April 1st 2011
My brother has complained in the past that my blog has turned into a series of right-wing rants (by which I assume he does not mean a rant about Matt Jarvis's stellar 25 minutes on England's right wing this week. That's right, folks, this page gives you so much more than just political opinion; it also provides convoluted sporting puns). I don't see my musings as rants, myself, but I apologise in advance to my left-leaning friends and that more sizeable contingent who couldn't give a fig. Before I continue, let me break off to say I've just noticed that the visual supervisor for The Colour of Magic - which I'm watching now - is called Simon Thomas. Whaddaya know? Anyways, I have continued watching 10 O'Clock Live, and made no exception tonight. On its first airing I mentioned that I was impressed by its balance and intelligence, since I had been fearing that it would be unremittingly and unimaginatively left-wing. Don't get me wrong: while my views are generally those of the centre-right, I have no problem (well, not much of a problem) with a programme espousing views to my left, so long as they are thoughtful and coherently argued. Well, since that first week it has been fairly hit and miss, with enough hits to keep me watching, and I think that tonight's episode was an excellent microcosm of both the strengths and weaknesses of the show. Amongst the chief weaknesses are Lauren Laverne, who rarely raises a chuckle even with the sympathetic audience and has taken to swearing in order to get cheap laughs; and said audience, which seems to be largely comprised of lefty students who are reluctant to laugh at jokes about Ed Miliband but will cheer anything that criticises a Tory. The greatest strengths are David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker, both of whom are very funny (particularly Brooker) and smart (particularly Mitchell). Each has at at least one monologue each week, which are generally the highlights of the show, and shine as examples of intelligent satire in a television schedule that thinks The Impressions Show constitutes such. It makes me wish that I'd watched Brooker's Screenwipe when it was on, especially since the bits I've sought out on Youtube are really rather good (less so his Guardian columns, in which he often comes across as exceptionally angry and not a little drunk). Tonight's episode featured Mitchell chairing a debate on government cuts, with three guests including the Times' Danny Finkelstein, a man who his almost intimidatingly clever and certainly one of the finest columnists on the paper. As usual, one of the other people in the debate was a hysterical woman (in fairness, half the time it's a hysterical man) who blamed the Tories for everything without resorting to reason or clarity, but the third debater was an economist who disagreed with Finkelstein on the nature of the deficit and the wisdom of the proposed cuts, and did so with aplomb. Both she and Danny were perhaps a little more condescending than they should have been, but I would have enjoyed a proper debate between the two of them that wasn't interrupted by nonsense from Miss Hysterical. Which brings me to the most rant-like right-wing-ish aspect of today's entry. I can understand people not liking right-wing viewpoints, but why do they have to insist that the Tories are malicious and conniving rather than simply ideologically different? As Finkelstein pointed out tonight, if you approach the debate with the belief that the government is cutting education spending because it doesn't like schools, you're in a sorry position. It simply isn't true. I read a while ago - in fact, I think it was in Finkelstein's column, now I come to think of it - that righties tend to think that lefties are misguided but generally decent, whereas lefties think that righties are evil. It's a simplification of the situation (there are plenty of us on the right hand side of the spectrum who mutter dark things about Commies and hippies, though we are hardly enjoying our finest hour when we do so) but rings fairly true. We simply cannot assume that our political opposites are by nature wicked; if there are spending cuts, it is not because the coalition wants to rob people of what little they have. It's because they believe that the deficit needs reducing, and that government spending cuts are the way to do it. They may be wrong - or not - but those are the terms of the argument, not a nonsensical demonisation.
On this day in 2004... Some people write in their blogs because they have something to say. Not me.
April 2nd 2011
When Fernando Torres signed for Chelsea, around the same time that Andy Carroll signed for Liverpool, the Sun launched a joint appeal with Oxfam for people to donate old football shirts bearing the names of these 'traitors' to African children (who were, presumably, less picky about what's written on their backs). It's a dangerous business, you see, getting your hero's name on the back of your shirt, because you never know when they'll turn up at your deadly enemies. Pity those few West Brom fans, for example, who adorned their shirts with the name of 'Bull' after his four game spell there in the mid-1980s (these dedicated folk, though, would have pre-empted the notion of names on the back of shirts by a good eight years, so you've got to tip your hat to them). Anyways, it's a dangerous business, but a problem I've sidestepped throughout my football shirt history. Let me beguile you with it. The first football shirt I bought was the 1995-96 Wolves home shirt: £36 it was, and I saved up for it for ages, in the end selling some book tokens to my parents in order to get the sum required. Happy memories. Anyways, I didn't get a name or a number on the back of that one, but I followed it up with a Wolves goalkeeper shirt which bore the number 1 - safe as houses, with no association to any player. On my second Wolves home shirt (1996-98) I got 'Bull 9': at that point Steve Bull was a Wolves legend, and even if he had left, his hero status was secure. The next home shirt (2000-02) bore the name 'C. Thomas, 2', which is as safe as safe can get, all told. I took a break from Wolves shirts after that by getting a Republic of Ireland home shirt with 'Keane, 10' on the back, and since Robbie Keane was never going to cease being Irish, I didn't need to worry about that one (he'd already left Wolves by that point, so I didn't even have that to fear). The next Wolves shirt (2002-04) had 'May, 26' on it, marking the date on which we won promotion rather than any particular player. After that, I bought a few more home shirts that remained nameless (1993-94, 2008-09 and 2010-11), although the last of these has Premier League badges on the sleeves to mark our position in the top flight. The most recent addition to the football shirt collection came on Friday, with my first ever England shirt, which proudly marks the historic occasion of Matt Jarvis' debut for England. Overreaction? Maybe, just maybe. But even if Jarvis leaves the club - and, let's be honest, it's more than likely that he'll be off in the next year or two - I'll still want to look back on the occasion with glee.
On this day in 2005... Today is April 1st. Now that's some complex fooling.
April 6th 2011
Today I received a leaflet from the Electoral Commission explaining what AV is (and, indeed, what 'first past the post' is), so that when I cast my vote on May 5th, I will know what I'm voting for - or, as it happens, voting against. The question is "At present, the UK uses the 'first past the post' system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the 'alternative vote' system be used instead?" The leaflet then informs me that I will be given the choice of Yes or No, and should place a cross (X) in one box only - this strikes me as subtle propaganda in favour of FPTP, since AV-lovers would surely prefer me to put a 1 by Yes and a 2 by No. Apologies for the fact that everyone in the world has already made that joke. It may be that you have not yet received your handy guide - or perhaps you've binned it already - and don't really know what AV is. I shall explain, especially for you: you rank the candidates in order of your preference ("You put 1 next to your first choice, 2 next to your second choice, 3 next to your third choice and so on", as the leaflet helpfully states, though it isn't clear whether this sequence is derived from the natural numbers, or whether it is a sequence of Fibonacci numbers. You'll just have to guess, I suppose), but you don't have to rank all the candidates. In fact, you can just vote for one person, if you like. Anyways, once all the votes are in, the number of first choice votes for each candidate are counted, and if any one candidate has over 50%, they are the winner. Let's assume, for sake of argument, that the votes are as follows: Conservative 45%, Labour 26%, Lib Dem 25%, BNP 4% Since none of the candidates got over 50%, the last place candidate (here the BNP) is struck off, and the second choices of everyone who voted for the BNP are counted alongside the first choices of everyone else. Let's assume that these were split evenly between Conservative and Lib Dem, so each has another 2% added to their total. The position then looks like this: Conservative 47%, Lib Dem 27%, Labour 26% We still don't have any candidate with over 50%, so we go round again. This time the Labour votes are struck off, since they're now in last place (despite, you'll notice, having had the second highest number of 'first choice' votes). Labour voters don't really like Conservatives, apparently, so their second choice votes are split evenly between BNP and Lib Dems. The BNP are already out of it, though, so we look at the third choice votes for everyone who put Labour first and BNP second, and it turns out that they all ranked Lib Dems third, except for 5% who didn't have a third choice at all. Taking that all into account, the Lib Dem vote goes up by 21% (i.e. all but 5% of the Labour vote), and we're left with: Lib Dem 48%, Conservative 47% None of the candidates has over 50%, still, but since there are only two candidates left, we don't bother going to the next choices (although, let's say that everyone who put Conservative as their first choice didn't rank any other candidate, and everyone who put Lib Dems as their first choice put Conservative as their second choice - I'll come back to that). Anyways, we strike off the Conservatives and the Lib Dem candidate is the new MP. Congratulations to him. So, to summarise, we had the following votes: 45% voted 1. Conservative, 2. blank, 3. blank, 4. blank 25% voted 1. Lib Dem, 2. Conservative, 3. ?, 4. ? 13% voted 1. Labour, 2. Lib Dem, 3. ?, 4. ? 8% voted 1. Labour, 2. BNP, 3. Lib Dem, 4. ? 5% voted 1. Labour, 2. BNP, 3. blank, 4. blank 2% voted 1. BNP, 2. Conservative, 3. ?, 4. ? 2% voted 1. BNP, 2. Lib Dem, 3. ?, 4. ? I realise that this is a very simplified distribution of votes, which I chose in order to make a point, but I think it demonstrates that this system is unfair. What would have been a Tory win by a clear 20% margin under first past the post has become a Lib Dem win under AV, which just seems a bit silly. It's not even a fair reflection of voter preferences, really, since 72% of people ranked Conservatives first or second, whereas only 40% of people did the same for Lib Dem. Having written all that, I rather wish I'd used fake party names, because this is going to look like I'm flying the blue flag - the above critique is equally valid with the words 'Labour' and 'Conservative' switched, so view it as such if you prefer. Realistically, the party most likely to benefit is the Lib Dems, since - recent Clegg-bashing aside - they're the party least disliked: a lot of Labour supporters hate the Conservatives, and vice versa, so the Lib Dems are likely to pick up a lot of second preference votes. Anyways, now that I'm done with the disclaimer, the numbers above explain why I'll be voting 'No' in May. Your choice is clear: either go with me or go with Colin Firth.
On this day in 2010... Just to let you know I've got my finger on the pulse of popular culture, this weekend I watched the latest episode of a TV series that premiered in 1963. Yes, ladies and gents, Doctor Who.
April 9th 2011
A special welcome to you if you've been directed here by James Lee on Twitter - he mentioned last time's entry about AV, in which I used a worked example to show why I think the system isn't fair. Since then, I've been musing on it a bit more, and I wanted to make a slight tweak to show even more why I think AV is a poor system. The only differences between this example and that in the last entry are: (i) instead of all Conservative voters leaving their second choice blank, 20% have ranked Labour second; and (ii) I've replaced the question marks from last time with actual votes (mostly blanks). So, the actual results are exactly the same at every stage, but the votes now looks like: 25% voted 1. Conservative, 2. blank, 3. blank, 4. blank 25% voted 1. Lib Dem, 2. Conservative, 3. Labour, 4. blank 20% voted 1. Conservative, 2. Labour, 3. blank, 4. blank 13% voted 1. Labour, 2. Lib Dem, 3. Conservative, 4. blank 8% voted 1. Labour, 2. BNP, 3. Lib Dem, 4. Conservative 5% voted 1. Labour, 2. BNP, 3. blank, 4. blank 2% voted 1. BNP, 2. Conservative, 3. Lib Dem, 4. Labour 2% voted 1. BNP, 2. Lib Dem, 3. blank, 4. blank The reason I've made these slight adjustments is to point out that it's possible for Labour to get more votes than Lib Dem in every one of first, second, third and fourth preferences, but there still to be a Lib Dem victor. In the example above, Labour v Lib Dem is 26% v 25% for first preferences, 20% v 15% for second preferences, 25% v 10% for third preferences and 2% v 0% for fourth preferences. This system simply doesn't make sense. Another thing that doesn't make sense is Wolves' hapless 3-0 defeat at home to Everton this afternoon, broadcast live for my viewing pleasure. Insert your own antonym.
On this day in 2010... Speaking of Rick, I'm sure you'll join me in congratulating him and Jen on the birth of their daughter, Abigail Grace. OK, most of you don't know who they are, but congratulate them anyway, you hard-hearted people.
April 13th 2011
I hate to bang on about AV, so I'll give it a rest after today, but I wanted to give a mention to the recent developments in the No to AV campaign. They are not impressive. Up until this point both campaigns have been fairly feeble - the Yes campaign has rolled out a lot of celebrities who like the idea (Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth, Tony Robinson, and as many black poets as you can shake a stick at, so long as you don't live in the home counties), and the No campaign has generally riffed on a "Oh, but it's just so complicated, guys" theme. Well, the Yes campaign hasn't improved, as far as I can tell, but the No campaign has got even worse, by bringing out its own band of of celebrities. They're not quite up to the same standard as the Yes people, though... if you weren't sure which way to vote, the fact that Tony Hadley (of Spandau Ballet), Peter Stringfellow, David Gower, Julian Fellowes and Sam Waley-Cohen are voting No is unlikely to sway you. And, no, I don't know who Sam Waley-Cohen is, either. In other news, I was watching the Grand National at the weekend (my horse was Silver By Nature, though my interest was purely non-financial - a good thing, unless I'd put money on it to finish twelfth) and had something of a realisation. Horse racing is pretty horrific. I know I wasn't the only person to be struck by this (two Times journalists have written columns on the topic since the race), and, indeed, as a once-a-year watcher I have very little information on the topic. But watching a horse being beaten with a whip - as well as seeing two horses die on the course - made me realise that historians of the future will look at this sport in the same way that we look at bear-baiting or cock-fighting. The change will come - similarly, fox hunting and bull-fighting are a lot less tolerated now than a few years ago, both in legal terms and in popular perception - and not before time. People can talk all they like about how much or how little the horse gets hurt - and it's worth noting that the Grand National winner has been suspended for over-using the whip in that race, though curiously not disqualified - but the fact is that this is a sport where part of the equipment is solely designed for hitting an animal. How can that be right? How can we let it continue?
On this day in 2006... If there's one thing this diary doesn't achieve much, it's the Booker prize. If there's another thing, it's that I don't tell you people a lot about what I do.
April 16th 2011
Kirsten Dunst's big break (if you don't count Bring It On) came playing the love interest in Spider-Man, one of the earlier super-hero films in the spate we've seen over the last decade or so. Noting this, various high-profile actresses - or actresses who would like to be high-profile - have taken roles as the girls that super-heroes save the world for, with varying degrees of success. Actually, I say 'varying degrees of success' (read the last paragraph if you don't remember), but none have achieved the impact that Dunst managed; none have had anything like the same career boost. Liv Tyler and Jennifer Connelly in various incarnations of The Hulk, Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight respectively (playing the same character: Gyllenhaal replaced Holmes), Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns, Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man... these films have not been a springboard in any of their careers. There have also been a few female super-heroes (Jennifer Garner in Daredevil and Elektra, Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four, Halle Berry in Catwoman and X-Men) but these also have largely been poorly received, with Berry in particular seeing her once-promising career crashing around her paws. Despite this, increasingly famous actresses are attaching themselves to increasingly obscure super-hero flicks, with Cameron Diaz in the Green Hornet perhaps the most obvious example of late. The reason I bring this up is that a film version of Thor is on its way soon, the latest attempt by the studios to find a super-hero who doesn't already have a film franchise. Most of us have heard of the Norse god Thor, with his famous hammer, but I expect I was in the majority in not knowing that there was a Marvel comic about him - or, at least, a version of him. From some brief reading (thank you Wikipedia), it seems that this Thor is fairly recognisable: he has a magic hammer, hails from a land of gods and has a reasonably Scandinavian beard. Anyways, playing Thor's love interest is Oscar winner Natalie Portman, who thus marks the latest A-lister whose main job is (probably) to scream a little and sigh a little while the eponymous hero struts his stuff. Maybe she'll be the first actress since Dunst to see a real boost from being in a super-hero film; more likely she'll join the growing group of those who wish they'd never bothered. I await your counterexamples. Actually, my point in this case is rather marred by the fact that, since her Best Actress performance in Black Swan, Portman has appeared in two of the most critically panned films of the year (No Strings Attached and Your Highness). Maybe the real trend here is, in fact, the horrendous career choices of the woman recently described in the Times as "arguably the classiest actress in Hollywood".
On this day in 2010... Once more, you find me revising. Today is struggling to be very productive, though.
April 17th 2011
There's something I want to get off my chest concerning the Confused.com adverts - they have, indeed, left me mightily confused, and I'll tell you for why. At the end of each advert are two claims: firstly that '45% of people could save up to £250', and secondly that 'almost everyone could save'. Even if we take a very generous view of what constitutes 'almost everyone' and say that that 80% of people could save, this means that 35% of people fit into the 'could save' category, but not the 'could save up to £250'. This can only mean that 35% of people can save more than £250, but if that's the case then why aren't they saying so? I genuinely don't know what Confused.com are talking about, and I would welcome an answer. If you're reading this, Mrs Confused, please get in touch. In other news, I've started littering the Twittersphere with a few tweets, as opposed to merely following people. It's a little half-hearted at the moment, to be honest, but perhaps I will get up to speed a bit more in the future - already I have rather more followers than I warrant (14), including one lass who is only following three other people: Ronan Keating, Stephen Fry and someone called Colin Thomas. I can't help but feel she's chosen me (@ColinJThomas) somewhat in error. Anyways, to give you a taste of the finite possibilities that Twitter offers (and because I feel like boring you a little), these are the people I'm following:
@ActuallyNPH - Neil Patrick Harris, star of How I Met Your Mother
@AlYankovic - Weird Al, maker of amusing song parodies
@Baddiel - David Baddiel, who you might know as one half of Baddiel & Skinner
@bbcHIGNFY - occasionally amusing feed from Have I Got News For You
@CaitlinMoran - amusing Times columnist Caitlin Moran
@CharltonBrooker - Charlie Brooker, co-host of 10 O'Clock Live
@CharlieSheen - one man meltdown, Charlie Sheen
@Cristiano - Cristiano Ronaldo, footballing wizard
@DaraOBriain - Irish comedian Dara O'Briain
@DavidSchwimmer - Friends star David Schwimmer. Which is pretty clear from his username
@ElizabethBanks - Elizabeth Banks, actress from Spider-Man, Scrubs etc.
@HugoRifkind - Times columnist and son of Malcolm, Hugo Rifkind
@JamesLee42 - Dangerously Articulate co-host, Jimmy Lee
@JimCarrey - Canadian actor and funnyman, Jim Carrey
@JimmyCarr - stand-up and frequent game show contestant Jimmy Carr
@JKCorden - Gavin & Stacey star James Corden
@Jon_Favreau - Jon Favreau, who played Pete Becker in Friends
@Kevinpp24 - 'English' cricket ace Kevin Pietersen
@Lord_Sugar - Alan Sugar, presenter of The Apprentice and computer salesman
@LornaShaddick - Lorna Shaddick, a friend of my brother's from Oxford
@Marnova - Marie Man, a friend from work
@MatthewPerry - the man, the legend, the genius, Matthew Perry
@MattMurray20 - former Wolves goalkeeper Matt Murray
@MisterWallace - Danny Wallace, writer of Yes Man and more
@MrJamieOHara - Jamie O'Hara, currently on loan at Wolves from Spurs
@MrJodyCraddock - Jody Craddock, Wolves player and artist
@Mrs_Wallace - Greta Wallace, wife of Danny Wallace
@NatalieTran - a girl who makes funny Youtube videos
@PingPongHurley - Liz Hurley's parrot. Yes, really
@RealDMitchell - David Mitchell, half of Mitchell & Webb
@RealRobertWebb - Robert Webb, half of Mitchell & Webb
@RobBrydon - Welsh comedian and actor, Rob Brydon
@RobLowe - y'know, Rob Lowe
@RonanOffical - Ronan Keating, of Boyzone fame
@Serafinowicz - 'male actress and comedienne' Peter Seafinowicz
@SimonPegg - film star and geek, Simon Pegg
@Simonsiab - Simon Thomas, my brother
@SteveMellen - my former housemate, Steve Mellen
@Steven_Moffat - writer behind Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, Steven Moffat
@thefridgeman - Tony Hawks, writer of Round Ireland with a Fridge
@TimJones86 - Tim Jones, a former Jack Martin 10.25er
@TomHanks - film star and all round good-guy Tom Hanks
@Wossy - erstwhile chat show host Jonathan Ross
@Xanneroo - Alexander Armstrong, star of Pimms commercials and more
@zimpaz - James Scott, a friend from High School
On this day in 2007... In other news, Simon has launched a literary blog in which, whether for purposes of privacy, eccentricity or pastiche I am yet to establish, he has not only adopted a pseudonym, but furnished the rest of the family with them as well. Check it out.
April 22nd 2011
Yesterday I had my latest exam (ST1: Health and Care), which went slightly worse than I'd hoped, but not terribly badly. I went into it fairly confident, but then there were a couple of large questions about topics I don't really specialise in (internal reinsurance, for example. I just threw in some standard reinsurance points and some points about it being internal, and hoped for the best) that meant that it could have gone either way. If I were a betting man, I'd have less money than I do now. Also, if I were a betting man, I'd lean towards my having passed - as well as the awkward large questions, there were one or two small questions that threw me (two different types of Keyperson cover? I thought there was only one, and when I studied it it was called 'Keyman cover' - but I made a reasonable guess, I think) but the middle-sized questions were generally OK. Anyways, if I've passed that one then it's 14 down, 1 to go (over the last 3 and a half years, that is, not just this sitting) - I'm taking that last one next week, but have rather reconciled myself to not passing this time round. It was worth having a go, but always a 'big ask', as they say, to attack two of the later exams in one sitting. In televisual news, today I finished watching Party of Five. What a show. OK, I may be 11 years behind the times, but I've really enjoyed it and will have to find something new to plug a gap in my TV watching (and if Neve Campbell is in it, all the better... maybe one day I'll be brave enough to watch Scream). In other televisual news, Doctor Who returns to our screens tomorrow, which is almost as exciting as the annual opportunity to make the "Holy Saturday, Batman!" gag, which never gets old. Speaking of which, I only found out today that tomorrow is not, in fact, St. George's Day - it seems that Holy Saturday takes precedence over the Turkish dragon-slayer, so his day has been shunted off to 2nd May. Next year it'll be 28th April, Wikipedia informs me. On a Bank Holiday theme, it can't have escaped your notice that next Friday sees the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (no longer 'Kate' on the BBC, at least - I'm not entirely sure why, but maybe this is an 'Andrew Cole' kind of thing). I am, as you know, a Republican, but my distaste for the monarchy is outweighed by my appreciation of a good love story, so I rather expect I'll be tuning in and trying to remain as uncynical as possible for the duration - though if I have to witness any of the American TV coverage, as showcased on 10 O'Clock Live last night, I may have to follow Charlie Brooker's lead and be sick into a bucket. If I had a bucket. Which I don't.
On this day in 2010... I find dating sites intrinsically amusing (and, you could argue, inevitable. But not till I'm at least 30, or I find a good picture of myself - whichever comes first).
April 24th 2011
Babies, babies everywhere nor any drop to drink. Oh, and happy Easter, everyone. Hot on the heels of Long Jr and Mellis Jr, and not long after Duzniak Jr, comes Boaz Alexander Lee. Congratulations to James and Beth (maybe Jimmy will even regard this as worth blogging about), and official Colin's Online Diary wishes of good health and happiness to Boaz. His chances of the latter are improved by having the auspicious birthday of 23rd April (shared with my cousin Jacob, William Shakespeare - possibly - and St. George's Day, most years), but severely diminished by the likelihood of becoming a Spurs fan. As I write this I am watching Time Bandits, a film that seems t be a kind of cross between The Princess Bride and Monty Python. It is faintly disappointing, which is perhaps unsurprising since I didn't think much of The Princess Bride (if you ask me, Stardust tries to do a similar thing, but does it rather better) and I've never really got on board with Monty Python. Anyways, I'm about two thirds of the way through and there are a lot of rats onscreen at the moment, which puts me in mind of the rat problems we've been suffering here of late. I've not actually seen a rat (although Matt has a few times), but I've definitely smelled one, and I don't mean that figuratively. Rather than being overjoyed by this olfactorily literal metaphor, I am somewhat dismayed at the fact that being in my living room means having to breathe through my mouth (or wear the red nose day nose that I bought for Matt a few weeks ago). The rat is, you see, dead, and doesn't seem to be getting any more alive as time passes. I'll mention it to the landlord, but I'm not sure there's a lot he can do, short of ripping down the ceiling... if anyone is aware of something that smells like the exact opposite of dead rat, and thus will cancel it out, please give me a shout. While I'm on the topic of films, I watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader the other day for the first time, and found it harmless enough - I'm not much given to allocating marks out of ten, but I'll make an exception here and give it 5/10. From reading reviews it seems that a lot of people thought it rather better than the adaptation of Prince Caspian, and something of a return to form for the Narnia series. Personally, I didn't think there was much to choose between this instalment and the last: I was glad that they'd abandoned the pseudo-Spanish accents of Caspian and co, but was never really caught up in the Dawn Treader story (perhaps I was slightly put off by the nonsensical 'green mist' shenanigans, which seemed to add little to the story and only a few pounds to the effects budget). The films, impressive though they may look, have never managed to recreate the magic of the BBC series - I'll admit that that viewpoint probably owes a lot to my age at the time of watching (and the BBC's superlative theme tune), but I think that even young audiences now will find little to captivate them in this vision of Narnia, especially when they've got Harry Potter and Pixar as alternatives. Anyways, despite the clear signposting at the end of Dawn Treader that they were going to segue into The Silver Chair ("Eustace! Jill Pond's [Edit: Mel is, of course, right in saying that it was actually Jill Pole] come for a visit!") it seems that the next stop for the franchise is The Magician's Nephew, which is territory that the Beeb never covered (they also missed out The Horse and His Boy, quite rightly, and The Last Battle, apparently due to budgetary constraints). The Magician's Nephew was the one that I found scariest as a kid, but - unusually for me, since I tended (and still tend) to steer clear of frightening stories - was probably my favourite of the books. My only beef about it is the subtext that you can cure your mother's cancer if you try hard enough. That was unhelpful, and I imagine it might be stripped from the film.
On this day in 2006... Fear not, this isn't going to be a contrived pseudo-culinary parody. That would be a corny pastiche, as Mr. Spooner might say.
April 27th 2011
Royal wedding fever is gripping the nation, but some of us had more important wedding-related happenings on the schedule this week, as the long-awaited Clohesy wedding reception took place on Monday. What with Becca's interactions with slow-moving UK bureaucracy being a thing of the past, both halves of the happy couple were in attendance, as were as many parents in law as you can shake a stick at. Well, four, which I reckon ranks fairly highly in the stick-shaking ranks. The reception also featured a second best man's speech by yours truly (as the first best man, Robin, couldn't make it), which I think went pretty well - nobody threw anything at me (though this could be because they were worried about accidentally hitting the rather fabulous cake) and most of the jokes went down well. I ad-libbed a few lines and forgot a few others, which unfortunately meant that I didn't say as many nice things about Anthony at the end as I'd wanted to, but overall I'd say with confidence that it's the best best man's speech I've ever given. And one of the few to mention super-injunctions. The photo below gives you a good idea of how my back looked throughout:
Anyways, it was a lovely sunny day, and plenty of fine people made it to the celebrations, including but not limited to Dave, Christine, Parker, Diggory, Hannah, Becky, Adam, Guy and Rich (belatedly). In other news, you may have noticed the number of super-injunctions being taken out by various celebrities of late, preventing details of their private lives from being published in the press. There are arguments on both sides - naturally the Times, like all newspapers, is fighting a battle to print whatever they like under the banner of 'freedom of expression', which is a fairly weak defence, but no weaker than the defences of some of the injunctees (yes, injunctees. Got a problem with that?). David Aaronovitch, though, has made the best point in the debate so far: he observed that these injuctions are essentially pointless. Even without Private Eye straining the bounds of the law in some of their published hints, it is a matter of minutes to find out on Twitter, for example, who all the personalities involved are. It may not be in the newspapers, but it's out there.
On this day in 2007... James & I brought back Dangerously Articulate at the brand new time of Fridays, 9am (every week!). Despite the fact that I had to ring James at 9am to wake him up, and remind him that we had a radio show, it didn't go too badly.
April 29th 2011
And so William & Catherine are wed. Congratulations to them both. Here are my collected thoughts on the royal wedding:
1. Yes, I'm a Republican, but I like marriage. I've told you this already, but I just wanted to reiterate it. My mind has not been changed by this extravanganza, and I still think the monarchy is a Bad Thing.
2. The good thing about marrying an heir to the throne is that you don't have to bother about hiring a wedding photographer - you can just pick up the next day's newspapers.
3. For a professional singer, Elton John wasn't singing the hymns very lustily. Maybe he was waiting for a fee.
4. Matt has complained that the wedding service was spoken in archaic language, which does not help to make Christianity accessible to most people. Fair point, but a royal wedding was never going to be the day to bring the C of E into the 21st century, was it?
5. Why did they sing Jerusalem? Why? That one aside, the hymn choices were excellent.
6. A lot has been said about 'that dress'. I'm a man, which might explain this, but of all the many weddings I've been to, there's only one wedding dress that I even slightly remember (which was Bronwen's). I remember Christine saying before the fact that her dress was going to be ivory, and I have no reason to believe that that wasn't the case, but otherwise I'm stumped. I can confirm that Catherine's was white-ish, and had a long train.
7. Rob's out there, in Hyde Park, with his standard monarchistic and patriotic fervour. Hi Rob.
8. Apparently Bristol has the highest number of street party applications per person of any city in the country. I wandered down to Sainsbury's this morning - at least five minutes' walk from my house - and didn't stumble across any, though.
9. Simon claims that he's going to a street party, but it's not actually in the street, so doesn't count in my book.
10. Of the five living past or current Prime Ministers, all the Conservative ones were invited to the wedding, but none of the Labour ones. Coincidence?
12. With Sarah Ferguson not in attendance, I think Ian Thorpe must be the only person who was both at the wedding and in Friends.
13. I like the (not entirely surprising) fact that the queen didn't sing the national anthem. I wonder if Charles had his fingers crossed.
14. My Dad is a vicar, and has an annual stint at Westminster Abbey. I reckon that, had a few thousand clergy taken ill, he might have had a chance at leading the wedding service.
15. Catherine decided not to include the word 'obey' in her wedding vows. Since William is going to be the king some day, doesn't that rather make her the odd one out?
16. Today is St. Catherine's Day, and Catherine got married. Do I need to wait St. Colin's Day to be invented before my day comes? Sob, a little.
17. I understand the good feeling, but I can't help but feel that people are being a little over-generous to the royals. The Times today reports that Harry 'joked': "Unfortunately there may be rain tomorrow." Joked? Joked? That's not a joke, that's an inarticulate weather forecast.
18. Speaking of the Times, I'm glad that their reporter Valentine Low has managed to make the front page, after years of writing fluff about William shaking pensioners' hands and the queen liking corgis.
19. Matt bought some royal tea for the occasion. I haven't tried it yet, but I have broken out the royalty / royal tea gag.
20. Couldn't they have measured Catherine's ring finger a little more carefully?
21. A woman in a silly hat (and I mean silly. It's got a cardboard cutout of Princess Diana in it) reckons that Kate is the next Diana. Is that supposed to be a good thing?
22. There was an awful lot of screaming when Catherine made her way along the streets (waving madly - the poor lass must have RSI. She needs to learn the royal wave, sharpish). I'm sure people wouldn't have screamed at the queen's coronation. Personally, I blame Beatlemania.
23. Saying 'for richer, for poorer' was never going to much of a gamble when you're marrying the second in line to the throne, was it?
24. You know what I like most about this wedding? It's that Kate is just like you and me. Well, a millionaire version of you and me who went to an exclusive private school. But like you and me nonetheless. Only rather better-looking. Unless you're Natalie Portman, or someone (she's a regular reader of this page, is our Natalie). OK, the only ways she's like me are that she wasn't a member of the royal family and only had one middle name. At least one of those is no longer true.
25. I have made a decision. If I get married, I want to end the day by waving to crowds from a balcony. That's non-negotiable.
On this day in 2007... QRBC had its 123rd anniversary soiree last night, and a rip-snorting success it was too, with an excellent turn-out and great performances from lots of different people.
April 30th 2011
This is rather wonderful:
On this day in 2004... Although I may be doing avid seed collectors discredit, I would tenatively put forward the theory that most buyers are interested in the cannibis seeds for reasons that aren't aesthetic.