The Growing Ubiquity of English

Yesterday I came across a tidbit of information which made me slightly puzzled. In France, certain university courses, at least Master’s courses, are taught in English rather than French. That is, English is used in Master’s physics classes in Paris rather than French. I’m not sure yet how widespread this is, but it struck me as very odd: The English language has become so widespread and commonplace that it is now being used in our neighbour’s institutions. If I was French, I think I would probably find that quite galling: I know how proud the French can be of their language and culture; to see it slowly being taken over by your old adversary, so that their language rather than yours was being used to access academic courses, would be quite upsetting. Can you imagine the uproar if the reverse happened here? Of course, there will be several reasons for this, not least the ubiquity of American English and it’s use in academic and scientific papers, but nonetheless, to see one language rise over all others like this is pretty weird.

Barry Cryer

Today I just want to express my sorrow at the sad death of Barry Cryer. He was one of a generation of comedians who made British comedy truly great. Although I must admit it has been a while since I listened to it, I love radio shows like Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue: Cryer was one of the voices who made such programs so funny, and so remarkable. In that spirit, I want to close this entry by starting a game:

London Bridge.

Happy News

I received some very good personal/friend news earlier today which I have been asked not to tell everyone about yet, so let me just say that it has been a great, joyful day, and that this evening finds me in the mood for a party… I mean socially distanced work meeting.

The Tories Are Manifestly Unfit To Govern

Having just watched Prime Minister”s Questions, I seriously believe that it’s now very clear that the UK has no government but a bunch of lying, self-serving disgraces to human civilisation categorically unfit to rule. The Tories shouldn’t just leave office but the party should be disbanded. The Conservative party has it’s origins over two centuries ago as an organisation dedicated to keeping power and wealth in the hands of a rich, landed few. To this day, that remains it’s sole aim, and it’s now clear that they will do anything, including blatantly deceive the entire country, to achieve it. This lunchtime, we saw the party rush to the man they call our Prime Minister, a known liar and charlatan, spouting blatant untruths in an effort to absolve him of responsibility for breaking the law. The only thing coming from Johnson should have been a grovelling apology and resignation; any other bullshit he spouted was an insult. This is a group of people which believes they are born to rule and thus are above the rule; they think they have a right to party while the rest of us mourn. They thus treat the rest of us with utter, utter contempt, and to a man are fit only to collect rubbish, not govern the country.

The United Kingdom deserves better than to be governed by this bunch of entitled, selfish, disgraceful scumbags. The Tories must go.

Don’t Look Up (spoilers)

I rewatched Don’t Look Up yesterday afternoon, having watched it the first time over Christmas with my parents. It’s a very interesting Netflix film which seems to be splitting opinions. On the whole, Don’t Look Up struck me as quite a delicious satire, but I couldn’t help thinking that in reality the ESA would have blown the comet out of thee sky months before the yanks even spotted it! That is to say, it is a very Americano-centric film, where Americans are the chief players in a global crisis, and the rest of the world is completely forgotten about. Americans are the ones who first spot the impending doom and attempt (and fail) to find a solution to it, and the rest of us barely get a cameo. Of course, you can say that of any film like this (Deep Impact etc), but last night it really jarred.

Naturally, this film is supposed to be more American social satire than straight science fiction, so I suppose that focus is to be expected; but the way the film ignored the rest of humanity nonetheless grated. On the other hand, the film does what it sets out to do quite perfectly: as a comment on contemporary American culture, I don’t think you can get better. It is a delicious pastiche of Trumpism, american consumerism, and the control that a few rich white Americans have over the whole country. It is a commentary on American mainstream media, and their education system. It’s a witty, intelligent film; a comment on how, even when faced with unambiguous impending doom, some Americans still refuse to believe the reality in front of them. As a social commentary, it is great; I just wish it didn’t frame itself like America was the entire world. After all, while the whole satirical point of the film may be that it is the American desire to make money which ultimately causes the end of the world, that assumes viewers forgot that there are other cultures in the world, less focussed on capitalism and more focussed on securing our future.

Being James Bond

If I can just put my James Bond fan hat on, I just came across this treat on Youtube. It’s a 45 minute retrospective of Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007, going through his five films. As it explains, the impact Craig has had on the franchise has been massive. He brought so much humanity and pathos to the character, while still being the cold, violent spy Ian Fleming created. Like many fans, I think Craig is my favourite actor to play the role. The Ironic thing is, when he was first cast in the role, he was lampooned in the press for being blonde, and everyone expected him to be a failure. To think that Craig then went on to be such a fantastic success is what makes this story so great.

The question now is, where does the franchise go from here? As the program details, over the past five films and fifteen years, Craig’s Bond has become a cultural icon: by and large, his films have been huge critical hits, and who can forget that this was the 007 who escorted the queen to the olympics – a cultural moment which must surely rank as one of the greatest in history. How can that possibly be followed? How can any actor follow Craig? Whoever the producer choose, I would hate to be in their shoes.

But then, they said that after Brosnan. I’m now very interested indeed in how Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson deal with this issue. Whoever they cast, it’s sure to come under a lot of scrutiny; but my hunch is, they’ll take a totally new tack. Craig played Bond so straight, so brutally, that the only way forward is to completely change the tone. As others are saying too, they’ll cast a lighter, more comic Bond – anything else will risk comparisons with hiss predecessor. Of course, the danger with that is, go too far down that route and it risks not being James Bond any more; stray too far and their choice will certainly be panned. Thus, largely thanks to the success of Daniel Craig, Bond’s producers are in quite a predicament: I can’t wait to see how they get out of it.

The Glades

I kind of fancied another explore today, so earlier I had a look at the map to decide where to go. I go up to Stratford quite often, and I’ve been exploring the area around Canary Wharf a bit recently, but today I wanted a change. I looked at what I might find if I headed south rather than north, and noticed a shopping centre called the Glades in Bromley. I thought it might be interesting to look around, but it was clearly too far away to try to reach in just my powerchair. Luckily though, I soon found it was a single bus ride from Eltham, so with that I set off.

The bus ride was quite a convoluted one, and it took longer to get there than I thought. When I did though, I was pleasantly surprised: being South London, I was kind of expecting to find something rather run down and shabby, but The Glades is a nice, well-kept shopping centre, with trendy sushi bars and a well-stocked Waterstones. It might be nowhere near as big as Westfield in Stratford, or as upmarket as Canary Wharf, but what I found wasn’t anything to turn your nose up at. The thing is, such places aren’t that uncommon in London; you find them all over the capital. Yet, thinking about it earlier, I reflected that you would never find a shopping centre like that in Congleton. The Glades might be on the small side for London, but you’d be lucky to find such a place in my hometown or similar small towns; there, such a centre would seem huge, opulent and perhaps even misplaced. It’s another instance of the glaring disparity between London and the rest of the country.

Finding Mithrandir’s Pub

I just got in from a very cool trip. Yesterday I learned from a Facebook meme that Sir Ian McKellen now owns a pub called The Grapes. Being a big Lord Of The Rings fan, I naturally tapped the name into google, only to find it was in Limehouse, just the other side of Canary Wharf. That instantly got me excited, so after breakfast this morning I set off to see if I could find it, catching the DLR over the river and trundling west. I knew it was very unlikely that I would actually meet Sir Ian, but I was curious to see what a pub owned by a wizard was like.

The Grapes wasn’t very hard to find: it’s in a well to do area by the Thames. The only problem was, being about three centuries old, it’s door was rather narrow and hard to get my powerchair through. Once inside though, I was intoxicated: you could almost smell the history; the decor was very rustic and wooden. People must have been drinking there for eons with very little change. The best thing of all, however, was catching sight of Gandalf’s staff behind the bar: I could feel the presence of Mithrandir!

After some deliberation, I decided to stay for a solitary pint before heading on my way. It was still early, and I had more exploring to do. Yet it was already a very cool trip, if just to find that fascinating old pub, owned by one of my favourite actors.

Picard Season Two Trailer

I’m suddenly very, very excited. If you want to see a sneak peak of the second season of Picard, scheduled to hit the airwaves in a couple of months, check this out. This trailer was released less than an hour ago, and looks fantastic. Guinan, one of my all-time favourite Star Trek characters, is back! [Squeal!]