Earnest Hemingway once famously said that he found London rather dull, and, believe it or not, I thing I now know what he meant. I took myself up to Stratford this afternoon, just to withdraw some money and have a walk around the olympic park. That area is developing nicely, with swanky modern buildings popping up all over the place, but what struck me most was how quiet and orderly it was: everything worked, and everybody obeyed the rules. Tube trains came and went on time; electric doors opened and shut as they should. On the roads people drove calmly and considerately, obeying the traffic laws. Compared to where I was a couple of weeks ago, in fact it felt quite clinical. Compared to Delhi or Jaipur, there is a sterility to London which now seems rather boring. The pavements are well maintained and the grass is nicely cut, and while such things are normally very welcome, London now seems unexciting. There are a lot of cool new things in development here, but that will always be the case in any thriving first world city. What I found myself missing this afternoon was character and excitement – a type of exoticism I found in Indian cities which went hand in hand with the noise and chaos. Perhaps I have simply been living here too long, but after nine years in London, for all the cool cultural stuff which happens here, it’s starting to feel a bit too tame. I know I can get to where I want to go on public transport, but that now almost seems inhuman and sterile to me, as if it is too efficient in a way. The chaos of Indian cities gave them a feeling of excitement which London seems to lack: it now feels quiet and small, orderly and boring.
I can now declare summer to be officially here. It might not be quite as warm as it was a couple of weeks ago, but this afternoon I came across a glorious sight in the park: the first cricket match of the year. All right, it’s technically not the first cricket I’ve seen this year as I saw a few snippets of the IPL when I was in India, but nonetheless it was a very welcome sight. I didn’t stay to watch long as I wanted to continue my stroll, but it really put a smile on my face. Such things remind you that, no matter how grim or screwed up things may be getting, there will always be a few things you can rely on. It also reminds you that long, hot days are just around the corner. I daresay a balmy summer is the very thing the country needs right now.
This will sound rather pathetic of someone who professes to be a cinephile, but I’ve never really been into Stanley Kubrick. 2001 A Space Oddysey was fine, but when I saw it in my late teens I found a Clockwork Orange a very difficult film, and never bothered to go back to it. However, this might give me the incentive I need to go back to Kubrick. There is a huge exhibition about him at london’s design museum, and from Will Gompertz’ review it sounds intriguing. I now really want to go up there to check it out. I still really want to find something new to get into, and with any luck this could be it. The way Gompertz describes some of the fragments of cinematic history is enough to get my cinephhiiliac juices flowing all over again.
According to the Huffington Post, Jeremy Corbyn has announced he will boycott Trump’s upcoming visit, on the grounds that he does not want to show his support for the misogynist buffoon. I just came across the story linked to on a facebook page (where else do you find news these days?) but my reaction was to smirk. Just who is Corbyn trying to kid? True, Trump is a repugnant asshole, but how can Corbyn pretend to be repulsed by his far right, ultra-capitalist politics while refusing to oppose Brexit? Trump and brexit are virtually the same thing; they both stem from the same time of nationalist, reactionary, moronic mindset.
It’s as if Corbyn is trying to reclaim his leftist, liberal activist credentials. He knows most of his party want him to come out in support of a second referendum. He knows he looks useless as he leaves the door open to a hard brexit, so he’s itching to get his Trotskyite image back, and thinks boycotting Trump’s visit will do the trick. After all, he knows how vile Trump is to anyone even remotely capable of indipendent thought. Well, Corbyn should pull the other one: pretending to hate figures of hyper-capitalism while leaving the door wide open for the most sickening form of capitalism to be imposed on the UK just won’t fly these days.
Although it states that there’s only a limited chance it could be used to help people with cerebral palsy, I find the technological developments described here very exciting. Scientists in California have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech. It apparently identifies neural signals and feeds them through a speech synthesiser. Interestingly, though, the brain needs to have known which muscles do what in speech in order for the machine to decode the signals, so it might have limited application for guys like me, but nonetheless it’s a pretty intriguing development.
If I can just put my 007 fan hat on for a moment, the web is currently buzzing with speculation that the announcement for the twenty-fifth 007 film will be made in the next couple of days. As usual, there’s lots of chatter about possible titles, with The Property Of A Lady or The Hilderbrand Rarity apparently the frontrunners. I still suspect that, being already confirmed as Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, there’s not much incentive for the producers to put on a particularly good show. On the other hand, with so much bollocks currently going on and everyone getting so pissed off with one another, a good bit off Ian Fleming escapism could be the very thing we all need right now.
Things are getting scarier and scarier politically, both in the uk and all over the world. I know it’s a few days old, but I just came across This Channel Four news story about the tricks the Outists played and the lies Aaron Banks told. I had a break from all this shit while I was in India, but it really is getting sickening. How much clearer does it have to be that the Leave campaign cheated and told lies, and that Brexit is an act of geopolitical suicide. Brexit is a crime, nothing more, and no sensible community or state would let it continue.
I took myself up to the olympic park yesterday. It had been a while since I last went up there and I wanted to see how it was developing. But what I found myself being most struck by was the contrast between that part of London and where was a week or two ago. Compared to Delhi or Jaipur, say, it is quite staggering how clean and quiet London is. I would in fact go so far as to say that I even found it slightly disturbing. India has a huge, quickly developing economy; the wealth of it’s cities can’t be that different from those of the uk. Why, then, were Indian cities so underdeveloped? Why was the contrast so striking and stark that it is impossible to ignore? When I was in India, we saw vast swathes of crumbling buildings desperate for repair, either side terribly maintained potholed roads. Pavements were rare, steps frequent. Without someone like john there was no way I could have got around. Litter was everywhere. We could tell there was certainly money available because of the pockets of modern, stylish buildings of the kind you find in any modern european or american city; but these were amid seas of crumbling disrepair. I couldn’t work out why everywhere seemed so dirty, dusty and smelly – was it due to the climate? As I wrote here, that stark contrast, that juxtaposition, struck me as perverse. Moreover, even on a saturday afternoon with crowds heading for the West Ham football match, Stratford felt less busy than any indian street. There, tuktuks and mopeds surge down any and all alleyways no matter how narrow, so that you have to constantly look out. Compared to that, London feels startlingly tranquil and well maintained.
The question is, why? Why should there be such obvious disparities, both between european/american and Indian cities, and within Indian cities theirselves? There’s obviously plenty of money in the Indian system, it’s just not going to the places which need it. That’s what I find perverse. The money is going to places where the Indian government know visitors will go instead of being used to help their own communities. It’s as if they want to keep a facade of a modern, urban, economic superpower up while allowing everything behind it to fall apart. Of course, that part of east London only looks like it does due to being transformed for the 2012 olympics, but even so no part of London looks like the widespread disrepair I saw in India. London’s roads and infrastructure, as with the vast majority in the uk, is well-maintained and clean, whereas in Delhi and Jaipur there was dirt, dust and rubbish almost everywhere. I simply couldn’t work out why it was like that, and why there were such disparities. Coming home has really brought that contrast into focus.
I couldn’t help wondering yesterday whether being awarded something like an Olympic games, or a major international sports or cultural event, could somehow help India: maybe it would provide authorities there with an incentive to drop the facade and tidy up a bit. It certainly helped in Stratford, after all. There are so many wonderful things there, such as the ashram at Rishikesh, which are just being left to fall apart, while large, modern, glass and metal buildings are being put up elsewhere to give the appearance of a modern twenty-first century superpower. That is a disparity and an illusion which I found quite troubling, to be honest.
I still want something awesome to associate with Sir David Attenborough. That probably sounds a bit weird, so I’ll explain. I now have incredible things or memories which complement most of the things I’m into in terms of the media. For instance, for Star Trek, I have the fact I went to the 2014 Destination Star Trek London Convention and met Sir Patrick Stewart; for Monty Python, I have the memory of going to their 2014 reunion show, and for James Bond; I have his meeting with the queen in 2012 (it had been too long since I mentioned that on here). I still think all these things are incredible; they act as my personal crowning glories for the associated fandom. Now, though, I want something just as cool to associate with Sir David Attenborough.
I once, ages ago, blogged that I thought Attenborough should have appeared in one of the 2012 ceremonies. As they included my favourite song, wizard and physicist, I thought the greatest natural history tv presenter was definitely worthy of the same esteem. The question was, what could Attenborough have done? I still think he deserves that type of enormous tribute. I have been watching his new Netflix show, Our Planet, and it seems to me that no other TV personality or presenter comes close to his astonishing career: well over sixty years presenting some of the most beautiful natural history programmes ever created. Everyone has grown up with his warm, knowledgable voice describing natural wonders most of us would probably never see; he’s a massive part of our joint cultural heritage. If that isn’t worthy of some kind of massive tribute, I don’t know what is.
The question is, of course, what kind of tribute could Sir David be given? It should definitely be of the order of an olympic ceremony appearance, but I can’t see the UK hosting the Olympic Games again any time soon, so that’s a non-starter. But it wouldn’t really be fitting anyway: the tribute I’m thinking of would be culturally enormous, yet in keeping with Attenborough’s devotion to science and nature. When 007 escorted the queen to the olympic opening ceremony, it attested to the Bond franchise’s position within British culture, but it was also in keeping with the character – a spy on her Majesty’s secret service. There must be some way to make a similarly resounding statement about Sir David Attenborough in keeping with his devotion to the natural world. Of course, it was good to see a great big research vessel named after him (even though Boaty McBoatface would have been a far more amusing name), but I think we need some sort off grand, national event honouring him too..
Sir David deserves some sort of awesome cultural event associated with him, other than, of course, his peerless body of natural history programmes. When the Monty Python team reunited in 2014, it said something about their standing as possibly the nation’s greatest comedy act ever; the fact I was actually able to go and see them still fills me with joy. The fact that Stephen Hawking was in it made it even cooler for me. What I need and what the nation needs now is a similarly brilliant memory associated with sir David Attenborough.
I didn’t think I’d post an entry today, but I just came across this piece of absolute genius. While I haven’t yet found who to correctly attribute it to, Opinion Rhapsody is both hilarious, and a spot on comment on how tense and fraught online debate is becoming. It really is getting frightening how angry everyone now is – it isn’t just me. I suppose the anonymity the web gives us allows us to depersonalise the people we are debating with. The danger comes when such tension and anger seeps into the real world, as it increasingly seems to be doing. It’s good to see that some people to make creative, witty comments about it though.