Woody Allen

Before now I had dismissed Woody Allen as a neurotic, somewhat irritating, New Yorker. Yet, in an act of sheer arrogance and folly, I never actually sat down to watch any of his work – I thought I didn’t ‘get’ it. However, I just watched last weeks bbc documentary* on him, and have to admit I’m now quite angry at my own stupidity. Granted, there is still the risk that he could be overrated and liked because everyone else likes him, but from what I just saw, there is far more to Allen than I thought. He is a prodigious auteur with a vast body of work. Of course I won’t write anything in detail about him now, but just say that I have something new to engage with. Time for me to dig out ‘Midnight in Paris’, then go buy more stuff by and about him. My appetite has been whetted, and once again I feel the mercury of my curiosity rising.

*Part one can be seen here; part two here.

blatant tory discrimination against and ostracisation of disabled people.

Right. Time for me to stop naval gazing about things which, although interesting, don’t really effect our day to day lives. I just heard that ten disabled families have lost a court challenge to social housing benefit cuts for residents with spare bedrooms in England, Wales and Scotland. That means that disabled people will be charged for any spare rooms the may have, even though they need the space. For example, Lyn and I live in a bungalow with two bedrooms, the second of which I use as an office-cum-storeroom-cum-dressing room. we both use lot of equipment, like wheelchairs, hoists and computers. Thus we couldn’t live without the extra space. We also need our Personal assistant to stay over sometimes too. if the bedroom tax is enforced, we will either have to pay extra or move.

I’m now extremely concerned and angry, as will be, no doubt, thousands of people with disabilities up and down the country. It is quite clear that ‘we’ are being unfairly discriminated against, and that some of the most vulnerable people in society are now being made to pay the most. How is that fair. After all, we cannot help needing the extra space; it comes with the dribble. Yet it seems we will now have to pay extra, as will many more in much tougher positions than our own.

What pisses me off, though, is that this tory-lead government does not care: it is taxing the poorest people in society while lowering tax for the richest, and calling it ‘fair’. They claim they want to break people of wealth fare dependency, and encourage self-reliance. To them, everyone should fend for their selves and tax should be low. But I think that is an excuse for greed, selfishness, and all that is base about humanity. I’d love a job, but those on the right refuse to see that things are not that simple. Not everyone is able, and so those who are should help those who aren’t. Thus I see no evidence of compassion in conservatism, just elitism and a contempt for anyone who is not wealthy. To them, we crips are useless eaters who should find jobs or be left to starve. Either that or we should rely on charity rather than the state: fed by kind voluntary donation rather than a benefit system. They lie to theirselves by saying that, in a low tax system , people give more to charity, soothing their consciouses and justifying their selfishness.

I don’t want to be a lesser being, and nor do I want to be a victim of Tory greed expected to feel greatful for a rich man’s charitable whim. For all their talk of ‘seeing things in the round’, for all their dissembling justification, this tax amounts to the blatant discrimination against and ostracisation of disabled people. How can we allow such bigots to remain in government?

haircut

I went to the barbers today, my least favourite activity. I hope everyone likes my new summer hair style; at least I won’t have to go again for a while…

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The glories of last year, and the greater things yet to come

I just rewatched the first half hour of last year’s opening ceremony, given that it was repeated last night on bbc3. I still seem to be obsessed with it, sad git that I am; it just seems so special to me, as we all know that such a moment will probably never come again, in our lifetime at least. As the commentator noted at one point, these ceremonies will live on in our collective folk memory for a generation.

They are special because they are unique. It seems to me that what happened last year can never be repeated or replicated, for the moment you do so, something is lost. Take, for example, my favourite bit – the meeting of bond and the queen. I have written before that it would be cool to see more such juxtapositions. However, if you think about it, that film is only special because it is unique: only the 007 character occupies that cultural position, the same combination. The bond franchise is unique in world cinema – fifty years old, it crosses generations, yet evokes a specific nation. Only the bond character could be used in such a way because the bond franchise is like no other. This sequence is testimony to it’s uniqueness, confirming it cultural position. The second any other character is used in such a way, the dynamic changes – Bond becomes just another action hero, rendering the sequence with the queen ‘normal’, banal. I don’t want that to happen – I want this sequence to remain unique, fascinating and important. I suppose that was the danger in making it in the first place, as if others take up the meme, it becomes a joke and the original is stripped of it’s boldness. Mind you, if as I say the 007 franchise is indeed unique in world culture, that probably won’t happen – it takes a very special set of circumstances (an event like the olympics, a well-loved long-reigned monarch and an extremely well established film franchise known to all yet part of the cultural identity of a nation) to allow one to perform such a stunt. Should that happen, however, something special about last year’s opening ceremony, british culture, the queen and James Bond would be lost. The paradox, however, is that this sequence almost begs to be copied, in a way saying ”if we Brits can use our cultural iconography in this way, what can others do?”, while in a way knowing that, should that happen it would render that very iconography a joke. I see it as a brave admission to the fact that the monarchy is just as much a cultural construct as anything else; if that is so, this scene looses its boldness and is rendered onto the same level as any other piece of media. And yet the meeting of bond and the queen will live on as a unique, special moment in our cultural memory for decades. It is anything but normal. Thus at the same time as it rereads the monarchy it also maintains it’s status as something unique and special. Ultimately though, the meeting of Bond and the queen will always remain unique and iconic, as surely no other country has a similar combination of monarch and cultural megalith.

I still feel a warm glow, then, when I think about what happened a year ago today. In a way these ceremonies also strike me personally. Not only did they have my favourite filmic character securing his position in british and world culture, but my favourite wizard, physicist and song. I love how they celebrate things like british children’s literature, and the NHS in a bold, somewhat left-field statement to the world. Best of all, my wonderful fiancee starred at the very climax of the final ceremony! I still think that is something very special indeed, and want it to remain special. Yet when I enthuse about it to Lyn, when I mention how wonderful it was to see her and the Paraorchestra perform that night, she tells me off, pointing out that, while what happened last year was unique, for me to constantly go to about it is to forget that even greater things are yet to come. Lyn is right: last year was last year; as great and as unique as it was, what matters is the future. To dwell upon past glories is to stop moving forward. When Lyn pointed that out to me, I felt both ashamed and excited: ashamed that I had thought things had somehow peaked, and excited to realise that we are still climbing.

And indeed we are! We will never see a summer like last year again; we will never feel the same excitement we felt at the ringing of that bell. I don’t want to – I want 2012 to remain unique, lest it becomes ‘normal’. But in no way does that mean the greatest things are over: even greater things will come, necessarily different, building on but not repeating the glories of a year ago.

The latest from Lyn

I daresay Lyn’s productivity puts me to shame: if she isn’t creating music she’s writing or doing something else constructive. My main output these days is this blog, although I do have one or two ideas for films I’m working on. Anyway, I just wanted to flag this up tonight – L’s blog entry about the new music software she is using with her instrument. I think you can glimpse a bit of it in the photo she includes.

Are fandom and ‘the mainstream’ merging?

I think I touched upon this subject a while ago, but I think it’s worth returning to. I noticed recently that what could be called ‘crossover films’ are becoming increasingly common. A crossover is where a character from one fiction is made to enter into another, such as having Harry Potter go to Middle Earth. They are a staple of fanfiction: many fans like to draw together their favourite characters from their favourite fictions. Until quite recently, though, such crossovers have been unheard of in the so-called mainstream. Obviously, this was probably due in large part to copyright, yet I also suspect there was a sense that fictions had to be kept separate to maintain their artistic integrity, and that merging fictions was somehow puerile or childish.

This has obviously now changed. A couple of days ago it was announced that Batman will soon appear in a film with Spiderman, and that The Simpsons will soon meet the Griffins. Thus the mainstream seems to be taking on aspects of fandom. I find that quite interesting: my masters is about the merging of fandom with cinephilia, but it also now appears that fan culture is seeping into the mainstream too. As I wrote here, textual play is becoming mainstream: old barriers between texts are being broken down. What was once the province of the fan is becoming legitimate. I’d be interested to see the pretexts given for such mergings, and how it works narratively.

What, then, do all these textual merging mean? What are their artistic implications? Truth be told I do not really know. As with my musings concerning the meeting of bond and the queen a year ago today, I have an overall sense that this new phenomenon is somehow important; yet I cannot put my finger on how. That I must say worries me – is my brain losing the acuity it once had? Am I harping on about things nobody else is interested in? Are these crossover films really exciting new evidence that mainstream film is branching out into postmodernity, or merely a gimmick designed to excite fans and deprive them of their money? Have I been away from campus too long? do I need to read more? Possibly. Yet I am Still intrigued by this new phenomenon, as a scholar of fandom and as a cinephile. I find it interesting to see the mainstream taking on aspects of fandom. What I need to do now is to start looking deeper. It raises questions over where this departure will lead: if mainstream film is indeed now taking cues from fan culture, that implies the birth of a totally new aesthetic for film, one in which the old rules no longer apply.

The Lynstrument has arrived!

As I noted here, a new instrument has been designed for Lyn. It arrived today! it is essentially a midi input device made of eight joined pieces of card big enough for L to hit. these can be paired to individual notes or snatches of music which L can pre program. She just got it working, and, although we still need a way to stop it siding over the table, I have a feeling this is the start of something great! More on this amazing device soon.

Fixed

A couple of days ago I mentioned that I had smashed the screen of my Ipad. Coming down the hill the other night, it slipped from my lap and went under my wheel. Of curse, I was horrified – I was so disgusted with myself for letting it happen, I couldn’t even look at the broken screen. After all, that was the Ipad which Lyn used to perform before the entire world! Thus I thought Lyn would be angry, but in a combination of cheek and wisdom that only m wonderful girlfriend possesses, she had predicted it would happen some time and had planned for it. Lyn knew exactly were to order replacement screen, and did so.

That arrived this morning. We ha looked up videos on how to swap the screen ourselves,but it looked very complicated, so this afternoon I scooted off. According to google, the nearest Ipad repair store to us is in Bermondsey, just a short tube ride away. I’m now used to having a map on my lap, though, so it took me a while to find it. I asked in one computer repair store with no luck, but the staff in the second couldn’t have been more helpful. After I had explained that I needed my Ipad to communicate, their promise to have it fixed by tomorrow became an attempt to fix it in an hour; and indeed when I returned an hour later, there it was, as good as new. I was very impressed, and very thankful. I hereby fully endorse London Laptops Ltd, and will probably be going there again, ‘though hopefully not for a while.

Now I need to find a way of securing the Ipad to my lap or my chair properly.

A blue dot in space

It being far too hot to write anything more constructive, let me just direct you here tonight, to a view of Earth take from Jupiter’s rings. In a way, Every human that has ever lived is in this photo; that certainly puts your life in perspective.

Royal baby poem

Waiting for a royal baby.

Does it matter? Maybe.

So much for just one child

Royal sprogs send the press wild

So we all wait out in the sun

For a princess to drop her bun But I don’t much care about the we’en

For I just scratched my Ipad screen.