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Henry Blofeld announces his retirement

As a cricket fan, it saddens me to read that the great Henry Blofeld has announced his retirement. Listening to test matches just won't be the same without him; to many, he's the quintessential voice of cricket. ''Henry Blofeld will retire from BBC Radio 4's Test Match Special after 45 years in the commentary box. The 77-year-old will broadcast on the show for the final time when England host West Indies on 7 September.'' I love the way he brought a strange quirkiness to listening to cricket commentary, as though you were listening to someone from a totally different age while still being homely and strangely comforting. Mind you, I've always wondered whether he was related to the famous Bond villain. Oh well...farewell Blowers - you were great.

The ship continues to sail

I was just looking through my blog archive - something I do from time to time. Ten years ago today I wrote this entry. Freshly home from finishing my final undergrad year at university, Dad had just set my computer up on my old desk. I dashed off a quick blog entry, no doubt wanting to get on with other stuff, about how much uni had changed me. I had indeed changed over the previous three years: my experiences on campus really brought me out of myself. But I didn't realise then that that was just the beginning, and I had barely scratched the surface of the change. I remember writing that very entry, but at the same time it seems an age away. So much has happened since then, not least meeting Lyn and moving to London, that it staggers me to think how much my life has changed. I've created so many awesome memories, had so many great adventures, since I wrote those words; the very geography of the world where I exist is completely different. To continue the metaphor I use in that entry, the ship slipped her moorings, cleared the dock, and sailed into a vast ocean full of adventure and intrigue.

Helm, hold her steady, and prepare for excitement.

The reality of Brexit is beginning to dawn

I'm becoming a bit more hopeful when it comes to brexit. More and more people are starting to question whether it will actually happen. I get the sense that, behind the scenes, the political class is waking up to reality and realising that, if brexit continues, it will be a car crash of epic proportions. Last night I watched a bbc documentary on it. As usual it had me shouting at the screen, especially when the lying criminal Farage appeared - how that xenophobic scumbag can be allowed to express his baseless, moronic views on tv rather than rotting in a jail cell where he belongs really pisses me off.

Yet at the end of the program I was left feeling quite optimistic. May did not get the huge tory majority she called the election for; her master plan backfired, so basically they're more up shit creek than ever when it comes to negotiating with the EU. It is a slick, well-oiled diplomatic machine reluctant to give away any concessions, and here we are demanding all the perks with none of the disadvantages, with a considerably weakened hand. It's looking more and more absurd. The tories are insisting brexit will go ahead, but I would not be at all surprised if, behind the scenes, they are desperately trying to find a way out of this mess.

As the economics of all this begin to bite, I think more and more people will start to agree. Socially the country is still divided between those who voted to remain and those who voted to leave. There seems to still be a lot of animosity between the two camps. I think that is at least partly because, as reality begins to dawn, as the suffering becomes more and more visible, those who voted leave will feel increasingly guilty. But they won't want to admit culpability, or that they were fooled into voting for something so patently stupid, so that guilt will turn into anger. They will feel they are being blamed by remain voters, rightly or wrongly, and they won't like it. I fear this will lead to a lot of social friction; we are already seeing the beginning of it.

I just hope it doesn't last. Part of me wishes we could all just forget last year ever happened, but I know that is not possible. Whatever happens now, these tensions will continue, this mess will continue. The wheels really are starting to come off brexit, and it's only a matter of time before it is reversed and the country starts to pretend it never happened. Yet as optimistic as I try to be, for the time being at least, it really is a sorry state we find ourselves in.

[Edited Yesterday at 09:30:45 - added a bit]

What will Discovery say about contemporary america?

It is often noted that nothing ages quite as badly as science fiction. You can always tell when a science fiction film was made, not only from the ideas in the plot, but from the mise en scene. This is especially true of Star Trek. Each individual Trek series is a product of the period when it was made, and the characters within them can be shown to represent contemporary values. By and large, each crew reflects society when each show was made and first aired. The Original Series thus reflected cold war America: it had a strong, white male leading figure; around him there were a variety of figures from diverse backgrounds, trying to present a future where barriers of gender and race, so dominant in the sixties, were no longer such a social force. But the crew were nonetheless always subordinate to the white male, reflecting the racism and sexism of the time; the utopian vision of the future still held in check by the dominant values of the day. The dynamic between the impulsive captain and the cool, logical science officer reflected the tensions between head and heart in sixties america, allowing the show to enter into and comment on contemporary debates. The show thus reflected the concerns of the day, the crew playing out social tensions, with the domineering Klingons a constant menace.

The Next Generation likewise reflected the time when it was produced. It was very much a product of the eighties and early nineties: old enemies had become allies, but there was still a tension there. There was still a strong white male central figure, but he was less dominant and more likely to accept the opinions of others (although the occasional 'Make it so!' wasn't out of the question). The crew reflected the social values of that period; women were in positions of authority; hell, they even had a counsellor on the bridge. There were still threats, but they were more prone to be overcome through diplomacy, reflecting an eighties optimism and belief in the power of negotiation.

Similar things can be said of the next three Trek series: Deep Space Nine was all about political intrigue, backstabbing, and not knowing who to trust. It was a lot more interested in political complications, the relations between peoples, and an america which was no longer quite as secure about it's place in the world. Voyager, I feel, was less overtly political and less complex, yet still about re-finding one's place. Both these series, it must be noted, had captains who were not white male. Sisco was a strong, complex leader, war-weary and grieving the loss of his wife; Janeway, I must admit, never really chimed with me, and frankly just struck me as inept.

I never really got down to watching Enterprise, so I don't really think I can comment on it much. I was at university when it first aired. I have seen a few episodes so I know roughly what it is about, but I don't know it as well as, say, TNG or DS9. However, I know that in one of the later seasons of Enterprise, earth was attacked unpovoked, and the rest of the series was largely a response to that attack. Obviously this arose out of a reaction to 9/11; earth is a stand-in for America and the conflicting urges and dilemmas it went through after the attack.

Thus we can broadly see how the various trek series reflect the times at which they were being made. This begs an obvious question: how will Discovery reflect our current epoch? It was recently announced that the new Trek series will start airing on Netflix in September. I would be fascinated to see how it mirrors our own time - how will it handle Trump, for one? What will it say, if anything, about america's diminished role in the world? How will it's crew reflect contemporary America as it now sees itself? If Trek series do indeed reflect the times in which they were created, then it will be intriguing to see how america currently sees the future, especially it's own future where it is trying to retain fading glories, trying to stay the world's foremost superpower. How will reflect it's current leader, and what will it say, if anything, about being lead by a buffoonish egomaniac? I suppose we just have to wait for it to come out, but it will be fascinating to see how Trek changes, once again, to reflect these modern times.

[Edited 21/06/2017 at 17:34:26 - added a bit]
[Edited Yesterday at 10:49:03 - added a bit]

The view from the hill

A couple of days ago I wrote of the magnificent view one gets from Oxlea's wood, up Shooters Hill road. Lyn and I went that way again this afternoon, where she took this awesome, awe-inspiring picture.

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You must be able to see for miles from there, far into Kent. It just goes to show that, even in the metropolis, you don't have to go far to find staggering beauty.