Friday, 29 July 2016

The Art Of Adaptation

Therefore an adaptation is a derivative that is not derivative - a work that is second without being secondary. It is its own palimpsestic thing. (Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation, p. 9)
awesome dude
This came to mind (not least because palimpsestic is currently one of my favourite words) last night whilst enjoying (really enjoying) the American House of Cards, a show that thoroughly deserves the plaudits thrown at it. The original House of Cards was, of course, a decidedly British creation from the early 1990s - its US cousin transplants the action and operates on a larger dramatic stage. But the fact of neither diminishes the other. I've started rewatching the British version and, despite the relative grandeur and scope of the newer adaptation, it still stands up.

jolly good show old chap
The issue of adaptation also takes me back to my advent blogs last year. I note that on 13 December I chose the American version of The Killing in preference to its Danish original. The next day I chose The Bridge. Last week we completed watching the Anglo/French adaptation, The Tunnel. Again, very good but it just falls short of the original because, despite the very sterling efforts of Clemence Poesy, the character of Saga Noren in The Bridge is one of television's very greatest creations. 

God bless Netflix by the way.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Boy Parris Done Good

Matthew Parris writes well, not in the Champions League category with the Boy Liddle of course, but nevertheless he's got a good engine. All of which has made his recent peevish articles denigrating those of us who voted Leave rather tiresome. However let us put that aside (as I am sure we will all shortly manage to do as the embarrassing realisation dawns that the world has not come to an end) and applaud his return to form - Blair/Chilcot - an article in which a bit of realpolitik intrudes on the whinnying grandstanding of the chatterati. He clearly can't stand Blair (sounds fair enough to me) but puts to the sword the sanctimonious claptrap of shitbags such as that oaf Salmond.

Trump v Clinton is about to wind into full swing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Bond Factor

I seem to have been reading for years that the 007 franchise is tired/redundant/past its sell-by date etc. It was said all over again when Spectre came out last year. As usual I dragged my feet before seeing it, but having done so last night, I think those weary critics are once again a tad early with the obituaries.

Yes, it ends with Bond disavowing his vocation and driving off into the sunset in the classic Aston Martin. Yes, in plot terms (plot? Bond?) it ties up some loose ends from previous instalments but when all is said and done about the darkness of Daniel Craig's Bond, this franchise still delivers high octane, tongue-in-cheek nonsense more accessibly than any other. Bond (with or without Craig) will and should continue. 6.5/10.

A point I hadn't realised is how important Spectre must have been in the Brexit victory. It is a hymn to anti-collectivism. Bernard Levin would have been delighted. Or am I over-analysing things?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

QMT Tour 2016

The 'QMT' stands for Question Mark Trophy and refers to the unprepossessing bauble 'borrowed' from a pub in Appleby, venue of the first golf tour two plus decades ago. It is, non-exclusively, the tour of former rugby players of a particular generation. None of them is a serious golfer. I joined the party for the first time three years ago. Like rugby tours of old it is an alcoholic test of endurance.

The golf is very much secondary to the socialising and the badinage was top draw deluxe. The golf, certainly in my case, was bottom draw moderate but hugely enjoyable, all forty-five holes of it. Melton Mowbray Golf Club were excellent hosts and turned a charitable blind eye to our desecration of their nice course - the back nine is particularly challenging and the seventeenth and eighteenth make a great finish. All in all a fabulous three days (we fitted in Leicester races and karaoke on the first night) and it was especially gratifying to play yesterday with my little brother.

Both Craggy and Tom White managed to leave a ball on the island at 18
Certain people grow old with dignity - I prefer the 'Sod it, life's for living' approach of my fellow tourists. Thanks to them all. I slept for ten plus shours last night and I still feel tired. And very much alive. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Ninth Hole On The Marquess

When I was coaching rugby I used to muse on the glorious imperfectability of the sport. Well on Saturday just gone I crafted one of those small but beautiful moments of perfection that make another game, golf, just about bearable.

easy peasy
The ninth measures 441 yards and curves gently to the left. What you do is this: you hit an acceptable drive to the top of the hill but you find the route to the green marginally blocked by a fine oak. You have a carry of 199 yards to the front of the green and the flag is cut perilously close to that front. You choose your 19 degree utiity club and swing calmly but marginally outside the line in the hope of a high left-handed fade. The ball arcs beautifully and by the merest fraction carries the chasm in front of the green. It travels the requisite 199 yards and comes to rest an inch off the putting surface but only eight feet from the pin. You retain your composure and gently coax the resulting putt into the hole. A birdie!

All else is dross but that small moment will keep you playing for at least a little while longer. 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Political Merry-Go-Round

Well, well, well. Just for now the Tories have stopped fighting each other and crowned a new leader, or should it be leaderene. All of a rush, Theresa May has become Prime Minister, Andrea Leadsom having taken a peek over the brim of the seething leadership volcano and responded with the political equivalent of 'Sod this for a game of soldiers.'

Cameron went with some style, much as one would expect. His legacy is the impression of his political laziness (a not uncommon trait in the uncommonly gifted) which culminated in a referendum it had never occured to him he could lose. So, in short, he ended up looking a plonker - a nice twist on Enoch Powell's dictum that all political careers end in failure.

May has started rather deftly - wrong-footing the commentariat by giving Boris Johnson the Foreign Office and bringing in two thoroughly decent Brexiteers in Liam Fox and David Davis. George Osborne has been shown the (back) door as has Michael Gove. Osborne has reaped as he sowed. Gove is a slightly different case, a man who has had a lot of interesting things to say (politicians often don't) but whose recent manoeuvrings have been comically badly conceived and as badly executed.

All of which has taken the spotlight off poor old Tony Blair and the aftermath of the Chilcot Report. What are we to make of Blair in the light of the Report? Exactly what we already knew - he thinks he did the right thing and has deluded himself as to the extremes he trod in getting his way. However, much of the contumely coming in his direction is just plain cant. God knows I am no defender of Blair  but Alex Salmond's gimlet-eyed hate speech does nothing nothing more than confirm the nasty Scot as the most unpleasant man in mainstream politics.

Meanwhile in the (temporarily) sunny suburbs life goes on much as before any of this fool's comedy commenced. The Labour Party? Well, you couldn't make that stuff up, so I won't.

Crisis, what crisis?
So what is a man to do as the country careers out of control? Go to the home of Mikey B and play as his guest at Woburn for a couple of days, that's what. The whole Dunmore crew will be there so Radio Free Roberts will be silent for the next few days. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Coriolanus In The (Sometime) Rain

A rainbow arced over Robinson College and we sat stoically in the rain (for a short time at least) as the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival gave us its Coriolanus. It was pruned down to less than two hours but I have no intrinsic problem with that in the English summer rain.

and then it rained
Caius Martius Coriolanus (he earns the last moniker for his single-handed courage at Corioli) is a difficult part to cast. Angus Villers-Stuart (A Birmingham School of acting grad) was suitably muscular and believably martial but just that tad too young for the part. Another BSA alumni, Tim Atkinson, was impressive as Titus Aufidius and, old clever clogs, played both clarinet and guitar in the interval - though not at the same time. Best of the cast was Adam Elms. His Menenius was arch, even mildly camp, but, rather contrary to my expectations, he made this work.

So all in all a worthwhile trip. And in Cambridge even the pork scratchings are posh - mine came with Cornish sea salt. I washed them down with a muscular Coriolanus like Malbec.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

A Day Of Continental Pleasures

It has been a remarkable first week of the Tour de France - eight stages down and five of them have been won by Britons. The teak tough Chris Froome won yesterday with a sequence of grinding climbs followed by an audacious final descent. He even found time to lamp one of those barmpot spectators who run alongside the competitors. For sustained drama and sheer bloody human endeavour Le Tour takes some beating. Allez Froome.

In the evening after a day of making some actual progress on my thesis (the mooted humanism of Bagehot and Shakespeare was bothering me) I followed the Tour highlights (introduced by the brilliant Gary Imlach - why does he not get more time on the major channels?) with a film I've been meaning to try for ages. The wait was worth it - Cinema Paradiso is a beautiful little movie. A peaen to the lost power of cinema and to the poignant imperfectability of first love, it is at its best in the scenes of Toto's childhood with Salvatore Cascio effortlessly stealing every scene he graces. 8/10.

Friday, 8 July 2016

The One Less Traveled By

(And by the way, for the curious, that is the spelling of 'traveled' that Robert Frost chose). The road less taken for me in my journeys to Anglesey is these days the one that I invariably took in our early years of ownership - the A5. The more prosaic M6 is a speedier route. But today I took my time and came up the old coach road. As I turned into the Ogwen Valley I was reminded of Snowdonia's majesty and the CD brought up some clamorous Verdi right on cue. Life's been good.
The road to somewhere

One For Us Lawyers To Bear In Mind

Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Luke 11:46
So that's me told then.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

And Help To Set A Head On Headless Rome

With those words Marcus Andronicus seeks to persuade his brother Titus to accept the proferred empery of Rome in Shakespeare's oft derided but actually rather fun bloodbath, Titus Andronicus. You might have caught a whiff of my liking for this play in earlier blogs.

'Headless Rome' is rather apt today as a dead-duck prime minister ekes out his notice and the Conservative Party fight among themselves like rats in a sack. As for the Labour Party, well one really shouldn't intrude on private grief - 'internecine' hadly does it justice but it is a bloody good word.

I was doing a bit of close reading of Titus Andronicus this afternoon, a process I find easier if I have the piece playing in the background, ususally by means of the BBC Complete Works. The BBC Titus Andronicus is rather good. Some online reviews are critical of Hugh Quarshie's Aaron but these are wide of the mark - Aaron is designed to be gloriously clever, sexy and above all else, unrepentant. At the end the director chooses to suggest that Aaron's child has been put to death, a bleakly bloody end to a decidedly bloody play. Interestingly the gorier fimed Titus (directed by Julie Taymor and reviewed here previously) posits a mildly more optimistic conclusion. On balance I'm with Taymor but you pays your money and you takes your choice. One thing is for sure, "Rome is but a wilderness of tigers."   

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

I Wish I'd Said That

I have been searching around in an effort to master giving voice to the unease I feel as an officer of the Supreme Court about EU institutions. As is usually the case I find that someone esle has got there before me and done it rather better to boot.
The European Court of Justice uses its doctrines to expand EU law into 'ever wider fields' to coerce our courts into disregarding the laws of our democratically elected parliament. No other trading bloc in the world coerces its members in this way, or imposes a system of law which penetrates into national courts and overrules national laws. Our new relationship with the EU can end that and work towards true cooperation. We can now return to the well-trusted principles of the common law as interpreted by our own courts, applying statute laws made by people we elect.  Martin Howe QC

Saturday, 2 July 2016


Well who would have known it. It was as recently as 28 June that I was owning up to my Icelandic forebears and my lifelong support of the Icelandic football team. Of course what I omitted to say was that my full name is Dagbor Dafydd Overgraduatesonn, the middle name down to the strong Welsh lines in my heritage. Wales: 3 Belgium: 1. Enough said. Cymru am byth indeed. Next up the Portugese and, in particular, that preening twit Christiano Ronaldo. Is it vulgar of me to hope he gets kicked up in the air?

Mind you I have to confess that I didn't watch the game live. Instead we were binge watching the first series of Happy Valley. Very good.

Pretty good I thought was American Sniper when I watched it earlier this week. Bradley Cooper gives a monosyllabic and muscular performance as the decorated crack-shot Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, fighting his personal battle with Iraq. Clint Eastwood directs. Some have damned the film as propoganda. That misses the point. It is about war and its after-effects on those who fight and those who stay at home. It is a tauter, less histrionic cousin to The Deerhunter. Not great but certainly not bad and Cooper is impressive. 6.5/10.