Saturday, December 01, 2007

Talking Turkey

Christmas time again - click on the link above for a good start to the festive season!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Space Age and Power of Babel

I’m trying to decide which is more frightening – the fact that I have just realised I am older than the Space Age (Sputnik was launched only 50 years ago) or the following advert released by Babel, the company I work for!

In case your Romanian isn’t up to it – the punch line is, “Some things sound better in English!”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Falling illusions

Whether it was an intended, "stick it in and twist", or just accidental, I wouldn't like to say -

from someone who I don't particularly like, who I haven't seen for several years, and who i never want to see outside of a coffin again:

"Alan, aren't you getting fat! Don't worry, it comes with old age."

I am going into denial immediately.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Venus Rising!

Tennis is the best of games - just watch the unstoppable Venus Williams, seeded down in the twenties (you'd have thought the old cruds at Wimbledon would have learnt by now!) and in another final.

There is nothing beautiful in what she does - pure animal power and instinct, and a love of life.

You can tell she values - what doesn't matter, just the holding on to that value system with such force takes her above the ordinary.

You've never won until the last ball in tennis - and you've never lost either: What better model for life?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Far from bleak!

Sunday afternoons, unless I'm misremembering, were Dickens infested: The T.V. might have been black and white, but the lasting visual memories are peopled with richly coloured characters.

Later, post ‘Civilisation’, Attenborough induced colour came.

But the essential BBCness remained monochrome - a brooding delight in rough, pencil sketched, hard-lined iconography - stretching the ludicrous mask of caricature over the malleable faces of great actors.

There was a Pickwick (Nigel Stock?); a Makawber (Bob Hoskins); a Lady Dedlock (Diana Rigg).

There were fogs, and graveyards, rowing boats and carriages; mud: And rain, dirt, exploitation.

If Dickens reinvented Christmas – then the BBC reinvented Dickens.

What the dickens is it about 'Dickens' that make such great television, and how does the BBC 'do' such great Dickens?

I suspect one aspect is the humour to be found in ‘The Gothic’ – for Dickens, despite his highly valued serious reputation, never lost hold of the quick thrill and the cheap laugh. Good actors can play such stuff for all it is worth.

Like Shakespeare, no matter what weird, intellectual shapes latter generations have twisted the work into, the writer was writing for money, and for a ‘lower-class’ of audience. But neither craftsman patronised that audience – they knew their fortunes lay in entertaining them. However, I fear Shakespeare loved and liked his Groundlings more than Dickens his readership.

Shakespeare had ‘but a short time’ to stuff his ‘seven acts’ into; Dickens had a much longer period – but split into episodes each of which had to, soap-opera-like, cliff hang. Neither writer could luxuriate in a slowly developing character (real time) – although both were able to give impressions of organic-like growth.

Both writers are pre-Freud – their psychology is immediate, not sub-conscious – the only things hidden are from the world, not from the self – people might choose to ignore truths about themselves, but that is the free choice of Protestantism.

As a consequence, we can blame – and there is nothing so entertaining as being able to judge, and preferably condemn, others.

Dickens has also got the journalist’s sense of the newsworthy.

Despite the common belief that the news is factual, it really is just another form of storytelling – and its attraction lies in the power of the news story to describe the disruption an event causes to a perceived normality.

I think this is one of the big differences between Dickens and Shakespeare: Dickens plays against an accepted social norm – The fog caused by the Court of Chancery might be ubiquitous, but it is an aberration, it is unjust; Shakespeare constantly asks, what is justice?

Another, somewhat surprising, difference can be found in Dickens great ability to create a solid environment in which to place his characters: We can honestly talk of ‘Dickens’s World’ – not so Shakespeare. Hamlet belongs not in Denmark, but on the empty stage.

And here we come to one major reason for the success of the BBC-Dickens marriage. (And partly the reason for the more disastrous of the BBC Shakespeare.)

The BBC is willing and able to spend money on sets, costume and make-up – and it has the technical skills of a very experienced in-house crew to call upon. The uninformative term, ‘Production Values’ is used to describe this constant. It is not only the willingness of great actors to participate in minor roles that brings success to theses productions.

As technology has developed, the BBC has been quick to apply it to new adaptations of Dickens.

Once the heavy television cameras fixed programmes firmly in the studio – or required the use of much more expensive film cameras.

Now the lightness of equipment and the ease of digital editing, etc. mean the ‘sets’ can frequently be real buildings, real places. In the 2005 Bleak House, Lady Dedlock is truly at home.

But it is not only the solidity of bricks that have benefited from the move in technology - I was struck by the power of the sound picture in the new Bleak House. Not since the BBC Radiophonics Workshop tingled my spine with the Doctor Who theme have I been so ‘worked-on’ by a television soundtrack.

The sound edit is matched by the picture edit – both cleanly modern.

And then there is the direction – risking going over the top and stopping just in time. Another case of young talent being given the space they need?

For that is surely another key to the BBC’s success – the mix of experience and youth.

I have to admit, I don’t really like most Dickens – but every time I watch a BBC adaptation, I have to give the writer another chance – so, off to the bookshop in search of Bleak House.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wild Things!

It's strange, but the only judgement which counts, in the end, is your own.

Over the course of the last year I've withdrawn from several Internet 'discussion groups' because of the combative nature of the 'discussions'.

Shakespeare has been at the centre - and people's interpretations of the work.

The vicious attacks on views which differ from those held by certain individuals resemble the fighting over politics seen on occasions on the t.v.

There is no restraint.

It is almost as if it is an attack on what one thinks about a play - or what one sees in a text - is an attack on one’s identity.

I am not exactly a delicate flower, but I don’t wish to be subjected to abuse from individuals unknown – so, from now on, it’s the Blog and nothing but the Blog!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Coming Alive

A new life in the country has floored my online experiences for quite a while now.

Slowly coming back into cyberspace but it is going to take time and I suspect a slower more restrained contribution - although outburst likely.

Weather here in Romania been rotten - distinct drought - and never seems to have raised any interest outside the place - minor storms in the US headline news.

Being on the fringe does mean something here - the edge of what though?

Monday, March 26, 2007


I spent many hours in the company of this young man - teaching English, visiting his parents (for some great food) and getting him to act as my unpaid driver when I wanted to visit different parts of North Cyprus and couldn't get Lutz to take me.

He wanted to be an architect - did he ever make it I wonder?

I came across the photo yesterday as Cris delivered a pile of old diskettes: Goodness knows what else will pop up.

I loved North Cyprus - but am too much of an English Rosebud to take the heat.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Winter and Foul Weather

There is distinctly a touch of Spring in the air - so much so that some of the flowers are starting to open and students have started sitting on the benches by the Bega and kissing.

The "fuck-bugs" are also conjoined - a red and black mass on the trunks of trees.

I cannot help thinking it might be a false hope - the waves of repeating wind and storm passing over the Atlantic coast still seem to be there - and although there is a 'high' protecting us, how strongly lodged is it?

I fear for my plums.

Three year's ago we had a great crop - enough to make 30 bottles of tuica (no namby-pamby stuff this - great for flambe - and not even double distilled: Still got one bottle left).

For the last couple of years, no plums - the spring has frosted the flowers and that was the end of it. It even got the Walnuts one year and reduced considerably the crop last year.

Now I am back in the country I hope to produce a significant amount of my food this summer from the land - but let's see what the weather has in mind!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

No Gods: No Masters

Was listening to one of the 'In Our Time' programmes on Radio 4 and got a shock - I thought I knew all about Anarchism - and I don't.

It is one of those concepts you here about rather a lot -indeed, i even read about some of its authorities - and assume you understand, but it turns out you were totally mistaken.

Anarchism is not chaos - which is what most teenagers think it is (and that is the age most people stop thinking about it).

There appears to be a duality in us - an urge for authority and a need for independence - a wish to be ourselves and a dependence on others.

Anarchism is part of the needs and wishes for individuality.

Tracing the 'Anarchist tendencies' back through history it is not surprising to come across the likes of Socrates - and Xeno - in the early threads of the thought.

Nor is it a surprise to find Plato - a product of Socrates - swing against the tendency to produce his Republic - the proto-manual for fascism.

No surprise either in finding Anarchist thoughts amongst the more revolutionary elements in the English Revolution - The Diggers, of course, were soon squashed by the authorities, but not before they left us with 'The World Turned Upside Down'.

But more interesting has been the discovery that I am something of an anarchist myself: My move to Romania, the desire to feed and live on my own away from the borders and restrictions which have impinged on my life, all smell distincly anarchistic to me.