Saturday, 30 January 2016

A Bowie-less World in which I try and often fail at being a Hero

You know when someone – a famous someone – you don’t know dies, and you suddenly feel the world is a different place?  I felt that when Leonard Nimoy died last year, for example – like a piece of rationalism had exited the world, leaving us spun deeper in chaos (yes, I know he wasn’t actually Spock, but my brain will forever associate him with Spock; also with the similarly rational scientist in the remake of The Body Snatchers; not to mention the evil scientist in Fringe more recently…).

There have been others lately  – so many sudden deaths of famous people that were part of my background, but I was very surprised by my reaction to David Bowie.  He’s a soundtrack I’ve been hearing all my life, but only in passing.  I’ve never really been a fan.  He’s been someone in my cultural background, as well as a musician influencing so many others styles, and life choices.  Bit like Lemmy, who died nearly at the same time – totally different music and life style there, but another one with a whole backstory to a generation, another icon.

It feels like Bowie in particular had fingers in everyone’s musical pie.  So many people cite him as an influence.

I’m struggling with my mood and demeanour today: I’m turning on the head of a pin, turning on the side of a coin.  I had a bad day at work (oh yes) yesterday, to the point of where running off to Mexico (Fry’s preferred emergency solution to just about anything) seems like a better idea than showing up in my life today.  I’m very tired and somewhat irritated by the fact I know I’m going to do the right thing and show up anyway, regardless of how I feel.  

So hearing another musician, another cultural icon that I was…sort of ambivalent about really, has died, should not be upsetting me.  Should definitely not be the excuse my psyche has been waiting for, for a total mood dip.  Yet I can really feel it descending.  Instead, I should be, by logic, shouting out the only song of his that I really really liked, Heroes, very loudly.  And then trying to be one, within the confines of my life.

So sing.

And not cry.

Maybe that, him knowing he was going to die, explains that strange, scary and portentous song and music video – the Black Star that went round shortly before he died, on Youtube.  For anyone confused by the word PORTENTOUS in that last sentence: I’ve discovered on using it on Facebook, that it has semi fallen out of use.  I say ‘portentous’ and what people were hearing was PRETENTIOUS.  A whole different word.  When I first saw the last Bowie video, I commented that I found it portentious: as in, containing an omen, a sign, a hidden meaning that was there, but which I couldn’t quite read or decipher.  That it presaged something coming, I just wasn’t sure what.  And it riled loads of fans who thought I had just accused The Master of being PREtentious.  And then they went on to misunderstand that word too, and ask me who I thought he was pretending to be?  Which incident among increasingly many in my life, shows up the limits of communication, as well as the mixed joys of trying to keep good words going when half the world has lost them already, and you didn’t use them within enough context to make them clear.

Anyway. I’m in the coffeeshop before beginning work, which is this morning, annoying.  Both the idea of beginning work, and the people.  Two habitually tragic faced men have sat down near me, facing me.  Odd choice: I usually sit facing the window and the exit – more to see.  I wouldn’t sit facing a grumpy woman (that would be me).  There’s another woman, sitting next to me-ish, on the phone, saying loudly: “See?  See?  Noooooooo – really??  See? He doesn’t move much, sits in the corner now…”  I really want to turn down her dial – and the dial of everyone who speaks loudly on a phone, inviting us all into their usually extremely boring and lengthy conversations.    I also want to enquire after whether she’s talking about a person or a pet….and the thing is, she would be annoyed if I asked, as if she hadn’t just talked so loudly everyone was forced into her business.  

I have to go in a moment.  So this woman is wasting my precious alone time.  Huh. Then I will have to go and sit tensely and wait for the phone to ring at work.  A secret of customer service: when you are mediating services that have been repeatedly cut, you find yourself often explaining to people why you can’t do what they want.  Sometimes this is due to poor research on their part – 5 minutes of googling prior to their call would have shown them we never did whatever it is, or we definitely don’t do whatever anymore.  So poor research and faulty expectations on their part.  Sometimes it’s that we did and don’t any longer, or simply can’t though it would make sense if we did.  But someone else often does do the thing.   And the secret is: you don’t calm people down when they are cross.  THEY CALM THEMSELVES.  

They call, often too cross already, and then they make the decision to stay cross and to make very sure you are aware they are cross (by sprinkling their shouting, or conversation or demands with swearing, or phrases like ‘you lot of inept idiots’, ‘what kind of arseholes do you employ down there’, ‘do you lot ever think of anyone else’, ‘what do you actually DO there’).  It doesn’t matter what you try to say or what explanations you attempt to give, or how you say it.  If they are determined to stay cross, cross they will stay.  And they will get crosser too.  In many ways it’s like dealing with a child having a tantrum. If they don’t get what they want NOW (or better still, yesterday), then anger and rudeness is what you will receive.

Any deviation from this is because THEY decided to become civilised, and hear what you are saying, or accept your apology for their trouble and inconvenience: for a theoretical and very common example, roadworks and cones and lane closures caused by allowing a water company to repair a burst water main that supplies the local hospital, er – important stuff; and sometimes substances have to set before continuing, so it will look like there’s a lane closure and no work going on – but there’s a reason.  They will decide for themselves that being rude and arrogant and abusive to someone who is doing their best to help in a flawed system is at best counter productive.  Obviously if I was inept or unhelpful or sounded like I had no idea what I was talking about, I would contribute to their annoyedness, but I try to be calm and quiet and conciliatory.

The annoying thing for me is when the other day I had to say: “Sir, I am trying to give you an explanation.  If you don’t let me speak, then I can’t help you…” and after the call being told to not antagonise the caller.  Me.  Who just spoke quietly and calmly to someone who was shouting and not listening at all, and who I really felt had vented enough already.  Some of them don’t ring to be helped or informed, and I often realise I am experiencing a feeling of quiet sadness that realising you were 2 hours late to work because a vital water supply TO A HOSPITAL is being replaced, an unforeseen emergency situation, is NOT ENOUGH of an explanation for some people.  It makes me feel sad about the people and whatever is in their minds; and very sad about the future of communication.  The world seems to be a lot about fulfilment of demands, and very little about understanding circumstances and trying to reach a compromise – which is what has to happen when people have differing but strongly held views. 

I think in the case of the barrage of the cross motorist who was very late, he was so abusive because of a flawed perception that we had overruled his needs without asking him – we the Still Mighty and Terrifying Public Service Sector, who decree when the roads will be done, to give people stuff like, you know, drainage…People are unclear about what constitutes need, greater need, group need over personal need.  And if they are stuck deep enough in their personal need, they won’t be able to hear anything about group need. And they won’t understand that we can’t poll everyone, we have to let the water main get fixed, because it’s an emergency.  For example.   Still – that explanation is not one any caller wants to hear (or in this case was prepared to hear), and neither is it a comfort to me.  

Sometimes knowing a thing doesn’t particularly help.  It just does make me sad and fearfully stress me out that when I go to work I never next know when a caller will decide that I personally am responsible for the entire failure of HIS/HER LIFE that day, morning, week or year.  It’s odd.  My supervisor made a telling remark the other day.  She said: “It’s the idea of the Nanny State.  They all complain they don’t want it, but they do” and she’s right – or they would have no one to complain at or about, whenever anything doesn’t work.  They complain at all the things we don’t or can no longer do, not accepting that in many cases, they voted for the Party that’s defunded our services to the point they can function only very carefully, and in some cases not so efficiently, anymore. Expected to do ever more, but with ever less money.  So prioritising becomes tighter and tighter, and clashes of interest will happen.

So I will go in, sit there through the long minutes, in a Bowie-less world, singing ‘Heroes’ to myself.  I will be polite and I will try to be kind, and helpful.  (Best not to try and channel Lemmy, eh?!) Let’s hope today’s people feel reasonable.  And if they don’t…how best to be quietly helpful, quietly heroic, in daily life?  Crises are easy.  You stand or you don’t.  But every day, the grind, the challenges to not become closed, or uncaring – that’s a heroism that goes on every day, for all of us.  Personally, I reckon that’s what Bowie was talking about in the song – nothing grand or melodramatic, just how to do more than survive, how to properly communicate, to make things a touch better.  That’s being a hero in your small bit of every day life.  And I will keep trying, absolutely damn it!  Because what other thing is there to do?!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Reading and Dozing on the bus

There’s a book I’ve been reading this week, Rosemary Ashton’s 142 Strand*.  It’s about how the Strand used to be the base for journalism and publishers in Victorian times (especially radical ones, and some pornography), before Fleet Street took over.  Bohemian people galore.

I’m finding it fascinating though I’m not too far in yet.  It’s especially about the growth of one small publishing house and adjacent shop, owned by a Mr Chapman, that ended up catering to allsorts of radical thinkers (atheists, anarchists, socialists, fringe scientists – some of that science is now mainstream; some consigned to crankiness of the past) – and George Eliot and her not quite husband. Mr Chapman bought the booksellers and publishers in his little section of the Strand from a concern already going; published lots of famous religious thinkers of time – many Unitarians, and ex Unitarian minister and one of the founders of Transcendentalism – (mixture of Plato, Kant and Coleridge): Ralph Walso Emerson (backed by Carlyle, of Sartor Resartus fame). 

He carried on doing this sort of publishing, so had small but loyal following, who bought his books and published their own via him. A bit incestuous, like the Bloomsbury set later on, with Virginia Woolf.  He had very little money though, as it didn’t bring in much.  Reading this section, about his trouble paying bills, I was finding it strange how I simultaneously had a vision of the eternal romance of the idea of the striving artist or activist, going short for principle…and then being quite a bit surprised that it feels the same today in many ways.  Anything that is actually worth doing (aside from acting or other areas of art where you have genuinely hit it lucky and big) seem to pay a pittance.  Job security and a decent wage seem to come from jobs that if you really thought about them and lined up your beliefs next to them…might not mesh.

The earnest Mr Chapman tried a branch out with mesmerism books (seen as a lash-up of spiritualism and cutting edge science), which became a fad during 1840s (again as it had done in the age of Mesmer himself, sometime earlier).  Harriet Martineau, intellectual and political short story writer backed his ideas with a glowing review, believing it had cured her of a brain tumour.  It brought in few more readers.  Astute of him to back this fad just before it really got going.

There seemed to be many copyright problems in this age– copyright law was only just instituted, and was complex and unreliable – even lawyers despaired of making it mean anything – and that was the situation over here; in the US, piracy in publishing was completely standard at the time, as authors as famous as Dickens and Gaskell had found out.  There was practically no point taking it to court either, as it was so accepted as just what happened.  Now that’s something that has changed rather since then, in both countries.

The thing that really got his press and bookselling business noticed was Mary Ann Evans (soon to be George Eliot), translating a copy of Strauss’s Life of Jesus, which took an uncompromising and typically German thorough look at the Old Testament prophecies and their following through in the New Testament, and concluding the tome was mostly mythical.  (Some critics argued with him, and not all were strictly religious – James Martineau did, saying he used logic on something logic could not be used , which is a very Victorian and still enduring idea.  (That sometimes I agree with and sometimes I don’t…)

Also, in his early years Mr Chapman published the brother of Cardinal Henry Newman, Frances William Newman - the dissenter who got so dissenting people ended up thinking him an atheist.  He published The Soul and Phases of Faith – and so echoed the back and forthing and discomfort many Christians felt with their faith at this time, that George Eliot notes, only 30 years later, that whilst people like her used to thrill to hear him, he was now almost unheard of and unquoted, despite affecting so many lives, so “beneficiently”.  I haven’t got much further than Chapter 2, but the sudden sinking into the Victorian mindset of a few people and what they strived for is as always, fascinating.  I read it when I’m not too tired on the bus, when I’m not doing the head nodding thing.  Evening is best for this one, as in the mornings I like something lighter while trying to wake.

I sit in the coffeeshop in the mornings and try to do some writing exercises, before I go on.  Trying to shore up one part of my personality before the rest of it is sorely tried.  The fighting off of a cold all week and the taking care of Stanley and Fluffhead when I get in, who seem to be expiring of ManVirus (I don’t actually say that as a put down, I firmly do believe in manflu since I think I also get it!) has been causing a drought of writing; this week not much came.  Too tired and vague.  I did successfully complete one exercise, which was supposed to be a small flash fiction exercise – a snippet if someone’s life focalised by use of their tone, their attitudes shown through the tone of their voice.  I wasn’t sure how much I liked or rated it, and I didn’t like her tone – so I must have made her a bit real, as I was bothering to dislike her, but here it is, since I’m sharing my writing this year, for the most part, with you, O Faithful Singular Reader  (and where are all you people from Russia I used to have?!):
The thing is, he has no idea I’m watching him most of the time.  He sits there, in the periphery of my vision, all day, to the left, working with the others.  Just one month a year.  I wait all year for this, and just the one month.  But I can see him everyday then!  He wears pressed blue shirts, good thread weave – he’s classy.  He’s bred, you can see the public school in his manner and confidence.  In the way he holds himself, the way he’s skinny.  You can see his parents brought him up right, he’s friendly but not too friendly.  He chats to me, but then he chats to the others.  But I think he chats to me more.  While he’s here I try and wear the clothes I think he will like the most, so that he can see that I am like him – well, not like him, but similar to him.  That I am one of him.  I wear the newest of my shirts, with the necklines that dip, but not too much.  The trousers that look most executive.  I won’t wear a skirt as I’ve only got short, and for a start I don’t like my legs, and for second, I think my boots with them would look wrong, a bit slutty.  Though some of those girls in there with him, they don’t seem to care that they really haven’t got the legs for their little high shoes; or that their skirts are too short.  They totter through the office and you think, who do you think you are?

Earlier, he asked me if I wanted something from Starbucks, as they were going on a coffee run.  He asks me this every day – joking with me.  None of the others ever do this.  I never carry on the conversation long.  I think that would be obvious, and the others might see.  And what would they think – posh lot, someone like him taking a serious interest in someone like me?  So we keep it subtle.  I chat a little bit, and then get on with my typing.  Its enough.  And if I turn around and do filing, I can see him anytime I want.  I have to be careful to not watch his arse when he goes out.  He’s so well formed…

Anyway, he offered me a drink, and I accepted a frappacino, and then he sent one of the other more junior ones to do it – he’s in charge, I think, after the one in the suit jacket (never takes that jacket off), that comes in and out every day.

He smiles at me when I catch his eye.  He asks if I like the drink.  This is it.  I can’t really be with him, because we come from different places.  But he likes me, and I like him.  It is enough to know it.  And here he comes, smiling and looking purposeful.  Soon I go home to my husband, sitting in his old clothes on the sofa, watching his programmes.
(507 words)
See?  She’s not really a nice person.  So I felt like I did make her exist, but I wouldn’t want much more to do with her or to write a story with her in it.  That’s what bamboozles me about some of these exercises…I write them but it feels like to no purpose, as I don’t like what’s produced and won’t use it again.

Anyway.  I hope Stanley and Fluffhead get their ManVirus gone soon; and I hope Mum comes back too (as she’s sick also), as I feel life is on a pause of nothing much but getting up early, being stressed at work and coming home, with no decompression time and very little rest, with the lack of her help and the added caring for of the two men.

I have nothing much left to do but to observe people on the bus, and play out their stories in my head in between dozes.  Or sometimes at the same time as dozing.  There was a particularly ordinary looking woman on the bus on Friday, going home from work early due to a temporary Fluffhead emergency (now sorted).  Obviously in a rush, and no personal stuff done all day, only working, she was holding a few letters that still needed opening.  Balancing them haphazardly on her rucksack as she sat opposite me, trying to get her hair sorted and her snack crisps out.  She settled to opening her post about 5 minutes later, and the rustling she made disturbed me momentarily from that odd half there and half not dream state you get into on transport.  I couldn’t decide if my memory of her reaction to one of the letters was totally overblown and half dreamt, or if she really was this transformed by it.  Needless to say, I was most perturbed I didn’t get a nose at what the letters contents actually were…But this is what I remember when I think of that journey that day:

A woman looks up, and her face shines.  She puts down the letter.  She is smiling in a moment of personal truth and freedom, and her hands are fisted on the letter, crumpling the edges she’s holding it that hard.  It’s a moment of vindication, and she breathes in, her cheeks wide on her face, with the smile held inside her, no teeth, but it’s all over her face. She blooms in this moment, softly pink, softly cream – she is a rose wearing peaches in the sudden burst of sunlight from behind a tree, that breaks over her face as we move down the street.  Her honeyed brown hair, held back off her face, shields her head from the warmth of the sun: its afternoon now.  She glints with sunlight and she knows that finally, summer will come. 

Obviously…I must have been a bit dreaming during that sudden overthinking of her business.  Though, I hope it was a good moment for her…and I do wish summer would come.  It was lovely going home that day and it still being light outside.

I doze off again, and have a hazy memory of Stanley and I in our old Stratford house where we used to let all the neighbourhoods cats come in and play, as we are Very Much Cat People. Kittens chasing string; mouse chasing – what do they chase?  But they do go fast…right over Stanley’s foot, the other day, and through the room and out.  Ever since, we have been looking for this mouse, and its friends.  And not leaving crumbs out.  Are they running within the walls, little Samuel Whiskers and friends, mice, rats, cats, all looking for each other, and make roly poly puddings?  It’s the opposite of me now, sitting here turgidly, bumping back and forth on this bus, ever getting toward home, but never quite making it. Dream cat rubs soft fur against my cheek and I smile, or do I just twitch, the way sleeping people do?  Another day, another day, same as the last, same as the last.

 (*142 Strand - by Rosemary Ashton, Vintage, 2008)

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Film and TV watching, what I was up to in the last few months when not reading!

I have been watching a few things here and there.  Right before I started work, thre was massive watching of whatever I fancied because I feared I would have very little time ever again (this was very prescient of me).  I’ve divided it into film and TV, for some reason.  But here are the rambly thoughts…the last TV one, The Fall, I only finished today, so that’s fresh.  I also watched the first season of Penny Dreadful, which was wondrous (especially in terms of words), but I wasn’t moved to talk to myself about it, so its not here.  I’m just anticipating season 2 (which I have, just waiting to watch it with Fry), with great happiness.

Castle, Season 3
Whilst this series absorbed me as much as the previous ones while watching, I started to feel that some elements were being lost.  The chemistry between Castle and Beckett in terms of how they solve crimes together and how he thinks everything is like a story is diminishing.  Also, the way a niche environment is picked every week and they are truly interesting niches is also declining – they are just the usual list of situations and backdrops called upon by every crime program everywhere in America now: there must be a list of these ideas and situations.  Tropes.  There were a couple of howling bad episodes too, notably the ones about the Real Authentic Genuine Original[etc] Nick, the pizza episode. I got bored.  On the other hand, the interplay with his family at home is as delightful as ever – I love the mother and I love the daughter.  If only all our home lives were this safely monied and clean and colour co-ordinated and generally harmonious. I wish these people were in my family. Which I think is the idea.

Stand out eps for me, were: Almost Famous, Murder Most Fowl [these were original plots nicely done with little twists]; Nikki Heat[the actress chosen to be Nikki and Beckett have some nice interplays with Castle]; Knockdown [eps involving Beckett’s mother’s unsolved murder are always good, bringing out Beckett’s vulnerable but bulldog tenacious side – it’s a strong and nicely woven part of her character]; SetUp [here because the man playing the Syrian attache stole the episode]; and of course the finale KnockOut, which was very nicely done indeed.  And Castle tells Beckett he loves her. But does she hear? Etc.  The show is still very sharp,but needs to beware of too many pedestrian filler episodes – can’t expect Beckett and Castle to carry everything when they aren’t being given good enough dialogue.)

Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Season 3
Same problem as Castle - there’s a slightly soapy pedestrian edge creeping over this very good show.  Too many filler eps. The quality of the writing overall, PLUS the often hard hitting subjects of the better eps is falling off a bit.  The good eps are very good, but the rest are just killing time.  HMMMM.

Stand out eps were: The Search 1 and 2 [because it elucidated Odo more an because the deteriorating and excessive situation were believable if weird and I wanted to know what would happen next]; The House of Quark [some rather clever speeches by Quark, who really does part the bling into Greed]; Civil Defense [a very nice idea, and Gul Dukat walking about blithely knowing the lasers will not attack him, while being arrogant as ever, REALLY did make me smile]; Defiant [actually, this was a rather poor episode, but I love Riker and was very happy to see him];  Past Tense 1 and 2 were very nice indeed, some good moral dilemmas; Visionary [I liked the time travelling and Cassandra esque elements of this episode]; and lastly Distant Voices [which really makes me wonder why they didn’t do an awful lot more with Dr Bashir’s character in the whole show]. I enjoyed any episode featuring Garak, as he’s a marvellously odd character, but the 2 parter he had this season didn’t really further his character, though it did further his storyline.  Which was a bit odd.)

Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Season 4
(Good eps include: Way of the Warrior, the 2 part opener –WORF!!!!!, need I say more?!  The Visitor – a heartwrenching episode about not letting go and why you should even when Jake didn’t…Tony Todd owned the episode utterly, what a voice!, and the grief he displayed, the loss, what acting, I was almost in tears for most of the episode!  Hippocratic Oath posed a moral quandary that I got both sides of, and was one of those episodes where you realise how underused Bashir’s character is and how great he can be.)

Castle, Season 4
(Mostly got its mojo back, except for a couple of silly CIA based episodes. Otherwise, excellent and back on track in its own quirky, well chemistried way.  Especially enjoying Esposito and Ryan, who seem to be coming to the fore, finally, a little more.)

The Detectorists
This was lovely and gentle and perfectly poignant.  No one does this sort of thing like the English.  Was most impressed    to discover Mackenzie Crook both wrote, directed and starred   in it.  It was wonderfully English, and spacious, and full of   eccentrics and losers…and, you know, people like me who watch     University Challenge.)

Castle Season 5
This got itself back together, and managed the feat of keeping Beckett and Castle together without being annoying, or doing a modern day Hart to Hart, which probably wouldn’t work very well. Excellent mix of serious and funny episodes with only a couple that I would consider filler – and I don’t think they were intended to be.  Also managed the seriously clever feat of doing the world’s only flashback episode that didn’t feel like a cop out for an episode.  It had its own story, plus the bits used for the flashback scenes were SO good and relevant, it felt like brill recap.  The only thing that episode did show was what I have come to see, that Nathan Fillion is doing a Holly Marie Combs in Charmed – that is, his performance, as we have gone on, has got quieter and quieter and less quirky.  He’s still very watchable and loveable, but he has lost some of the drive and sass that I used to love about him.  Whereas Beckett has gained a sort of quiet depth, without changing too much at all; the difference between subdued and strong quietude.)

Once Upon A Time, Season 3
This is amazing in the sense that not for one episode has this series lost its moral centre or overriding theme: how people react to fear is everything.  It governs the actions of every single character – whether they confront, run and hide, manipulate, do deals; every reaction to fear elucidates character and drives the plot.  It’s an astonishingly simple device and I must remember it if I ever write anything good ever again.  It’s so much better than saying: where is the conflict?  Just say: how do they react, in any given situation, to fear?  What does it drive them to do – and you’ve got characters that interest and prove sympathetic, forever. 

The only thing odd about this series was the way it ran the Peter Pan angle for half the series, then wound it up very quickly and went for a different villain; followed by the two parter at the end which felt like it could have been suspended between this series and the next as a standalone.  It made an important point, but felt oddly divorced from the rest of the plot, even though it provided the catalyst that brought Elsa, and the next development leading into series 4. 

Rumplestiltskin/Mr Gold is still *marvellous*.)

The Fall, Series 1
What a nice surprise. Not just a crime drama with a moody detective solving a crime committed by a strange killer – but so much more than that.  Also about how policing is done in Belfast, how other cases link to this one, and very gradually – why the people are the way they are.  Impressed.  And wish I was as disconnected as Gillian Anderson’s character is, or seems to be.  Envy of the ‘doubling’.  Must comment on Jamie Dornan’s fit for his role too.  Very nicely done.  Was staggered when I realised the cliff hanger at the end of season 1, when I thought it would all be sorted!  Quite hooked!)

The Fall, Season 2
(In some ways less than season 1, as in more tightly plotted so slightly more carelessly or stereotypically characterised; on the other hand, amazing story telling, ratcheting up the tension.  Riveting viewing.  Loving Gillian Anderson’s character more and more – that sudden episode with Archie Panjabi was fascinating; I am so enjoying trying to understand and work her out, where she’s coming from. 

I didn’t buy the scene where the man gang of Belfast toughs actually didn’t beat her to pulp when she stood up to them, that step back one of them did – I saw that it was meant to be instinctive, and that he recognised she meant business as one unafraid aggressor to another; and I think it was meant to denote that she was ‘real’ while he was a bully, a fake person who was only scary when with his friends or with a gun…but I still didn’t buy it: she made him look small infront of his friends, I think he would have reacted more.

Jamie Dornan’s sudden flights of cold eyed egotism were most interesting too – because he hasn’t played the character like a stereotype at all, but when you think about it, or when Stella describes his attributes, he is one, he’s textbook.  It fascinating, the face of him and whats behind his face.  And his physical fitness is very much a part of the picture – that description of the compression of the victim’s neck, to so small, and yet we not seeing it done: very effective – we are more fascinated and frightened by what we don’t see.

Colin Morgan – yay – what a good actor, he; took me a real moment to place him as the same character in my beloved Merlin, as he was holding his face and doing his voice so differntly - the timbre, not just the accent!

This was marvellous, altogether, especially the ambiguous ending – will he live, why did she seem so genuinely upset?  [I have theorised that it’s because she is actually a very leaky and empathic compassion monster, with a very sad past – which clues I got from several bits of show, previous job mentions, the snappy band suggestion to victim-survivor; she is so utterly connected that only intense apparent disconnection and control will keep her together mentally to work properly.  The episode with Archie Panjabi’s Reed Smith showed she was definitely not immune to sudden passions and whims; though even then, she needed to control them and be dominant to let it occur.]  Etc.  I hope he does live and more happens, the expression on his face in the last few moments was interesting too…

I really did adore the way everyone watched everyone in this – the creepy hotel owner; the terrifyingly hormonal and intense Katie Bennodoti, people observing others all the time and not saying anything or using the information for themselves alone.  I decided it was called The Fall partly for Paul Specter’s character and his arrogance in a very Christian – outwardly – country; and partly because everyone in the series seemed either about to fall or in the process of trying to hold off decay.  Totally absorbing.)


The Tomb
Remake of The Tomb of Ligeia, originally by Poe. It was a good idea trying to set it in the present, and there was a nice semi gothy feel to the scenes set in America, but the film started to fail when it went to Russia. It couldn’t sustain its gently gothy atmosphere.  I started to get bored, even though it looked incredibly nice. I have no idea why Michael Madsen and Eric Roberts were there, very badly miscast; this sort of film does nothing for either of them, and their characters were not sufficiently defined to give them much to do. Or maybe another actor would have done more with it.  Difficult to say.  The thing is, Wes Bentley starred in and produced this, and he can be brilliant, so I suspect these 2 were his friends and they wanted to do something brilliant, and maybe this was his pet project.  He clearly believed in it, to plug money in.  Shame it didn’t work so well.  It’s was no The Asphyx, for example.)

The Imitation Game
This was a very sad film.  I can’t believe we did that to Alan Turing.  And an Oscar to the child actor who played the young Alan Turing on hearing of his friend Christopher’s death.  That was acting…)

The Riot Club
   (This was a real disappointment. It could have had a hard          hitting feel and social commentary; it could have walked a line that was a mixture of Straw Dogs and A Family Function, and it did neither.  It kept setting up situations that didn’t quite happen and then speechified a bit.  It made the Bullingdon Club look like spoiled brats rather than dangerous sociopaths, which in fact is what they must be…)

Wake Wood
     (With Fry.  I’m astonished he liked this as much as he did. It had a very Carter Burwell Blair Witch 2 influenced soundtrack, very sounds of wood and organic elements – that was very good.  The quiet and small nature of the film helped its creepiness, though I really felt Aiden Gillen was miscast, as I kept expecting him to kill someone any minute, as he has such a sinister and manipulative face. It was a very odd conception, the idea of rebirthing these dead people from other people. I liked the Italian 70s nature of the gore and violence, focussing on the wounds etc – you could see, by this device how they must have managed to film the violence completely separatelyto having the child who was supposed to be enacting it on the set. A very curious film. Wouldn’t watch it again, but was interesting.)

Night of the Devils, 1972
A proper old, weird one…I thought it was a giallo but it’s a     ghosty/vampiric/zombieish story based on Russian folklore, by    Tolstoy, originally.  Man stranded in strange area, modern and scientific, doesn’t believe the odd events going on around him can be caused by these supernatural means. But of course,they are, to cut a long story short.  And there’s a nice twist at the end.  It’s wonderfully Italian, wonderfully nonsensical, expectedly misogynistic and beautifully shot.  I was uncaring about all the characters and not minding this [odd in itself],therefore left blank and objective enough to enjoy the   preposterous story.  Little known, odd and quite good.)

Hillside Strangler (2007)
(At first watch this was wonderfully retro in look and style.  And Nicholas Turturro and C. Thomas Howell were almost cutouts of loser woman hating idiots who blamed everyone but themselves for their loser lives…but at some point I got really disturbed by this, by their psychology.  I kept wondering WHY they hated women so much.  I could see fear, I could see wanting and contempt all mushed up together.  I could see a feeling of the sub humanity of women to them.  Howell’s Bianchi was so much more than a cutout after a while, he really started to scare me: that compulsive liar, the ease of his tales, the cut-off between wanting to do something and actually doing it.  The way he had a girlfriend and kept wanting to have a baby with her when he was completely incapable of holding a job or even the trappings of a ‘normal’ life.  I recognised many parts of myself in the portrayal [yes, I must be a bit delusional - eeekkkkkk!], just played out differently.  I started to wonder how many of us are serial killers and torturers waiting to happen, just channelled elsewhere: loads of us, I think.  Struggling to do right things, good things, when their self-esteem leads them down much darker paths.  Its just that we are …either too cowardly or in the head, or cautious – or genuinely saved by different channelling, and manage to tell the difference between a fantasy and a reality…Whereas: when Bianchi met his horrible cousin, Turturro’s Buono, they had this fusive effect on each other of setting off the latent killers within.  Both in trouble for previous crimes against women, but amplified together to this shocking – and oddly passionless – idea of mutual revenge on women.  We were all laughing at them, see…Ohhh.  Clever little film – creeped me right out, and made me think.  Can’t believe Bianchi actually had work as a counsellor…Hmmmmmm. Oh, and a PERFECT horror synth theme from Danny Saber, that I cannot find ANYWHERE for sale.  Its small and just on the button for the period its mimicking.)

Kingsman: The Secret Service
(No one mentioned the mad levels of graphic gory cartoon violence when telling me how good this was.  Why was that not worth a mention?! The scene in the church alone is quite horrifying, because its relentless and far too long. The film is also highly CGI-ed, and not just the contortionist fight scenes – a lot of the normal bits: Colin Firth I could swear, was hugely adapted.  Walking like a much younger man.  The scenes with the exploding heads had a Clockwork Orange element to them, something very odd, that I couldn’t place between funny and shocking: such pretty jewel colours.  Eggsy very well cast.  Quite a transformation.)

(Now THIS felt like reality.  A total loser, all eyes, is creepy and wonderful and wins in the end, despite amazing brinkmanship.  Jake Gyllenhaal, as usual, wows and stuns as a quite realistic and believable Result Of Our Society.  Moral without moralising.)

(Enjoyed very much.  Oddly soulless.  Very very beautiful to look at.  The initial Mexican Day of the Dead scenes were beautifully put together.  The fight in the helicopter was vintage Bond; as was the return to slightly double-take-y Roger Moore era visual jokes.  Blofeld has sibling rivalry issues; but at least he still had a cat.  I enjoyed the still-new Q very much too.  Sad to not see more of Naomi Harris this time round.  I’d watch this again, for all it was stupid, when all’s said and done.  I liked the main female in this too – don’t remember seeing her in anything else, but enjoyed her pouty self-containment.  And the way Bond resigned [again] at the end.  I feel the next one will echo OHMSS…)