A Very Concerning Situation

I realise I said a couple of days ago that I didn’t want to say much about the situation in Ukraine on here, but I think it’s fast becoming something that we should all be very, very concerned about. As others are now saying, things could escalate very quickly indeed: the invasion isn’t going as well as Putin intended, and there’s no knowing to what depths he will stoop if he gets desperate. His threat to use nuclear weapons may have been an attempt at a sabre rattling distraction, but things could become very nasty very quickly, especially if other powers get sucked in. As much as I don’t want to sound melodramatic, this is possibly the biggest crisis the world has faced in many, many years.

All we can do is wait and watch. Good luck to us all.

HBD Luke 2022

Today I’d like to wish my brother Luke a very happy birthday. We had our weekly family Skype meeting a day early this morning, just so we could all wish my younger brother the best. I’m pleased to report everyone seems to be doing well, including my young niece and nephew who seem to be thriving. Mind you, such meetings in cyberspace, with my parents and two brothers, only remind me how long it has been since we were last all together physically. Hopefully now the pandemic is subsiding, it won’t be too long until we can all meet up. Skype meetings are all well and good, but you can’t beat a family chat over some of mum’s cooking.

Happy birthday Luke.

What Can I Say?

Over the years I have felt it my duty as a blogger to pass comment on what is going on in the world. I like to give my opinion on current affairs. Today though, a new dark chapter began: something happened which I don’t feel able to comment on. What is now happening in Ukraine is utterly disturbing: war has returned to Europe for the first time in over seventy years. Yet I know as much about the situation as anyone. I can offer no special comment or analysis. It’s probably best, then, if I just continue my usual ramblings on my blog, and avoid trying to write about the unfolding emergency. If I do, however, please know that it’s not that I don’t care about what is now happening in Eastern Europe; I am simply as aghast as anyone else. After all, what could I possibly write which could have any impact or meaning, in the face of such folly?

Franchises and States

Today I would just like to ask a question; it’s something I’ve been pondering for a few days. When you look at it, the James Bond film franchise has quite astounding links to the British state, going back decades: as illustrated here, each new film in the series gets a royal premiere, and over the years there have been many other links between 007 and royalty. As this article outlines, “The Royal Family willingly associates with the James Bond ‘brand’ largely due to the ‘Britishness’ of the James Bond franchise. The character is an iconic figure who transmits many of the purported strengths associated with the United Kingdom”. My question is, are there any other media franchises – film, tv or whatever – with such strong links to a given state? I can’t think of any other franchise anywhere else in the world which gets such treatment, or which is such a large part of a country’s cultural identity. I’d be interested to see if there were any which come close.

Happy Birthday Auntie Toula

Today I just want to wish my aunt Toula a very happy birthday. She and my parents are currently staying at the old family house in Kilburn, so, on the spur of the moment, I thought I’d go up there to see them. It’s quite a straightforward trip (bus tube bus) but because I have to go via Wembley park for step free access, it takes well over two hours either way. The problem was, I hadn’t told them I was coming, so they might not have been in and the entire trip could have been wasted. Luckily though, my aunt and mum were there – dad had to make an emergency trip back north – and the three of us spent a lovely hour or so talking and eating nice, fresh cake. I think my aunt was very pleased for the surprise.

I’m growing ever more confident in getting around this vast city: it’s public transport system is far from perfect, and it needs serious work to make it accessible for guys like me. Yet trips like the one I made today remind me that London is as much my home as anyone else’s, lying out there waiting for me to explore.

Let It Be

I just had a great day with John. A couple of days ago, he suggested going to see Let It Be down at Greenwich Picturehouse, a small independent cinema not far away. I didn’t know much about Let It Be other than that it had something to do with The Beatles, but being a fan of Peter Jackson I was keen to see his latest film. I thus went into the cinema not quite knowing what to expect, but quite intrigued: for one, just how similar to Jackson’s other work, stylistically, would this film be?

The answer to that soon became obvious: Let It Be is about as far from an epic fantasy or classic gorilla remake as you can get. Instead, this was a wonderful documentary which cut together archive footage of the Beatles’ recordings for the video for the album Let it Be. Filmed originally on a rooftop in central London, the new film re-weaves together footage of the legendarry band playing with that of events going on around it: people on the street below looking up in shock upon hearing the music; the police trying to gain access to the building, trying to stop the recording for disturbing the peace. The film incorporates the most advanced use of split-screen I’ve ever seen, so we get a real sense of events happening simultaneously. The technique really draws you in, so that in the end you are mesmerised by this historical, cultural event taking place on a London rooftop over fifty years ago. At only about an hour long, this isn’t a long film; but it is a treat for both music lovers and cinephiles, well worth going to the cinema for. It would seem there’s far more to Peter Jackson than Hobbits.

A Cinema Is A Physical Place

Excuse me, but I really need to get this off my chest. Cinemas are physical places, not television channels. A TV channel which airs films does not have the right to call itself a cinema. If it does, it is being pretentious and understands nothing about either film or cinephilia. Cinemas are buildings; physical places we have to go out and enter into. They are dedicated to screening and consuming films: they have an aura about them (Bazin), a specific feeling you only experience when watching a film in a darkened auditorium. That is very different to watching a film when it’s aired on TV. Channels which title theirselves ‘cinema’ such as Sky Cinema clearly do so to try to claim some of the prestige of cinemas, or to fool the dopes who watch them that they’re having the same experience; when in fact paying Rupert Murdoch through the nose to watch films on your TV you could have seen months ago, doesn’t even come close to experiencing a film in a cinema.

Competition and Unity

Sport is a weird phenomenon, when you think about it. On the face of it, it pits two or more people or groups of people against one another; it encourages competition and rivalry. Yet at the same time it is about bringing people together, either to compete or spectate. Whether it’s football, cricket, or any other sport, people come together to enjoy it. This is probably especially so for international competitions: events such as the Olympics or Football world cup encourage people to converge in one place to enjoy sport together, irrespective of international rivalries or supposed differences. Take, for example, the oldest, biggest sporting rivalry I know of: the Ashes. For well over a century now, every two years the english and Australian cricket teams have come together to battle it out. On the face of it, there is no love lost between the two sides, and competition is fierce. Yet at the end of the day, England and Australia remain firm allies, with huge cultural exchanges between the two nations.

Take the Olympics too, in both it’s summer and winter forms: every couple of years, the world comes together to focus our attention onto one city. On the face of it, we all support our respective teams, hoping they win plenty of medals. Yet on a much deeper level, events like the olympics are about global unity. Every two years, we all get to experience a different city, which has the privilege of showing itself off to the world. Whether physically or through the media, we get to visit places we otherwise never might, and watch our teams as they compete in sports which we otherwise would have little knowledge of. To this end, I was just watching the Curling from Beijing: I didn’t know much about curling, but could feel myself thoroughly getting into it as the match wore on.

For me, such events aren’t so much about who wins what, as much as the act of coming together to compete. Each country forms it’s team to send across the world to meet others and play against them. An event which on the face of it is about rivalry is actually about unity: we all come together to enjoy eachother’s company, relishing the rivalries and different approaches to each game, while knowing that at the end of the day, we leave each court, track or playing field as friends. That is why I see the olympic games as an incredibly progressive force, especially if you factor in what the paralympics does for the representation of disability. Thus while they may come under some flack from some quarters, as I once wrote here, I actually think we need more events like the olympics: global, mass media events which draw the worlds attention, and which bring us all together as one global community. What form such events may take I’m not sure: they might focus on sport, but they could equally be celebrations of art and culture. Above all, they should bring people together, just as the Olympic Games do.