Monday, April 23, 2007

today : from Motty to Totty

It's quite fantastic to witness the hoo-ha surrounding Jacqui Oatley's appearance as the first ever female footie commentator on Match of The Day. The headlines are fantastic when women get involved in football. The best was when Karran Brady took over as Chief Exec of Birmingham City. The headline : "It's Bummingham Titty!"

The fact is that I called it several years ago when Oatley was beginning her career at my local radio station. In those days she would commentate on local non league matches and, as far as I can remember, on or two minor Rugby League games. Nobody flinched and Western Civilisation remained intact, and she was a good commentator.

I thought to myself that Oatley should be signed by Five Live. It was about time women were given the opportunity. Unfortunately I wasn't (and still am not) the head of commentator recruitment for the BBC, so had little influence on her appointment.
Later, they saw the light and employed her. Now she's made the step into TV and it is a delight to see dinosaurs like Mike Newell and Dave Bassett get their quotes in a twist about it.

In case you forgot, football is a sport that is peopled exclusively by Men, who roll around in mud, kiss each other a lot, spend thousands on haircuts and personal grooming products, massage each other and bathe together, but aren't gay at all. All they know is that women don't understand it and can't even explain the off-side rule, never mind commentate.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

today : hungry like the wolf

Personally, I think it's quite cute that Paul Wolfowitz and Shaha Ali Riza are apparently in love. Good for them - especially good for a neocon for not shying away from hooking up with someone with a Muslim name. One wonders if Ms Riza has the problems at Newark arrivals that many other people whose names contain the word Ali seem to suffer? I don't frankly care who he spends his evenings with, or what he does with them. In fact I am happy if they have found some kind of personal happiness. However, if you are the political appointee of the leader of the free world, sent in to head up and spread ideology through an important international institution, then perhaps it's not a good idea to get your girlfriend (in whatever roundabout way) a fifty thousand dollar pay rise and a surprise promotion.

In itself, PW's actions are not the worst crime in the world. They are not half as bad as, say, urging, planning and cheerleading a stupid, bloody and unwinnable war based on invented evidence, pre-school level strategy and a quite crazy ideolgical stance. There is quite a valid argument that Mr Wolfowitz pulled some strings for his 'bird' at State in order to avoid a conflict of interests at the World Bank. After all, they were both quite open about their relationship and if they were to be seen working together in the same NGOrganisation people would inevitably leap to conclusions that may very well be false. A little nepotism (or, if we are being kind, the softer charge of cronyism) was, in this case, the lesser of two evils.

But the fact is that Wolfowitz and his ilk don't give a shit. What we are seeing is a government - and perhaps an entire class of Americans - down to the last red reminder of its moral bankruptcy. Their entire system is peopled by politicians and their cronies who believe that propriety and fair play is for the little folks. The American dream is now a dream of knowing the right people. Cronyism is the lifeblood of these people. That's how the pony club captain became Head of Fema (one wonders if that was through 'ponyism'?). In fact it's how Bush became President at all.

Wolfowitz's pronouncements sound just like the ones made by any selfish and corrupt person who believes their position of power places them above everyone else. "Let's move on, draw a line under this, get past this," are the PR bon mots I am hearing more and more. They are the mantra of politicians when they are desperate to get their negative stories out of the news cycle. The belief is that if a story lasts less than a week then people will forget about it and it will go away.

As I said. I don't care what PW or anyone does in their private life. But sometimes that private life crosses over into the public arena. This is one of those cases. Ms Riza should find have found herself a job somewhere else by using her talents and experience like the rest of us mere mortals.

today : The bikini 'line'

My pal Ibrar sent me this link the other day, suggesting that I would like to comment on it. The thing is, I have no real comment. The story speaks for itself. Attacks on 'Muslim' dress are another way for people to be racist and generally anti-other-cultures and its time we all grew up. The very people who go on about freedom are very quick to curtail the freedom of others, even to the point of attacking their choice of clothes.

If this woman was, for example, a burns victim, with a body covered with scars, some people would clamour for her to wear a 'Muslim' style swimming costume because they were offended by her scars. Others would get upset if her bikini was too revealing, offended as much by an unclothed human body as they are by a clothed one.

Their world view and response is just childish. In fact, they don't know what they want and their opinions are a porridge made of the fickleness of appetite and self-seeking aggrandisement.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

today : whilst eating chocolate, I watch a bad film

It's become tradition recently at Easter on British TV for someone to show 'The Passion of the Christ', which is a shame because it has unfortunately thrown all previous TV and film versions of the Easter story into the vaults with an echoey thud, and turned the key: becoming the popular 'Passion' of choice.

It's also a shame because TPoTC is just not very good.

This seems to be because when it came out it took masses at the box office, but then again so did
The Nutty Professor 2 - The Klumps. We also know that even films that are deigned to be 'quality' and win loads of prizes are also often not very good, such as that snore-fest 'Babble'. The reason TPoTC took so much money was that it played directly to an easy audience. Let's face it, plenty of the Western world consider themselves Christians and plenty of people in the USA are more or less vocational Christians. Show these people a Hollywood film that tells a Bible story without crtiticising and questioning and they will rush to it, even as they rush away from Hollywood's usual ungodly, morally corrupting and liberal, commie-homo-lovin' fare.

The problem I have is that TPoTC is just too much of a film, too tricksy and, whilst trying so hard to show the depth of suffering of Jesus in his last hours, is suffused with a gloss of unreality that ultimately puts it on a par with any high budget brutal horror film of recent times. SAW and SAW 2 have gory and 'realistic' torture sequences that are as thrilling and scary as the flailing sequence in TPoTC. I am reminded of the so-called '
powerful' moment in Schindler's list when the girl in the red coat is singled out in a black and white world - forcing us to feel sentimental emotion when it's just not needed (and an example of a Hollywood film-maker using technology because he can, and a bad error of judgement on Spielberg's part). So Christ is hanging on the cross and about to die. From above we see Calvary from a cloud's eye view, through a distorted lens. The camera then watches, spinning slightly as the 'lens' is shown to be a single raindrop, that falls away from the camera and plunges to the earth, where we are gven a close up of it hitting rock and exploding in the finest detail. Christ is still about to die, we have a softly lit flashback of the last supper. Jesus, luxuriant of hair and beard, saying all those last supper things that have led to centuries of arguments about transubstantiation and then we are put back into the 'real' world of his bloody and torn body, dangling on the cross again with the two Marys emoting wildly. All of this 'reality' is backgrounded with an endless loop of 'atmospheric' middle eastern music in lovely 5.1.

In the last shot of the film, a resurrected Jesus climbs out of his shroud and walks to the tomb entrance. He passes through shot and with the use of digital matting, the camera sees through the hole in his hand. It reminds me of the scene in the porn cinema in American Werewolf where Griffin Dunne turns and talks, despite the fact that half his face has rotted away and we can see through it. Fercrissakes Mel, unplug the damned computer. Make a film goddamit, and, by our lady, not a cartoon!

There is a reason why Passion plays, even for a determined unbeliever like me, have a power and genuine mystery that TPoTC completely lacks. By playing off the traditions of theatre and setting themselves within each culture where they are performed, they behave as art should, seeing past literal reality and telling a story of imagination and reflective humanity. In a play Jesus is played by a human being. Jim Cavaziel nailed to a cross with viscous trickles of blood pouring from his wounds and his flailed ribs exposed is merely another special effect, and this actually de-humanises the character of Christ. The film replaces imagery and imagination with simple and literal screen violence and the obvious use of cinematic tricks and cliche. Pilate the fat corrupt gold dripped baddie. The Pharisees almost comical stone faced cartoon clones of Archbishop Mikarios. Mary Magdalen, smouldering and sexy-sad. Gibson could have learned a thing from Spielberg and the most perfect horrifying moment in Schindler's List: when the women are herded into the showers and we literally hold our breaths as we wait in terror for taps to go on. People gasped with relief and real emotion when the shower heads brought forth merely water and went away feeling real, resonant, sympathetic emotion..

TPoTC has nothing of the true power and passion of, for example, the Manchester Christ turning to his tormentors, and to the acoustic backing of a rag bag band of buskers, singing
"How does it feel, to treat me like you do-oo?"

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Today : Ten things that annoyed me this week.*

1. Parking. Why can't people park their cars? The worst crime - pulling in and parking eight feet away from the end of a painted parking bay. What is that about?
2. Parking. The person who noticed I was exiting a parking spot and stopped just in front of me, waiting for me to exit, but actually blocking my way out. This person then saw fit to shout and swear at me out of their window for not exiting as fast as they wanted. They then abandoned the spot and drove off because they couldn't parallel park into it even though it was plenty big enough.
3. Parking. The person who consistently abandons their car on my street in such a way as to actually block the street.
4. Parking. The idiot who abandoned his van in the middle of the service road to the post office whilst he sat in a cafe window eating and watching people unable to get past.
5. Parking. People in giant SUVs who park six inches away and then open their doors onto your car making great dents in the bodywork (often while they are leaning in loading shopping and children). I watched someone do this yesterday in a car park (not, thankfully to my car) and when I mentioned it to them, they became very aggressive. I was surprised she swore in front of her baby.
6. Drivers, the idiot who killed a motorcyclist near my house by crossing two lanes of traffic without looking at what was coming up the inside lane - a now ex-biker.
7. People who have no manners and will not say, for example, 'excuse me please,' allowing you to get out of their way before they barge into you. Prime culprits : not teenagers but old ladies.
8. The crossing warden, whom, when I was in a rush, stopped the traffic with a lollipop until the children finished crossing, and then continued standing there with the lollipop holding up the increasingly frustrated traffic until the children had walked about a hundred yards along the pavement. Newsflash. None of the children are going to suddenly turn and around sprint back out into the road, as they are holding their parents' hands. I though this was a one-off, but the next day I wasn't running late and the same thing happened.
9. Virgin media. Okay, I think they are probably right in their argument with Murdoch, but please stop spending my money sending me expensively produced letters explaining why you are right and what a valued customer I am. Just give me a damned price cut and sort out that picture freeeze.
10. Almost everything else.

*okay, so this is a pretty lazy entry, but I haven't been so well and couldn't be bothered with anything too heavy today.