spine during the guitar solo in the middle. I dare you. Rest in peace, Stevie.



7. Michael Moore


I've always hated this bastard. His political rants are crap. Fair enough, he nailed Bush's zombie-like reaction to the news of the 9-11 attacks; but he's been skewered comprehensively as a third-rate polemicist by the counterblast film, Manufacturing Dissent. Nonetheless, I watched his latest, Sicko, last night. The problem with this bloody film is that Moore hasn't grasped anything, in years of filmmaking, about the principles of scientific analysis. To establish an idea scientifically, you have to do a power calculation. This means, to simplify things, that there's a minimum number of examples you have to offer before your hypothesis approaches credibility. Moore puts forward horrendous examples of people who have been screwed over by the American health-insurance-based system; but he uses these four or five instances to make gross generalisations about healthcare in America. The US healthcare system might be utterly awful, for all I know; it's just that Moore fails to come anywhere near proving this. More egregiously, he reveals himself to be a dualist of the sort he's always criticising. According to him in this film, everything the US ever does is wrong, and everything anyone else does - Britain, France, Canada and Cuba - is sublimely altruistic, unassailable and, well, perfect. Never mind that Britain has the lowest cancer survival rates in the Western world, far lower than those of, say, Holland, or the dreaded America (I'm happy to provide figures if anyone doubts this). Or that the rate of getting shot in the back on trying to escape the host country is just that bit higher in Cuba than in any of the other countries featured in Moore's film.


And yet... At the end of the film, right at the end, when Moore is waddling up to the Capitol in Washington on some dimwitted crusade to force the federal government to do his laundry or some such crap.... he has as the soundtrack Cat Stevens's Don't Be Shy. Now, I'm not a hippy. I was born in 1970, and as far as I was concerned when I reached adulthood in 1988 and then again in 1991, the hippies could kiss my ring, and I'm not using ecclesiastical imagery here. But I've always loved that Cat Stevens song, since about 1979, I think, when I was nine. It's always resonated in me as a sort of anthem to people like me, people who are misfits in some way - shy, awkward, afraid to ask out girls or approach potential friends, people who have minds foaming with ideas and music and joy who nonetheless never know quite how to communicate these ideas to other human beings. People who identify intensely with the Counting Crows song Mr Jones, as I do. Profoundly interesting people like, I suspect, almost all the bloggers I link to on the left there.


And listening to that utterly beautiful Cat Stevens song, written as it was in 1971, I understood that Michael Moore isn't really the irredeemable, sneering bastard I've always thought he was, even though I disagree profoundly with his politics and most of his conclusions. In fact, his perceptiveness in choosing that song makes me wonder if he hasn't started to have doubts about his own position (i.e. that the US is automatically bad in everything it does and the rest of the world is by default wonderful). My own take is: the human race is chaotic, haphazard, at times brilliant, self-destructive, good most of the time, self-serving and nasty slightly less of the time on the whole, wherever it's found, in Europe or Asia or Africa or America or wherever else. We're all in the same fucking boat, people, so let's not blow each other up in trains or bomb each other from the skies. And let's not mix our metaphors, please, for Christ's sake.


Update!
I forgot to tag people! So let's hear seven things you're in favour of, Sarah, Dr Maroon, Pat, Sam, FMC, Boudica and (ah ha ha haaaa, yeah, right) Noreen.

Comments:
A most worthy rejoinder, particularly 4, 5 and 7. I was in a couple of school plays myself, y'know, but no-one from BAFTA could be bothered, hence my present embitteredness. I am not well up on Victorian literature - Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd was inflicted on me at O level by the single worst English teacher I've ever suffered, so it is possible my mind has been permanently poisoned against him, and I think the only Dickens I've ever got through is A Christmas Carol - but it's always nice to encounter someone who has read and appreciated something written before they were born, or even before last year. Haven't seen any Michael Moore either, except for his superb turn in Team America: World Police, but it's amazing what music can redeem, unless Kenneth Branagh makes a film of it.
 
I've had Sicko sitting on my tivo for ages now and I still haven't been able to watch it. Not to say he doesn't have a few good points - I've read reviews - but the man takes the anecdotal, puffs himself up with self-righteousness 'til he is positively shiny with rage, and, with smug relish at his own "fearlessness," he discredits everyone who has ever argued the same points in a rational manner. Nobody wants to be dismissed as a Moore-symp. and this is increasingly true for Democrats as well as Republicans. The debate is degraded.

I liked Bowling For Columbine, although it seemed wrong somehow to harangue the clearly doddery and bewildered Charlton Heston quite as much as he did, for all old man Chuck is a gun-nut. By the time Fahrenheit 9/11 came around I thought his tactics were becoming more and more bullying and, while his points were often fair, the shrieky manner in which they were presented was becoming harder to ignore and turned me off rather than on.

This time out I just can't be arsed with his formula any more. You don't win any prizes by preaching, even to the choir, and I'm as critical of the inequalities in the HMO run US system as anyone. Hyperbole is no way to win any argument, particularly when no attempt is made to present any balance. He is becoming the one-man Fox News for the left.

I am - as I think the majority are - so fed up with the extremely ugly and polarised politics in this country, which his kind of journalism feeds, that I can't seem to bring myself to watch this thing. I might be conflating the message with the medium here but while I can face full-on the fact that we have a huge problem that needs fixing, I am sure this gauche presentation of it will have me wincing and peering my way through.
 
I like Bleak House a lot - all that jarndyce vs Jarndyce stuff learned me that it was always thus with the law. I was surprised by that, i don't know why, although i did read it young. It might be my favourite Dickens although i have gone back and read Hard Times and David Copperfield twice each too.

I have never read Middlemarch.

I like Virginia Woolf a lot and am in the Woolf Society.

Finnegans Wake scared me off Joyce but I am rediscovering him again with The Dubliners.
 
I was trained as a professional actor and have been in and directed a fair few plays in that capacity. But I do have to say that I always liked Am-Dram, no mater how iffy some of the acting could be (although a lot of it is actually bloody good!). One of the diferences I always saw between the pros and the hobbyists was the weary sense of "this is work" exhibited by some of my colleagues, as opposed to the sense of fun and love of the craft I always see with amateurs.

I also became, at one stage, Artistic Director for a youth theatre, which gave me the best of both worlds... I insisted on treating those teens like professional actors instead of "kids doing plays" and as such instilled an apropriate methodology and work-attitude in them (including proper warm ups and the like) whilst still being able to capitalise on their sense of wonder and excitement. I loved doing that job...

Sorry... just having a nostalgia moment!
 
Wunderbar.

I must off and sate my urge for amateur dramatics.
 
Our Mutual friend - dear Sam - told me about your bit on am dram and guess what; this very day I did a small post on it.
Politicians give me a pain in the bum. Lord Home seemed a decent man but it's been down hill ever since.
 
So you're back; you bastard?

To many words, must return.
sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired.
who gives a shit?
 
Philip: I know we're almost the same age, and I think my school went to war with yours once. Weren't you the one who scored that goal against me during the Christmas truce before I bayoneted you in the knackers in that trench the next day?

Sam: benevolent fascism with a Marxist twist is increasingly presenting itself as the solution, IMHO.

Never tried Finnegans Wake (I appreciate that you've avoided the 'apostrophe trap', by the way), so you've got me there. Ulysses is staring at me from the shelf. I still need to read some William Boyd first, though. (Private joke, people.)

Binty: blimey. I knew you were an artist, but not a professional actor. Respect, dude. I know what you mean: my am-dram group (well, it's not mine, but you know what I mean) has two pros in it who have said much the same, namely that there's far more fun when you're doing it as an amateur. Plus, you get to learn from the pros for free.

Boudica: watch out for the groups that operate a 'casting couch' selection process. The chair of our group tried that on with me when I joined, but I told him to put his teeth back in and stop messing about.

Pat: it's a pleasure to have you here, as always, and sorry about all the swearing. I've responded to your post, as you'll see.

Did you know Alec D. Home's brother William was a fine playwright himself? The Reluctant Debutante is a witty, 50s take on the Wilde drawing-room comedy, and will be featured in our (www.lads.org.uk)next season if I have anything to do with it.

Dr Maroon: I've been back a while, so get with the programme, dog.


I've just realised I forgot to tag people at the end of this post: so, be afraid, be very afraid.
 
PS: Pat, I haven't yet read Our Mutual Friend. However, my local pub is the one Dickens used as the basis for 'The Mayflower' in Barnaby Rudge, and described as 'the best place in the world'. Bit of a stretch, that, but it does have Bombardier ale on tap and the food's wonderful.
 
Hey cuntybaws I'm in favour of you getting feedburner as I must of just missed two posts to slag off. I'm one of the intelligent bloggers right? I can relate to me and Mrs Jones.
 
A meme? how the great foot odour has cum doon to me my level.
 
Well, it's difficult to avoid scoring against a goalie who chews his own toes. However, I left my knackers with Matron before shipping overseas.
 
Now don't be going off me but I'm a me-me free zone; it says so on my side-bar. The reason is my story is all me me me and I don't want folk to get sick to the back teeth.
 
So, I did the me me, Foot eater you cunt - but I have not tagged people because I don't know how to do the link things. And also because tagging is gay. but I thought you would want to know that I have done it - so there you have it - I have done the Me me

Noreen
 
Still going on about the old am-dram, Footy? I used to be Brewski, just letting some of the old guard know I've recovered sufficiently to start a new blog. thedizzycelestial@blogspot.com
Bunch of arse of course but no harm done. Salutations.
 
Dr Maroon's back, so time for you to make an appearance again...
 
Welcome back, Brewsk. Will pop round soon.

Kim: yes, I've just arrived back from China and have posted about it on my Cape to Rio blog.
 
You're Dr Maroon? I just assumed you were his personal boot polisher and went everywhere with him
 
That's El Barbudo to a T! Great impersonation, Kim.
 
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