Saturday, 22 December 2012
Friday, 21 December 2012
Friday, 23 November 2012
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Friday, 9 November 2012
Wednesday, 31 October 2012
It begins with a competition.
Saturday, 27 October 2012
Friday, 19 October 2012
Friday, 21 September 2012
Saturday, 15 September 2012
I had the chance to visit the place where the Battle of Bosworth Field apparently didn’t actually happen (as recounted here) and as stated, just by the canal is a rather sweet little memorial at the spot where, tradition has it, Richard died. If memory serves, the small monument had an inscription to ‘the last English king’ which was odd as the Plantagenets were French. As the peerless 1066 & All That points out, the last English king of England was Edward the Confessor as after that we have Harold (Danish), the Normans and then Plantagenets (French) then the Tudors (Welsh) and the Stuarts (Scottish) and finally the Hanovers/Windsors (German). And people say that the English are insular.
It is thought that the skeleton might be Richard because it has signs of curvature of the spine. I had thought that version of him was Tudor propaganda (x-rays have shown that the famous portrait of him was later altered) and wonder what this will do for those people who believe him to be a highly maligned figure.
I’m sure you’ve heard about this, Richard was a good king who didn’t murder the Princes in the Tower (though I side with George MacDonald Fraser who, like Cicero, asked cui bono) and was an all-round good egg unlike the untrustworthy wife-executing and altogether a bit too Celtic Tudors. It’s one of those things that people get surprisingly wound up about to the surprise to outsiders. Other instances I’ve recently come across on the net include the behaviour of George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars films, the behaviour of the Doctor in the most recent episode of Dr Who and the incidental music in the last couple of seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation which apparently spoilt one poor chap’s childhood.
The observant amongst you, ie all of you, will notice that all these examples above come from the world of science fiction film and television. I do paddle in the shallows of that particular fandom and one of the attractions is the high emotions that it produces in a few unhappy souls. ‘But what about the pain Jackson caused me!’ wailed one commentator on a forum about the Lord of the Rings films in response to the moderator complaining that his increasingly vicious comments were causing pain to others. You get it with Sherlock Holmes fans as well where liking the recent Robert Downey characterisation is a sin beyond forgiveness or redemption. I know connoisseurs of horror cinema who still hold Barry Norman in open contempt for his many slights on their preferred genre.
In the meantime, here’s the excellent Horrible Histories programme doing old King Dick with full admiration and open worship to whoever came up with rhyming ‘can you imagine it’ with ‘Plantagenet’.
Saturday, 8 September 2012
Friday, 31 August 2012
Friday, 24 August 2012
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Saturday, 5 May 2012
Friday, 16 March 2012
A friend gave me this slightly plaintive looking moomin as a present recently:
The Moomins were, of course, created by Tove Jansson and if you haven’t read the eight volumes that make up what is somewhat grandiosely known as The Moomin Saga, then you have a treat in store.
They are children’s books sure enough, but such joyous ones. Or at least the early ones are.There’s a facebook application where you can identify which Moomin character you most resemble. I took it and was informed that I was Moomintroll:
I was slightly disappointed as for all that Moomintroll is, pretty much, the hero of the series and is in all but one of the books, I had been holding out for Snufkin, who is so much cooler.
The first five books are cheerful enough, though Moominvalley Midwinter has a melancholy streak to it.
But the surprising one is Moominpappa at Sea.
I suspect that these days children’s books about the male menopause pretty much fill up the kids’ shelves in Waterstones, but back in the early ‘70s they were not so common. I remember my mother reading this one to me as a bedtime story and stopping off now and again to ask me if I wanted her to continue. I did, but in a wide-eyed, slightly scared way. It’s an uncomfortable read yet, though excellent.
The joy of the stories is the number of sympathetic and beautifully drawn characters. There’s the Hemulen who always wore a dress that he had inherited from his aunt:
the sinister yet ultimately tragic Groke:
the mysterious and enigmatic Hattifatteners:
and if you find the Snork Maiden a bit too pliant a female character:
she is all but off-set by the true star of the series, Little My!
Tove Jansson also wrote excellent books for adults, but that is for another time. For the moment, let’s finish with the last words of The Exploits of Moominpappa:
"…a new day…can always bring you anything if you have no objection to it."
Saturday, 10 March 2012
I recently read Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, mainly as a result of hearing an radio documentary about the character who is apparently a century old this year. It turned out to one of those books that is startlingly unlike what you are expecting. Previous examples I have come across are You Only Live Twice, the James Bond novel, which is breathtakingly unlike the film, and The Day of the Triffids which we read at school. I still remember my fellow pupils saying with increasing desperation, ‘But when are we going to get to the bit in the lighthouse?’*
*This makes sense if you’re of the age to have seen the 1962 film version which starred Howard Keel for some reason.
Weirdly enough, Tarzan in the first instance can speak Apeish but read English, having found books for his education in his parents’ hut. In one of the more disconcerting sequences of the novel, he takes a few years to teach himself to read, with the skeletons of his parents lying by him. He does not know that they are his parents, but it still makes for an odd, yet touching, image. Oh, and if you think it is unlikely that a teenager could teach himself to read from first principles with only the aid of a primer, at least it is more probable than Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where the creature learns to read by peering through the hole in the wall of a peasant’s cottage, this view luckily allowing him to look over a child’s shoulder as she looks at her school books. Honest.
I have a soft spot for Edgar Rice Burroughs and first read him as a child, specifically At the Earth’s Core which was a highly entertaining film at a time when decent children's films were few and far between.
Anyway, onto this bleak cinematic landscape, At the Earth’s Core burst with a glorious pre-Star Wars exuberance. With truly appalling special effects (only its predecessor, The Land That Time Forgot had worse, again ask any UK subject in their ‘40s about the pterodactyl in that film, I dare you) and a cast that included Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro and the thrice blesséd Doug McClure, it was a joy, an action filled adventure about two Edwardian adventurers who gain egress to an underground world by virtue of brilliantly designed mechanical ‘mole’.
Or so I remember. In a move I may well come to regret, I have ordered At the Earth’s Core from lovefilm and I suspect that it may not quite live up to my memories. But just as Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner was compelled to shoot the albatross, I am similarly bound to do this.
Mind you, I might appreciate Ms Munro a bit more on this viewing.
Wish me luck.