Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cultural Reinforcement

Another big up for The Overgraduate. Stephen Fry (aka Clever Bastard/National Treasure) is reading his latest memoirs on Radio 4 and it turns out we have something in common. Stephen Sondheim has never phoned me up for a friendly chat, nor have I been on the West End stage. Nor am I referring to our shared bipolar disorder. Nor even to our mutual acquaintance with Professor Nick Craddock - Fry is patron of Craddock's pioneering work on mental illness and we bought Craddock's house off him. Bloody small world isn't it.

No, what we have in common is an admiration for Simon Raven's Alms for Oblivion sequence of novels. Fry was reminiscing about a lunch with Mark Boxer (no, never have though I did meet his wife, Anna Ford - long story) and his story took in Boxer's illustrations for an edition of Anthony Powell's more famed (and rather less mucky) sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. Don't worry I'll get to the point in a minute. Fry said that the Powell novels sit on his bookshelf next to the Raven and that he prefers the latter. Bloody coincidence - that is exactly how my shelves are arranged and how my tastes run. Like Powell, love Raven. If they'd let me cheat a bit on Desert Island Discs I'd take the entire Alms sequence with me. Funny. And rude. But mostly funny. That Stephen Fry knows a thing or two.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Overgraduate Claims Another Victim

Meant to boast about this earlier but had an attack of modesty. That has worn off and normal service has been resumed. The Overgraduate can categorically claim full credit for this good news story http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/news/2010/10/10/vince-cable-backs-down-over-graduate-tax-115875-22622665/
Incontrovertible evidence that the movers and shakers in society are reading this page. Well someone must be the straw etc so why not me? And in an instance of what we may term internet serendipity if you type 'the overgraduate' into Google the first three entries you get will take you to these pages and the next will alert you to Saint Vincent's damascene conversion. Spooky or what? By the way I am wholly aware that noone bar me has ever typed 'the overgraduate' into Google. If I am wrong please let me know and inflate the Beast's ego yet more.

.... Are Brilliant Mark IV

The Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. I have Dad to thank for putting me on to these. I would generally say that historical novels or naval stories are not my sort of thing but these are just plain good writing. Alan Judd is right,

the most significant extended story since Anthony Powell's 'A Dance to the Music of Time'
I've recently completed number 12 of 20 so lots more fun to look forward to.

The Ryder Cup. I was ambivalent about the latest renewal (partly irked by Montgomeries's omission of Casey - still think this was misguided) but I was of course wrong. You couldn't have scripted the finale and expected to be believed.

Film Noir in general but particularly Touch of Evil. Orson Welles - consummate show-off but with the talent to make it work without annoying. Quentin Tarantino please note. Another reason to admire Welles - he was for a time married to Rita Hayworth. They don't make 'em like that any more.

The Heineken Cup. Proper rugby, bloody by tooth and claw. Looking forward to the final in Cardiff next May already, tickets are bought and hotels booked. Boys on tour. At around that same time I will be aiming to do my first triathlon which should make for an interesting hole in my training. Which goes well still. Lost another pound last week so continuing in the right direction. Cycling on the menu for tomorrow.

Returning to Thursday's theme (see The Wrong Marine, 14 October) today's martial stylee cliche - revenge is a dish best served cold. The Beast will be suitably cool by tomorrow.

What A Lot Of Old Nonsense

Lord Browne has spoken and everybody seems to be listening, which one could say is mighty generous on the part of the public given that he is a disgraced former chief executive of BP whom insiders credit with encouraging the lax safety culture which put paid to his hapless successor when the Gulf of Mexico became an oil slick. And what is he talking about? University funding that's what. Now this is one of those subjects on which our entire political class seems incapable of talking anything other than amoral bollocks.

God bless then the Principal (or whatever it is they call him - their website doesn't readily tell you) of the London School of Economics (an institution of which I try to speak well as infrequently as possible - it's a tribal thing) who caustically described the Browne Report as 'a report by an engineer for engineers.' Ouch!He went on to point out there will be something more than faintly ludicrous about the public purse subsidising a chemistry undergraduate at Imperial  but not an economist at LSE when both of them are going to end up working at Goldman Sachs.

News flash: education has its own intrinsic value. It's good for us to have an educated polity drawn from all along the social spectrum. Universities, proper universities are not glorified machine shops for turning out uber-apprentices. Philistines, bloody philistines all of you.

I spent a pleasurable hour or two yesterday watching a vile-tempered game of rugby won by AOE. I did so in the company of several of my peers including a physics graduate, an engineer, a chemist, an insurance broker and a night club bouncer who once absconded from the French Foreign Legion. All equals, none philistines, some graduates, some not. Not entirely sure where I'm going with this save to say that they were the product of a more egalitarian age where the place of education was respected but not glorified and people were so much less precious than the cult of victimhood now dictates.

One final plea. Can we please not hear another university leader describing his or her students as 'consumers.' It's not a sodding bazaar lads.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Wrong Marine

It is now Sunday afternoon but I wrote this post on Thursday evening and was then persuaded to let it simmer before posting it. I have reflected and decided to ignore the wiser counsel and let you read it anyway. Somewhere in it is a mood worth recording ...

I swam hard and, for me, fast this afternoon, not even stopping for the usual little breather after each length. Where did the motivation for this effort come from? Anger that's where. I was bloody fuming. Still am a bit despite drowning some of my mood in the pool.

I have written, deleted and rewritten this paragraph at least four times now, each successive version becoming less immoderate. I am not going to name the guilty although I would like to thank him for bringing the burn to my workout. No I am going to use the proper channels. The perpetrator who has so irked the slumbering Beast of Erdington will not read this of course but those who are daft enough to do so can please indulge me anyway and let me quote you a great line from an ungreat film. A Few Good Men, spoken as are so many memorable lines by Jack Nicholson,
This time you f***** with the wrong marine.
Actually now I come to think of it that's not a great quotation after all because in the film the Nicholson character ends up being outfoxed by Tom Cruise and that's not really what I've got in mind. Metaphorically speaking you understand. It isn't Tom Cruise who's upset me. Never met the bloke.

There's something rather revitalising about good old fashioned fury and the mood of determined retribution it can engender. I've been a much nicer boy for the last few years but there's life in the old dog yet. Like with that bloke Blair it's all about respect innit. The Beast is back and this time he's wearing Converse.

Which brings us to today's favoured quotation from Johnny Rotten and PiL,

Anger is an energy

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Big Fat Pig Downgraded

Been a few days since my last blog. Sorry if you've missed it but you really ought to get a life. Back at university now and feeling not a little sad at it being the final year already. It has been a blast and should really be allowed to continue for a little longer. I now have the final year student's perrenial problem of trying to decide just what the hell I want to do after graduation. It has been a long time since the Overgraduate applied for a job. I will keep you posted.

But the big news is this: Big Fat Pig is no more. He is deceased. He is an ex fat pig. He is now officially recognised as a Medium Fat Pig. He has crashed below a significant target on the weight-loss trail. Vanity prevents me from disclosing the massiveness of the barrier and there is still a fair way to go but I have today had the forgotten pleasure of wearing a belt for its real purpose rather than as mere trouser decoration. I am mining the abandoned depths of my wardrobe for neglected apparel. Somewhere in there may be some crushed velvet loon pants desperate to get back into fashion. Girls go crazy for a sharp dressed man. As if.

I have been eating a tad more sensibly but the real key has been my revived appetite for exercise. As ever with me this might be described as a little obsessive. With the recent history of calf strains (though the acupuncture seems to have ameliorated this) I confine my running to the weekly refereeing but I have been feeling markedly fitter for that than last season. I love the cycling and am waiting for the politic moment to invest in a shiny new road bike to replace my faithful but clunky mountain bike. With the benefit of lessons (though I have to admit with shame that I missed a lesson yesterday with a hangover enthusiastically cultivated on Friday night) I am also learning to love the swimming. A bit of swimming goes along way and gives you the most righteous appetite for the bagel and peanut butter kept in the car as a treat. I have even been brave enough to buy myself some proper swimmers, not full on budgie smugglers but what I learn are known as jammers. Girls go crazy etc. As if.

Don't usually get pissed on a Friday but did this week on account of the excellent J&L Golf Society day at The Warwickshire. Plaudits to MH who organised an enthusiastic if unskilled AOE contingent. I'm not always a fan of newish golf courses but have to say The Warwickshire does what it does very nicely. Too good for this occcasional golfer certainly. Drove well, putted well, everything inbetween was comical. Playing again next Friday (AOE day which I organise with NG) and that I suspect will be that for this season. It is probably time to bite the bullet and let my membership at Sutton lapse. I haven't played a single game there this year and on any reckoning that has to be wasteful for an impoverished student, particularly one who wants a new road bike for Christmas