Thursday, 29 December 2011

A New Discovery

Timon of Athens. A Shakespeare/Middleton cooperation according to modern scholarship; an infrequently performed piece of the canon; an alienating drama; reportedly Marx's favourite play. Well I watched the generally dependable BBC Shakespeare production this afternoon and I rather liked it. I can see why Marx would have approved. I note that the National Theatre are doing a production next summer and it will be interesting to see what the Hytner/Russell-Beale axis makes of it. Perhaps my mates at Goldman Sachs will get a mention. If I was them I'd get in and sponsor the season pretty smartish. Come to think of it they probably already have. Dumb they ain't.

In The Final Analysis

Anyone can make predictions, but only the brave (such, of course, as your correspondent) are willing to be measured against them. So here is what I said back in January:
Predictions for the year, O wise one, I hear you cry. Well since you goaded me here goes: myriad Liberal Democrats will continue to suffer political altitude sickness, some will ignore advice, look down and promptly fall off and land on Simon Hughes; England will win the Six Nations; New Zealand will finally win RWC again and Richie McCaw will go to heaven where he will immediately be sin-binned by St Peter for entering from the wrong side; I will pull my hamstring again; the Euro will implode/contract; The asset bubble in China will burst and my investment in India (which I keep meaning to make but never get round to) will look wise; Obama and Cameron will continue to refine the art of the platitude whilst doing very little of any import; finally and justifiably I will still be just as bloody cynical by the year end.
How did Ido?
  • All right I admit the Liberal Democrat thing was an easy call but you have to admit they are bloody funny. At least we hear less of St Vince these days, although only because he's become so bleeding tedious.
  • England did win the Six Nations.
  • New Zealand did win RWC. Richie McCaw is still invisible when offside.
  • Hamstring went again. Twice.
  • The Euro is on a marginally slower fuse than I thought but just watch this space.
  • Chinese communism must fail. This is in the greater interests of mankind. India needs to harness the strengths of its democracy to a decent capitalism which does not mimic the greed of Goldman Sachsianism. India remains the world's great hope. America and Russia categorically are not.
  • Obama is a vacuous appeaser of mediocrity. Cameron is less effective. Both will still be in place in a year's time, though do not be surprised if Cameron is free of the burden of coalition.
2012? Well France will win the Six Nations now they have a decent coach. Wales will not be as good as their followers are being encouraged to anticipate. England will be half-decent which will make the appointment of a permanent new coach all the trickier. Anticipate serious civil unrest in southern Europe. My capital wealth will be further eroded by the malfeasance of others. Goldman Sachs will prosper, though hopefully not in India. GB will win 16 gold medals at the Olympics. Our press will charcterise this as failure. Public sector employees will eventually have to accept that their pensions are unsustainable and their industrial action will fail to attract its own Billy Elliot style romanticism - there will be no ballet dancing son of a geography teacher plucking at the heart-strings of the public.   

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Advent 24

It is the best day of the year and all over the world children are waking and asking what will be this year's Overgraduate Advent door 24. Due to the as yet unresolved spot fixing scam Ladbrokes stopped taking bets on the outcome back in July but was it ever really in doubt? It is the Christmas special episode of Fireman Sam. Sadly a stand-alone copy of this work of art is not available on that YouTube thing but a bit of searching finds it five minutes and thirty seconds into the video embedded below.

It only remains for me to wish all our readers a glorious and peaceful Christmas. May your god go with you and the great eagle never shit on your mother's wigwam.

PS. Since I blogged this morning the video has rather mysteriously been taken down. Yet further evidence of the reach of this blog. Somebody out there seems to be very careful of the intellectual property in the Samster. Still the word on the web is that the brilliant Christmas episode can be seen at 6.15am tomorrow on Channel 5. It seems a shame that the highlight of Christmas should come so early in the day.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Advent 23

Here is the Overgraduate's favourite carol, sung by the choir of the lesser King's College, but hey you can't have everything.

Advent 22

Last year's chosen automotive pornography was the unmatchable DB9 but these are straitened times and so we turn our eyes to the more economical field of motorcycling - and here is Overgraduate's Christmas wish list bike: the greatest touring machine in motorcycle history, the Honda Goldwing.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Advent 21

Commercial art includes great advertising. This is the most captivating and enviable (ie I wish I'd thought of it) advertising campaign of recent years.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Advent 20

I sit with my glass of cheap cava and I raise a toast to today's icon of human igenuity - la methode champenoise.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Advent 19

I can smell Christmas getting near. Actually I can smell the aroma of a batch of patent Ewing stuffing being prepared in the kitchen. Simply bloody fantastic. A feast on its own, never mind the poor turkey.

For today I wanted to do my favourite novel of the year but on thinking about it, I've read very little fiction this year so bound up have I been in first my final degree assignments and then devilling for a postgraduate proposal on Shakespeare. So my choice is related to one of those assignments (see other blog for full details - recently neglected but soon to be revived) - a very wicked book in some respects but quite beautifully written by one of the twentieth century's undoubted masters: Evelyn Waugh's Black Mischief.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Advent 18

The Royal Wedding. Jerusalem. This was the day that the British (or at least a casually passionate portion of them, bless their cotton socks) unconsciously started to reclaim their constitution in the form in which Walter Bagehot understood it in 1867. You do not have to think this is a good thing (as it happens I do but I'm weird) to be fascinated by it. What, one wonders, might similarly galvanize the Italians? I'd suggest banknotes carrying pictures of Jose Manuel Barosso, a man with all the democratic legitimacy of Sepp Blatter, but rather less charm.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Advent 17

Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated one year ago today. the ignition of the Arab Spring

Advent 16

What has been the Overgraduate's favourite theatrical experience of the year you ask. Well first, thank you for asking. I'm touched. There would have to be several contenders but we come down to three final contenders, all Shakespearean of course.

There was Othello at the Crucible in Sheffield - Dominc West a suitably charismatic Iago and my great friend and all-around good egg Big Willy Macfarlane a fellow audience member and enjoying his first live Shakespeare. In typical Big Willy fashion he completed my evening by afterwards taking me to 'the best pub in Sheffield', whose name I have forgotten but, yes, it was bloody good. God bless you Willy - if happiness is a disease Big W is a carrier.

There was All's Well That Ends Well on a beautiful August evening at the Globe. What a place and then the walk in late sunlight back across the bridge towards St Paul's.

But best of all was Antony and Cleopatra at the Swan in Stratford. This is a magnificent beast of a play, breaking all the rules of unity of time and place. And in it is my favourite character, Enobarbus.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Advent 15

This is an example of the work of Julian Askins. For a lad brought up in Monmouthshire he doesn't half love bright colours. He is important because one of his limited edition prints (not the one shown but Flourish 185/275) was the first picture I ever bought for Sharon. I remember driving through snow to his studio in Ruthin to collect it, a sort of long distance impulse buy. It hangs still on the chimney breast in our study. I love that picture. I feel good about why I bought it and who I bought it for. In among the mistakes and the stupidity one can get some things marvellously right.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Advent 14

You've been waiting for it pop pickers and here it is - the nominated Christmas song. Last year the honours went to the ultimate cheese fest of Wham's Last Christmas. This year we go with The Waitresses classic Christmas Rapping. Man, you can't beat a good titular pun.

Advent 13

Christmas trees. Ours are up - one big natural one and one big artificial one. The lights are a pain and frustration; you can never get the frigging thing straight; the cats will paw the decorations. But they shout happiness at me. Yo ho ho, says the Overgraduate rubbing his curry-fat belly.

Advent 12

I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
Catch The Waterboys performing their classic in the Acoustic Tent at Glastonbury. A truly lovely song.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Advent 11

But you spoil us Mr Ambassador. For today we have a new species of entry in the Overgraduate advent calendar. It is food. Food best eaten when pissed and with roaring good company, just like last night when I had a lamb dupiaza with those two trenchermen TW and BM. I refer of course to the Great British Curry, the proper conclusion to a night on the lash and suitable food to talk both bollocks and good sense to. In amongst the usual rugby club silliness I heard a lot of that good sense talked about the Euro crisis last night and none of it sounded remotely like Nick Clegg.

Advent 10

Groovy man, this is what the other cool cats and I are listening to down at the jazz club cum bistro as we defiantly smoke Gitanes inside the building. Nice cover as well.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Now I'm Getting Bored Of The Whole Bloody Business

This morning I listened to Today on Radio 4 and I gleaned that the chatterati are upset because our prime minister yesterday refused to let us take part in a half-cock rescue plan for a currency we don't even use and have no prospect of joining. Can we please not just get on with letting the whole misconceived project go down the pan before more people get hurt. At least then we can have a stab at getting it right next time. The Chinese must be pissing themselves laughing.

Advent 9

Today an endangered species. No, not my friend the Euro, though please watch this space. No I refer to test match cricket - the absolute expression of a grand game. Only in England is this format still unchallenged as the foremost manifestation of the sport. As in so much else the rest of the world is of course wrong. Enjoy it while we can.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Advent 8

It's a picture. And following last year's pattern it is from our very own National Gallery. And this one is from our very own national painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Rain, Steam Speed, Great Western Railway
J.M.W. Turner 
Can you see the hare? If you see the original it's a good joke to point at the hare as if you're about to touch the painting. The wardens absolutely love that because of course it's an entirely novel joke. Nobody else has ever done it. Comedy gold.

Advent 7

I keep being a day late with these posts which must be heart-rending for those of you who can't count-down to Christmas without me. However I promise to do better from now on. Several distractions have been removed from my path and I can feel the fesivities bubbling up inside me - what an unpleasant image that conjures!

I had threatened some of my own poetry but on reflection this is supposed to be a time of celebration and most of my stuff is rather miserable so instaead we will refer to one of cinema's greatest works. A spectacular historical melodrama containing several of the greatest portrayals in film history, namely those by Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel. What could it be but Gone With the Wind. Don't pull that face, you know you love it really. And if you don't, well tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Advent 6

As promised today we having naming of poets, or rather a poet - fellow Aston Old Edwardian, though of a more distinguished vintage, Henry Reed, who wrote this, perhaps the most renowned military poem of WWII.

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts.
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the
piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.
Praps tomoz will be the time to regale ya wit one o me own poems wot ive writ. Praps not.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Advent 5

It is fifty years old. It was hugely influential on my adolescence and early adulthood and I used to re-read it every year until I lent my copy to some bugger who never gave it back. Now I have it on my Kindle and I'm going to read it again over Christmas. It is Catch 22 and this is the cover of the edition I bought myself from the school bookshop in 1975.

Tomorrow we have naming of poets.

Advent 4

For the first Sunday of December we acknowledge a cornerstone of English literature enjoying its 400th birthday this year - the King James Bible. You may very well choose not to believe a word of it but you must surely recognize its beauty.
 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Tomorrow, a rather different book also celebrating a significant anniversary.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Advent 3

It's Saturday so it must be rugby day. My friends I give you the second greatest try ever scored. Sadly my try against Five Ways Old Eds circa 1985 has not made its way onto YouTube. Next time I see you I'll talk you through it. For now you will have to make do with the incomparable Gareth Edwards.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Advent 2

More comedy. We saw Omid Djalili last Sunday at the Alex. Funny, talented man but will he ever do anything as good as this again?

I'm of the small bursts of energy school but with touches of Warwick PhD student. How about you?

Advent 1

Welcome then my friends to the second annual Overgraduate advent calendar. Thanks to a late return from the rugby club yesterday, I am making the first entry a day late but I promise you this is worth the wait. I give you Britain's funniest woman, Victoria Wood singing her funniest song.

If this doesn't make you laugh, please check your pulse. Now where's that copy of Woman's Weekly?