Thursday, 23 June 2011

news from nowhere

Our year twelve students are back at school for the last few weeks of term.  Mine hadn't ever seen The Wicker Man ( I'll be ignoring the pointless remake, much like I've generally done in my life anyway).  So, I made them come in early for the lesson as I told them it is totally pointless trying to watch it unless it is in one sitting.  Which it is. Without the build up there is no sense of genuine horror as the whole film changes at about the time of the May Day procession.

Needless to say, they found it a "bit strange" but seemed to enjoy it as most young people do when they're forced to watch it.  Now, I don't care what anybody thinks about the film, I just happen to think it is one of the best British films ever made.  That's probably because it is so unique.

I remember seeing it when it first came out in 1973 as the support film to Don't Look Now at a time when B-movies generally had finished. I somehow forgot about it until about 1982 or 3 when it appeared on a late night tv horror slot.  As I watched it all unfold, it gradually dawned on me that it was very familiar.  Having grown up reading Dennis Wheatley books and Man, Myth and Magic*, it all seemed exciting and within my sphere of interest.

Having sat through the film about fifteen or more times over the last ten years - plus analysing scenes and watching the Director's Cut additional scenes - I am very familiar with it.  I just can't find it boring - sure, there are some clunky moments in it - but I've always wanted to read the novel based on it by Robin Hardy.  This has been impossible to get hold of - until now. It's been out for a while evidently, so I've ordered it from Amazon.  But whilst ordering it, I found out that Hardy had written another book quite similar called Cowboys for Christ.  As these things do, it led on to me exploring further. Evidently Cowboys for Christ has been retitled and is being re-printed as The Wicker Tree.  This is the title of the long-awaited film sequel that Hardy started talking about not long after making TWM. Not only that, but there is already a website for the presumably soon to be released film (here).  So it seems imminent.

Anyway, to the main point of my ramblings. I warn you now about watching the trailer as it gives far too much away.  It seems that nowadays everyone has to know everything before they watch a film/tv programme/whatever.  You know, all those ridiculous spoilers in newspapers and tv listings magazines that tell you everything about a soap opera before it happens.  The same happens with films. Why not wait and watch the damned thing and let it unfold?

Oh Jesus Christ! No!
The first time I saw TWM I had absolutely no idea about what was going to happen or where it was going.  Now, even the dvd has the actual Wicker Man burning on the cover and main menu, so this leads to fewer surprises for newcomers.  Surely audiences only expect this treatment because that is how they are treated by a cynical media. In a way I am disappointed that I watched the trailer now - it looks great but I feel that I can see exactly what's going to happen.  I also presume that the "Company" will expect certain things to happen - or, indeed, not happen - and will get their sticky claws into it to change a real auteur's vision that has been gestating for well over thirty years.

One thing I do miss about the 1960s and 70s is the fact that very often you had to catch something while it was there - quite often there was no afterlife for a product. With the BBC re-using film stock and wiping programmes as nobody thought there was ever going to be a huge market for nostalgia - or just good quality stuff - much has been lost.  Does it matter?  Do we really need all the millions of hours of tv and film etc?  I don't know but I know I am one of those who enjoys looking back and often collecting such stuff. According to next week's Radio Times, the BBC are promising to use BBC4 as an online archive for older programmes (whatever that means) so look out for repeats of Noggin The Nog, then.

By the way, the BBC have just issued Richard Thompson at the BBC which has some marvellous stuff on it - recordings from 1973 onwards including a great dvd of "lost" tv programmes. Excellent stuff. Oh and check this out about contoversial popular music. Well worth a read.  Is there a subject that would offend any of you in song?

* a weekly magazine that built into a huge encyclopedia about all sorts of arcane stuff.  Check it out on Wikipedia.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

the optimist

It's been a funny sort of day.  I had to, desperately, finish marking the Film Studies scripts as I was a day or two late (okay, they were due on Wednesday) which I did.  But it was cold and Mrs Dave demanded the heating be put on - the room she was completing her exam marking really is cold. So on the heating went.

This all seems very Autumnal and it's only June.  I've been listening to Sandy Denny which always makes it seem Autumnal.  It may be that I've just received the recent re-release of North Star Grassman and the Ravens, her first solo album or just a general feeling in the air. More of the album another time.  However, there is a track on the album called The Optimist which features RT playing most instruments (including a rare outing on both bass and 12 string guitar).  Interestingly, and through pure coincidence, Mrs Dave and I rather enjoyed a bottle of Aussie wine named - no prizes here - The Optimist Verdelho Chardonnay with our Sunday meal.  This is not any form of synchronicity but, as I said, sheer coincidence.

It's a lovely wine with very fruity notes, hardly Autumnal but went superbly with the roast chicken.  The real find of the meal, though was baked Sweet Potato.  I may be slow in the uptake here, but I've never baked Sweet Potatotes before - a simple process but with quite amazing results.  Third born was quite sad that I'd only cooked one each - a little victory there, then.  He even ate Strawberries afterwards.  Nearly 19, you see - adulthood beckons.  Maybe there will be less aromas of Pizzas in the air chez moi.  I never eat the damned things myself.

Although the weather has been a little, shall we say merde-y, recently, I managed to cook some rather fine lamb leg steaks on the Leeke barbecue on Saturday evening in between dodging the rain showers.  Our local butcher uses meat from Bramfield Meats in Suffolk, a local farm co-operative. I always walk up on a Saturday morning to the butcher shop and get the weekend supply - although I also use the local fishmonger.  To buy fish, that is.

Check out your local vendors if you don't already.  Quality is all and stuff Tesco et al

Anyway, I'm back in the land of the living.  I've only got to post the last few scripts off to the exam board and send off my expenses and I'm done for another year.  I must admit that this has been the most difficult year of marking so far.  It may be that I've had more decent scripts than usual - I'm used to a lot of poor ones. It may be that the general feeling at school isn't great what with the Academy round the corner. Of course, it could also be increasing age before you write in.  Still, it's over for now and I can get back to a "normal life" - whatever that is.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

a cry for help . . .

Sorry, but this really is a bit of a cry for help.

How do you contact Blogger?  I can't make comments on a friend's blog because it goes in to a Moebius strip of asking for log in details and I can't contact blogger because there's no facility to do that. "Help" in this case doesn't actually mean that.

Blogger really is rubbish at the moment, isn't it?  I don't want to go with Google Chrome because it doesn't seem to work well either.

Is there a better way to blog?  I'm already totally fed up with blogger.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

we used to say

As an English teacher I have had to get used to poor literacy skills.  Not mine, of course. I try hard, I really do, along with my colleagues. But we seem to live in an age where communication is paramount due to the amount of devices available.  Somehow, though, the written word itself has become marginalised. And, as Lynne Truss has banged on about for the last few years, punctuation is becoming a total joke.

Mind you, my laptop has taken to randomly doubling up letters and often missing letters out - particularly capitals.  If I wasn't literate my scribblings would become almost incomprehensible.  Much like the way students write nowadays.

For all the poor writing where I have to read about "a women" or a film called  "the decent" I have to bite my tongue because I'm marking Film Studies scripts and NOT English as has been pointed out to me a few times too often. However, one thing that is really getting my goat is the use of such phrases as "the decent (sic) is a british horror."  A British horror what? Biscuit? It's a film, a British Horror film.  These are, after all,  A level students I'm talking about!

Where I really am getting fed up though is in the way that our lovely language is being eroded through sheer laziness.  Have you asked anyone how they are recently?  If anyone asks me how I am I always reply, I'm well/fine/okay" which all seem reasonable responses. Since when  has "I'm good" become an acceptable answer?  Well, it hasn't for me. I'm good? Yeah, fine, but how are you? Are you well?  Mind you if they wrote it, it would be "im good".

Another phrase I hate that has even started to creep in onto Radio 4 is (big breath) "It's a big ask".  It's a what?  The headmaster of our school uses phrases like that.  A politician used it yesterday - I don't know what he was talking about because I was groaning too loudly.  Would it be too much of a big ask to ask you to learn how to speak the language properly?

Oh well, rant over for now.  Otherwise I might start moaning about emoticons - I'm definitely with Ms Truss on that one (see the last chapter of Eats, Shoots & Leaves).

Friday, 3 June 2011

you can have a fishy . . .

Having been left to my own devices, I of course, decided to buy a fish for my supper.  Mrs Dave is off on an examiner's course and I am slowly working my way through some turgid responses to this year's Film Studies exam paper.  Why, oh why? I mean, why am I marking these? Do I need the money?

Anyway, after spending an agonizing morning reading such responses to questions about stereotyping in British Horror films and  the Messages and Values presented in two American films* of your choice,  gave in and went to buy a fish.  After all, I was going to be dining alone. 

So, after giving in (two submissions for '70s wrestling fans) I went up to my all time favourite fishmonger.  Now, I love fishmonger's counters - the bounty available always gets my juices flowing (steady on!) but today, giant Grey Mullet and a huge - almost leviathan - sea bass just looked too Noah and the Whale to be worthwhile. So, I went for the Mackerel which at least looked approachable.

Often Mackerel is seen as a very strong oily-tasting fish. I would agree, they need something to check the strong flavour.  I opted to stuff it full of pepper, salt and chilli flakes and then serve it with a salad with orange as the predominant flavour. So many people assume that fish has to have lemon as a major flavouring - so wrong.  It doesn't work with EVERYTHING! Orange cuts the oiliness and actually makes for a far better experience.  I used satsumas and they worked superbly.

Anyway, now it's late and I can't remember why I was writing this  - beyond edification, that is - so I'm off to bed. Don't forget to eat lots of oily fish.

* Here's a laugh: you have to compare two American films.  A teacher from a college showed Titanic and left them to their own devices.  Here's a clue: I teach two different versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This school/college left them to it - what would you choose? Schindler's List, anyone?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

way down south

Down south they like their nouvelle cuisine.  I have mentioned before that Southampton is not a bad place to go out for a meal.  However, Mrs Dave and I checked the new leaflet and  think they got wise to us - the offer no longer applies! 

Still, we visited the area again briefly at the beginning of the week and went for a drive out through the New Forest (why "New"?) and stopped off for a bite of lunch at The Filly Inn at Brockenhurst.  Mrs Dave went for the offer - starter and main for a tenner but second born and I opted for the most expensive thing, Venison.  All served in a "modern" manner. The evening before we'd been to the White Star and although excellent, it was all very, well, nouvelle.    This tends to mean small helpings accompanied by a few chips piled up like a game of Jenga with some jus sprinkled on top. It's all very nice - the venison was good and there was plenty of it - but it's becoming a bit old hat now, isn't it?

Anyway, if you caught the recent series on tv called Perspectives then you may have marvelled at how rich (and ugly) Andrew Lloyd Webber is, or even been blown away by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings he owns.  He's not the sort of person I'd want to spend much time with (after all, I'm an oik) but if he wants to invite me round for a cup of Earl Grey and to check out his PRB stuff, I'd be quite happy to.  I know the old PRB are often scoffed at but their subject matter and pure craft keep me interested.  Especially Edward Burne-Jones.

EBJ certainly knew how to paint beautiful women - Andromeda in the illustration  is one of my two all-time favourite nudes. What's all this got to do with the price of fish you ask? Well, Southampton Art Gallery has a fantastic room with the whole of the Perseus series by EBJ.  And finally after a fair few trips there to see second born at Uni, I managed to get there to see it.  Experience it.  There are a few artists that I admire who I really wish I could draw/paint like.  Jones is definitely one of them.  Barry Windsor Smith is another - although mostly known as a comic book artist, he has been heavily influenced by the PRB.

The Perseus series was a commission and he never actually produced a finished version of the ten paintings.  If you look at the Atlas one there's a dreadful image of Perseus flying - it looks as though he came in drunk one night and thought, "I'll just paint Perseus in before I go to bed".  The image of Atlas had obviously had hours spent on it. 

It was a pleasure to go in to the little room in the Gallery and spend some genuine quality time looking at these fantastic "cartoons" (as they're referred to*).  Then we went and wandered about looking at the Andy Warhol exhibition.   No competition.  Least said, soonest mended.

* Reminds me of Pete and Dud looking at the Da Vinci cartoon of the Madonna and Child: " 'ere Pete, it's not very funny, is it?"