web analytics

April 2013

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2013.

…well – almost!!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

parzivalI pontificated at some length – in this previous post – on the subject of the audition process for the Junior Play which I am directing at the School this term. The first full meeting of the cast – and the commencement of the rehearsal process – takes place later today, and I thought that this might be an appropriate time to provide – for the illumination of the gentle reader – some further details as to the nature of the production.

The piece is an adaptation of the Parzival story, taking as its source the major 13th century lyrical poem by Wolfram von Eschenbach – itself based on the earlier version by Chrétien de Troyes. I wrote the adaptation when at my previous school and it was performed there as the equivalent play for juniors in the summer of 2005 – the year that I left the school.

My ‘advert’ for this production – intended to arouse interest amongst the junior boys – read thus:

This ambitious project showcases a new adaptation for the stage of Wolfram’s epic lyric poem of knighthood, courtly love, honour and the search for the Grail. Battles, jousts, magical castles, magnificent feasts, gallant knights and beautiful maidens are all to be found within its compass. As befits such an epic production the play will be performed as a promenade in a number of locations around the School.

As an incentive this was clearly a success, since some forty nine boys auditioned for the twenty four roles. The piece was specifically written for boys of this age and aims to be a blend of comic book action, suitably dry humour and mythology – but with a subtle but healthy dose of more serious meaning lurking in the background.

The reader will have gleaned from the above that the piece is performed as a promenade. For those unfamiliar with the form of theatre this involves the audience being moved around to follow the action. This can range from a straightforward variety of different configurations in a studio theatre all the way up to the use of physically disparate locations – indoors and out – as we are doing here.

One of the drivers for doing the play in this manner at my previous school was that it possessed a splendid range of historic buildings, some dating back to the 15th century. We were thus able to make use of some wonderful medieval settings. My current school – though itself very old – is housed in modern buildings. This – naturally – presents more of a challenge. I will write further on how we overcome these difficulties as things progress.

If your mind is already boggled at the potential complexity of the production then – as certain famous Canadians are won’t to say – ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet!’  Wolfram’s Parzival is actually two overlapping stories wrapped up as one. There are two protagonists, Parzival and Gawan, and – though their paths cross at various points – the two strands are separate – wound around each other like the double helix. When I set about adapting the poem it occurred to me that the only way really to do it was to follow Wolfram’s model and to create two separate strands which would play simultaneously.

The play thus takes this form:

  • The first two scenes take place in front of the whole audience and set up all that follows.
  • At the end of the second scene the strands separate – as does the audience – half following each tale.
  • The subsequent scenes for each tale are played out contemporaneously in different locations.
  • The two strands re-combine for the final scene in which the protagonists are re-united and their quests resolved.

Well – these are bright boys and it seemed appropriate to set them a decent challenge.

I will – inevitably – write more regarding the production once things are under way.

Tags: , ,

Lies“In this treacherous world
Nothing is the truth nor a lie.
Everything depends on the color
Of the crystal through which one sees it”

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

As I write the streets are closed in the centre of London for the burial of the Baroness. Hectares of news print have already been expended on she-who-was-not-for-turning – seemingly as divisive in death as she was during her political career. I do not propose to add anything of my own in that regard.

I cannot – however – let the occasion pass without observing that the echoes of that time and of that particular administration still reverberate throughout modern Britain today and that – to my mind – much of our recent anguish has its origins in that period. One trait which first became apparent to me then and which I cannot abide – effectively that of kicking a man when he is down – seems again to have become accepted practice in recent times. This is – there can be little doubt – yet another side effect of the big lie that is at the heart of capitalism.

That lie – and it is a pernicious lie – holds that if the competitive free market were given its head and if we all take full responsibility for ourselves and strive with all our might, we can each attain the holy grail of success and fortune. The truth is that we can’t – any more than can each of the runners in the 100 metres final take home the gold medal. Any one of them might win – but not all of them can.

An alternative analogy. The lottery…

The focus of public interest in the lottery is, somewhat inevitably, the big winners. It should perhaps more pertinently be those who do not win. Were it not for the individual pounds or dollars that they contribute there would be no jackpot and thus no jackpot winner.  Again – though everyone that buys a ticket has a chance to win – not all of them can do so. Should – by some miracle – all those purchasing tickets just happen to chose the same numbers and should – by an even more miraculous occurrence – those numbers actually come up, then each contestant would simply win back their original stake… minus expenses! The lottery would stop working and no-one would ever play it again.

That this does not happen in practice is because the lottery is engineered not to work that way – in exactly the same manner that capitalism is engineered. Thatcher apparently held the view that those who were poor were responsible for their own condition and that to be poor was indicative of a flawed character. This is simply not the case. The poor are poor because – if this were not so – it would not be possible for the rich to be rich.

Capitalism relies on competition. Competition requires the incentive inherent in there being winners and losers. Though the prize money pot may grow bigger as the number of competitors increases, it does not do so because they compete harder! Capitalism – though probably the best we have – can never provide prosperity for all!

I have no issue with lionising those who win through their own hard work (though I do with those who cheat, lie or exploit the weaknesses of others) – what I can’t stomach is the demonisation of those who don’t.


Tags: , ,

Facebook_like_thumbSitting in the cafe at Bath Spa the Sunday before last indulging ourselves in a spot of post-detox lunch (one feels so much more virtuous entertaining a large glass of something white, crisp and chilled when one has just purged oneself for an hour or so in the sultry muculence of the steam rooms!) – the Kickass Canada Girl and I found ourselves sharing the ambience with the group at the next table. We had little choice in the matter since the table in question was occupied by a gaggle of raucous teenage girls!

I suppose it is an established fact that the majority of those who avail themselves of the facilities offered by these temples to the body beautiful are members of the gentler sex. This has certainly been my observation, and at Bath last week there did seem to be a preponderance both of groups of ladies of a certain age – doubtless on other occasions to be found lunching – and of throngs of turbulent teenagers. The Girl offered some pithy thoughts as to why these young shemales might feel the need to be quite so strident but I can’t really repeat them here for reasons of propriety.

Given that it was impossible to avoid overhearing the ‘conversation’ (though it is doubtful that such verbal exhibitionism could ever really be construed as an ‘informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words’ – as the definition has it) I found myself somewhat bemused by what was actually being said. Though the group as a whole seemed only too eager to demonstrate their linguistic limitations, the loudest of the three – the one sitting closest to us, naturally – appeared also to be trying to displace the definite article from its preeminence in the lexicon to be replaced by that which – according to a study by the OED of the Oxford English Corpus – is ranked no higher than fifty fourth.

I refer – of course – to the word – ‘like‘!

The dictionary definition of ‘like‘ runs thus:

      – of the same form, appearance, kind, character, amount, etc.

The Urban Dictionary adds these alternatives:

      – a term used by many junior high and high school students for having a crush.

      – in some teenage girls, a word spoken in between other words in a sentence.

      – the same as “said” or “spoke”.

The first is obvious. An example of the second might be:

      “Like, oh my God, that is, like, so wrong.”

…and the third:

      “So I was like, ‘duuuude’ and he was all ‘baaaabe’.”

Now – listening to someone inserting ‘like‘ between every third or fourth word in a sentence may set the teeth on edge in much the same way as does being subjected to the sound of fingernails on a blackboard – or indeed to the Brummie accent* – but nothing raises my hackles quite as effectively as this latter substitution. If one really must find an alternative to “said” – and is not prepared to do without it entirely – then the InterWebNet will happily furnish some hundreds of possible alternatives. None of them is – ‘was like‘!!

What I find most puzzling, however – given that these self-regarding youths undoubtedly pick up such linguistic tics from their favourite Hollywood movies or TV shows – is that they should have fixated on a meme that is getting on for a decade old.

I didn’t think that Bath was that far from the capital!


* Apologoys ter brummoys fer anny offence. Cor resist a cheap gag!


Subsequent to the long, dark days of winter it was good once again to be able – on our recent visit to Bath – to look for opportunities to capture some playful images with the Fuji X10. I hope that the gentle reader will indulge me if I post a few more of them:

 Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

With our customary impeccable timing the Kickass Canada Girl and I selected the weekend that spring chose to put in its first tentative appearance to make pilgrimage to the ancient Roman city of Bath – thereat to take the waters, to indulge in the consumption of fine comestibles and to otherwise generally recuperate following the long hard winter.

Bath is a regular haunt of ours for weekends away, though we are more often to be found there in October celebrating the Girl’s birthday. This visit will – we hope – provide a ‘full stop’ to the particularly tumultuous passage that has been the last six months – and mark the start of a bright new chapter.

Naturally I took the Fuji X10 to Bath with me…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

We took the opportunity whilst in Bath to visit the Rec to watch Bath take on Stade Français in the Amlin Cup quarter final. For those who are not afficionados I am – you may not be surprised to hear – referring to rugger! The Rec is quite the loveliest place to watch first class rugby and – though Bath were thoroughly outclassed by their French opponents on this occasion – we spent a splendid Saturday afternoon there, enjoying the feel of the sun on our faces.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , , ,

Photo by Roberta F.…or Google – or Facebook – or…

I have been meaning to post on this subject for quite some time – and since this is clearly the ‘ranting‘ season (don’t worry – it is a short season!) – and as Apple are once again in the news, making their iApologies to the Chinese – as are Google and Facebook with their frankly scary moves into political lobbying… now seems like as good a time as any!

Here is an interesting statistic. A Google search for the exact string “Why I don’t like Apple” returns in excess of a million references. A similar search for the string “Why I love Apple” returns only 146,000. What should we read into this? Well – almost certainly nothing – other than that these corporations might be best advised not to completely ignore their customers.

Now – I really don’t want to upset all the Apple-istas and Googlephiles out there. Apple does make some beautiful products – the iPad is a deeply impressive piece of work and I say that from the IT perspective and not just from the ‘cool design’ angle. Google has created some seriously useful tools – Google Maps and Streetview being a particular godsend when one is trying to purchase a property on a different continent. As for Facebook…? Well…!

These corporations do – however – have at least one thing in common. They all think that they know better than we do how we should use our technology.  Indeed they all seem to be of the opinion that their way is the best – nay, the only way…

There are legion examples for each of them of a high-handed approach to their customers’ desires, wishes and even rights. Apple’s refusal to countenance Flash, Google’s apparent disdain for the individual’s privacy and Facebook’s cavalier attitude to the sanctity of personal data are just a very few examples from the many that spring to mind. The corporations – naturally – make ‘good’ technical and philosophical cases as to why such policies should be enforced or allowed but the question must always be asked – and answered – “Is this really in the best interests of the customer, or is it simply to the advantage of the supplier?“.

What the customer actually wants is to be able to pick and choose from an extensive and varied technological palette. He – or she – expects that the solutions thus chosen will be safe – that they will cause no unimagined personal harm – and that whatever toys are selected they will play nicely together. Now – I am old enough and long enough in the tooth (read – cynical!) to know that – as a totality – this simply ain’t gonna happen. Business is business and none of these enterprises has achieved their current substance by making it easy for the customer to go elsewhere. Their modus operandi is to get us impaled on a sufficiently big hook that there can be no escape however hard we wriggle – and then to extract as much coinage over as long a period as is possible.

The adolescent multinationals also seek similar political and economic advantages to those hard won by the more seasoned representatives of their ilk. They see themselves as being a part of the new supranational elite, bearing allegiance to no nation – indeed to no-one but themselves and their shareholders. Google and Facebook are both spending heavily – for example – on lobbying for changes to US immigration policy to suit their own global ends – regardless of the desirability of such a course of action to the US itself.

Still – none of these are the real reasons that I don’t like Apple – or Google – or Facebook…

The real reason is that in each case these companies have pretended to be something that they are not. To distinguish themselves from old-fashioned, conventional, even staid corporates (‘straights’ as the parlance would once have had it) these eager, dynamic young ‘tech’ firms have all at one time or another painted themselves as being different – as being alternative, being edgy, unconventional.

“Hey!” – they murmured enticingly – “We are not part of ‘The System’ – we are part of the counter-culture. We are not ‘Them’! We are like you. We’re cool!“.

Well – don’t let the chic products and slick marketing fool you. In their own way these guys are as corporate and global as the rest of them – with all that that entails. As Pete Townsend astutely puts it:

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Tags: ,

film-70638_640Regular readers of this blog will know that the Kickass Canada Girl is a huge film buff. More than that she is also a great enthusiast for the whole cinema-going experience – VIP seats – buttered popcorn – the whole shebang! Before moving to the UK she was a frequent and regular visitor to her local multiplex and it didn’t much matter (within limits, naturally) what was showing. She just loved the whole adventure.

When the Girl arrived in the UK she hoped to replicate the experience here, but her efforts to that end were hampered by two discongruous factors. The first – that cinema-going in the UK is simply not on a par with its North American counterpart – might just have been overcome had it not been for the second – which is that I am quite the lousiest person with whom to share a visit to the palace of dreams.

It’s not that I don’t like films. I do – though I am, it must be admitted, what might be considered a ‘picky customer’. I would claim rather that I have high standards – but let’s not fall out over such niceties.

No – the problem is that I don’t much like going to the cinema. To be precise – and at the risk of coming over as exactly the sort of irritable old f*rt that I indubitably am – the real issue is that I don’t much like other cinema-goers. There’s more to it than that – of course – but a visit to the movie house rarely leaves me with a warm glow where my fellow man is concerned.

The Girl and I visited the cinema over the Easter weekend – to see ‘Side Effects’ as it happens (not bad at all – picks up appreciably in the third act – but I still don’t care much myself for Soderbergh’s signature ‘distance’). I pretty much missed the first twenty minutes or so, however, because I was struggling to get over the effects of the ‘pre-film’ to the point that I could achieve the requisite suspension of disbelief.

These are just some of the things that set my teeth on edge:

  • The 40 minutes through which one has to sit of adverts and trailers for films that one is never going to want to see – all edited using the sort of strobe-like effects that could induce seizures, whilst being played at ear-drum piercing volume…
  • Having then to put up with all those who chose not to sit through the above fighting their way through to their seats in the darkness – just as the main feature is starting…
  • Those who then – having thus entered late and forced their way through to their seats – spend a couple of minutes standing up in front of other people – taking off coats, hats, scarves etc – before finally settling…
  • Those who – having been responsible for the above – then hold a barely whispered conversation for the first 10 minutes of the film until someone ‘politely’ invites them to shut the f*ck up
  • Those who see nothing wrong with being responsible for the seemingly endless cacophony of coughs, sniffs, indelicate mastication, crunkled confectionery wrappers and so forth…
  • Those who insist on purchasing industrial sized containers of popcorn which they then – 1) eat a third of noisily over an extended period whilst alternately slurping indiscriminately at vast vats of ‘coke’ flavoured ice – 2) spread another third over the floor to be trodden into the carpet – 3) finally abandon the remainder in a veritable wasteland of personal detritus for some other poor sap to clear up…
  • Youths who – 1) put their feet on the seat in front and keep kicking one in the back – 2) go to the washrooms en mass every 20 minutes or so – 3) purchase wholesale quantities of confectionery to throw at other people in the dark – 4) leave noisily 10 minutes before the film ends…
  • Those most irritating people who insist on getting up, putting on their coats, talking noisily, pushing their way along the rows and leaving the auditorium the very second the film ends – regardless of the fact that some of us want to sit in the dark watching the credits and absorbing what we have just seen

I could go on – but I feel the Girl’s eyes on the back of my head (metaphorically) giving me a disapproving glare – so I will quit whilst I am (notionally) ahead.


When we lived in Buckinghamshire we belonged to a rather splendid film club which rented the screening cinema at Pinewood Studios on weekend evenings. There was a bar – large comfy seats with loads of legroom – an absence of commercials and trailers – an audience with a certain demographic – and an atmosphere most conducive to the celebration of celluloidal confections.

Sadly – since we left we have heard that the studio has terminated the film club’s lease. Really most short-sighted of them…

Tags: ,