Monday, 31 December 2007

Best wishes for 2008

What will you be doing tonight? Drinking champagne and nibbling on blinis and gravadlax with sour cream and dill, while watching whatever is on the telly, that’s what my partner and I will be doing. Warm and cosy, we will be. Aaah!

What we won’t be doing is standing in the freezing cold, in the middle of the pavement outside John Lewis, on Oxford Street, armed with an instant camera. We won’t be stopping people on their way to the river to watch the fireworks and trying to take their photograph for a £1 so they can cherish a record of the night forever. No, we won’t. On the other hand, we won’t be collecting over £20 to send to a cancer charity, either.

Been there, done that. Yep, on 31 December 1999. I bet those twenty odd people (well, they weren’t odd, we were) are very glad to have a photograph of themselves on Millennium night. Wouldn’t you? Hmm... perhaps it wasn’t one of my better ideas.

Anyway, whatever you’re doing tonight, I hope it’s fun and memorable.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Where will it stop?

It’s just past one o’clock in the morning; I’m working while listening to the television (don’t worry about the neighbours: I’m using earphones so as not to disturb them). I’ve just heard an ad for a chain of women’s clothing: it said something like, ‘Sale starts tomorrow – five a.m.’

If I hadn’t watched the news earlier today I might have thought there was some mistake, but, no, apparently people were queuing outside department stores this morning at four. And then they fought over ‘stuff’ like animals. I saw women grabbing armfuls of handbags in Selfridges, for instance. I felt nauseated. Nothing repels me more these days than people who spend spend spend. Those who feel they have to ‘own’ everything they see, whether they can afford it or not. Those who boast of being shopaholics and are not ashamed of their addiction. Those for whom possessions replace achievements, or non-materialistic aspirations.


Saturday, 22 December 2007

Friday, 14 December 2007

Language matters

Do you know why British kids are not required to learn foreign languages past the age of 14? No, it’s not because there aren’t enough teachers. Nor is it because there isn’t time for foreign languages in the curriculum. Nope, as an official revealed the other day on BBC Radio 4, it’s because students – er – I mean, pupils can’t express themselves in English so there is no point in trying to make them speak another language, is there?

Good, eh? If you remove foreign languages from the curriculum, teachers don’t waste their time and kids don’t fail, and everyone’s happy.

Does it mean that pupils will acquire a better command of English when they’re not being bothered by pesky irregular French verbs? What do you think? What will replace foreign languages? More English lessons? Probably not. Will the kids spend their newly-found free time reading? I don’t think so. If would-be writers need to be told to read, as I discovered recently, why should teenagers, who would rather be playing computer games, bury their noses in old-fashioned books? But if they don’t read they will never be able to use all the wonderful possibilities offered by their mother-tongue. Like interesting figures of speech, for instance: puns or rhetorical questions or irony*, say.**

Slapping short-sighted educators and literal-minded people while I’m at it.

*Some folks are better at irony (using it and getting it) than others: I’m told it’s a cultural thang.

**Homework for the above-mentioned lmp: find one instance of each in this post.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Happy Hanukkah!

Hope you all have a great time.

I also hope that, when it’s over, you won't have any trouble removing the melted wax from your menorah. And since I’m a very practical person I will tell you how to do it (read it somewhere; wish I’d known the secret long ago): you use a hairdryer to soften the wax and then it comes off easily. That’s it!

Update (5/12/07): I didn’t think Hanukkah would provide me with a slap, but I've just read this item in thelondonpaper:

‘Celebrate the festival of light
To mark Hanukkah, the V&A are putting on a special celebration which includes gospel singing workshops, sitar recitals and Buddhist meditation.’

And while I’m at it I think I should slap the contestants of last Monday’s Brain of Britain Radio 4. None of them managed to name the Jewish festival that usually falls in December and commemorates... etc. etc.

Remind me again what Christian festival is celebrated around the end of December...


Monday, 3 December 2007

Can't have one without the other

Whenever I watch Law & Order I wait for the Fed Ex van to drive past in the background, while whatshisname and whatshisname (I’m very bad with character names; hey, I’ve only been watching it for ten years; Briscoe and... nope...) are out wisecracking in the streets of New York City. There is one in every episode (sometimes two).

That’s product placement, that is. (Whereas my previous post wasn’t. I said that already, I know. That is called ‘padding’.)

It annoys me. A lot.

Like, earlier tonight, BBC2 showed a fillum (the guy on Channel 4 says that, always; he’s cute) entitled Chopper by whatshisname – oh, OK, I’ll go check – by Andrew Dominik. Why? Because his new film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (don’t tell me he never saw The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade – is it just titles with the word ‘assassination’ in them that are a mile long?), what was I saying, because his new film opened here a few days ago. What other reason could there be?

When Elizabeth – The Golden Age came out recently we were treated with another showing of the first film. It’s regular as clockwork. However, sometimes, they can’t get their act together, quite, and funny things happen, like with the Ice Age series. ITV showed Ice Age one afternoon and then, to everyone’s amazement, they showed it again less than two weeks later. What had happened ? Yes, you got it: Ice Age: The Meltdown had been released in the meantime. Someone had f***** up big time.

So, whenever a big film is released, we get shown a film by the same director or with the same film star. Why? Why is television linked thus to the cinema? I don’t mind so much when it’s the commercial channels that do it, but when it’s the BBC it’s our money they’re using to promote those films, instead of using it to make original programmes. We’re not getting the royalties, are we? I was particularly upset a little while ago, when it seemed that Stephen Poliakoff’s entire oeuvre was going to be shown again before the unveiling of his latest pretentious, portentous, puffed up offering.

And now it’s not just TV that’s hand in hand with the cinema; it’s radio too. Military animals were mentioned for the first time in The Archers a few weeks ago. It was around 11 November, but still. My first thought was that they were promoting War Horse, which is currently on at the National Theatre (I’m seeing it at the end of January; I’ve already started to collect tissues to take on the night). And, the other day, Mariella Frostrup (don't like her, but like programmes about books) mentioned a new book about Sweeney Todd. Why? Yes, of course! Tim Burton, Johnny Depp... very soon... at a cinema near you.