One of the things I love the most about London is it’s architecture, and how it’s buildings vary so much from area to area. Before I moved here, I assumed London would be boring, just like an average British town only bigger. Living here, though, has made me appreciate London, and buildings like the Dome, Shard and Gherkin. One of my favourite buildings in the capital is Shakespeare’s Globe, and how the recreation of a seventeenth-century playhouse sits sweetly by the Thames.
John and I were there again yesterday. He’s visiting me again, and I think wanted a bit of culture. Just before the pandemic hit, we watched The Merry Wives of Windsor there. This time, instead of a comedy, we saw The Tempest, one of the great tragedies. That, in itself, was a thrill for me: The Tempest was one of the Shakespeare plays I studied at school at both GCSE and A-level, but I had never seen it live. Thus to watch it properly, in the round among the groundlings was a real treat. Sat there watching the action unfold before me felt like I was being reacquainted with an old friend.
I thought the performance itself was great. Those guys really know how to act, although the initial sight of the guy playing Prospero in rather skimpy swimming trunks came as a bit of a shock. I must say, too, that this time I didn’t have the best views, as there were people standing right in front of me for most of the performance. Those things aside, though, it really was a fantastic thing to do on a sunday afternoon, and I feel so fortunate to live in a fantastic metropolis where such joys are so readily at hand. The Isle is indeed full of wonders.
Alex Jones really is an embarrassment to human civilisation, isn’t he? Apart from an odd glimpse, I’d never really seen him ‘in action’ before – I try to avoid such nutcases. But I just saw a news report on the Sandy Hook trial which Jones was involved in, and the guy is an utter dick. He was found guilty of spewing bullshit, and ordered to pay $60m for falsely claiming that the Sandy Hook massacre was a set-up. Yet to watch Jones act, you would think he was the victim: he was trying to squirm and twist things to make it sound as if he had been right all along, he was in charge of things and everyone else was out to get him. We see precisely the same behaviour in Donald Trump: Jones, like Trump, is an ultra-privileged white male who vastly overestimates his own intellect and who has had far too much media attention for his own good. And like Trump, Jones is an embarrassment which humanity could well do without.
Apart from the odd highlight, I haven’t been watching much of the Commonwealth Games. Ironically given my interest in the Olympics, athletics isn’t really my thing. However, for me the interesting thing about these games is that the ‘ordinary’ events and the para-events are being held at the same time. Of course, at the olympics, the paralympics happens after the olympics, so they are two separate events, each with their own opening and closing ceremonies. But with these Commonwealth Games everything happens at once, so we see able-bodied athletes competing alongside disabled athletes, albeit in separate sports / categories.
That interests me as it rather changes the dynamic. I think there is a debate to be had over which is better: is it better in terms of the representation of disability for para-athletes to have their own event, or for everyone to compete at the same time? To be honest I’m not sure. One of the great things about London 2012 is that it really foregrounded the disability community, in the UK at least. It was aired on Channel Four whereas the Olympics aired on the Beeb, so it felt really distinct and separate. Channel Four really made an effort to give the Paralympics it’s own set of shows such as The Last Leg, so it really felt just as important as the Olympics, rather than a tagged on afterthought.
With the current games in Birmingham everything is happening simultaneously, so Para-athletes and sports are not getting that foregrounding. Thus on the one hand all the athletes are competing side by side, making them all feel as central to the action as each other; on the other hand, we loose the enormity of having a distinct Pararlympic games. It’s thus a bit of a case of swings and roundabouts, and I’m not sure which model I prefer.
I have no idea where this picture was taken so I can’t verify it, but as a big fan of Sam Gamgee and as someone who has loved the potato scene ever since Dad read it to me, I really hope someone put this sign up in a supermarket somewhere.
I love it. It just goes to show what a big part of popular culture those films (and books) have now become.
I really want to flag this remarkable story up today. “Brazilian twins who were joined at the head have been successfully separated with the help of virtual reality.Three-year-olds Bernardo and Arthur Lima underwent surgeries in Rio de Janeiro, with direction from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.” That such a procedure could be performed at all is amazing in itself, of course, but what strikes me most about it was how international the effort was. Doctors from all around the world worked together to prepare for and conduct a twenty-seven hour operation in which a hundred people were involved. Mostly working over the web, they combined the knowledge and expertise of dozens of professionals to save the two boys. For me, surely the biggest thing we can take from this is the importance of cooperation: nationality didn’t matter to these professionals; what mattered was helping the boys, irrespective of where they were from. Surely that is how all medicine and science should be conducted. I have long felt that humanity should start seeing beyond borders, beyond nationality and start working together. This is a prime example of that principal in action.
As a Star Trek fan, I think it would be remiss of me not to note the sad death of Nichelle Nichols. The truth is, having been born in 1983, I am one of those Trekkies who came to Star Trek through The Next Generation, and never really watched The Original Series. However, I know full well the cultural impact TOS had, and that the importance casting of Nichols as part of the command crew of the Enterprise cannot be over-stated. For Gene Roddenberry to show a society as racially divided as America was in the sixties a vision of the future where black people could hold just as much status and authority as white people was truly commendable. Thus what Nichols did by appearing on the series was nothing less than revolutionary: it was a game changer, the impact of which is still being felt today.
Alas, we have lost another of the greats. Of course, I know the character Uhura primarily through the Star Trek films which came out in the Eighties. Yet those films were a huge part of my childhood: I love them, and how the crew kind of played off one another while retaining their own characteristics, rather like a family. That crew is now slowly leaving us, one by one, but they leave behind a cultural legacy which is surely beyond comparison.
Quite a bit is being said in the news at the moment about climate change, but the crisis was really driven home for me yesterday. I was out for my trundle in Greenwich Park yesterday afternoon, and it was like I was rolling through a field of hay or straw. Ordinarily the park is fairly green, but the grass looked completely parched, with several dusty paths weaving through it. To be honest it was quite alarming, especially given how green and resplendent the park usually is. It looked like it hadn’t have a drop of rain in weeks or even months; it really was a shocking, even horrifying sight. And of course, it’s the same situation in every other park and patch of grass around here. Such stark sights really make the climate crisis clear, and I think we should all be very concerned.
I had planned to write a reaction entry to last night’s commonwealth games opening ceremony in Birmingham today, but all I can say is “meh”. I sat down to watch it expecting something I could get my teeth into, but it turned out to be rather dull. Don’t get me wrong: there were some good bits, like the huge puppet bull and the Union Jack made from cars, but apart from that it wasn’t very interesting. Apparently it was supposed to tell some kind of story, but without the TV commentary that wasn’t at all clear. Frankly, pretty soon into it I found my mind wandering off to other things. There was nothing which thrilled me, no moments of awesomeness. And then it just ended with three rather lacklustre songs by Duran Duran, a band nobody has been particularly interested in for about thirty years.
Sorry Birmingham, but this was no follow-up, no long-awaited second album to London 2012. To be fair I know this show may not have had the budget London did, but my overall impression was that it was not as spectacular as it could have been. This was Birmingham’s opportunity to shine, but I don’t think it really did.