Ode To The DVD

To my left is a book shelf. On it I have an array of books and DVDs, including my James Bond and Lord of the Rings box sets, as well as my copies of Dune, Lacan’s Ecrites and Ian Fleming’s biography. I know that if I wanted to, I just have to go over to the shelf and take a book down to read it, or ask someone to pop a DVD into the player to watch it. My collection will remain there for as long as I want it, and to add to it I simply have to trundle out to the shops to buy a text I want, or failing that order it online. It would then be mine to read or watch indefinitely. Simple.

Or that’s how things were until recently. These days online streaming is getting more and more popular. Of course, streaming has definite advantages, especially for people like me: instead of needing to ask my PA to put a disk in the drive, to watch a film I now just need to go to a streaming website and select the film I want to watch. The thing is, there are more and more streaming services on the web – Amazon, Netflix, Disney etc… – so to watch a specific film you need an account with one of those websites. If you don’t have an account you can’t watch the film; and you can only have an account if you pay a (usually monthly) subscription. Your ability to watch a specific filmic text is therefore no longer as simple as owning a DVD, but depends on which streaming services you’re subscribed to and your ability to pay. That has, in my opinion, reduced rather than opened up our access to film.

For example, I just came across a reference to a new Beavis and Butt-Head film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe. I used to love Beavis and Butt-Head, so was interested to see their return to the screen. I was also in the mood for some inane puerile humour, so I punched the title into Google and found it was available to watch on Amazon. That would have been fine as I can access Amazon, but when I clicked on the link I was told I could only watch the film if I was signed up to Paramount Plus, which would cost me seven quid a month after a first free week. This I was loathe to do: subscribing to more and more streaming services would just cost me more and more, and end up spiralling out of control. I thus couldn’t watch the film: it had not been released on DVD or in any other format, and could only be viewed via Paramount.

In theory streaming is great: having access to films over the web should make them more available than ever before. Only, the streaming system is becoming more and more monetised; putting films behind online paywalls makes them harder to watch, and once you have watched them you can’t actually keep them to watch again in a few weeks or months unless you keep up your subscription. Such sites have effectively made themselves gatekeepers for certain – usually very popular – films. It kind of makes me miss DVDs: at least they remain on your shelf, indefinitely, rather than having to pay a plethora of different companies again and again, whenever you want to watch a certain film. DVDs might not be as convenient as watching a film online, particularly for the likes of me, but, like books, once you have bought them they remain yours, and you don’t have to keep paying a company which may have played no role in their creation, whenever you want to watch them.

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago this evening we all saw something which, for me at least, put it beyond all doubt that the potential for awesomeness in life is infinite. We saw something so cool, so epic, that I still get a thrill from thinking about it to this day; something which would have been seen as unthinkable before it actually happened. Ten years ago this evening, James Bond 007 was shown to escort Queen Elizabeth the Second in a helicopter to Stratford in order for her to open the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was an absolutely breathtaking cultural moment, and no doubt most of us remember where we were when we first saw it. A bit like September 11, then, that moment can be seen as a type of temporal anchor: a demarkation point in time with a discernible ‘before’ and ‘after’.

To be honest though, thinking about that evening I can’t help feeling very mixed emotions. So much has happened since then, I won’t even try to summarise it. I vividly remember watching the 2012 opening ceremony, lying on the blue sofa in the living room of Lyn’s bungalow in Charlton. When the short film involving the Queen and Bond started, I suddenly sat up straight, as if I could sense something incredible was about to happen. I then remember my mouth gaping open in amazement and awe as one of cinema’s greatest characters was shown to fly with the reigning monarch across the city, climaxing with a union jack emblazoned parachute jump nobody could ever have expected. It struck me as incredible, and I became instantly obsessed.

Yet now, of course, that old two seat sofa, which I once spent so much time lying on, is no longer there. Lyn isn’t there, and that life in that happy little bungalow has ended. That’s why my memories of that night fill me with such mixed emotions. Add to that the fact that Lyn herself participated in the Paralympic closing ceremony – something absurdly incredible in itself – and you see why my emotions are so conflicted today; my memories so bittersweet.

This evening London celebrates the tenth anniversary of an event the likes of which I doubt it will see again in my lifetime. In 2012 London performed before the entire world and showed the world how awesome it is. To have been living here in London that year was a privilege of a lifetime. In one sense it seems like just yesterday, yet in another it seems an age ago, so much has happened, so much has changed since then. The person I was watching the ceremony with that evening is no longer here, tinging my memories with a sorrow I doubt I’ll ever get over.

Locked Away

I’ve just come across something which is utterly, utterly chilling. This short documentary appeared today on BBC Iplayer. It’s about the treatment of disabled young people in Ukraine, who are locked away in institutions for years and just neglected. I defy anyone to watch it and not feel both heartbroken and appalled. Most are starving to death and barely let out of their cots, yet with the right support and equipment could probably live full, productive lives. Or to put it another way, here I am in my own flat, dinner in the oven and powerchair on charge; but that could so easily have been me, left to rot in a filthy dormitory with no way to communicate. I find this film extremely disturbing and extremely hard to watch. That such horrors are still happening anywhere in the world is truly chilling.

The Debate I Didn’t Watch

I have nothing to say about last night. I didn’t even try to watch the TV debate between Sunak and Truss because I knew it would just wind me up and get me throwing things at my screen; and having just seen a few clips of it on breakfast TV, I think I was right to do so. The show appears to have been acrimonious and bitter. The clips I just saw were a display of two spoiled, overgrown schoolchildren squabbling over things which neither has any real idea about. Why would I have any interest in watching that, especially given that I have no say in the outcome of this contest? If you ask me neither Sunak nor Truss are in any way fit to become Prime Minister. What we need is a general election. That way the whole country can decide who leads us, rather than a group of spoiled, selfish, toffee-nosed scumbags. Only, the Tories won’t hold one anytime soon because they know they would probably loose it, and they are desperate to cling to power for as long as possible.

The Overground To The Rescue

The overground may have it’s uses after all. I was out and about again today. As I’ve said before, I go up to Stratford fairly often, but today I wanted to see how the ten year anniversary of the Olympic Games was being marked. As usual I got the jubilee line up there, and then looked around the Olympic park a bit. I found there was a small event happening, but it wasn’t very exciting so I pressed on north intending to explore a part of the park I had never seen before. A few weeks ago I had gone that way with John, and we had seen two large lakes which I wanted to find again.

The paths in that area are the kind of paths which just make me want to go on and on. They are flat and smooth, winding through parks and across charming little rivers. Following them you soon forget that you are anywhere near a metropolis. They take you further and further north, further and further from Stratford.

I rolled forward like that for quite a while, until I suddenly realised that I had no idea how to get home. Simply retracing the path wasn’t really an option, and would take too long. I told myself to stay calm and look for a bus back to Stratford. Leaving the lakes I found a road, and found myself in a place called Tottenham Hale. I had never heard of it before, and still had no idea where I was. Luckily though, I soon found a bus station, and then a train station adjoining it. With a bit of luck I would be able to get some kind of transport back to Stratford.

Which is basically what happened: I requested help at the desk, told the staff there where I needed to go, and soon found myself being escorted onto an overground train platform. To my surprise, though, I soon found the train heading through open countryside – had I really gone that far? Nonetheless, about twenty minutes later I found myself back at Stratford, feeling quite relieved and making a beeline for the Jubilee Line, eager to get home. I had at last used London’s overground train service though, and it had worked without a hitch: the train was on time, and the staff put out the ramps with no problem. Now I know I can use it perfectly well, I won’t be so apprehensive about using the overground.

First, though, I’m going to Google where Tottenham Hale is.

Picard Season 3 Trailer

I’m suddenly rather excited. I just turned my computer on and came across this, the trailer for the third and (probably) final season of Picard. It looks like the whole cast of Star Trek The Next Generation are getting back together for one last fling. The minute-long trailer does not tell us much, and is just a montage of appearances from the old characters, but nonetheless it is very enticing. I wonder whether any of those actors thought they would still be performing in Star Trek when they took up those roles forty years ago.

According to this Radio Times article, the new season will hit the airwaves next year, so it’s definitely something I’ll be looking forward to. Star Trek TNG was such a big part of my childhood and adolescence, seeing the entire crew of the Enterprise D back together one last time will be such a treat.

The Metropolis Is My Oyster

Today I decided to resolve something which had been bugging me for a couple of weeks. First though, let me say that I know Saturday was not the best day to do something like this as the London transport system is always chaos at weekends, but I wanted something to do and it was a sunny day. When I tried going to Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago, I chose to go on the tram because the tube looked too complicated with too many changes. Looking at the underground map a couple of days later though, I saw that that was nonsense: I would just have to get the Jubilee Line to Westminster, and the District Line from there. All the stations I’d need were marked as accessible.

That, then, is what I did this afternoon simply to see whether I could, and it could hardly have been more straightforward. Apart from a short, unexplained delay on the Jubilee line, getting there was no problem at all. Once there I had a short look around, found Wimbledon Common (but sadly didn’t see any wombles) before setting off back home. The entire outing, there and back, took about four hours.

There isn’t much more I can report really, although I have to say that trips like this do wonders for my confidence. London once felt so vast to me, but it now seems smaller and smaller. I know I can get around and go where I want. Not all stations are accessible, but that just means I need to be organised and work out an accessible route. And besides, as I wrote here a couple of entries ago, progress is constantly being made on that front. You know, as I think I’ve said before, if I had been told, aged eighteen or so, that I would one day be living independently in London and roaming the city on my own, I wouldn’t have believed it; as a disabled young man I had no idea what I would be capable of. Yet here I am, the metropolis my oyster – although, ironically enough, I have never owned an Oyster Card – constantly exploring more of this wondrous, vibrant city. It just goes to show, you can never rule anything out.

Nasty, Vicious Brothers in Dreams

I just woke from a nasty, horrible dream – the type of dream you feel relieved to wake from, and to find they are in fact just dreams. In it, me and my younger brother Luke were kicking the shit out of one another. Luke was being nasty to me, taunting me and winding me up just for fun, and I was trying to kill him for it. It got really brutal. For some reason we were in Greenwich Park with the rest of our family. The thing is, I rarely see Luke these days, except on the weekly Skype call. He has matured into a kind, extremely hard working man who loves his wife dearly; I have the greatest respect for him, and know he would never try to taunt me or beat me up (except to threaten to put me in a plastic bag and roll me down a hill, but that’s another story). I therefore have no idea why I would have such a horrific dream, so I just want to say: Luke, if you’re reading this bro, I’m thinking of you. I know you’re insanely busy with work these days, but it has been far too long since we met for a chat, a meal and perhaps a drink.

The same goes for my other brother Mark, for that matter. I suppose the last two years have driven families like mine further apart; it’s also probably an inevitable consequence of time, as both my brothers now have their own lives and families to tend to. Yet, bloody violent though it was, dreams like the one I just woke from remind you that your siblings still exist, that they are important, and that sooner or later you’ll have to do something to get them all together again.

I Have Never Used The Overground

I’m now pretty good at getting around London on the bus, and I use the tube quite often, but the one mode of transport I’ve never really got a grip of is the overground. For some reason I have never used it. Of course the main reason for that is because it’s not really accessible: to use it I would need to arrange for ramps to be put out for me, meaning I can’t use it on the spur of the moment. The tube may be far from perfect, but the great thing about more and more stations gradually becoming step free is that I have the option of getting on and off trains on the fly. That isn’t possible with the overground rail network, so I’ve never got to grips with it: I don’t know which lines lead where, as I do with the underground. That to me seems a shame. This metropolis has made a great deal of progress in making it’s public transport accessible for people like me; as far as I can tell, it is leagues ahead of the rest of the country. Yet there are still massive, gaping holes in it’s coverage which I wish TFL would get it’s act together on.

Colbert Noticed Our Heatwave

If anyone is wondering what the Americans are saying about yesterday’s heatwave, watch this. Believe it or not, they noticed what was happening here, although this guy does make some dodgy comments about Bangers and Mash, Spotted Dick and warm beer. More seriously, between witticisms, he also makes some very valid, pertinent points about global climate change: this is a problem which now clearly is effecting the entire world, and something we all need to do something about.