Hawking the Infinitely Prolonged

People are dropping like flies at the moment, and the latest to go is Stephen Hawking.  He was given two years to live after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and yet survived until the age of 76.  I’m trying to think of something clever to say about him, but zerothly has done it much better than I can, so all I’m going to do is put together a series of Hawking-related clips as a sort of half-arsed tribute:

https://zerothly.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/a-prolonged-history-of-stephen-hawking/#like-9043

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2980516/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09th4hf

These are, in order, zerothly’s blog post, the biopic The Theory of Everything, Hawking appearing in The Simpson’s and his voice in the latest Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Basically Hawking was up for anything and in spite of the monotone of his voice, had a great sense of humour: when asked when he’d made a mistake in A Brief History of Time, he replied, ‘I predict that I was wrong.’

Sorry I haven’t done this with my whole arse but I’m feeling a little cold-y and woolly-headed right now.

Kirk out

Advertisements

We Have Normality. Anything Else is Therefore Your Own Problem

I’m nearly better, though measuring your own progress is far from an exact science.  I was re-reading my old diary (from 2006) and trying to figure out if I was happier then or if I’m happier now – and I think the answer is, both.  I was happier then in the sense that I had work and money; we were involved with the children and had frequent holidays.  On the other hand the diary is full of my frustrations: people I disliked and didn’t know how to deal with; continual demands on me from work and children – and above all a total lack of time to write, which resulted in mental chaos.  My mind felt completely cluttered; and whilst I don’t have any of the external trappings I had then, what I do have is a large measure of mental clarity and plenty of time to write.  If I don’t write I get mental constipation: thoughts build up and up and are never released, like one of those progress bars which never quite gets to the end – or if it does, just starts all over again.  They ought to call them Sisyphus bars because they never get to the end…

Getting better is like returning to normal from Douglas Adams’ Total Perspective Vortex: ‘we have normality.  I repeat, we have normality.  Anything else is therefore your own problem.’

http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Total_Perspective_Vortex

I have to figure out which symptoms were due to the TVP – aka chest infection – (eg tiredness, depression) and which are now my own problem.  Of course in a wider sense everything is my own problem, but it’s good to know which are caused by a bug and which aren’t.  Though I suspect it may not be that simple.  After all, why do we get bugs in the first place?

Now there’s a question with a never-ending answer.

Kirk out

…slurry…

I’m trying to think of unusual words for what is coming out of my lungs at the moment, and ‘slurry’ seems like a good one.  Yes, I know from my ‘Archers’ listening that it means muck, but it sounds right and it looks like something slurred.  OH has also suggested ‘slurt’ but I’m not so keen on that as it sounds like a collapsed yurt.

Or maybe it’s a liturgy?  You know, a lurgy with a great big IT in the middle.  Anyway, somehow I feel that coming up with funny names for it helps me to feel better – like when people name their tumours.  In the latest Rebus book, the detective has a shadow on his lung which he nicknames ‘Hank Marvin’ and which eventually turns out to be benign.  I’m fairly certain I have a chest infection and not a shadow on the lung but we’ll know more when I see the doc tomorrow – always assuming I can get an appointment…

In the meantime I’ve not been up to doing much except watching TV.  I’ve checked out some videos of ‘Rex the Runt’ (a wobbly bobbly dribbly squiggly dog)

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/bad-bob-random-pavarotti-and-buster-gonad/

followed by the film ‘Eddie the Eagle.’  This is a great thing to watch if you’re ill: the uplifting, soaring, swooping, yearning, stretching tale of a no-hoper who went on to be an Olympic ski-jumper and the British record holder is highly inspiring and altogether in the traditional British spirit of cobbling things together on a shoestring and coming last.  It’s the perfect antidote to the relentlessly pervasive culture of competition which confronts us at every turn.

See you on the other side folks.

Kirk out

Monster Hits and Monster Directors

There’s a big debate going on at the moment about whether we should support the work of artists who turn out to be monsters.  Where do you draw the line?  I would never knowingly go and see a film made by a Nazi or white supremacist, on the principle that I want nothing to do with such people.  But what about Woody Allen?  I used to love his work but now I don’t know if I ever want to see a film of his again.

There’s a similar question around Harvey Weinstein.  He’s done some terrific work but can I still watch it, now that I know what he’s like alone in a hotel room?  And what about Roman Polanski?  Can we – should we – divorce the person from the work?

I still can’t make up my mind about this.  It seems to me that there ought to be some sort of coherence here; that if a man is a monster it will come through somehow in his work.  But although Woody Allen’s later films are a pile of self-indulgent mush, his earlier work still dazzles.  I still love Annie Hall; and he was a monster when he made it.  So what to do?

It seems clear that there are men against whom the welter of evidence is conclusive.  I firmly believe that Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein are guilty of the acts of which they are accused (if not all, then most.)  But there are other cases where the accused ought, as in any other case, to be given the benefit of the doubt while investigations take place – and they’re not.  I have no idea whether Kevin Spacey was guilty as claimed, but he’s been made a pariah all the same, along with many others.  Did he deserve this?

I don’t know.

The problem with the #metoo campaign is the problem with public discourse in general.  On one side we have the accusers, supported by feminists and others; in the opposite corner we have the accused, supported by their friends and those who think sexual harassment is either a joke or something women are making way too much fuss about.  This is not simply a case of men vs women: many men have supported the victims and some women have spoken against, notably Catherine Deneuve.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/french-feminists-catherine-deneuve-metoo-letter-sexual-harassment

As the Guardian article above points out, Deneuve and others make some reasonable points but have been accused of ‘supporting rape culture’, such is the gladiatorial nature of public discourse.

But there’s another problem with these offences.  It’s not like dealing with murder or GBH.  It’s not even like dealing with a straightforward theft (and good luck getting the police to take any notice of that nowadays).  These offences take place in private, in a situation where it is often impossible to prove or disprove consent.  Rape is of course an offence and can be reported; but what do you do, say, when a man like Michael Fallon (a government minister at the time) keeps putting his hand on your knee despite repeated requests to stop?  What do you do when a man leans in a little too close and looks down the front of your dress, or touches you on the back and lets his hand wander down to your arse or (as Jimmy Savile repeatedly did) sticks his tongue down your mouth?  You’d have better luck reporting the theft of a stapler than going to the police with that.  So what do you do?  The newsreader pestered by Michael Fallon threatened to punch him, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with that.

We need to stick up for ourselves and for each other – but more than that, we need to change the environment to make this kind of harassment completely unacceptable.  So, does that involve not going to see Annie Hall any more?

I don’t know.  Here’s an article that might shed some light on the question:

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/

Kirk out

Hamlet is not Quite as Funny…

Image result for withnail and I open source images

I take as my text today the script of Withnail and I: yes, all of it – for as I have so consistently pointed out the entire film is basically a collection of quotes linked by a somewhat haphazard plot.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094336/?ref_=nv_sr_1

But my subject this morning is not the film per se, but the Facebook group.  It is my contention that The Withnail and I Appreciation Society is one of the healthiest groups on social media.  Why?  Because it allows people to hurl the most terrible insults at each other with impunity.  When someone calls me a terrible c**t, I chuckle; when a man declares that he means to have me even if it must be burglary, I laugh uproariously and when people ‘feel unusual’ I’m not a bit spooked.   Because the film licences this rudeness, which is not about the person you’re talking to but about your shared enjoyment of the film.  And this is very healthy I think.

This is what happens: people post pictures, memes and links to news stories on which to hang their references to the film.  And because the film has a thousand and one quotable bits, it just keeps on going.  As a youth I used to weep in butcher’s shops.  I’ve only just begun to grow last year.  The joint I am about to roll can utilise up to twelve skins.  It is called the Camberwell Carrot.  This will tend to make you very high.  Bollocks, I’ll swallow it and run a mile.  That wouldn’t wash with Geoff.  Imagine getting into a fight with the f***er.

It’s not all insults: you can offer sherry, fulminate about cats or eulogise root vegetables.  You can talk about garlic, rosemary and salt or good quality rubber boots; you can tell Miss Blennerhasset to call the police or demand the finest wines known to humanity.  You can even go on holiday by mistake.

The film ends with a soliloquy from hamlet, another play that’s full of quotable bits.  Though Hamlet isn’t quite as funny…

Marwood out.

Murder Most Florid

Ken Branagh is rapidly turning in my mind into a combination of Busby Berkeley and Ken Russell, what with the extravaganza of his ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (which I watched last week) and now this week the latest incarnation of Agatha Christie which was the Ken vehicle of 2017.

I wouldn’t have bothered, not being a fan of either Christie or Branagh – but I had heard good reports of this film.  Besides, I wanted something to do on a Friday night.  So off we went.

As is usual with these things, the cast featured the brightest and best – it was, however, often cast against type with Johnny Depp as a scarred villain, Judi Dench as a spoilt aristocrat and Olivia Coleman as her dour, repressed lady’s companion.  Brannagh was pretty good as Poirot; better than David Suchet and throwing all his florid tendencies into portraying a controlled, thoughtful man with OCD.  But what really lifted this above the run-of-the-mill was the cinematography; and here I am aware of lacking a vocabulary with which to describe it.

To start with there were crowd scenes; panoramic establishing shots and hurried sweeps through crowded kitchens and railway stations – these scenes basically propel Poirot from hotel room to train carriage – and off they go.  The problem with filming these things is that although the train is moving, the location is static; the characters are in a train carriage and there’s nowhere to go.  Brannagh solves this problem by going Big: the camera sweeps up and down, going up to the sky to film from above and sweeping under the carriages and bridges like a refugee trying to find a home.  In the climactic scene where the train breaks down and the murderer is revealed, the humans are dwarfed surreally not only by the mountains around but by the vast mechanical bulk of the still-steaming engine: there was something in all this that reminded me of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  So all in all, I would say it’s worth seeing and worth going to see, as not much of this would come across on a DVD.

Kirk out

That Guy Gandhi

It’s funny how a weekend comes together.  You do things seemingly at random and together they make perfect sense.  First, I’ve been watching Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.  It takes a whole weekend as it weighs in at around 3 1/2 hours, and I could spend a week’s blog posts just talking about the scope of it: a film as vast as India itself (I only gained an inkling when I went, travelling for hours on a train and then seeing the scintilla of map that I’d covered).  But instead of reviewing the film I want to think about the man and how much he achieved.  As a boy Gandhi was shy, but he overcame his shyness to achieve in one lifetime more than most of us could achieve in a dozen.  Though the ideas of satyagraha – ‘truth power’ – were embedded in Hindu tradition, Gandhi brought them into the modern age and taught an entire nation to practise non-violent struggle.

No sooner had I finished Gandhi than I was plunged into a nuclear-free session, ‘Can Nuclear Weapons Make us Safer?’  On the whole it was a rhetorical question with the answer ‘no’ – but to be fair, politicians on the other side of the debate had been invited and had declined (or been unable) to come.  But the ideas of Gandhi were key to our discussion.  It is hard to imagine a more violent weapon than nuclear missiles and in my view it is our duty to oppose them in any way we can: the idea that because our ‘opponents’ (whoever they may be) have them then we must have them is no different from the American saying that because the bad guys have guns, so must the good guys.  We all know where that ends up.  This is a discussion for another blog topic, but the reason North Korea has nuclear weapons (in my view) is because they fear the Americans.  We need to deconstruct fear, not escalate armaments.

Onwards.

So, to complete the day, enter the latest BBC costume drama.  Lately this type of drama has come in for a lot of criticism for being dewy-eyed and romanticising royalty and aristocracy.  Not a scintilla of that here.  This was a very clear-eyed view of the times, beginning with a rough and tyrannical search by the King’s men of a Catholic house which has just been celebrating Mass.  Like many such houses it features a priest hole: however the Kings’ men know this trick and compare measurements outside and inside.  At this point a young acolyte, about to set off for Europe, is discovered hiding in a chest.  Though still very young, he is subjected to little more than a show-trial before being hanged, drawn and quartered, this being shown in enough detail to register its barbarity.  Before this we see the lady of the house put to death by the peine forte et dure, her ribs gradually broken by heavy weights while all the while her tormentor tries to get information from her.

The courage of people to undergo torture and death has never failed to impress me, particularly as I doubt very much whether I’d have similar courage.

Mark Gatiss (that man has an impressive talent) is excellent as William Cecil, the spider at the heart of the anti-Catholic web, sending out spies and poisoning King James’s mind with reports of Catholic conspiracies.  He’s the McCarthy of his age: played with the superior detachment of a Mycroft with the monstrousness of a Richard III (Shakespeare’s, not history’s).  The episode largely sets up the involvement of Catesby in the gunpowder plot, and Guy Fawkes is introduced to us right at the end.  This is costume drama so good that you just think of it as drama.

And how are the two guys celebrated?  One is burnt in effigy every year while the other continues to be venerated and his ideas practised the world over.

Great guy, that Gandhi.

Anyway, here’s the BBC drama – you can watch Gandhi on Netflix or DVD:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p05j1cg8/gunpowder-series-1-episode-1

Kirk out