Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A Bit Of Feminism Can Be Good For You

It only took us twenty-five years to get round to it but the other night we watched Thelma and Louise. Sorry about that, but life, as we all know, is too short to do everything we ought as soon as we ought. And watching Thelma and Louise is one of those things we all ought to do.

I've long been a fan of Susan Sarandon - the very fact of being in Bull Durham is a mark of greatness. She is reliably excellent and Geena Davis keeps pace with her. The two male reservoir dogs, Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen, are excellent in supporting roles and the film wears its energetic feminism gracefully, not least because the Keitel and Madsen characters are sympathetic. A dangerously young Brad Pitt also puts in a good shift. This is altogether a good way to pass two hours. 8/10.

We are gradually catching up with House of Cards, American style and have just done episode 29 (series 3.3). As a rule I can't find any notable fault with this show and it makes (along with Veep) for a useful antidote to repeats of The West Wing. However this episode was slightly off-key - some clumsy Putin bashing being the theme. Nothing wrong with Putin bashing - the chap appears a cad - but that sort of politicking is not in the usual House of Cards mixture. Polished as ever, but discordant.  

Meanwhile real life America outdoes its fiction. Trump gets no better and Clinton is still further enmeshed in the email scandal. From a distance, this stuff gets you down - what must it do to Americans?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The View From The Top

It was a fine day in North Wales as the entire Team Roberts set off from base camp in Llanberis. The Groupie stayed with us for the first very steep section out of the town and then left OG and Daughters Number 1 & 2 to strike on for the summit. At the point of Groupie's departure she took the attached photo of the summit team.

The mountain was busy with human traffic on the last bank holiday weekend before Cristmas - the crowds can be tiresome but one has to be glad that so many people are still taken with Snowdonia's beauty. By the time we slogged on to the summit, the walkers were swelled by those on the train. All were rewarded with vast views across to Ireland on one of those rare days when there is no obstructive cloud. DN2's picture attached as evidence.
What a great day. And do you know what, it just kept giving. For tea we had haddock and chips from the brilliant Golden Fry in Benllech - with mushy peas and curry sauce.

This has been the first time we have all been together at the country estate for nine years. Let it not be so long again.

Monday, 22 August 2016

An Insignificant Milestone

This is my 750th post. To the very few who have been with me all the way: thanks, you must be suckers for punishment.

I was at a wedding on Saturday - the nuptials of Hannah Lucy Watson and Andrew 'Dougie' Dugmore. this was a signally happy event and even old misery guts here was moved, if not to tears, at least to reflection that there is hope in the world. The bride is the daughter of my long-time friend IW and I have therfore known her for all her life. She is  a notably cheerful child and I can wish her nothing but happiness and good fortune. IW spoke movingly as befits a man educated at King Edward VI School Aston, even if he did waste much of his time there in my rather distracting and noisome company. Days of wonder.

My mood today has matched the weather - overcast but not direly so. However I lightened the gloom by visiting a deserted university library (the Kenrick Library at the old Great Barr Campus of BCU) to sample the delights of Shakespeare Survey 58, which has interesting things to say about presentism - a trick I am trying to pull off myself in my nascent thesis.

In the late afternoon I abandoned the Bard and treated myself to a very good old film - White Heat. This is James Cagney on prime form as the psychotic, mother-fixated gangster. It rattles along and, although noted in its day for its violence, it lacks the often tedious gratuitousness of many modern offerings. And at less than two hours it can tell modern film-makers a thing or two about editing. 7.5/10. 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

At Last A Glimpse Of Light

The Groupie tells me not to keep watching the cable news coverage of the U.S. presidential election since it only gets me all riled up. I, of course, keep going back and getting angrier and angrier. My angst doesn't just come from the sheer bloody awfulness of the Donald but from the inability (perhaps unwillingness is better) of Clinton to maul him intellectually. However yesterday my patience was rewarded by an impressive platform speech in Ohio by Clinton. In fact beyond impressive, it was genuinely uplifting. Track it down online and compare it to the stilted performance Trump gave via autocue earlier in the week as he outlined the foreign policy he had been given by some misguided slave wonks.

It is not always what Trump says. If you dig beneath the lewdness, the ignorance and the cant, you will find germs of good ideas in what Trump says - given how many unrelated thoughts he throws at a subject the law of averages rather dictates that this will be the case. It is his utter lack of humility that offends and his basic message - "I alone can make America great again." What drivel.

And yesterday it was not always what Clinton said that impressed - for example her instincts on tax are unsound. But the manner and tone of her delivery were, at last, reassuring. How can I put it? I know - she has her faults (they are manifest) but she also has heft and unlike her opponent, she is not a complete twat. There you go, OG has spoken - eat your heart out Charles Moore.

Used to work for big pharma - nuff said
My current hero Rod Liddle has described Labour leadership contender Owen Smith as a 'smarmy nonentity'. As ever the Boy Liddle done good. I can do no better than repeat it. Mind you, you really ought to read what Liddle says about Corbyn! You could not invent the mess that a once great institution has got itself into. How can Ed Miliband (the man who gave them as his parting gift the electoral system that landed them with Corbyn) hold his head high? He must be so proud.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Good And The Bad

Clare Balding has restored some decorum to the Olympic television coverage in tandem (geddit?) with Sir Chris Hoy at the velodrome. Informed, informative, enthusiastic, interested and interesting. Sadly the team at the swimming got mildly better only to slip right back into self-absorbed puerility as the curtain came down on the best British showing since God was a lad. Sharron Davies wins the award for ultimate crassness with a remark directed to the medal-winning medley relay squad pointing out "That makes us the most successful British team ever." No, no, no, it makes them the most successful team ever; excellent as you inarguably once were Ms Davies, your day has gone. Empathy is admirable; neediness is undignified.

Another telling televisual moment was Sir Steve Redgrave's magisterial put down of an offensively over-eager John Inverdale when he tried to jump ahead of the New Zealand television crew in interviewing their single sculler Mahe Drysdale. Inverdale - you're a plonker. Redgrave - you're a legend.

Talking of legends, I trust there will be no more delay in knighthoods for Mo Farah and Andy Murray. It will make a nice change from the cronyist sideshow of David Cameron's recent misplaced largesse. Nothing marks a man more than the manner of his passing from power - Cameron has gone and barely a soul misses him.

Breaking News: Sometimes The Good Guys Do Win

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Today Not So Grumpy

I had a dig at Sharron Davies yesterday for her over-familiar style of swimming poolside reportage. I stand by that but the Overgraduate is nothing if not fair-minded. So I dutifully report that Ms Davies gave a balanced and sane interview to The World Tonight on Radio 4 last night on the topic of drug abuse in sport. Good stuff.

I was listening to the radio on my way back from yet another exercise in Bardology. This time it was the Lord Chamberlain's Men performing Much Ado About Nothing at a Shrewsbury Castle. Another good production and worth tracking down as they tour the country to various outdoor venues - website at Lord Chamberlain's Men

If you're forever bemoaning the intellectual maw into which we have descended, try this article for size - Hate Crime . And if you've never read any Kafka, well try that as well and then you can call the befuddled world the article describes as Kafkaesque. This is the land we live in, a land revered for its legal system. Go figure.

Ooh sorry, getting grumpy again.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Sorry But Yet Again The Word Of The Day Is ... Asinine

Hello it's Captain Grumpy here again.

I've been trying very hard to stomach the BBC coverage of the Olympic swimming but my god it's difficult. Sharron Davies for starters. A distinguished past Olympian who was robbed of a gold medal by a drug-fuelled East German. But the time to grow up has long passed and being the cheerleader in chief at poolside is not journalism - it's a bit desperate in truth.

As for Helen Skelton and Mark Foster - well I'm sorry, you poor loves, if it's humid in there but I expect my broadcasters to reach for something that at least passes for smart-casual when they dress to come into my living room. But that can all be forgiven if there is some serious illumination cast upon what I am watching. What do we get? A stream of asinine drivel. I revere good sports journalism/broadcasting (think Simon Barnes, John Woodcock, John Arlott, John Reason, Hugh McIlvanney, Stephen Jones, Clare Balding and John Inverdale about ten years ago) but this is self-indulgent and infantile. These free-loaders might be made to watch the dreaded Sky's cricket coverage - intelligent, insightful and humble.

Mind you if you want to see bad, self-absorbed sports broadcasting tune in to At the Races (Sky 415) when Matt Chapman is performing. Knowledgeable and well-prepared but on balance and all things considered - what a prick. A graduate of the Piers Morgan/Donald Trump School of Hubris.

Oh well, it's only a game.

Monday, 8 August 2016

A Curious Case Of A Missing Box Of Chocolates

We watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night and throughout I was thinking that it reminded me of Forrest Gump but minus the chocolate box philosophy. Only when I looked up the credits today did I find out that the films share a screenwriter. Benjamin Button is the better film. 7.5/10.

As a veteran of a hugely enjoyable stint volunteering at the London Olympics (see July/August 2012 on this blog for my contemporaneous notes) I am trying not to be unimpressed by the start of the Rio offering. However the clear absence of spectators does make something clear - tickets are obviously set at first world prices and will not sell to second world citizens. What is left is a spectacle (and it is indubitably that) for the billions gathered around televisions. This is sad but I have no answer. Doubtless Tokyo 2020 will postpone any further need to ponder this point. Rather sad.

I can't help but feel more than slightly pissed off every time I am drawn back to the news. The world can seem to be run by thorough-going knobheads. There was though a good piece in the Washington Post a few days ago which bluntly diagnosed Trump as a narcissistic bull-shit merchant. This gets to the root of the problem more neatly than anything else I have read. And when it comes to bull-shit, I am, please remember, a professional.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Hamlet And The Polka Dot Jersey

A superb Hamlet at Stratford yesterday. Seeing the noble Dane at the Bard's birthplace is, I suppose, one of those things a good Shakespearean should tick off his list. And now I can.

My last trip to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was mildly disappointing: partly the fault of Will himself because even his nearest and dearest would have to concede that Cymbeline is a bit of a mess; partly, I'm afraid, because the RSC made the play even messier (there are other more learned critics who disagree with me on this one). However the current production of Hamlet is, imho (I suspect we bloggers ought to use these terms), bloody good. A largely black cast and an atmosphere of post-colonial Africa are cleverly deployed and Paapa Essiedu in the lead is magnificent. Not a hint of any tiresome sledgehammer Oedipal palaver either. Which was nice.

possible fashion statement
I've cleared out the gym at the back of our garage (treadmill, cross-trainer, rowing machine) and been quite a good boy about exercise. The Precious Bike is also back on the agenda: this morning I did the Col de Worcester Lane twice and I have awarded myself the virtual polka dot jersey as King of the Mountains. Do you think I should sacrifice all remaining dignity and add a real such jersey to my lycra wardrobe? Peut etre que non.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

West Wing 7:18

It is car crash tv - not The West Wing, to which I will return shortly - no cable news. I am drawn back to it, moth to flame - Sky, BBC, CNBC, Fox, et al. And it never gets any better, the spectacle of human awfulness, slain priests, economic stasis (a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the BBC revels), and above all else the wrteched Donald Trump. A man who makes Hillary Clinton and her truckloads of political baggage electable. Shame on the world.

So last night we watched West Wing series 7, episode 18, Requiem. Yes, I know it's not real but it portrayed a political class (of both sides) capable of humility before power. It had its villains but above all else it had redemption and optimism. Where did they go? We get Clinton. Tell me please how on earth those around her did not spot that using a private email server for matters of state was fuckwit stupid? And why can she not just front up and admit her mistake? But all of that pales into insignificance as Trump crushes any vestige of decency out of politics. He mocks the afflicted; he belittles war heroes; he lauds lawlessness; he flat out lies.

This matters. 'America First' has never been an attractive cry. America has been at its best in the past 'American Century' when it has had a care for the rest of us. It has been wrong, overbearing at times, but it cared about us and wrapped us in its optimism. Where do we go next?