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The Unreliable Narrator

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Dirge Without Music
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I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and laurel they go: but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains - but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love -
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind:
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

--
Edna St Vincent Millay

Space: 1999: 2010
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I'm working my way through Space:1999 (series one) for the first time in many, many years. I loved it as a 14-year-old. I was so happy to have some expensive sf to watch that I tried to overlook the hopelessly implausible and astonishingly cumbersome plot device of the whole Moon rushing through the galaxy after being blasted out of Earth's orbit.

Crisply remastered from 35mm film to Blu-Ray, I'm disappointed that the sfx aren't as polished as I remember them. In fact, none of it is as good as I remember it.

Blu-Ray detail on a large screen can be unforgiving. Some of the sfx film processing looks decidedly dodgy, with visible wires, armatures, light leakage and reciprocity failure around the edge of the frame. It's also clear that the majority of the multi-element sfx (Eagle, moon, stars) is simple animated double-exposure work using photographs, rather than the more sophisticated models and moving mattes, which would allow objects to pass in front of one another. This reduces the quality of the sfx, and the Eagles sometimes look decidedly blurry (a film-of-a-photograph blurry) and stilted. Also, the same sfx are endlessly recycled in the same episode, and across episodes. Possibly not so noticeable in 1975 with a week between broadcasts, but painfully obvious watching episodes back to back.

Production design values suffer as Blu-Ray mercilessly reveals the rather tacky but colourfully meaningless equipment details which may have looked sufficiently sciencey on a low-res 70s colour telly, but now just look bonkers-random and cheesy.

Oh, and flared trousers.

Ironically, given the expensive facelift, the whole show looks much cheaper now.

Needless to say, the stories, scripts, acting, direction and scientific understanding remain arse-clenchingly execrable. Nothing re-mastering can do about that, I'm afraid.

Kevin Spacey or Alan Arkin?
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As I predicted, I have been offered the part of either Williamson or Aaranow in Glengarry Glen Ross. I am happy with either, but I don't get to choose. For possibly the first time ever I am considered too old for a part: the director wants to cast a younger Williamson if he can. He is hearing two more actors - one older than me, one younger, and if the younger one clinches Williamson, then I get Aaranow. If the older one pulls off a convincing Aaranow, then I get Williamson.

Aaranow is within my capabilities, I think. A bitter, easily-led man at the arse-end of a career he never really chose. Plot-wise, he is principally there as a decoy to lead the audience away from the Big Reveal. Williamson is more of a challenge for me. His character is almost defined by what he doesn't say. He is an authority figure, a controller, who doesn't need to say that much. It will take more work to convince an audience that I am the boss rather than a minion.

Interestingly, the director has cast an Asian as Moss. Given that Moss is the principal racist and uses the most racist language, the irony could work, but I'm yet to be convinced.

Am Dram
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Last night I used up my obscenity quota for the year. I auditioned for a role - any role - in Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet's deliciously sweary play about desperate, middle-aged salesmen. At last, a part I am built for.

It was a humbling experience. I was hopelessly ill-prepared, my Merkin accent remains shit, and it didn't help that two other guys there nailed the accent and characters brilliantly. But one of them is Asian, and this play is indisputably about the white male experience. He read extremely well, but to cast him would require some imaginative direction or unthinkable script butchery - not because casting Asian actors is a problem, but because the principal characters in the play are explicitly or tacitly racist, reserving especial bile for 'Indians' called 'Patel', and it's important to both plot and character. It is a naturalistic play, so to have an obviously Asian actor among the bigots is going to look a little weird, like a man playing a lesbian. You can only suspend disbelief so much. But no director ever has the perfect cast available to them and I'm just glad it's not me that has to make the casting decisions.

I suspect I may get cast, not because I think I deserve a role, but as a reward for showing up; there were only enough actors at the audition to make up the cast. I suspect the director will make some phone calls today; the group has several other actors of the right age who didn't show up.

If I do get cast, I doubt I made a good enough impression to land the juicier roles of Roma or Moss (the ultra-competitive salemen). Even if the director elects not to cast the Asian guy in either of those roles, I'm sure he would have someone else in mind because I doubt I made the cut. I don't think I'll be offered the browbeaten client Lingk or the older Shelley Levene around whom the play revolves, because I didn't read for either of them. I'm not imposing enough to play the police officer, Baylen, so that leaves either Williamson (the younger, taciturn office manager) or Aaronow (the failing, self-critical, easily-led salesman). I'd be more than happy playing either of those.

Reposted from Simon Singh:
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This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at libelreform.org.

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at libelreform.org

Hawk Flight, January 1997
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Just what the world needs, another cheesy YouTube video from me...


What Should I Be Listening To, Daddio?
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Following on from my previous post, it occurs to me that instead of worrying about my indifference to music I should make efforts to educate myself by actually listening to some. I am unutterably bored with my own horrifying taste in music, so I thought I might try yours instead. You are enormously tasteful, eclectic people who wouldn't be caught dead listening to the banalities on NME's 100 Best Albums Of All Time, so tell me: what should I listen to? Please suggest a track, or even an album, that will grab me by the balls, tear my heart out and absolutely, positively make me think "Hmm, I quite liked that..."

Music
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I was showing my in-laws some HD video that I'd put together last weekend - as you do - and my mother-in-law asked me where I got the music from. The answer was simple: I have so few albums in my collection that I generally use the same half-dozen artists' tracks over and over again. The music is the last thing I think about, and generally just stick it on at the end of the editing process. I always find some ambient instrumental that fits without analysing it too much.

You see, I'm not really that into music. Don't think I've bought any new music in years. Which makes me think I have a problem. Music is as popular as breathing, and for some people just as important. But I can happily live without it, and I do. Like religion and sport, it's something that I just don't grok.

My early tastes in music weren't mine at all - they were my best friend's tastes. Or, more accurately, his elder brother's tastes because we couldn't afford our own LPs and would borrow his, which were all Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis and Tangerine Dream. I made some righteous faux pas while trying to decide on what I might like, mainly because I couldn't tell good music from bad. I lost one girlfriend who got really into punk, but I thought music was all about virtuosity and tried to woo her with some Rick Wakeman keyboard solos. See? Clueless.

I bought LPs and went to gigs when I could afford them, by artists that the cool kids talked about. I had no other means of discernment. I bought a quality stereo system on the never-never in order to listen to them at their best. So, there I am, putting myself through Husker Du's Electric Circus and still something was missing. And it was this: Enjoyment. I was not having the transports of emotion that were claimed for all sorts of music. The best I could manage was a mild intellectual satisfaction at a song well sung, and even that was lost once I knew the lyrics, which were always so much more prosaic than what I imagined they were singing about. What I thought to be a quote from Finnegans Wake always turned out to be as dull as a mortgage application form.

I suspect that's when my tastes, such as they were, veered more towards classical and instrumental music: I could impose my own meaning on the sound, which was invariably more satisfying than some 6th-form poseur wailing in my ear about why his girlfriend left him. By this time listening to music had become a sort of grim duty, and despite extensive sampling I was unable to find anything that would give me an aural orgasm, or even a mild thrill, in the way some people seem to experience it. An iPod is way down my wish list.

To dislike certain artists is acceptable, even compulsory, but to dislike music itself seems almost perverse. No one wants to be considered weird, so that's why I still listen on occasion, and buy music just to keep up appearances. Oddly, though, I enjoy making music, though I am by far the world's worst musician.

I worry that I'm missing a gland, but given that it's probably the same gland responsible for appreciating sport and religion, I can probably live without it.

A Post of No Consequence
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Was up all night staring at the back of the toilet door in soul-crushing misery. I blame the Marks & Spencer lemon sole. At least I hope it was that and not the beer. Don't want to return to the alcohol-sensitivity that's plagued me since last November, thank you very much. Not when I've got several boozy weekends lined up. So... a sickie today to catch up on the sleep I was robbed of last night, stomach feels grumbly so best not eat anything for a while. Plenty of fluids, etc, and no Internet or I'll start to feel guilty that I'm not working. Er...

Sorry for the Delay
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Now, where was I? Oh yes, I've been away, in a figurative sense, just arseing about on Facebook for a couple of months which has its attractions but I missed LJ, so now I'm back and hope to be a better blogger in future.

I'm sure you're all pleased to see me back, and understand that it wasn't anything personal given that I friended most of you on FB anyway. Now all I have to do is figure out how to connect these entries to my FB account and then I ... hello? Hello? Anyone there? Oh bugger.

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