The missing link.

Tonight I watched the ITV production of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  I thought that it was generally good (I’m something of a closeted Austen fan), but I was distracted by actor William Beck, who played John Thorpe.

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This is William Beck.

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And this is him in character in Northanger Abbey.

Now, look at this man.  He looks familiar doesn’t he?  I first thought that he was a comic actor and then part of a musical duo but then I realised that he was the offspring of both.  For William Beck, also known for his stellar work in The Bill, is in fact the child of:

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Robert Webb…

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…and Jemaine Clement.

Poetry.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a big reader of things. I tend to imagine voices and think about timbre and delivery when I read, meaning that it’s generally a slow process that I tire of easily. This is perhaps doubly true when it comes to poetry, which I admire from afar but don’t have much of an interest in. I find the fruity language to be interesting and the metaphors clever and satisfying but, well, the majority of poetry that I seem to have read has either been far too flouncy or far too bleak.

However, I have recently discovered Philip Larkin, who seems to write in such simple and graceful terms about the things that genuinely interest me (the human condition within somewhat quietly aggressive misanthropy) and it is absolutely marvelous.

Suddenly all of that time spent thinking that poetry was not for me fades away into nothing.

Humanist.

Well, I’m back following the hiatus caused by my lack of laptop (which fell foul to a broken charger), and, honestly, I’m angry about things. Mostly, brothers and sisters, religion.

I was never raised in any particular religion and have, as a subsequence always been open minded when it came to fate and understanding of where our morality comes from. The idea of a god-like figure never sat easily with me and, recently, I realised that I was more or less hiding behind the term “agnostic” to sum up what I believed (or didn’t) and came out of the denominational closet and announced myself as being an atheist. And I found this to be a very good thing to do. I now take an active interest in Humanistic thinking and ethics; believing that life is actually all there is really frees up time and effort to actually enjoy life. I find that it is a sensible and rewarding view to have in life, and one that I take a pride in.

It does however mean that I have even less patience with religion – particularly organised religion – than ever before. I’m not going to rant on my personal feelings or views on what I think of individual faiths or religions (after all, I respect others who worship in a certain way, I just don’t agree with it) but I was so offended by the following article by Christian Voice (who are essentially to Christianity what the National Front is to politics) about a Gay Rights march in Brighton on 10th August, 2007. The article can be found here: http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/Press/press045.html

One paragraph reads:

“‘Shame on you’, chanted an overweight man, clutching his ‘boyfriend’s’ hand, seemingly unaware of the paradox of accusing others of shame while foaming out his own shame (Jude 1:13). Such perversion merely demonstrates the truth of the Bible when it says ‘the unjust knoweth no shame’ (Zeph 3:5). The Apostle Paul also writes of those ‘Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly (Greek ‘koilia’) and whose glory is in their shame’ (Phil 3:19).”

Not much in the way of love or understanding there. The article follows this dictat of pathetic and outdated homophobia while constantly ramming home scripture, presumably as some kind of justification. Interestingly (especially given my earlier comparison) the National Front are mentioned as they too protested the march, which Christian Voice seem to object to, not because of the racism and hatred that the NF convey but because they were aping their protests:

“Funny how the NF have just picked up on the idea of protesting at gay pride events, three years after we started in London 2005. Could it be that some homosexual in the NF has worked out that their presence could devalue ours? No, they aren’t that bright, surely? But just maybe the spirit of homosexuality is still as inseparable from national socialism as it was when the Nazi Party began its obscene life in a Munich gay bar.”

Seems like there’s a war of who hates the gays the most.

It is disturbing indeed that Christian Voice can get away with much of what they say because they are a religious organisation, thus, on the “side of good”. It goes to show the dangers that can exist if you treat a 2000 year old book, written two hundred years after the fact and translated, subverted and censored by propagandist authors of numerous religious and political powers as the “truth” that life should be lived by. I don’t agree with religion at all, but I recognise that there are practitioners who are adaptable, open minded and tolerant. All that Christian Voice seem to be is a bunch of paranoid, outdated extremists who feel the need to picket everything from theatre shows to bus hoardings not because they believe in what they preach but because they are in such desperate need of spiritual control because the thought of life scares them so much. After all, this is a group who’s spokesman, Stephen Green, told the BBC that “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large”.

But then, that’s the mentality of some people. I’ll close with Stewart Lee, who sums up the inherent stupidity of it all better than I can.

Animals

There are things in life that are too practical to be fun, or too funny to be practical. Although this statement is true for a huge proportion of the time, there are the occasional little gems of things that are so silly and ridiculous that they can only be clever and pioneering.

While on a bored Wikipedia expedition last night I found an article about animals that are used in different services in human life. There are the obvious things like guide dogs (and guide horses, for those with allergies of dogs but, presumably, not horses) and police horses. But then I found that there were, in Boston, Massachusetts, a group of people called Helping Hands, who provided training for monkeys to provide living support to people who have been paralysed.

I thought that this was someone having a joke, but, upon further investigation, found it to be the absolute truth. And what a great idea it is. This video demonstrates why.

Predictably, a lot of the commenters on these videos are either saying that it is cruel for the monkeys to live with humans or that it is patronising for the people with the disabilities to be given a monkey for these aspects of their care. But this video, submitted by a man for whom care is provided in such a way, manages to dispel all of these negative views.

Pretty amazing.

And while I’m in this kind of mood, here is a video of a penguin that goes shopping.

Only in Japan.

Google-fu(lish)

About three years ago, I caught a performance that I really liked on Top of the Pops 2. I wanted to get a copy of the song, but the only thing that I could remember (other than a vague recollection of the tune and it having a decent bassline) were the words “country club” in the chorus.

The song that I wanted was this

but what I actually ended up with was this

Thus lies the problem with ill informed and badly worded Google searches. It also demonstrates how lucky we are for having youtube so new wave fans with bad memories don’t download rubbish country songs three times.

The lowest cultural denominator

I don’t like television much. This isn’t to say that I am against the programmes that appear on it, rather I feel that it is a waste of life and energy to sit down at a certain place at a certain time to watch whatever is on. People tend to become slaves to their favourite channels’ schedules, spending countless hours programming videos and countless more in the perpetual stress of whether this was done right. At least when people worried about the gas being left on it was because you’re house was in jeopardy.

David Byrne once said that the ideal television show would be either 30 seconds or 8 hours long, and with that in mind comes this, the sublime opening sequence to Japan’s own Cowboy Bebop. The sequence is so powerful that the show wanes behind it, but that’s no bad thing. It’s possibly the best opening to a TV show ever, with the possible exception of the Pink Panther cartoons. What the show is about doesn’t really matter – this just hits you in the face and takes you with it.

Naturally there are other curios to be found when looking at such things. My favourite show theme of all time is Sam’s Bar (Where Everybody Knows Your Name) from Cheers, and was pleased to find the following video of a middle aged man doing a solo rendition on classical guitar.

No amount of talent can excuse this though.

And thus the “TV Is Shit Culture” argument comes full circle.