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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Thirteen kinds of comment

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29 June

* Contains spoilers *

I had not expected simply to enjoy so much Tomas Leach’s documentary, In No Great Hurry : 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter (2012).

These comments are a snapshot why – if they speak to you at all, I hope that you will see this film:

1. Leiter has a cat – the cat was deliberately incorporated into the film (although not introduced), as if to say something about him, e.g. when comically spread on its back with its paws in the air

2. The stills that we were shown, full screen against black, were very, very effective, very beautiful

3. We were shown Leiter taking photographs, but the temptation was resisted to show us what he took, although he did show us – on the preview screen of his camera – the brilliant shots that he captured of the knees of the girls on the bench

4. We were treated as if this were a feature, and who Soames (Bantry) was, and what she meant to Leiter, was carefully revealed

5. There was a candid provisionality in the shooting as to whether Leiter would approve and allow what we knew that we were watching (and therefore that he must have done)

6. Leiter is an immense trickster, with an unfailing comic timing, which put the largely impeccable Woody Allen in relief

7. We were allowed to watch, but not to forget that we were watching with a licence, with permission – that mattered, and counted

8. The slightly off-putting – because seeming pretentious – sub-title about lessons in life just meant that the film was delicately punctuated by thirteen innocuous captions, often after a moment that had made my companion and me roar aloud

9. This was a better portrait than of Morten Lauridsen, because Leiter’s humour was infectious, his candour and humanity to the forefront

10. At the same time, Leiter’s putting things off, of piling things up, of not throwing things away, was a greater treasure, and he was noble and honest in revealing how such things defeat him, if he starts on a clear-out

11. And all those photographs, those boxes, those contact-sheets – the integrity of keeping on creating, but the immensity of the task of seeking to order it all

12. That inchoate state mirrored Leiter’s willingness to be filmed as incoherent, to start a sentence that he could not finish, or which he interrupted to death

13. Finally, just his photographs again, those aching pictures of his father, his mother, of Soames, with a different intensity from his equally wonderful fashion portraits


Thank you, Tomas and Saul !


Friday, 28 June 2013

What look does Coogan have ?

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28 June (24 March 2015, Tweet added)

* Contains plenty of spoilers *

I was at a special screening of The Look of Love (2013), with Paul Willetts* present to take part in a question-and-answer session – he is the author of the book now of that name. (It had initially been published, we were told, under the title Members Only.)

One has to take with a pinch of salt whether the older man, looking back over his life in the wake of his daughter’s death, is genuine, or just film schmaltz – engendering a sympathy for Paul Raymond in some realistic mode, whereas significant parts of the rest of the film had Steve Coogan stamped all over them. Coogan, after all (which it took a question from me to elicit, when the Q&A until then had chosen to comment little on the film, how it came into being, or related topics), had approached Michael Winterbottom with the desire to make a film where he played the part.




What I take from the film is an attempt to show Raymond as a man whose primary (or initial) interest had been in the burlesque, showman side of things. That aim was significantly undermined by other aspects :

* Showing him destroying his own marriage by first taking sleeping with young hopefuls (with his wife Jean’s acquiescence) and coming home to her to tell her about it, and then starting bringing them to the marital bed, in selfish supposition that such swinging was as good for her as it was for him

* Willing – for money’s sake alone – to enter into partnership with Tony Power (even more sleazily played than Raymond by Chris Addison) to start publishing the trademark magazines (and like products)

* Seeming, in fact, to be unable to relate to anyone except on the level of a transaction**, even his beloved daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) when talking to his advisers forces him to decide that he cannot keep taking the financial losses of the big show that she is fronting (as a singer) : in this scene, Debbie is clearly hurting at the news, but Raymond has nothing to offer her (no suggestions for alternatives or much comfort), and can only question why she is crying, and keep urging her not to, almost as one of Coogan’s most famous creations might

* This coldness was typified by a stiffly awkward and dutiful reception of Derry, his son from a pre-marital relationship, with just Cooganesque utterances*** to cover thinly the lack of anything to say to him – the closing titles tell us that Raymond, in comparison with the millions left to granddaughters Fawn and India Rose, left Derry nothing


Raymond as presenter of spectaclesis there, but more drawn upon by what Willetts had to say, for the film really tries to show Raymond as driven, but pitifully lost in a world of cocaine, sexy women and alcohol. From the moment when Powers persuades him to have another go at publishing, and Men Only is launched, the spectacles become the different and more specific ones of solo women posing for the camera.

(The film casually interjects Powers telling a model not to spread her legs so much with the words This isn’t Germany, thereby establishing both the standards of the day and Powers’ prowess in showing what could be shown. Raymond is often enough shown there, but looking as if having as much fun as on a wet afternoon in Scarborough.)

Powers, until he falls from favour for apparently not being able to handle his coke (he has a sordid fate listed in the closing titles), is just as much a catalyst for change in Raymond’s life as the lion whose interaction with two bare-breasted women lands him in court. Thus another thing that can be seen about how Matt Greenhalgh (who wrote Nowhere Boy (2009) about the young John Lennon) sought to effect is a serendipitous universe in which Raymond lives and which he – with the major exception of Debbie’s death – creates and controls.

Unfortunately, as with the footage where India Rose is in the back of the car with him and quizzing Raymond as to which Soho properties he owns, it all feels like an over-simplification, and then one asks what the point is. So one comes back to Coogan wanting to do this with Geoffrey Anthony Quinn, born 15 November 1925, and I have no idea whether that pre-dates the death in March 2008 (though it is not as if Willetts appears to have rushed out a biography).

A comment in a review on the film’s IMDb page suggests that Coogan had been turned down in favour of Geoffrey Rush for playing Peter Sellers – however, if so, that film was released in 2004, so it seems unlikely that Coogan harboured the loss, and The Look of Love is ‘compensation’. If he had really wanted to play a funny man like Sellers, why not have selected, as a project, a number of other comics who have died in the last decade or before ?

But there were the out-of-place Partidgeisms – as a rich man, Raymond had no need to make ludicrous and highly self-conscious attempts at witticisms to get women into bed (since, whatever Coogan may think about his own magnetic powers, Raymond had more of a power of preferment that rendered him attractive). It was clearly part of Coogan’s desire to play the part that they should be there, even though they did feel tacked on, and not at the heart of the role :

Willetts, who said that he had been a script consultant, agreed, when answering my question, that the film-makers seemed pleased, even boastful, that they had Cooganized it more and more as it progressed, and one certainly cannot claim, whatever merit the ambition possessed, that they failed.


Yet what it does leave us with is a Raymond who, although wealthy and successful, is alone and probably lacking love at the end, self-obsessedly reliving Debbie’s life and the images surrounding her death – as a purely linear device, it is also, of course, a way of inducing suspense into the story for us, leaving us to wonder, as we work back from an orphaned India Rose, when the moment has come for her to die (and how that will be – we are on edge when Raymond closes the show as to whether it is then with a mixture of heroin, alcohol and a broken heart).

By Debbie’s death in 1992 (although we only heard about this), she had been playing the role that she found for herself of taking over from Powers, and her father had started letting her take over the business. Was he lost, as much as anything, by not being able to leave the pornography and property portfolio in her hands, however much he seemed to show that he did really care for her ?

(There was a slightly strange, because undwelt-on, detail in that, when he split with model Fiona Richmond (whose relationship with Raymond had helped break the marriage), she moved in with Debbie.)

It appears that there is to be another film about Raymond, for which this one made way by taking a different from his nickname, The King of Soho. Will it, as Raymond’s other son is involved, give us a less-romanticized account, where he does not end his days grieving over Debbie and, probably, for his past life, and where he is not played by someone quite so keen to mould the title role to his image ?


Post-script

I think that Antonia Quirke's review (in The Financial Times) is quite fun, and spot on about the Britishness, and there is a good little video linked to in Peter Bradshaw's.

Looking at the publicity material, I have no idea whether Raymond ever said something about what he achieved was not bad for a boy from Liverpool who just had a five-bob note in his pocket : if he said it, one nonetheless felt that Coogan was ficitionalizing his own career's success in and around such detail; if not, that it was in the melting-pot of Coogan creating Raymond in his own image.

Coogan is interviewed on film with Winterbottom, but, in what I saw, all that they touch on is the simple riches-are-empty paradigm.


End-notes

* Perhaps seriously, as I do not recall, IMDb credits Willetts as Lord Longford.

** Echoes of Mark Ravenhill’s Fucking and Shopping ?

*** Including the running joke as to who Raymond claimed had done the interior of his flat, which at one point was George Harrison, another Yoko ?



Monday, 24 June 2013

Report from Cheltenham Jazz Festival - Gabby Young and Other Animals

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1 June

So, here is my attempt to sum up the experience of The Big Top at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, with Gabby Young and Other Animals...

Compared with other days in that venue, when the acts were not compelling (although, literally, Lianne La Havas did let the position go to her head a little, with everyone on their feet and supposed to do something because she required it), this was warm – and one felt for whether Gabby must have been too hot in her flouncy, cotton-wool skirt. As she said, she had always dreamed of playing at the festival, and she had clearly been inspired with her appearance by the feeling of carnival (and striped awnings and lollipops even feature in one of their videos).

The early numbers were much jazzier than as the set progressed, but at least Ms Young did establish some jazz credentials by swinging along to a few tunes (and even scatting a little), before turning a bit lighter and more folky, unlike others whom I heard in that tent.

That said, some songs were of a distinctly ‘psychological’ flavour, as even the title ‘In Your Head’ suggests, let alone lyrics such as ‘Don’t worry – they won’t get you !’ and ‘The paranoia had taken over’. For a good impression of what that was like, although it is a more free and less straight version, take a look at main man Steve Ellis and her in this Tweet*, which is a link to recordings made for Henry Weston’s Cider :



‘We’re All in This Together’ is a less cheery tale (depending on how it is performed, despite the lyrics ‘And I won’t get alive – and they’ll call you up and tell you I won’t survive’), and there is an uneasy quality to music and words of ‘Ones That Got Away’, whose YouTube studio version is quite lively. However, do not get me wrong that there is not plenty of sassy playing with eight or more Other Animals on stage – it may be simply that Ms Young held back a bit on jazz singing as such during the gig, and her classically trained voice came more to the fore.

If one could wrap up ‘a message’ of the show, it was that things maybe are not as bad as they feel (that paranoia may be manageable, and, even if one has fallen down a tunnel, there may be good things at the bottom), and perhaps best done with another song, ‘Male Version of me’, which ends, a little disbelievingly, with the words ‘Perfect for me’.

In every good sense, Gabby Young is and has the true and unselfish energy of a real entertainer, and her talented Animals and she will surely go on to please others wherever they are heard.


And here is a review of the band at Bristol Harbour Festival...



End-notes

* The one on the official web site, www.gabbyyoungandotheranimals.com has that stripy, Yellow Submarine sort of atmosphere.


Images pierce our consciousness

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24 June

Piercing Brightness (2013) gives a leading role to Preston, known, amongst other things, as a railway interchange in Lancashire. Another two things that it is apparently known for is the largest population or density of Chinese people in the UK, and, probably unrelatedly, the highest incidence of reported UFOs. (I hesitate to suggest that the link may be that the former group give rise to the high number of sightings, but many an inferred causality has been based on as slender findings.)

Sufficient reason, one may suppose, to set a film concerned with extra-terrestrial life in this city. The resultant photography, around Preston’s buildings and in its natural environment, was strikingly beautiful, both in themselves and as suggestive of connections that were later made more evident. To be honest, too evident, and that mystery and beauty was swept aside in favour of a Doctor-Who-type plot-line and a race to the finish whose inexplicability could only be grounds for suspecting an opening for a sequel.

Though, honestly, they can spare their breath on selling us another one, as even a paper-thin rationale would not have us believe that an exploratory force on Earth would just have contented itself with knowing all about Lancashire, even if it did first arrive there, and then some members of that ‘Glorious 100’ (a bit too much as if something from Blake’s Seven ?) was assimilated in the population by having the facility to choose a human identity (and so, perhaps, become too enmeshed in Earth life (Park Life ?)).

If I wanted value for money from such a force, tasked with some nebulous aim of helping humankind evolve, I don’t think that I’d be content for them to ignore the rest of the planet and seek to achieve it from a former mill-town. Glorious 100, camped out in Preston when there is a world of culture and of forms of life, seems a bit like a rather feeble ill-thought-out given.

For, despite the words and images that we heard at a – forbidden – assembly of some of the hundred, nothing plausible was offered in explanation, when this was supposed to be the participants navel-gazing at what had become of their mission, when the obvious heckle would have been ‘Shouldn’t have started wearing clogs and keeping a whippet’ (with all due apologies for using that regional stereotype !)

When the plot was kept from being real, i.e. not riddled with the ‘Four thousand holes’ that The Beatles located nearby (in ‘A Day in the Life’), the film worked, with, for example, the curious pair in white (Jiang and Shin) rescued from being laughable as they strode across the square by the ever-circling presence of the hooded bikers, or their room, when they are first hosted by Naseer (, being whited out in an unnatural way. Sadly, maintaining intrigue was not part of Shezad Dawood’s purpose.

No, for it was for the gods from Mount Olympus to show their feet of clay by smoking, drinking, and, by smoking indoors, getting slung out. Slung out of a club that, if it had needed as many men on the door, might have had evidence of more than a smattering of fellow clubbers – unless this is deep social commentary on poverty and austerity, but that still doesn’t explain why a club would pay for a disproportionate level of security.

When this film tried too hard, with Chen Ko as Jiang swaggering or downing a large cocktail in one, one just engaged the thinking ‘This isn’t going to go well’, but did not really care, and, even then, not much happened, except his being the worse for wear. Likewise, when Warner (Paul Leonard) is chasing after Naseer with Maggie (Tracy Brabin) in the car, the pursuit is immaterial, because one does not know what he is seeking (or seeking to avoid).

And then, whether it was the aspect ratio of the copy or the projection, there was the issue with seeing the sub-titles, which first of all made it seem as if our duo was uttering the equivalent of figures to each other, and so it did not seem to matter what they were saying, whereas, when the first sub-title spanned two lines, the top line was legible – and earnest, but banal, in the way that seems to typify the communication of alien beings after the original Star Trek series. Jennifer Lim (Shin) did her best to invest her role with the moody character of a Servalan, but the trite nature of the dialogue, when looks were subverted by words, did for that pretence.

As the almost ever-present menace, though, the hooded bikers, because a purely visual element, provided tension and atmosphere, which scenes of Maggie and her colleague stumbling through thickets failed to deliver: ironically, the alien life, which – we were told at one point – had become so adapted to Earth that it had lost its true nature, is more striking when it just seems to be local youth amusing itself, whereas the scenes of supposed sightings lacked impact and any intensity.

At this level, the film did play with the question of whether we would recognize life from another world, if we saw it. However, Dawood and his writer Kirk Lake did so, generally, in a very clunky way, which made it seem to be trying no harder than Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973) in creating a futuristic world with which we are meant to engage:

In fact, take that back, because, in that early film, Allen and his collaborator Marshall Brickman have two outstanding inventive conceits in the orb and the orgasmatron, not to mention the automated operating-theatre, the hilarious spooling scene, the equally hilarious scene with the inflatable suit, and Allen himself masquerading as a domestic robot, and baulking when he finds out what happens at the mender’s...

If Piercing Brightness had had a tenth of that energy in the plot, characterization and dialogue to equal the strong visuals, it could have been immeasurably better and matched its opening promise !



Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Are you an escapee ?

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18 June 2013

Somehow the recognition of the desire to get away from the tosh that is most training, with its 'issues around' the issues that surround the real issues, is part of the culture, with so-called break-out groups...

Any or all of it is enough to make one wish that one could be an absentee, an escapee, but does either of those words make any sense ?

If I run, I am a runner, not a runnee : I am the one doing the running, not having - if that meant anything - it done to me. There are marshalls who make sure that runners, cyclists or whoever is racing knows where to go, but thankfully - as with steward - no one has coined a word for a person who has been marshalled.

Trust me on this : if not, you must read my whole posting Are you an attendee ?


OK, so why isn't the person who escapes from Stalag Luft IV an escaper, and why, when that person is not on parade for the next body-count, isn't he an absenter ? Someone wlse helped the officer escape, but he doesn't become a person who was escaped, as he did the escaping, and he is the one who is absent, because he is crouching behind a bush in Silesia until nightfall.

Absentee, attendee, escapee... There is no getting away from it, and I, at least, can see no more sense in it than calling an author a writee !


Monday, 17 June 2013

How Time views After Hours (1985)

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1 June

This story had to be told - one way or another, although it was written for New Empress Magazine's issue (number 10), with the theme of Time in cinema, it resisted inclusion.

Finished, it would have looked at Eraserhead (1977) and seen whether Brazil and After Hours (1985) were both indebted to Lynch, but had gone in different directions with it (a bit like particles flying out from a sub-atomic collision)...


In late 1983, there proved not to be the sustainable will – or, with it, the money – for Martin Scorsese to make The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), which he had also insisted had to be shot in Israel (adding to the cost). As he says in Scorsese on Scorsese (Faber & Faber, London, 1996 (updated version)), he sublimated his rage at the studio for thinking Christ ‘not worth the trouble’ (as Barry Diller at Paramount told him, apologizing for not saying before that they were pulling the plug) : he looked around for another film to make.

Not being able to see himself make either, Scorsese turned down Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Witness (1985), and so ended up, again, in the world of independent film with After Hours and, ultimately, with Fassbinder’s cameraman, Michael Ballhaus. Before then, a few things happened on the way…

In New York, Scorsese got to see a script that he liked. It was owned (i.e. they had the film option) by Griffin Dunne (Dunne played Paul Hackett, the male lead) and Amy Robinson (who had appeared in Mean Streets (1973), and was, with Dunne, a co-producer of After Hours). In his own words, Scorsese started reading it and really liked the first two or three pages. I liked the dialogue […].

This is where things got interesting, because Scorsese had apparently been told that it had been written by Joseph Minion in a class at Columbia University (and been given an A in the Graduate Film Program), whereas that seems not to have been the whole story.

Even I, as a fourteen-year-old, learnt the basic rules of plagiarism : even if others had not also decided to lift material for their essay from the introduction to our edition of Julius Caesar, which made ‘the borrowing’ obvious, one could not simply pass off something as one’s own, and had to cover one’s tracks. (Either that, or acknowledge one’s sources, of course*.)

In this case, as blogger Andrew Hearst reveals (linked from the film’s Wikipedia page), there was a radio monologue called Lies, written, performed and broadcast by one Joe Frank for NPR Playhouse in 1982. On Hearst’s blog, it can be heard in full, and runs to around 11 minutes, providing the broad synopsis for around the first one-third of After Hours.

One might just about be able to listen to it and not be spot the relation to After Hours if one had not seen it recently: were it not, that is, that bagel-and-cream-cheese paperweights made of plaster of Paris are a bit of a give-away (even if a five-dollar bill flying out of the cash-cradle, and through the window, of a taxi and leaving Hackett without cash is not already). Where I cannot agree with Hearst, because what he writes does not take account of how screenplays get written and end up in production, is what he makes of the evidence.

Hearst writes ‘Minion’s IMDb credits are pretty thin after the early 1990s, so his career seems to have been really hurt by this, no surprise’. It is, of course, an easy assumption to make, but do we know that Minion was credited with the screenplay as the (willing ?) fall guy for someone else’s theft of the plot, because there appears to be nothing against which to check the story about the screenplay and the Columbia course ?

The real mystery is that anyone would attempt to pass off Lies in the guise of After Hours without changing some very significant details, some of the more obvious of which have been mentioned. Is it, so we are being encouraged to understand Minion, that we have to imagine him inexperienced and greedy, and so getting himself a bad name by miring the picture in the litigation that Hearst talks about ?

I have not looked for evidence of the court case, not just because it is so long ago (and I would not know where to look), but also since, if there had been an out-of-court settlement, only the fact of the case’s existence, which we probably suppose, would have been apparent. Scorsese, of course, makes no mention of the issue in interview, and even the injured Frank, according to Hearst, was being reticent to name the film that paid him off.

All that we have to hope is that he got a good settlement, because, comparing his performance and the film, it is all there, right down to the characterization of Rosanna Arquette (as Marcy), whom Hearst described as ‘interested and indifferent at the same time’. As for what happened to Minion, there seems to be a bigger elephant in the room than that :

Dunne makes a perfectly good, nervy Hackett, and the film gets good ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, but, looking at Dunne’s career and judging it from IMDb’s page for him, he seems to have achieved more as director and producer than the rather bitty parts and t.v. work on the other side of the camera.

Yes, things happen - or do not happen - in a career quite unfairly, and maybe After Hours, as the Rotten Tomatoes figures show, had the critical appraisal, but insufficient popular appeal, to allow Dunne to move on from there.

Or maybe there was no moving on from a persecution-complex character such as Hackett, hounded by highly organized vigilantes within hours of visiting the area, giving off signals of being attractive to women, but dangerous, and ending the film dusty and dazed back at the office where he began it.

The all-too-often quoted opening words of ‘Burnt Norton’ from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets – which lose significance out of context – have a place here, in looking at what, if I am not mistaken, is a film directed by Scorsese that made too little impact on its release :

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.



I have not seen Dunne in anything else, but I am grateful to him for wanting to get this film made and being Paul Hackett, and I am sure that others will be for what he has produced or directed since.


End-notes


* Which I do not think that the film credits do with an even bigger theft, that of a story by Franz Kafka that he incorporated into the scene in the Cathedral in his unfinished novel The Trial (Der Prozess), where Josef K. is told a parable about the law, Vor dem Gesetz (Before the Law). The story is lifted straight into the film in the context of the bouncers to the club that Hackett needs to enter, and it feeds into the film's uneasy quality of persecution, witch-hunt and - although Dunne is not Jewish - maybe anti-Semitism.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Self-killing : the ultimate act of self-harming ?

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7 June

The word suicide itself defies us : if we know the word homicide, we are still stumped without a knowledge of Latin that sui means the particular, the self.

But the word gets heard - and used - often enough for us to know the meaning, without needing to know that it is an act of self-killing, and it even appeared, when CĂ©line Deon took a career-break (for motherhood ?), in a French headline sa suicide incroyable (I quote from memory). The word, just now referring to 'career suicide', is with us in such manifestations as 'financial suicide' and 'intellectual suicide', and, if I am honest, it has become a little too cheap for my liking, a glib notion when what is emobodied is that of choosing to end one's life.


And there we come against the taboos, the misconceptions, the prejudice.

We all know about 'suicides' (as, equally cheaply, those who carried through that choice are sometimes unfeelingly called) not being buried 'in consecrated ground', and so we have a lasting sense of the shame and crime that edcclesiastical law deemed this act to be. We will know also of the shame and penalty of bastardy, of 'being born out of wedlock', and the stigma is quite similar in origin, the shame of the state of affairs, but different in how the twentieth century came to view illegitimacy and suicide :

Legislation enacted by the UK Parliament in 1925 repealed the consequences of being born to parents who happened not to be married, and, in my view, the prevalence of people living together in the last thirty years suggests that little or no societal disapproval attaches to being unmarried parents (as against a young single mother, it must be said). The inability to inherit in certain situations had been swept away by the reforming legislation, and, with it, the negative and hampering limitations of being illegitinate, a notion also done away with. (All that survives are the feeble jokes about doubting my parenthood when the speaker has been called a bastard, etc.)

With suicide, we had to wait until only fifty-two years ago for Parliament to pass the Suicide Act 1961, and thereby decriminalize someone trying and failing to kill him- or herself : before then, because the act was a criminal offence, someone known to be a survivor of the attempt was open to prosecution.


I know only when the two changes that I refer to, not (for want of having researched the matter) what the policy and other considerations were that led to the disparity in timing : more than 35 years to correct the injustice of being open to prosecution for wanting to end one's life, as against remedying the things that a person born to an unmarried couple was prohibited from doing.

In both cases, the history of the law's disapproval of illegitimacy and of suicide lay in Christian theology, with a Biblical notion of birthright (and of the primacy of the legitimate first male child), and a belief that suicide was the unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Yet (as I have said), why decriminalizing suicide was less of a priority is not known to me : by analogy, I can say only that, under the law prior to the Mental Health Act 1983, being an unmarried mother made one liable to be detained under the predecessor Act, which is an almost incredible time for repealing such a policy.

Looking back to Greek mythology, whatever we think of Oedipus, it is clear enough in Sophocles' The Theban Plays that there is a taboo against suicide. There were also The Fates, whose Greek name (Moirai) means 'the apportioners', from which we partly get the idea of an allotted span on Earth, maybe three score years and ten : the strand representing each human life was spun by Clotho, measured out by Lachesis, and cut to length by Atropos.

You have your allotted span, and you don't seek to defy the Gods by prematurely shortening it, because there are penalties, if you do. Christian doctrine that this unforgiveable sin was that of suicide involved similar notions that God determines the length of one's life.


All of this history feeds in to the attitudes towards - the words used to describe - suicide now, and many object to the words 'commit[ted] suicide' on the basis that 'to commit' suggests a crimnal offence. Whether that usage is a real hang-over from the days before the 1961 Act, I do not know, but it is not unlikely.

All in all, the public is so confused by the messages about suicide, assisted suicide, whether the former is a crime, or whether either is an act of courage or of cowardice (no neutral view here), that is no wonder that those who feel death to be the only way out are hurt and hindered sometimes by them : amongst which, they have the fear of being thrown into Dante's Inferno, of the stigma that will attach, and of being perceived as having acted selfishly.


To be continued


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Lad goes out / Lad gets laid

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2 June (updated 4 June)

My e-mail accounts will not talk to Varsity.

At any rate, the following comment, which I sought to add to what Hannah Wilkinson has written, has to reside here because of such lack of dialogue :


This piece is almost entirely predicated on the idea that there is, specifically in Britain (at whose universities students come from all over the world) and as if no men of other nationalities might do what is contended for as usual, 'a lad culture' that somehow dictates conformity. This is said numerous times, in different ways, but it is hard to see how this Alfie-like notch-on-the-bedpost 'culture' of conquest is universally true or, even if it were, what the mechanism is for having reached that point.

The supposition, because the article goes on to make a link with rape, is that women do not also go out 'in packs' and do not seek or engage in one-off sexual acts with men who were strangers before the night in question. If women, coupled with drinking large quantities of alcohol, are doing this - as they give every impression of doing - then what makes the 'culture' actually 'a lad culture', when women are looking for and doing the same thing as a way of 'having a good time' ?

The writer thinks that something is being unpicked and described. In fact, the lazy assumptions of the terminology and of how things are however they are means that the piece needs unpicking as to what is mere conformity itself to a way of picturing the world that bears no better relation to reality than 'a one-night stand' to a loving and understanding sexual and emotional relationship.


Post-script

I now see that Nick Badman Brittlebank, who is ranked (somewhere) as a Top Commenter (and appears to be Dogs body at Rohilla B&B), has added the following :


"Not only in the sense that obviously normalising sexually violent language and being slaves to a pack mentality can lead to potentially dangerous situations"

There were some legitimate points made in this article but this wasn't one of them. It's wildly implausible to suggest there's some causal relationship between 'sexually violent language', which could include describing an innocuous sexual act with violent language for effect, and rape.

I find 'lad' culture annoying because it's obnoxious, and I reject it because I think I can express my masculinity without being obnoxious. But I don't think 'lad' culture is dangerous. Writing a moralising article about the dangers of banter paints it as something other than an irritation and is just going to further alienate people who think that feminism is, itself, an irritation. If you don't like 'lads' then don't associate yourself with them, and certainly don't have sex with them. They're not 'imposing a conformity' on anyone- you don't have to speak to anyone you don't want to speak to or conform to any standard you don't like. It honestly is that simple.


I cannot do more than quote Nick here, as Varsity requires me to have the Arsebook account that I vow never to open, and I cannot much diasgree with how he has framed his riposte.


Thoughts, anyone... ?



The girl on the train

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easily

2 June

England & Wales is a separate legal jurisdiction from Scotland, with its own laws, courts, Acts of Parliament.

It used to be said, in the early 1990s, that it was a principle of the law of England & Wales that, if one saw a child drowning in a puddle of water (i.e. one could intervene and save him or her without hurting oneself), one was under no obligation to prevent it happening.

I have no idea whether that is still so, and, of course, the law assumed the legal fiction of a stranger, whereas a parent would owe different duties. Curious that Lord Denning was at pains to point out the Biblical origins of the law, but this inhumane example showed otherwise, a callous version of the travellers who went by on the other side of the road in the parable of the so-called good Samaritan (the whole point of the parable was to answer the question Who is my neighbour ?, duties to whom some were seeking to avoid).

At any rate, a child standing and playing on the lap of a woman (who turned out to be her grandmother) was taking too much interest in the nearby open window, one of those narrow ones that flaps down at the top of a larger pane. I kept conceiving of her fingers being in the way if the violent wake of an intercity train passing caused the window to snap shut, or, as she seemed to be doing at one point, of pushing it shut it on her own hand with the help of turbulence.

After we stopped at one station and some hesitation, I felt that I couldn't stand back in the face of what might happen, and, if it did happen, would be deeply damaging to a young child and her fingers, so I approached the woman and, prefacing my remark with the wish that I hoped I wasn't interfering, shared my fears. She then shared them with the girl, and urged the reluctant girl to wave to the man (she never did, but she smiled).

If I'd been asked why, or thanked too much, I'd have said that I would hope that anyone would do the same, even in the keep-myself-to-myself days of train travel when we look at each other and pretend that we haven't, etc.

But I do hope that, that anyone else, seeing the risk, might have dared say something, and have thought nothing special of wanting to avoid a harm to the livelihood of a young life.

Later, after a tiring walk in which I was pulling a case on its wheels, I was kindly offered a lift to the village where the driver also lived. I do not see that, as some would, as karma, but the two were clearly related as acts of care for another.


If such kindnesses happened all the time, would we need to think of talking of karma ?


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Censored by The Indy ?

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31 May

I think that it was to The Great Gatsby review: Long, gaudy and flawed, but there is much to admire in Baz Luhrmann’s stonking lack of subtlety that I tried to add a comment.

I added it once or twice more, still 'awaiting moderation', and have now recalled that I still have it, so here it is :


This review is not alone in finding what I interpret as 'a mess' in this film, yet a seemingly 'compelling one' :

It sounds as if the film's 'all-over-the-placeness' should just be an absolute irritation, yet it isn't. (However, are critics indulging in this release a quality in the shower-singer story-line in To Rome with Love (2012) that they too easily dismissed, whereas, for me, Allen gave a potent parody of the type of excesses to which operatic direction and staging - let alone Hollywood films - are prone ?)

I'm going to err on the side that what I have been dubbing 'The Great Fatsby' is irritating, and not bother, because, with any number of reviewers having pointed out different out-of-whack features, not one of those is going to fail to jar - all at once and cumulatively.

I don't recall anyone drawing attention to what length this feature runs to (so probably it in no way drags), but I was even unimpressed the other day by hearing an allegedly 1920s-style number with Bryan Ferry, whose Roxy Music always sounded lively and jazzy anyway - I don't choose to spend time or the premium on a 3D film that possibly might as well be Marvel or Manga as F. Scott, because, although it may be classier than many of its 'blockbuster' peers, what worth does it have in (hypothetical) absolute terms ?

I know how I felt with On the Road (2012), which may have been doing its best to render Kerouac on screen, but left me wondering Why have bothered ?


Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Mysteries of @hullodave...

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1 June





Of course, @hullodave means it as a joke, for humorous effect, but he is right, of course, that the words folding umbrella and telescopic umbrella are synonymous, thereby concentrating on the incidental fact that one cylinder (or more) slides within another (or others) to allow the focus to be adjusted, rather than on the actual purpose of making distant things more visible for which the device was invented.

A feature of his nonsense verse, Lewis Carroll used the word portmanteau to describe a word with more than one meaning present, for example the opening line of 'Jabberwocky' :

'Twas brilling and the slithy toves


Two words (I won't say which) entered the English language because of this poem alone. Carroll's mind would have seen perfectly, and condemned in his child friends, how viewing telescopically was being confused with the mechanical properties of the telescope itself : he had an odium for muddled thinking of the kind identified by Dave Steele.

However, if I have a rifle with a telescopic sight, it is clear enough and right that the sight has the properties of a telescope, seeing accurately over a greater distance than would be possible without it.

With 'microscopic', the meaning of the word has been blurred in other ways, meaning no longer literally what is rendered visible (or more clearly) by using a microscope - a scornful patron could well nowadays condemn a microscopic salad, so the connection with the viewing instrument has just been lost in the hyperbole of calling something small.

Though Dave's follow-up Tweet is hard to construe, he must have been gazing on some wee coos during his recent Scottish jaunt to come up with this whimsy. One hopes...