Friday, January 10, 2003

I was saddened to hear (via Peter Briffa) of the death of composer Ron Goodwin. His tremendous scores for 633 Squadron and Where Eagles Dare set the standard for war movie music in the Sixties.

We've also lost Conrad Hall this week, the cinematographer of classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kind and Cool Hand Luke. He continued to work to the age of 75, working with Sam Mendes on American Beauty (for which he won his second Oscar) and the transcendently beautiful Road to Perdition. His son, Conrad W. Hall is following in his father's footsteps and has already shot the dark, moody Panic Room with David Fincher.

They'll both be missed by film lovers everywhere.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

This Corrosion

The Guardian is revelling in a little brouhaha of its own making. Since emblazoning the logo "Fuck Cilla Black" on front of its G2 supplement on Tuesday it has published articles supporting and condemning the cover and a discussion of what a wonderfully clever little debate they have provoked. Jonathan Freedland is not impressed:

As both the internal and external debate is proving, this is tricky terrain for the Guardian tribe. We, readers and writers alike, pride ourselves on our liberalism and tolerance. We are not like those Daily Mail curtain-twitchers, forever fainting with shock at some new Channel 4 or Turner Prize outrage. We know that sex is nothing to be ashamed of and that language moves on; none of us wants to turn the clock back to those 1950s days of censorship and repression.

Freedland's eagerness to disassociate his liberal concern from fusty conservative knee-jerking is a bit of a laugh because his disapproval of pop videos and adverts could just as easily have been expressed by any self-appointed moral guardian on the right. This passage sums it up nicely:

What can we do? Progressives need to drop their congenital worry about seeming prudish, repressed or unhip and start to speak out whenever they see yet another corrosion of the culture.

The new prudes won't call for anything as vulgar as filthy old censorship. Instead they'll campaign for "voluntary codes" or "agreements" based on their enlightened principles. But Freedland's Neoprudism is the same old condescension dressed in politically correct clothing, complete with its own brand of hand-wringing concern and humourlessness. Predictably, it is shot through with thoroughly old-fashioned snobbery as it rails against the latest perceived excesses on television, the medium most despised by elitists. What Jonathan Freedland considers corrosion of the culture isn't any such thing. It simply is the culture.

The legion of busybodies he wishes to recruit from across the political spectrum hopefully won't materialise but if they do try they can be countered quite easily by asking them what the hell makes them a better judge of what's good for us than you or I. The classic response to self-righteousness is still the most convincing. If you find a music video crass, turn it off. If you don't like the way a product is advertised, don't buy it. There are plenty of things going on in the world more interesting than Christina Aguilera's gyrations. A bit of perspective, please?

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Grandiose White Man With Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

I haven't seen Bowling for Columbine so I'm not going to pass any sort of judgment on it. However, Rachel Lucas is all over the big guy after he blew a gasket at the Roundhouse during his one-man show:

American satirist Michael Moore has stormed out of Britain after a bust up with the London theatre hosting his one-man show. The Bowling For Columbine moviemaker performed Michael Moore - Live! to packed audiences for two months before Christmas at The Roundhouse in Camden, North London. But on the penultimate night he reportedly flew into a rage, verbally attacked everyone associated with the theatre because he thought he wasn't being paid enough. During the performance he complained he was making just $750 a night. A member of the stage crew says, "He completely lost the plot. He stormed around all day screaming at everyone, even the £5-an-hour bar staff, telling them how we were all conmen and useless. Then he went on stage and did it in public." Staff retaliated by refusing to work the following night, which led to the show being held up for an hour. Eventually he made a groveling apology to staff and the angry audience finally took to their seats. A source reports that Moore then packed his bags and flew to New York the next day without saying thank you or goodbye to anyone.

To be fair, I have sometimes found Moore pretty funny - TV Nation was laugh-out-loud stuff most of the time. But honestly, you would need to be pretty po-faced not to smile at the irony of this supposed ally of the ordinary working Joe being the subject of a walkout. Give him a few more years of fame and fortune and he might even transform into a spindly nemesis of the working man akin to Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. Via Iain Murray.

Monday, January 06, 2003

...and the ugly horse you rode in on!

The American Libertarian Party is working to scrap as many blue laws as they can this year. This is a name given to the jumble of archaic, often surreal rules and regulations which have somehow survived the passage of time and still provide a few lawyers with work:

The oldest blue laws are among the most surreal. In Logan County, Colorado, and Miami, Florida, monsters are banned from town limits after dark and, in Nevada, from bathrooms at any time. In Wilbur, Washington, it is illegal to ride an ugly horse.

Animals feature heavily in local lawmaking: in land-locked Oklahoma it is illegal to hunt a whale, although whales are the only animals Tennessee hunters are allowed to shoot from a speeding car. Donkeys are not allowed to sleep in Brooklyn baths.

Crazy stuff of course, but I hope they are able to hit some bigger targets too.

Guns of Brixton, Aston, Hackney, Everywhere

There's nothing more horrible than young people having their lives snuffed out needlessly but the goverment's response to the Birmingham shootings at New Year is spectacularly ill-considered and smacks of the most naked opportunism. They would like us to buy real estate in their land of make-believe where hardened criminal gangs, not having been deterred in the slightest by the gun ban following Dunblane, are now going to be stopped in their tracks by more legislation - as if by magic!

You'd think it might have occured to the legislators that after five years of escalating gun violence in English cities gangs don't actually give a shit about gun bans.

Mark Steyn hits it on the head as usual. I'm disconcerted to read that the Yardies have reached unexciting old Toronto, but there's the consolation of knowing that while they are running around on their nefarious errands at least they will be frozen stiff this time of year. I had no idea what real cold was until I experienced the bracing January wind from Lake Ontario a few years ago - a balmy minus 29 degrees with the windchill factor.

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