Sunday, 21 February 2010

Wrapped up in books

Hello virtual world. I have hidden from the real world today, on the grounds that it looks really cold and rubbish, and with little prospect of tea. Inside my house are all manner of delights, especially since C went out to forage for biscuits. Was going to go to a church in Bradford tonight, but the snow put us off. Bradford tends to collapse in on itself immediately the snow starts, becoming a huge snowdrift that forbids exit. Maybe next week.

It has been a pleasant enough week, featuring as it did a complete lack of students and rather more than the usual amount of Steven Seagal. Yes, the book Antony thrust upon me and which I said. "What? Why" to, turns out to be very good. And I'm really not sure why. I had never seen any Seagal movies, at all. Not even Under Seige. I have watched three this week and have at least five more on my list, having picked up an amazing box of eight for £15 in York the other day. Eight! So far I have watched three: Under Seige, which was most enjoyable, Under Seige 2, which I actually preferred due to its excessive bonkersness and great villain, and Above the Law, which is surprisingly fun too. Maybe my brain has finally given up, but I'm getting a lot of pleasure out of these films at the moment. It's a world of stuff I've not really bothered with before.

To counteract this rather limited diet, and any fears of cultural stagnation that may accompany it, I have also watched Hunger - the dark and fearful depiction of Bobby Sands's hunger strike by Steve McQueen. No, not that one. The artist. It is not exactly fun, but it is brilliantly made and very evocative: when watching the prison scenes (which make up most of the film) I actually felt quite cold, and could almost smell the dirt and decay. I think I need to watch it again, though probably not for a little while. I think I was a bit caught up in how well it was made and wasn't quite involved in the human story.

In other news... we're trying to give up supermarkets for lent. So, no Asda, Sainburies etc. This seems like a great idea at the moment, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we'll soon run out of something that we have no idea how to resource outside the walls of a big, corporate entity. Where do I get Lapsang Souchong, for example? I'm hoping the effect will be that we are forced to discover the cheapness and moral worth of local shopping. But it's quite possible that I'll just go "Hurrah, it's the end of Lent!" with greater vigour than usual, like that time I foolishly tried not drinking for 40 days.

Er... yeah. So that'll do for now. I've forgotten how blogging works, if I'm honest. Is this even interesting? Just in case it isn't, here's a list. Another thing me and C are doing this year is watching films on an alphabetic basis. So we watch a film beginning with A, then B etc. Not to the point of pain - we're allowed to watch cool stuff outside of this regime if we feel like it. But it is an interesting discipline that leads us towards films we might not otherwise consider. So far we have watched:

About a Boy
Benny and Joon
The Changeling (not the one with Angeline Jolie - a much more mental one)
Dean Spanley
The Emperor's New Groove
The Forgotten
The Green Mile

Off now to drink more tea and contemplate the wonder of Seagal's ponytail.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Going to see a man about a God

Waiting to go to church. Not enthusiastic. Can't work out why.

Currently trying out a new place - Mosaic in Leeds. And it's good. The talks make sense, don't go on too long and are backed up by actual bible stuff. The worship feels like it's been thought out in advance but still has the flexibility to allow authenticity in the moment. The people are friendly enough and seem to welcome new people, rahter than the usual Christian practice of glaring suspiciously at anyone who's been coming for less than five years.

But I feel really odd going in. And I try to leave as soon as the service is over. Like those people I used to criticise, who never got involved in the community and always scampered, back when I was leading services in Wakefield. Anxious to get back to my own, real life. The people there are clearly genuine. It's me that feels false. Like I'm spying on something I don't understand. Like a Dalek trying to sneak into a humans-only club and saying things like "Gosh, we humans are really... bipedal. Aren't we? Fellow humans? Bipedal?"

It could just be the shock of a new place after being so establised somewhere. In some ways this is a good thing. Take away what is familiar and see what is left. Turns out, in terms of being a participant in a standard service, there's not that much. I'm getting something out of the talks, and it's good to have a designated spot in the week for stillness and reflection - I do tend to fill my life with noise. But when I look at the people who are really into it - eyes closed, happy, experiencing something - I'm not there, and I'm not even sure I'm aiming for there. Hmm.

What I do have is community. Even though I'm not in my old church any more, there is a sense that I am still part of that bunch of people. Well, some of them. Again, it's stripped away the pretending: the people I still see are those that make the effort to keep in touch, or whom I make the effort to see. And these are good people, who make me better, and bring me wine.

Not sure what all this means.

In other news, I have been given a brilliant valentine present - a schmumf. This is not his real name. He is a lovely pillowy thing. For schmumfing. He makes me happy, and is good for putting my head on when reading. I am currently reading the following:

A book Antony lent me on Steven Segal which is suprisingly funny, despite having seen precisely none of his films.

Yet another academic text on Doctor Who (though this is probably the best I've yet read)

A series of unauthorised essays on Fight Club (though I'm not sure if I should have mentioned it)

A series of essays on British Horror films since 1970.

So that's me. Off to church. It is good, and it has the brilliant, redeeming feature of starting at 5pm. Genius. Done by half six. Pub. Chilli bowl.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


I've got a slanket. A great big, red, all covering furry swathe of joy, all the better for watching television under. It may well be the best thing in the world that doesn't come in a bottle or attached to a woman.

For the uninitiated (which included me until very recently), a slanket is a blanket... with sleeves! Hence the name, I suppose. I've only just worked that out. I'm quite dim sometimes. Anyway, it's a great big covery thing to slouch under, but with voluminous sleeves that allow the 21st century couch potato to pour more wine into his glass, eat more toast, or fiddle about with the nightmarish future-powers of the Sky Plus control. It is simple yet elegant in its ergonomic genius, and I have almost instantly decided to spend most evenings living in it. I recommend it vigorously.

It can also be worn backwards, transforming the wearer into a very convincing Time Lord. I have spent much time over the last few days striding up and down the house, declaring "the end of time itself!" To my (majestic) annoyance, Caroline refuses to obey any of my Gallifreyan commands and doesn't even have the basic decency to be vapourised by my 'sleeve of power'.


However. It was her who bought me the thing, so I suppose I should be grateful. And she's put up with me sneezing all week. And brought some wine and Jelly Babies home last night. I will let her live. For now. Until they invent a slanket that also makes cups of tea.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


I finally went to see Avatar.

Even in typing that word 'finally', I realise that I've become part of a self sustaining loop of spectatorship. Needing to see Avatar has become a recursive part of its success. People go see it, so it becomes the most popular film ever, so if you haven't seen it you feel like you should, so it becomes even more popular...

Which is all by the by, because I really liked it. For some reason I wasn't expecting to. Partly, I suppose, there's a tiny film snob part of my brain that goes 'Well, if it's really huge and big budget and popular, I shouldn't like it, because I should prefer small scale, black and white, thoughtful films about people being sad in tiny locations.'

Also, I guess, there's something about mass appeal that excites the belief that I am somehow above all that nonsense, and thus superior to the millions of plebs who get off on (ugh) CGI and (ugh) 3D gimmickery. And, to be honest, this kind of stuff doesn't have the best precedent. The Phantom Menace still hurts, along with all the wannabe Lord of the Rings and Matrix CGIfests of the last decade.

But... well... it's really fun, isn't it? Big spaceships, massive aliens, giant beasty things that run at you in three dimensions... all packed in a straightforward story in an utterly convincing, brilliantly conceived environment. Surely the best pitch for any film should be 'Dinosaurs versus Spaceships - in 3D!!!'

So, I liked it, and will fight anyone who says that it is just big, dumb Hollywood entertainment. Not because it isn't big, or fairly dumb, or very Hollywood. But because of the word 'just' there. It's like saying 'this Twix is just a tasty chocolatey snack', or 'that song is just good for dancing to in the kitchen'. There's nothing 'just' about a big, beautiful cinematic experience.

Alright... I suppose you could say that its success has gobbled up revenue that might have otherwise supported smaller, more artful independent films, that favoured acting or storytelling or more complicated themes over cinematography. And you'd be right, and I'd wander off muttering to myself about how you wouldn't say that if a dinosaur was eating your face. But that's a bigger argument, that applies to a wide variety of equally dumb, but much less entertaining films. Oh, and, later, I'd remember and come back to you and interrupt whatever you were doing and say 'Yeah, well what about Benjamin Button eh? That was so called artful and clever and well acted and stuff, but it was as dull a three hours as I've ever spent in a darkened room'. And you'd say 'You are right, you have won.' Or possibly, 'That argument was three years ago. Why are you continuing it now?'

Anyway. It's all alright, because after watching Avatar, we went home and had a burrito, and talked about what it would be like eating enough food for two bodies every day, and how that would affect you psychologically. And then we watched 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' - a small scale, black and white, thoughtful film about people being sad in tiny locations.