Sunday, August 31, 2008

Self Promotion

For those interested in the mix of Shakespeare, Olympics and American politics, I have just blogged over on Shakespeare Experience a good one!

What is fascinating is the way in which so much of the actual violence of war and national competition seems to have been distilled into sport ... not that sport doesn't get violent.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Republican choice ...

I have serious doubts about the mental health of the average American ... no, it's not the beer they drink or the fact that they think apple juice is cider, nor is it the inability to understand the rules of rugby (or Geneva Convention) ... it's McCain and the republicans.

The fact that the man is a war hero is automatic grounds for disqualification ... have they not watched Rambo? But it is not the geriatric leader we are interested in ... its his choice of 'running mate': And I'd run if he tried to mate with anyone in public.

The Alaskan Governor (notice, she's so well known no one would recognise her name). Sarah Palin - as in Monty Python Palin?

It is either a brilliant move (so brilliant I'm blinded to it) or an act of such obvious idiocy only a nation of morons would fall for it ...

We need to steal the women's vote off Obama ... he blew it with Hilary .. so find me a woman - er one like that British bint - the Iron knickers one.

And she needs to carry a gun and kill small furry things dead at a 100 feet. That'll get us the murderous-guns-are-right wing vote.

Oh, and sound like the sort of mama would paddle the rump of any upstart teenager black and blue... the sort of mama all patriotic kids need. Morality in the home.

Bit like the old Women of the West - you know, Calamity what's her face - the one who snag whipcrack that way and was played by Doris someone or other ..

A pioneer we can tap in to the WASP mythology ofa oure white improvement in the Mid-West.

The trouble, of course, with that, is the reality:

"Old-timers always claimed Calamity Jane Cannary had a big heart when
she was not drinking, but unfortunately that was not very often. She
was a bullwhacker, a harlot, a scout, an occasional actress and an
accomplished liar. Jane traveled (mostly bumming her way) throughout
the West. There are numerous versions as to how she got her name. One
story says that any cowboy who bought her services was in for a
calamity, meaning they were going to be spending quality time with a
doctor in the near future."

Thanks to The Regulators: Women of the Wild West for the information.

Now that's the sort of woman that'll swing a lot of votes.

(Trouble is, it just might.)

, , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A six year old's birthday party ...

One not so serious English commentator (well, part of a topical news skit programme - the Daly show) came up with a great one ...

"If you take democracy to its natural conclusion, it is just like a 6 year old's birthday party - all balloons and streamers ..."

You know - he had a point.

, ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, August 25, 2008

On this day ...

Seeing as the Beeb is being violent and uncivilized in its choice, my own:

  • 1609: Galileo Galilei demonstrates his telescope to the Venetians
  • 1768: James Cook begins his first voyage
  • 1918: Leonard Bernstein born
Now, why pick violence over that lot? Nothing in the BBC choice takes precedence over any one of those dates.

Galileo, of course, was cheating ... as all good scientists in search of grants have to do. He hadn't actually invented the telescope - although what he did with it was earth-moving (literally - it was used to shatter the crystal spheres and put the sun firmly at the centre of our little part of the universe).

Cook was almost cheating ... off to discover a continent the Dutch had already been to - but, hey, we won the publicity race!

After all where else could we send all our future criminals (and, if you think about it - most of them would have otherwise been executed - so transportation was a good thing).

Pity the Australians developed such an awful attitude to sport (they actually try to win and get upset when they don't) and never developed a decent accent. Mind you, we did get Kyle out of the place so most other things can be forgiven.

As for Leonard Bernstein - where to start? Nutty as a fruit cake - talented and totally charismatic. Whether he was conducting Mahler or writing West Side Story or talking on a talk show, entertainment guaranteed.

I can't see why the BBC insist on picking out the war related and its like ... there is plenty to choose otherwise and much of it celebrates (as does Bernstein's conducting) the tremendous spirit which can infect all humans.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On this day ...

79: Mount Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples erupts, burying the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Something spectacular wouldn't you say? The sort of thing guaranteed to attract attention - but simply ignored with a "It'll never happen here," or a, "We'll deal with it when it happens," attitude.

The trouble with that is the consequences ...

Bodies in the streets.

Nobody seems to think of the bodies 'til after ... or rather, the army does and so gets the body bags ready, but the politicians and the ordinary public seem to have an, "I'm immune" view of the world which unfortunately doesn't reflect the truth.

The BBC have another Roman linked 'On this day' for today:

410: Rome is sacked by Alaric the Goth, the first hostile occupation of the city since the fourth century BC.

... which would suggest the, "It couldn't happen here," mind set to me. Alaric was a Goth and has a lot to answer for ... not least the silly clothes and 'style' so beloved of hormone driven teenagers with more conformism than brains.

Alaric ultimately failed to get what he wanted ... but managed to upset rather a lot of people on the way.

Invasions seem to do that.

I could mention Iraq ... or the great Afghanistan (graveyard of so many invaders) ... but the Beeb has managed to provide another lovely focus in its 'On this Day' ...

1949: Nato comes into existence to counter the Soviet military presence in Eastern Europe.
and, 'surprise surprise', I'll finally come to Georgia.

Nato is supposed to be protecting against the 'soviets' ... and nice and secure they make us feel ... unless you happen to live in one of the countries actually 'threatened' by Russia - or to use politic-speak, "In the Russian sphere of influence."

Symbolic the round table - and very typical of the 'Camelot' mentality ... Why does no one remember the end of the myth?

Camelot failed. For one brief shining moment, there was a spot ... but it was brief, it was destroyed ... and the barbarians had their way.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, August 18, 2008

Things you see in the river ...

Now, I wouldn't be sure it was exactly one of these:

but it certainly looked like it! It's a Stone Crayfish ... used to be popular with the monks (like Carp) for eating.

Actually there were three or four of them in various sizes.

Over the years I've seen quite a variety of things in the Bega in the centre of Timisoara - from snakes (which decided to do a mating dance on my feet) to freshwater turtles.

No one ever believes me - but I know they are there.

All you need to do is sit and wait - all comes along in time.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hoycules ?

"I actually said we had nine chances of gold and would probably get five, but the rest of the world has stepped back and we've stepped up. Chris Hoy is being called "Hoycules" in the camp. There is a different philosophy about them."

Chris Boardman talking about Britain's cycling dominance (on the Beeb)

What's really fascinating is the way that providing the right facilities and finance can raise the 'game' so much.

Every one of the cyclists has put it down to the creation of the National Cycling Centre (link) in Manchester and the proper financing of it.

What a shame Manchester never got the Olympics ...

However, I don't think it is only the money and the support.

How do you account for Phelps?

I'm not going to get into any arguments over is he/isn't he the greatest ... the golds speak for him - no one else has either won so may events (yes that was WON) or won so many in one games (with a little help from his friends)

Not only that he's shaved the 'Spitzian' moustache which makes him more Greek God than Viking thug.

Undoubtedly Phelps has had the support - but that doesn't make an athlete who can win more medals than most of the world's countries!

He gave part of the answer in an interview ...

Nothing is impossible.

With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination, and that's something I learned and something that helped me.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Olympian Task

Imagine an Olympic record which has stood for 100 years and is still unbroken - well, Emil Voigt, a native Mancunian, holds that record. Admittedly, the event (the 5 mile race) has never been in the Olympics again, but it is still something of a distinction.

I point to the story just to remind people that despite the accountant mentality of the media, there are more things to being up there with the Olympians than records.

There is deserved accolade for anyone who wins (without cheating) a gold in any event: I would go so far as to say there is a deserved distinction for anyone who competes in any event at the Olympics.

Take a closer look at Mr Voigt - he almost didn't compete - he was on the point of giving up competitive athletics as he was getting too old (@ 25); in training his 'arch' collapsed - so a plaster cast was stuck in the shoe before he ran; he was the only vegetarian at the games (I'd like that one checked out myself).

Such is the stuff of heroes.

Few know of the man now - although he moved to New Zealand and trained many athletes there.

It is one of the many tales that remind us one point of the Olympics is for ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things - have their 15 minutes of glory, then fade into the background again.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Genetic Throwback

Watching the Hungarian TV channel Olympic coverage (not repeats of the pool - come on eurosport, there are other events) and I saw the nose. You could measure a mile along that - stright as they come.
Andrea Minguzzi, a Greco-Roman if ever I saw one, was in the fight for the Gold - he won. All 84 kg of him.

When I saw him I thought - that's a gladiator if ever there was one. he just looked the part.

Fitting an Italian win a Greco-ROMAN wouldn't you say?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Big Boy's Toy ...

I notice on the inestimably violent BBC 'On this Day' a decidedly milder anniversary.

Link to a steaming train.

That is Oliver Cromwell - the last Steam engine to pull a passenger train on the British Rail network in the time of real trains.

It was all of too many years ago - I was just celebrating leaving junior school and didn't notice a thing.

My question is what is it that makes the damn things not lie down and rust respectably?

Harry Potter has to have one - and romances in the Rail Buffet are not the same thing since clean machines have failed to mist-up the platform.

Mind you, if you are going to have trains with names - all that huffing and puffing, steam and smoke does at least give a bit of personality. Can't stand the silly names of boats.

And it (restoring the things) does preserve the great English eccentric without killing too many harmless species on the way.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Open ses'me

Things seem to have moved on a little since the first Olympic Opening Ceremony:

Mind you, it is noticeable that they did take the time to take a photo - suggesting even back then that they were aware of the importance of the media and of the need to promote ... but what were they promoting?

Whatever it was, it doesn't look too much like sport - or at least, not sport alone. There are important people in the forefront.

Why the 2008 Olympics should be expected to be anything other than an inheritor of this tradition is beyond me.

And it has to be said, the Chinese did do it a lot better than the rather naive originators who seem to think, if you go by the picture, they don't have to work too hard to get the world's attention.

Whatever else you think of the Chinese - they are workers and one of the things that seems to be missing from all the commentary about the opening has been the sheer effort that has gone into the ceremony. Forget the cost (not so much if you split it between the population of China - and even less if you think of the world audience for it) look at the human time and organisation.

There were 2008 drummers to open, coordinated better than any marching army or Broadway musical I've ever seen.

This very strong statement reminded me, as did several other sights during the ceremony of the terracotta army: It was not just the mass of participants, it was the expectation of order under pressure, of the assurance of pre-planning and the human resources available.

If the original opening ceremony was nod in the direction of the world that the Olympics were back - look at the shape of the building they are in, very Ancient Greek - then this ceremony says - China is back too - Ancient China, Not so Ancient China, Recent Past China and China Future!

Perhaps most disturbing for the Western Liberals amongst us ( and that does include me) was the military presence. Nice looking young men in uniform is one thing - but did they have to goose step?

It would be impossible for the Chinese military not to have participated (indeed, I suspect they really were a very strong element in the success - both for the logistical support and the provision of people) but to the world outside the strong statement of military significance might just seem a little inappropriate.

What China did get over to the world in this ceremony was what brilliant film makers they are - because that is what you were watching - a one shoot only film.

I am certain the viewers of screens around the world got a much better view than anyone in the Stadium - maybe not quite the atmosphere. For the person who took the decision to make a film director take control knew how to choose people.

One thing I was a little uncertain of was the inclusion of Sarah Brightman. I'd never noticed before how 'Chinese' her voice was - maybe that is one reason I don't rate her as a Western Singer. Here, she worked brilliantly - as did her 'pop' partner ... Liu Huan.

As befits an opening ceremony, the torch did a Kitsch lighting - at least it was the actual flame that lit the big one (unlike in the famous USA case of the arrow not actually lighting the torch).

How much a flying Chinese Hero is really representative of Sport is debatable, it is certainly representative of popular culture.

And that I think is indicative of how far China has come - we did not need this ceremony to establish the position of China as a cultural entity- it was already there. What it did was state loud and clear - We are here.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What a night

... raising the Flag (2) ...

It was the first time I have been able to sit through an opening ceremony. Whether that is a sign of ill health and age or there really was something special about the shenanigans I'll leave to others to decide.

As expected, the 'spontaneous' roar as Yao Ming entered with the flag was spectacular; less expected and possibly more spontaneous, was the one for Roger Federer - whose birthday it was - when the camera focused on him and the crowd realised he was carrying the flag ...

Maybe the second proudest man in the Stadium.

There was a lot of focus on the tennis stars by the cameras..

Nadal was one of the first individuals to be picked out by the Chinese director (we got what the Chinese got, no choose your own in this event) and later, when the athletes were finally free to move, there was an interesting

sequence of Federer, Nadal, Murray (proving he needs a wash and shave) - then a flash to various other athletes, including Britain's youngest, Tom Daley, who attracted several shots. For someone who isn't really expected to get too far (realistically) he is attracting a lot of media attention.

But then, children seemed to be a major theme of the ceremony - notice Yao Ming's partner (Lin Hao) with the flag.

Whether the child was there to remind the world of the Earthquake, or to reduce the chance of the Yao Ming cult growing at the expense of the communist leaders I wouldn't dare to say, but despite the roar and despite the attention given to other flags and flag carriers the director didn't spend too long on Mr Ming and did spend a lot of time flitting between various communist leaders.

One flag that did get it's fair share of attention was the Union flag. It is only at times like this and in parades like this one that you actually notice just how many countries have it as part of their own.

Not only the obvious ones - like New Zealand, but several others too ... all very emotion stirring and all very told you we ruled the world!

One of the nice things about the parade of athletes was to see so many women carrying the flag ... difficult to find an image though - maybe it is time for the media to catch up with the athletes.

I'll have things to say about the ceremony itself latter today ... when I might just mention Georgia.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, August 08, 2008

Proudest Human on Earth?

...or Carrying the Flag (1) ...

I've known about Yao Ming since I lived in China (before he hit America) and he truly is a popular hero.

It is in the nature (or at least culture) of China to be intensely nationalistic and so you can forget all the hype about carrying the torch - there is only one thing today that will mark down a human as representative of all that a country holds proud: The flag.

He's done it before - at the last Olympics, but that cannot compare to carrying it today, in China.

When he was asked by an interviewer earlier in the week if he was going to be the person lighting the flame, he said wait and see - there was a gleam in his eyes and the slightest of smiles on his face ...unsurprising really, he had a greater task to perform than the trivial Nazi-created sports symbolism of torch bearing: In his hands will be the focus of by far the majority of the Chinese people and the stadium better be well built because the roar that will explode around the world will possibly be registering on the seismometers in America.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Three Splashes, a flash and then an e-mail

Down on the Bega yesterday and heard a splash - looked over and saw ripples. Too big for a fish, I looked expecting to see kids throwing either themselves or things in the river - nope, so maybe a fish?

A couple of minutes later, another one - must be a big fish hunting - although how it has survived all the men with hooks I don't know (not real fishermen, I've got one in the family and they don't do what the hook men do).

Walked on - over the bridge back along the Bega and bugger me if the damn splash didn't happen again - in exactly the same place.

I think to myself - time to waddle along and investigate, so waddle along I do - and investigate.

You only get the briefest of flashes with a Kingfisher - especially if you are stupid enough to go waddling along in their direction. They are a magnificent bird - quite small, which is a suprise to people when they first see them - all the telephoto shots filling the tv screens have lead to a false expectation as too the importance of size.

And the splash was not quite so big as I'd heard either - the effect I guess of the smooth water and calm day - they are much better at fishing than the local hookers!

Not only that, my dreams were full of colourful imaginative birds - one of which I'd even named and in my dreams searched for on the net.

And this morning? Well, just before going out to sit on the opposite side of the river in the shade and waiting (I want more than a flas this time) I turn on my computer to recharge the mp3 player, check my email and low and behold - a letter:

I write to ask whether you would be willing to include a link to (or even write a blog entry about) the WINGS tour “Birds and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” conducted each June by Rich Hoyer and Bryan Bland. This imaginative combination of birding and culture follows in the tradition of our popular “Birds and Music” and “Birds and Art” tours of Europe. After a delightful morning of birding that includes famously delicious picnic breakfasts and lunches in stunningly gorgeous surroundings, we return in time for a daily performance in the theaters just a block from our hotel.

I am thinking about this and toddle along to their blog and what should great me - a kingfisher. So, yes I'll give you the link with pleasure (and I'd even join the tour if I were in the USA - and had the money).

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, August 04, 2008

An evening out

Went out a 6pm for a quick drink and ended up staying 'til the fireworks. Ex-student paid which was even better. Got to hear rather than see the concert - recognised the voice and he did sing the song I wanted to hear so I know it was really him up there at the other side of the crowd.
Even an early downpour didn't dampen the atmospher.
Bit hazy this morning though.

Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hot Day

Later on today the beautiful Baroque Square in the centre of Timisoara is going to be going Reggae! Alistair Ian Campbell (yep, Scottish ancestry) is going to be entertaining the crowds for free.

I suspect it is going to be one well worth going to.

Mind you, he did pop on to the TV yesterday to give an interview with a truly dreadful Romanian interviewer (most are) and he did look, in the immortal words of Punch, a little 'tired and emotional' - but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume after popping around Europe he had just cause.

Technorati Tags: , ,