August 2nd 2009
Last night I went with Dad to the Bristol Hippodrome to see The Illegal Eagles, an Eagles tribute band. And they were awesome. This was part of a two-night extension to their 'Long Road Out of Eden' tour, and they played about seven songs from that album, which was released in 2007. The fact that none of these songs sounded out of place in the set list of greatest hits emphasises what an excellent album it is; certainly closer in quality to their heyday than Dylan's recent offerings are to his.
Anyways, listening to the brilliant back catalogue of Eagles (not, Wikipedia assures me, The Eagles) reminded me just what a great band they are, probably my favourite after the Beatles, with dozens of songs that would grace any greatest hits album. And so I was musing on music in general, and wondering in particular what musical period was the best; let us assume I mean popular music, otherwise some smart alec will suggest 1732 or some such as an unparallelled year. My housemate Steve has previously suggested that 1992, or somewhere around there, was the peak - I think he is a victim of his age, though, and this view can be safely ignored. The guy genuinely believes that the Stone Roses are the best band ever, for heaven's sake.
I have been known in the past to say, without hesitation, that the 1960s was the best decade music has ever seen, and a large part of me sticks by that view. All the Beatles' output was released in the 60s, with the exception of Let It Be, which was entirely recorded in the 60s anyhow (oh, OK. There's also Free as a Bird and Real Love, but that's a side issue), and Bob Dylan released much of his best stuff in the same decade - and those two facts pretty much end the debate, I have to say. Throw in Elvis Presley and you have the three pillars of popular music.
However. There were some other great artists around in the 60s - the Beach Boys, the Hollies, Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones to name but a few - but by and large the Beatles and Dylan massively outstripped anyone else, and it wasn't until the 1970s that people began to catch up. I had been meaning to list the five best albums from each decade from the 1960s to the 2000s, but after some musing realised that the majority of great albums were made in the 1970s. In the 60s there were the aforementioned Beatles and Dylan (Abbey Road, Sgt Pepper, Rubber Soul... Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde...) and the last few years have thrown up a few (The Killers, Coldplay, Green Day... yes, I'm partially a victim of my age as well), but look what we have in the 1970s:
1970 – Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
1970 – Let It Be (The Beatles)
1970 – All Things Must Pass (George Harrison)
1971 – Who's Next (The Who)
1972 – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (David Bowie)
1972 – Exile on Main St. (The Rolling Stones)
1973 – Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd - and all their decent albums were released between 1971 and 1979)
1973 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John - and 10 more studio albums in the best period of his career)
1975 – Blood on the Tracks (Bob Dylan)
1975 – Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
1976 – Desire (Bob Dylan)
1976 – Hotel California (Eagles - and all their albums before 2007 were released between 1972 and 1979)
1976 – I'm Nearly Famous (Cliff Richard)
1977 – Rumours (Fleetwood Mac)
1977 – Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf)
1977 – Running on Empty (Jackson Browne)
1978 – Street Legal (Bob Dylan)
1979 – Off the Wall (Michael Jackson)
1979 – Slow Train Coming (Bob Dylan)
I must confess that I haven't listened to Off the Wall or Exile on Main St. in their entireties, but both seem to reckoned to be there or thereabouts the best album by the respective artists. The list could go on (for example, those who appreciate Led Zeppelin more than I will wonder why they're not there), but for me the evidence is conclusive. If you put aside the Beatles, who have never been matched in any time period, the 1970s has to stand out as music's great decade.
August 5th 2009
Despite my mentioning it previously, the world in general does not seem to have learnt the rules about apostrophes. I must be somewhere in the top billion favourite blogs (of people who know me), so this surprises me... anyways, let me reiterate that apostrophes should never be used to indicate a plural. Seriously. There's been talk of redundancies at AXA, and it's not altogether a happy atmosphere - I suggest the instant dismissal of anyone who misuses apostrophe's.
I see on the side of a bus that The Time Traveler's [sic] Wife is soon to be released as a film, and judging from the trailer (not on the back of the bus... this, in case you were wondering, is a tortured and ultimately unsuccessful vehicle-related pun) it should be all right. The book, which has been popular since it was published a few years ago, is written well enough but is, in my humble, rather flawed. Not only does it dwell too frequently in the kind of crudities which are regarded as necessary in modern literature, but it also suffers from two main characters who aren't especially likeable. Henry, especially, comes across as a rather arrogant, unpleasant chap, and Clare isn't a great deal better. From the brief clips shown in the trailer, the film seems to have side-stepped this problem by making the two rather more sympathetic - and it doesn't hurt to have Rachel McAdams, who shone in the otherwise dire Wedding Crashers, as the female lead.
Anyway, it's out in the next couple of weeks, so we shall see. Speaking of films based on popular literature, I watched O last night - for those of you who don't know, it's based on Othello (y'know, by Shakespeare. Not the game). Given that it transfers the plot to a high school basketball team, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's as loosely based on the parent text as She's the Man was on Twelfth Night. But you'd be wrong. It's been a few years since I read Othello (in an English class I'd prefer to forget), but from my recollection, the plot kept along pretty tight lines. For example, when Desi [Desdemona] and Odin [Othello] tell Desi's father of their relationship, he tells Odin that, since she's kept secrets from her father, why wouldn't she do the same to her boyfriend? In other words: "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee."
Odin's descent from the best to the worst a man can be, at the expense of the pure Desi, was played out movingly, though Hugo [Iago] remained as much an enigma as in Shakespeare's original. Why did Iago do what he did? Was he in love with Desdemona? Was he power-hungry? Just jealous of Othello? Racist? We don't know, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't racism - and I'm glad that O didn't emphasise that aspect of it. Othello, like To Kill a Mockingbird, seems to be about racism if you read the plot outline, but actually runs much deeper.
From racism to sexism, now. You may have thought that we'd be fortunate to be shot of Gordon Brown (and you'd be right), but he's nothing compared to Harriet Harman. In case you missed it, she's been running our country this week and has come up with such incredible nonsense that you'd be tempted to think it's all been for a dare. Surfacing for the first time is her suggestion that, of the two highest positions in the Labour party (leader and deputy leader. Yes, I know the deputy leader isn't a position of power, but let's leave that aside for the moment), one should always go to a woman. Indeed, she apparently wanted this to be enshrined in official policy. I was going to write what I thought about this, but then I read Edwina Currie's thoughts on the matter, and she'd said pretty much what I'd been planning, so I'll let her take it away (I've skipped out the bits where Currie herself dives into nonsensical rhetoric about working mothers):
"The woman is mad, that is now clear. On a different planet. Leave aside that this is hardly a ringing endorsement of Gordon Brown or that, every time she speaks, another Labour seat falls to the Tories, who are clapping her gleefully from the sidelines.
What she is spouting is rabid nonsense, and morally repugnant. Firstly, we need the best people to run the country, irrespective of gender. I’d have thought that was a statement of the obvious, but it has passed Ms Harman by. In addition, women who have experienced discrimination should be wary of applying it to others, on principle.
All-women shortlists have brought more females into the Commons, but not improved its performance. Of course, it should be illegal to promote only on the basis of colour, religion, or gender — and it is. Certainly much better than 40 years ago, when I needed a man’s signature to open a bank account. But we long since got to that point, and beyond. What’s upsetting is the gap between Harriet’s priorities and the nation’s real needs."
Thank you, Edwina. And thank you The Times, from which I pinched that. There's not a lot more to add, except to emphasise the crass and obvious sexism of what Harman is saying, and how dangerous it is that such sexism has already led to the adoption of all-women shortlists for Labour seats.
On the bright side, Labour will be out before she can do too much more damage - though she's disrupting rape laws as we speak - and at least she's made Lord Mandelson look better. I leave you with a rather enlightnening reference in today's Times, which was apparently not intended with any irony (even though the writer disagrees with Harman). Take it away, Alice Thomson:
"You know what she stands for: sexual equality. Ms Harman approaches every subject in the same way - will it help women?"
August 7th 2009
Last night I fell asleep at about 7.50pm. A few days ago, in a not wholly unrelated incident, I went to bed at 1.20am. On both occasions I got up the next day at about the same time; so I had five and a half hours more sleep last night than on t'other night... that's quite incredible. If you hadn't previously realised the quality level of the blog you're reading, the fact that I'm describing my varying sleep lengths as 'quite incredible' should now give you a fair picture.
Well, I can't stop, as soon Simon will be arriving here for the weekend. But, before I go; David Mitchell is one of the people I 'follow' on Twitter, and he recently wrote (in two separate 'tweets', for those of you counting the characters): "It seems there's a chance the Observer might close. That would be terrible. And I'm really not just saying that because I write for it... It's the only proper liberal Sunday paper."
Does that seem like a pretty solid argument for its closure to anyone else?
August 9th 2009
Slow down, you're doing fine;
You can't be everything you want to be before your time,
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight).
Too bad, but it's the life you lead,
You're so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need;
Though you can see when you're wrong, y'know
You can't always see when you're right (you're right).
You've got your passion, you've got your pride,
But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true;
When will you realise, Vienna waits for you?
- Vienna (Billy Joel)
August 13th 2009
The image has gone, only you and I.
It means nothing to me.
This means nothing to me.
- Vienna (Ultravox)
And so ends the 'lyrics from songs called Vienna' meme that's taken the world by storm. Well, not 'by storm', so much as 'by that odd feeling you get in your bones when there's about to be a light drizzle.'
On to more important matters. I'm pleased to tell you that Steve and I have found ourselves a place to live in the Clifton area, and will be transferring our possessions and selves in a couple of weeks. It's unfurnished, and quite large, so we'll have to buy some furniture to fill the place out - a couple of wardrobes, a dining table with chairs and another sofa for starters. Gulp. Anyhow, I would give you some pictures, but I don't have any and Abode have (rather sensibly) taken the listing off their website. In fact, they mark themselves out from the common herd in doing so, since about half the places I tried to look round had already gone. Take the ads down, folk!
Anyways, it was the fourth place we looked round on the day, and my sixth (Steve's seventh) in total. To put that in context, I'd looked round a total of six places previously in my life, having moved three times. That's not counting places with Mum and Dad, of course... though in those instances the fact Dad moved into a Vicarage pretty much decided matters. Simon came round with Steve and me, and he was very well-behaved - he didn't even complain when we didn't take the rather larger and more 'character'-filled place in Montpelier. It was a close run thing, but the bathroom was terrible, and the location wasn't too grand either.
In other news, is it just me, or is Top Gear quite a lot worse this series? It's seemed much more obviously scripted throughout, and some of the ironically expressed views have seemed rather seriously intended this time round. For example, Jeremy Clarkson (I think it was he) encouraged the audience to applaud a speeder who had been going at over 200mph... that's stupid beyond belief. This aside, some of the filmed sequences have been obviously faked (Clarkson being shot at by the army? Who actually believes that?) and even the trio's discussion in the studio smacks of careful rehearsal. The saving grace of this series was the Michael Schumacher = Stig gag (which, astonishingly, many people believed was genuine)... here's hoping it improves.
I'm not going to go on about the expenses 'scandal', but I can't let this one pass. Alan Duncan, shadow something or other (y'know, the one who said on HIGNFY that he wanted to kill Miss California) was caught on hidden camera saying that no one wants to be an MP because they're treated like ****, and have to survive on 'rations'. Cue the Daily Mail and the Maily Telegraph (thank you, Private Eye) launching tirades at him, with 'They Still Just Don't Get It' splashed across the former's front page. Leaving aside the fact that all politicans are indeed treated like excrement - they work long and hard, are expected to be well-informed on any and all issues, have to tolerate being derided without reason and, as thanks for all this, are viewed as dishonest and lazy by Joe Public - Duncan was clearly joking. He's entitled to do so. He didn't know he was being filmed covertly, otherwise he (especially after HIGNFY) would have avoided being jocular, knowing how Mail readers hate politicans to be happy. Of course, Duncan has made a grovelling apology, as those few politicans who stand up straight and point out the absurdity of their persecution are attacked by all and sundry, from the leader of their party down. Indeed, Cameron may take further action against Duncan, in that rather populist way for which he's been praised... if I feel at all uneasy about our upcoming Conservative government, it's because Cameron hasn't learnt Gandhi's maxim that, even if he's in a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.
August 15th 2009
Well, Wolves' opening day in this season's Premier League didn't go entirely according to plan, a 2-0 defeat at home to West Ham. I'm told, though, that there were some encouraging performances, and I will endeavour to confirm that in the thirty seconds or so that we'll be afforded on Match of the Day tonight. In honesty, I'm just excited to have Gary Lineker talking about us in any event.
Speaking of Lineker (did you know his parents have a grocer's stall in Leicester?), you may have seen his latest Walkers advert, with Cat Deeley. If you haven't, it's here, and I recommend watching it - not just because Ms Deeley is on fine form, but also because the next bit of this entry will make no sense to you if you don't. Right. It's based on a famous scene from Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid - but is that such a romantic scene as it's made out to be? I would argue not, considering that the lass involved is the wife of the guy's best friend. Hmm. It seems strange that the ad uses this as a byword for romantic diversion, though perhaps it makes the cruel ending more understandable.
In other news, regular readers will probably know that, anti-monarchy and prObama (I just made that up. Neat, huh?) stances aside, I am relatively right wing. But I am confused by the current angered contempt in the USA towards the NHS, which has been described as Orwellian and, plain and simple, evil. Many Brits have retaliated by pointing out the legion faults of the US system, and I have to say that we're doing better than they are... it's all a tad baffling. Whatever the problems of the NHS - and we got ourselves almost as het up when that unspeakable buffoon, Michael Moore, lauded the NHS in 'Sicko' - it certainly isn't evil. Well, all the best to Obama.
In other news, I like puns. But only topical ones - current puns, if you will. Actually, I like good puns, even if I litter my conversation with the reverse, and I've been briefly pondering the qualities of a good pun. I have come to no real conclusion, except that the closer it is to the original word, the better the pun, and thus puns with a change of vowel can be better than a change of consonant. Best of all are those where there is no change, as in this rather classic Fry & Laurie gag:
John: One night I'd been working late, I came home and I sensed in Marjorie's eyes and voice a sneering, a mocking, I don't know. I suppose I must have flipped. I emptied a bowl of trifle all over her.
Peter: So, she got custody.
August 19th 2009
Forgive me if I hark back to Harry Potter once more (those of you keeping an eye on what I've been reading recently will see that I'm in a Rowling kind of mood), but it will lead me into today's topic (also, here's a website I made back in school. I wonder if it's still funny). I was discussing the merits of the various HP films with a lass from church, and she suggested that this film was probably better than the book. This got me thinking.
By the way, today is Matthew Perry's 40th birthday. That's got nothing to do with this entry, but I couldn't exactly ignore it, could I?
My esteemed brother claims that no film can be better than the book from which it's adapted... I don't wish to criticise such a good-looking (if ugly (if good-looking)) chap, but I've never been able to understand his viewpoint. He's welcome to present it here, but until he does I think we can safely ignore this idea - unless you believe that the best film is worse than the worst book. And even the hardest of hardcore hardback lovers wouldn't believe that, I am sure.
The obvious question is: which films are better than their source books? I have to say that none of the Harry Potter films have been, and I'm very confident that they won't be... good though the last three have been, they are based on the greatest children's literature of the last 25 years (er... probably) and thus are at a disadvantage. Like the Jeeves & Wooster TV series, they are good in a different and greatly inferior way to their source texts.
This is, perhaps, not a surprising issue - only popular books tend to be made into films, and there's usually a hefty crossover between popular books and good ones. From Shakespeare to Austen to Tolkien, it's not easy to improve on the text, and indeed the best adaptations tend to be those that deviate as little as possible. A case in point is the BBC series of Pride & Prejudice, which was absolutely fantastic... yet not as good as its source material; possibly the best novel ever written.
Enough of which films aren't better than their books, and a candidate for the reverse: The Cider House Rules. I like the film, even if its pro-choice message is a trifle simplistic, and spent a long time looking for the book... unfortunately, I had to give up after just a few chapters of crude sexual references and unimpressive prose. Maybe it improved beyond all recognition, but I wasn't going to give it any more of my time.
I haven't seen any Frankenstein films, but I'm confident theyr're all better than the book. She's The Man is rather funnier than Twelfth Night (and it ain't that funny) and - a watertight one - Just Like Heaven is much better than the strangely oedipal If Only It Were True.
Well, enough of existing films. The forthcoming Time Traveler's [sic] Wife promises to improve on the book, I think, and The Picture of Dorian Gray must be better than the book, which is page after page of lines which sound like they should be witty and profound but, on closer inspection, are nothing of the kind. We shall see how they turn out.
In other news, I move house next week. Did I mention that? Expect disruption while I get our interweb sorted out in the new place.
August 26th 2009
You join me in the throes of moving house. On Monday we got the keys, last night we took a couple of car loads over, and this morning we took the bulk of the furniture. Yongbom very kindly helped me & Ed (also kind, but appropriately paid) to transport the stuff across. There's still another two or three carloads (I'm experimenting with that as one word or two) to go, so we should be all in come this evening.
I'll have to put some pictures up of the new place when I've discovered my camera & got internet access - given my packing skills, it's even money as to which happens first - but, in brief, the sitting room is larger than this one, my bedroom is about two thirds the size of my old one and Steve's a fair bit bigger. I'm claiming the spare room for storage and books, due to this fact.
Anyways, I'll be away from here for at least a couple of weeks, so I'll be seeing you.
In the meantime, let me direct you towards the newish blog of a guy from AXA called Tom. Frequent readers of this page may find the grammar, spelling and punctuation somewhat... unorthodox... but he tells me he'll direct people this way if I direct you that.
|what was I listening to?
Exile on Main St. - The Rolling Stones
|what was I reading?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J K Rowling
|what was I watching?
Fools Rush In