Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Things Must Pass

Do you know what I reckon is one of the greatest creations of the last 150 years? The camera.

About a month ago, I spent a couple of hours with my nieces and we looked through a suitcase full of old photographs that my parents had accrued by either taking their own or, like me, inheriting ones from bygone eras. It's amazing what looking at old photos do - what memories they conjure and some of those memories you think have long been consigned to the overflow.

I was particularly drawn to shots taken in the early 1970s; specifically my eldest brother's first wedding. Some of the photos were extraordinary in that they were really snapshots of 1973, from a backwater town at the arse end of Northamptonshire. In every picture, there was no mistaking what era we were looking at - the hairstyles, the fashion, the general look - somehow different than today and not in the bleedin' obvious way, either. You realise that fashion does indeed go around and around, but with variations - girls, you really probably wouldn't be seen dead in some of the dresses from 1973, but guys, some of the fashion was just blinding! There's one great shot of a group of my relatives and on the periphery is my uncle Frank - my godfather - he's 83 now, so he was as old as I am now then. Jesus Christ the man looked as cool as fuck. He had a suit on with drainpipe trousers and a really nicely cut jacket, smart shoes, pencil thin tie and, even though he was losing his hair even then, a style that must have looked totally old fashioned to all those hip and trendy fuckers with their bum length hair. The man radiated cool - no wonder I've always loved him to bits. It also proves one thing, everything that goes around, comes around, again!

Then there was this other photo... one of me... and suddenly I was back in 1973 and I shuddered. Just yesterday, driving through town, I saw this kid, he must have about 12. He had the exact same hairstyle as I did in 1973. I literally did a double take!

Moving on...

I'm really prohibited in what I say at the moment, which is a shame because my life has been pretty miserably exciting over the last 10 days. But, ne'mind, eh. Maybe one day.

Been watching a mixture of television recently, some of it has been startling, while others have been... well, we'll get to that...

I missed Being Human, the first time round, despite recommendations. Decided to check it out this time and have been blown away by the total uniqueness of it all. It is so very British, yet I'm amazed there hasn't been a big money move by the Yanks to buy this up and turn it into a blockbuster bollock-loaded hit. The brilliant thing about the series is the way in which the almost absurd normality of it has a way of biting you on the arse. I'm waiting for the final episode, despite being able to download it - it has needed that old fashioned British habit of watching it weekly rather than doing it in one sitting via bit torrents.

Warehouse 13 is shite. It is stymied by two wooden lead actors, some appallingly bad CGI and what almost seems to be a desperate need to be funny. Yet, if you strip away all the crap, there's something of a brilliant TV series struggling to get out.

It takes one of the most tantalising end shots in cinema history and literally makes an entire series about it. At the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc, the Arc of the Covenant was being packed away in a top security warehouse and I've met very few people who have loved that film who didn't wonder what else was kept in that warehouse... Well W13 answers that question - pretty badly.

But, as I said, there is something about this series that draws me back and recently I've begun to understand why. Saul Rubinek as Artie Nielsen is quite brilliant as the eccentric, but madly driven head of the actual warehouse. He has more secrets than a classic Victorian suspense novel and comes across as a man who knows that the series he's working on is considerably better than it looks. CCH Pounder plays the irritating but mesmerising as Mrs Frederic - the actual head of this TOP top secret programme - who appears to have a bit of a mystery around her that even Nielsen can't quite fathom. However, the series is let down by the poor Mulder and Scully copies in Eddie McLintock (Pete Lattimer) and Joanne Kelly (Myka Bering). McLintock is overbearing and really annoying, while Bering, aided by almost concrete like acting by Kelly, has as much charisma as a house brick - most of the time she appears to be pouting, suggesting that top Secret Service personnel are obviously trained in pouting and acting like a spoilt child. Yes, the series is supposed to tread that thin line between comedy and drama, but this does the drama really well.

One saving grace is Alison Scagliotti-Smith (Claudia) who apart from having a crush on Artie is literally a genius in a cute little body. She started off as a rather clever villain and has since been adopted by W13. There is a very good subplot involving a former W13 agent who knows as much as Artie about the artifacts and is a serious threat to world security; another interesting development is the discovery of who the guardians of W13 really are; and there's some promising stuff regarding Artie's actual persona and just what he has been involved in over the previous 30 years.

However, apart from some of the lame humour; it really is let down by some of the poorest special effects I've ever seen on a recent SyFy show (ugh, don't you just hate that name?). I expect it will cancelled, but I really think there's a truly brilliant idea here that is failing miserably to get out and that's a shame as the extraordinary Jane Espenson (of BtVS fame) is the show runner.

A footnote to this: I've been a fan of Eureka since it started, which is essentially a free form version of W13 and like W13 the most recent season (already a hold back from the writers' strike) has also suffered badly from awful CGI, suggesting to me that SyFy's love affair with its own produced shows might be coming to an end. Eureka has always trodden that line between drama and comedy, but for some reason, the comedy does work because of the premise; the drama also works very well, but whether that's because of money constraints or just clever writing, I don't know. But one thing appears to be sure about this particular TV show, unless you're the sheriff there's no guarantee that you're going to survive.

Amazing how you can write so much more about something that's not good?

A quick word about True Blood. Alan Ball appears to have done with monsters what he achieved with death - turned it into a hugely popular TV series. Unlike most of Six Feet Under, the dead don't stay buried for very long and the main protagonists aren't feuding undertakers but vampires, shape-shifters, demi-gods and possibly (in season 3) werewolves. For those of you still watching season 1, let me say that season 2 is a real hoot and takes the fantasy element completely out to left field. I'm surprised that it has been so welcomed in the USA, but maybe that's because they now have a black president, so anything is possible. One word of warning; season 2 has some plot holes you can drive a truck through (which may or may not be explained in tonight's US season finale), but because it turns into a riot from about the halfway mark, you tend to overlook them because of the spectacle unfolding in front of you. Suffice it to say, but if you thought season 1 was raucous, season 2 shows you why its on HBO and not Fox.


Everybody appears to be really happy about my shoulder; that is everybody except me. Pain has returned, but I'm assured by almost everyone that the pain I'm getting now is a good pain and means that I'm building up my muscles again and stretching those atrophied tendons. But at times it doesn't feel that way and I know I'm just being paranoid, but after months and months of pain I'm probably entitled to be a little nervous about everyone saying it's going to be 100% recovered. Maybe next physio appointment I have I'll ask why my upper arm goes spookily numb at times - almost like it's been removed without my knowledge.

But, talking shoulders; one of the kicks I did get at work when I returned was asking people if they wanted to see the scar. As you can probably guess, most wanted to, and all expected this ugly wound with stitch marks and all kinds of nastiness; so their reactions were all the more amusing when they saw that I have a scar smaller than some people's chicken pox scars. It is now literally a white X or a + depending on what angle you look at it. The wonders of keyhole surgery.

Interestingly, and also shoulder related, I play in a scrabble league and one of my opponents is an American lady who had rather Republican views about our NHS; so I put her right. I told her that I paid nothing for my operation; was given excellent aftercare, which includes up to 10 physio sessions, more if needed; that the hospital I was operated on was brand new, very clean and all the staff couldn't be more helpful. Her reaction was very good; she asked me about cock-ups and bad press and my response was everywhere gets bad press, but few places get good press; after all there's no headline in "Man makes an excellent recovery, goes home next week!" is there? I can't say I made a lasting change to her opinion of an NHS, but she admitted that she now has second hand experience, which is better than reading rabid right wing journalists or listening to idiotic Tories on Fox News.

It's Sunday afternoon; I should go and at least try and do something constructive...

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