bee season

I just got in from my regular Tuesday night at the cinema. I had intended to see Brokeback mountain, but that would mean waiting around for two hours for the next showing, and getting home late, which I didn’t really fancy. The film nearest our arrival at the cinema was bee season – I hadn’t heard of this film, and thought it might be worth a try.

I was wrong. The film is a weird mix of spelling and theology: somehow, ancient religious scripture guides the daughter of this professor of religion to spell better. Somehow there’s a link between religion, power and spelling. It’s all done in this mystical way, where the girl can see imaginary birds spelling letters.

Its just a garbled mess – pointless melodrama mixed with religious undertones. It was made by fox, and I could see their grubby right-wing fingers all over it. Even the fine acting ability of Richard gere couldn’t save this film. No wonder I hadn’t heard of it.

chris’s blog

Tonight I thouught I might post a link to the blog / online diary of my mate chris. He’s a great poet, musician, annd all round good egg. however, he has the poor sense to let me into his house every week.


did I reead this correctly

Perhaps this article from the bbc represents final proof that the united states government is a hoard of nutters. They seem uneasy with the ‘net being so open to different points of view – so much for valuing freedom of speech.

As for taking control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, could they be planning to block out the sun, a la mr burns?

happpy birthday mozart

today is mozart’s 250th birthday. It’s probably fair to say my taste in music is rather ecclectic: I like everything from holst to hendrix, although I can’t stand helter skelter or house. I just put on some Woolfgang Amadeus, and it is simply breathtaking. sooo beautiful. how many contemporary musicians will be remembered 200odd years from now? anyway, go listen here

is dover in britain?

It looks like I should stop lambasting the americans for breeding creationists; it looks like about half of us brits remain unconvinced of evolution too. mind you, most of us watch big brother. I despair sometimes, I really do.


recent thoughts about tv

I am currently of the opinion that eighty to ninety per cent of TV is crap. Well, most of it is. It was probably always crap, and we only remember it as being good in the past because the good stuff is more memorable: we remember Jacob Brovlovsky’s Ascent of Man, David Attenborough’s Life on Earth / Blue Planet / etc, and we remember Schalma’s History of Britain, but we forget all the shyte that was on before and after it. So TV was probably always crap.

But it seems to be getting crappier. No, scratch that, the crap is getting crappier, but the good stuff is getting better. How, for example, can one condemn channel four for showing big brother – a programme, the very mention of which had my film lecturer in spasms of rage and bile – when it has the sheer cajones to show Dawkin’s Root of all Evil?

This programme was an open, unmasked attack on religion. While ii agree with Dawkins’ sentiments – wholeheartedly so – I think the way he expresses those sentiments is open to criticism. For example, ” Religion isn’t ‘the root of all evil’ as such, but a primitive attempt to understand what it is to be human and thus provide meaning and purpose to our action. Ironically, Dawkins fails to appreciate how religion has contributed to the humanism he is seeking to defend.”source

In other words, a more balanced approach would be to explain how religion came about, and how it was once needed. At times it seemed like he was preaching rather than teaching, and he did so with the attitude of Kent hovind. What he did note but fail to stress is that science should never be taken at face value, for it is always being refined. It can never offer us absolute answers, saying with 100 per cent authority that something is true. Thus it is open to refinement, change, which is what makes it glorious.

At least dawkins’ programme contributes to the public knowledge. To me, worthy TV should fall into one of three categories: it should be art, science or sport. All three of these can be studied and analysed. For example, Dawkins’ programme can cause debate; it is open to analysis and criticism; thus it makes an intellectual contribution. Just as one can analyse film, you can analyse TV drama or soap opera. Believe it or not, even soaps have a lot to say about culture – the way the dramatis personae interact is a reflection of our society, so for analysis of culture soaps are an excellent tool. The characters remain relatively constant over long periods, so one can look at thee situations these people are placed into to see how society changes. One can look at the shooting styles and mise-en-scene employed and ask why the director made such choices, just as one can ask why a painter chose to paint something in a specific way.

This can equally be said of documentaries: although they are non-fiction, they are still produced – there are reasons why they are shot in specific ways. Although they are mostly scientific, there is some degree of art involved – go look at ‘<arch of the Penguins' and tell me it isn't beautiful.

While both rely on some degree of Scoppophilia and voyeurism, this, I think, is the fundamental difference between documentary and reality TV. My preferring one over the other is intellectually problematic because they are both are about watching things: we watch the moppets in the big brother house, but we also watch the animals in the jungle. What’s the difference? Why is one reprehensible and the other beautiful?

I see no art in big brother, as I do in documentaries. Admittedly, big brother has a director who chooses which camera to feed to air, while documentaries have directors who chose how to shoot things. However, their palette is limited in that the cameras are fixed throughout the house and they have no control over the subject matter. Thus, Big Brother is not art, but is it science? No, because there are differences between Reality TV and documentary. The real difference is the difference between voyeurism and Scoppophilia – one has overtones of perversion, the other is simply the joy of seeing. In other words, one is manipulative while the other is not; one is unnatural while the other is not. We look at documentaries because they show us nature, albeit artistically chosen shots of nature – they quench our thirst to find out about the world, which is the urge that underpins most of science. Reality TV shows like big brother are fundamentally different – they do not focus on natural phenomenon because the programme makers themselves manipulate the subject matter. Hence they fit neither category.

What, then, is the point of reality TV? they are neither art nor science, but are simply voyeurism. They defy any intellectual analysis because they make no comment – they say nothing of culture or nature, they do not contribute to the human condition: these programmes are simply unthinking voyeurism, a complete waste of time, made only because they are cheap and people are foolish enough to watch it.

thursdays rule

It’s been a good day. Thursdays always seem to be good. I was just talking to my mate Steve, and we stumbled upon an idea for a film. I was telling him about the types of film ii want to make, about my desire to make realistic portrayals of disability, and we decided on a rough idea. I showed him my old essay Disability musings, and part of summon the lambs (explaining, of course, that Stanhope’s point of view is particularly bleak and cynical, and I do not share it, but it was one way of looking at things which is sometimes handy). He was impressed, and we set a date for next Thursday to get to work on it. Excellent!

march of the penguins

If ever one doubted that there is beauty in cinema today, I would strongly advise them to go and see March of the Penguins. I just returned from my local Odeon, and I’m full of excitement, for I have just been reminded what cinema is capable of.

There is something in natural-history films that really capture my attention. They offer us the most enthralling images, I think. They are scopophalic orgies. There are shots in march which are simply breathtaking, such as those of the southern aurora, or of melting icicles, or the endless ice flows, extending into the distance, with the penguins marching endlessly on. You know these shots cost billions to set up, and they are framed with the eye of a master painter. Each shot is worthy of a photography exhibition.

Morgan Freeman is an excellent choice of narrator. His deep voice adds gravitas and a sense of profundity. His rich, smooth voice helps lull you into a mystified stupor, as you wonder at the sheer beauty of it all. Thus, although there is very little plot in this film – it is, after all, a documentary – it s a pleasure to watch. My parents were talking about going to see it, but I could not wait. Yet if and when they do go, I would like to go with them, for this is a film I want to watch again, and again, and again. Its quite simply the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in ages (life in the undergrowth aside).

One last note: in the states, the Christian fundies have adopted this film because they say penguins exhibit family values. As noted elsewhere, this is simply not the case, as the penguins frequently have affairs, fight, and kidnap children. Moreover, the film refers to a time when Antarctica was forested, which clearly shows it is in accord with modern science, not biblical claptrap.

Anyway, this is a great film. I really suggest you go to see it in the cinema: it’s amazing on the big screen (mind you, the Odeon were sonly showing it in a small auditorium, which s a heresy. How they can profess to be fanatical about film I do not know) Even if you don’t usually watch documentaries like this, I suggest you go. If you feel any wonder and excitement about the world at all, you will not be disappointed.