Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Acting and excitement

And the ever constant supply of entertainment. I guess i could shut it all off and just read, but there it is, buzzing away in the corner like a malcontent. I could feed it some more but he'll only bite my hand off and then what will i do. I've gotta sit still, sometimes that's all I'm really worth. Like chewing on a tough piece of bread, i need a good nothing. See, i need it like i always do, a good shot of nothing breathing up and down my arms, letting the hairs sway like a reverberating sea shanty.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

War and what to do of an evening

The trouble of time and what to do with it shouldn't be much of a problem at all, but there it is, gnawing away. I'm supposed to be going to this party tonight, which shouldn't be much of an evening, and I'd definitely rather be at another friend's house, drinking wine and chatting. The problem is boys, single boys. They're so horny and desperate, and seem intent on talking an incredible amount of nonsense. And as I'm going with my girlfriend, we'll probably both get bored very quickly and leave soon after. Maybe i could ring my other friend after. Then there's the war in Georgia, and I wonder what they are doing tonight. We'll never be at war, will we? Not until we get really poor, or invaded again. I think we're due. Then there's tomorrow's race, which my girlfriend is driving me to in Doncaster (Askern actually) and I'm already on my way (2 pints this afternoon). However, I'm not going to duck out, as Cookie did this afternoon (very poor). I shall race tomorrow, and it will be wonderful. Monday off, thank God. Another game of tennis with Nick, hopefully as god as the one on friday, which was prbably our best ever match, in terms of quality.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lessons in liberty

Travelling seems to be an idea of yourself - how your imprint looks on another alien place.

The Russian air-con whirs so violently that we have to leave it on the fan setting. This in itself is a distracting noise and the novel that has gripped me all afternoon has been placed by my side due to the disturbance.

Santiago is a place that tests you. It can bring out the best and worst. Touts can be young or old and are shameless in selling you a product or merely the story of their poverty. Growing tired of the constant shouts, i found relief in the internet - my first indulgence in four weeks of travelling through Cuba. Sending a brief email to my father - quickly finding nostalgia in recent events, notably our truck journey to Santiago along the coast - and a few messages to friends has me shedding a few tears and my chest is full of comfort. It's what i needed, and it enables me - knowing that I'm loved and not just a "walking ATM machine" as an Israeli traveller described it - to understand better who i am here. At times, just for sheer difference, i answer 'yes' to the shouts of 'taxi' or indulge my victimhood by snidely barraging them with my own rant - "Sunglasses? Two dollars?" The man waves me away and i get some brief satisfaction that he may have got the message, or maybe seen things from my perspecive. It's petty and arrogant, but it makes me feel better. Not that everyone who is poor or just looking to make a quick buck from naive tourists belittles themselves to the same cliches. There's a lovely exchange Sally has with a beautiful old lady smoking a fat cigar, and after telling her that she dances in one of the local clubs, the two of them salsa in the square. But this is, ofcourse, only possible because she speaks Spanish. I don't, and it's an embarrassment I've been carrying round for four weeks. Fascinated by its history, I thought about the trip eight months ago - plenty of time to take a Spanish course, and at least give it a decent bash. But instead, I've simply asked for a few tips from my girlfrien and fumbled through with a phrasebook. In truth, I've relied far too heavily on her and I've had to admit to myself that it's limited my experience. Even if i accept that my Spanish is poor to non-existent, my effort at times has matched my skill. As she continues to tell me, the only way to learn is to be shameless. I tell myself that on my return I'll make a proper effort to learn and on our next visit i'll be much braver but it's a kop out and i know it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Nuclear deterrant and the "special relationship"

"When it comes to nuclear weapons, visions of uncoupling Britain from the US ignore a few realities that our senior politicians never mention. As Dan Plesch, the London-based academic and author who has made it his business to shine light on these things, points out, Britain's current nuclear weapons system (and, indeed, the one that looks likely to replace it) is umbilically linked to the US. The missiles themselves are leased from the US government. They depend on American maintenance - carreid out at a base in King's Bay, Georgia - and American software. All this has one crucial upshot: though we get them on the cheap, paying as little as a 10th of the sum they would have cost if we built and maintained them ourselves, they fail what Plesch calls "the 1940s test": if we were at war without the say-so of the US, we probably couldn't use them. "The current system is like an insurance policy that the insurer can take away if they don't want you to use it," he says. "And how bad a deal is that?"

Taken from an article in Friday's G2.

And today, we learn that the government are to cut our nuclear weapons by 20% to 160 warheads, yet renew the Trident contract. The problem of the nuclear deterrant debate - which I oppose entirely simply because it has more to do with reputation and our standing in international politics - is that not enough MPs believe it is a bad thing. A minority of Labour MPs and some Lib Dems. Getting rid of the Trident contract would be the first sign of severing our close ties with the US, and becoming more Euro-centric, whic I see as a good thing. Do Germany suffer from not being a nuclear power? Not at all. In fact, it gives them greater freedom from a Pax Americana.

The argument for the nuclear deterrent is often that will will not know the the threats that will exist in twenty years time, but as Michael Clarke, a professor of defence studies, states, "one option is to be 'virtually nuclear', like Japan, which could go nuclear inside six months."

The argument that being a nuclear power gives us credibility in encouraging disarmament in the future is both hypocritcal and untrue. We are only an influence through the patronage of the US - a position which has worsened under the current government. I'd honestly rather not be a big player on the world stage if that's the consequence.

The white paper wil be outlined today in the Commons, followed by a debate.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

There'll be other drugs Vincent

Watching 'Tape' again this morning made me think about perceptions of morality. We are able to define our actions in whatever way we see fit, and these definitions can be backed up by our particular position on a scale of morality. Vincent admits that he isn't a "very moral person," whereas John positions himself as a considerate and sensitive person.
Amy doesn't accept that John raped her, and she is entitled to define this, because she was involved. John only really admits the rape when he is able to position himself into appearing like an honest person owning up to what he's done. Like Amy says, "maybe you didn't like the way it sounded on the tape and you wanted to come and back and rephrase it a little more eloquently." The rape only exists for him to appear like a better person.
What happens when our actions and our thoughts are shown the sunshine? How do we respond? If they make us feel ugly, do we try to redefine them? Or do we admit what we have done? If we admit what we've done fully, fully accept that we have thought or acted against our conscience, then what is our response to this position? Not do it again? Forgive ourselves? What if we can't forgive ourselves?

I have to go to the pub now, but I'll come back to this...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Lords Reform

'And be it further ordained and enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no Peer of this land, not being elected, qualified and sitting in Parliament as aforesaid, shall claim, have, or make use of any privilege of Parliament, either in relation to his person, quality, or estate, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.'

This is taken from the act which abolished the House of Lords in 1649, charged by our old puritan mate Oliver Cromwell. I didn't realise the Elect The Lords campaign had been going so long. Although he did go that bit further in actually getting rid of the upper chamber. They reconvened in 1660.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Flashing my finery like some lord of misrule

We went to see Breaking and Entering yesterday. Sometimes, you can go into a film having already decided that you don't like it, and the opposite is true also. I'd made up my mind that the new Minghella was going to be one of the best films of the last five years. I'd heard him speak about the film on Radio 5 - he's a very articulate and engaging man, so talked eloquently about it. Kermode also gave favourable sqwarks.
From the opening shots, it is clear this is an affectionate portrait of London; not a picture postcard view, but one which (North) Londoners are more likely to recognise daily.
Framed by the robbery of an Architect's new premises in King's Cross, the film centres primarily around the crumbling marriage of Jude Law and Robin Wright Penn. The couple try - in a fumbling and hurtful manner - to figure out when they stopped looking at each other; when they became so immune to each other's presence. Jude Law eventually becomes engaged in an affair with the mother (Juliet Binoche) of one of the robbers of the his company's building.
What is impressive about the tone of the film is how it conveys Jude Law's inevitable slide into infidelity. When he confesses to his wife about the affair, he claims he didn't plan it, and this could be true, but you see how he contrives the affair, perhaps not completely concious of his actions, in something of a dream-state, but it's not an accident how he brings about the situation. He floats into it, and this is brlliantly acted and written. We were talking afterwards about how annoying Jude Law is to watch - his smug style of acting - and concluded that having seen him perform like this on numerous occasions, it isn't unfair to suggest that this is a large part of his personality coming through. Or that it comes quite naturally to him. But whether that's true or not (that he's a bit of a tit), it's incredibly effective in portraying someone who's ego has sent him spiralling into a disaster of moral ambiguity - the ambiguity being his own clouded thoughts. He has lost the thread of what he really wants or what he really feels - common for most men I think - and he says he was 'looking for love' but he can't really grasp how he has ended up in this fog. 'Why were you looking for love?' his parnter rightfully asks.
The other key relationship in the film - Juliet Binoche and her son - is also brilliantly pitched.
Coming out of the film, you may not feel much resolution; there's no sense of conclusive satisfation, whether sad or happy. Some films may end on a downer, but at least there's a clear conclusion - this doesn't have that. I think this sense of unsteadiness is executed in the scene near the end when unexpectedly, Robin Wright Penn flips at Jude Law and runs away from him. THe natural arc of story is broken with this scene and it may look a little stilted or uncomfortable, but in portraying the jumpiness of her feelings and their fragile relationship, this pulse of sudden hurt emotion is a necessary jolt to the trajectory of the film's conclusion.