I know that cricket isn’t a particularly popular sport in the country of my birth but since spending last years Ashes filming with the England team I am certainly a convert to the game. I also must give some credit to my friend and cricket fanatic Miles Jupp who took me to my first test match at Lords in 2006. It really is one of the great sporting spectacles although due to time differences, not the easiest to follow if you like your shut eye. I spent last night falling in and out of sleep listening to Test Match Special and was most pleased to find out that England had secured a draw, something that seemed highly unlikely just 24 hours before, at about 5.30am. I do like listening to sports events from the other side of the world where the weather is somewhat more forgiving than that currently sweeping the British Isles. I would dearly love to be at the first day of the Melbourne test on Boxing Day having taken a tour of the MCG a couple of days ago but alas, I will be in Edinburgh where the cricket chat amongst friends will be at a minimum but it will mean I get to natter about the Hibs to some who are interested. There is a splendid book written by A.G. Macdonell in 1933 called England, their England which takes an affectionate yet comic look at the English upper classes from the perspective of a Scotsman. In one chapter there is a superbly detailed examination of a game of village cricket and was something I read with particular interest before filming with the England team. The book is really worth the read especially if like me, you are a Scot living in England. Anyway, thoughts turn to the next test in Adelaide, my bed and a radio.
Archive for November, 2010
I wrote a while back about the great Rich Hall documentary The Dirty South which was the best thing I’d seen on television in some time. I have a similar urge once more having watched the fourth episode of Steve Coogan‘s The Trip on BBC2. I thought the first show in the series was tremendous but it has got better and better as the weeks have gone on. Last nights Gentlemen We Sleep scene had be guffawing at some volume and can be seen here along with other clips from the show. It’s not surprising that this is such an accomplished piece of work due not only Coogan but Rob Brydon and Michael Winterbottom being on board. Its mixture of out and out laughs, nuance and pathos is spot on. It really is appointment television for me every week along with Mad Men and depending on the BBC4 listings, selected music documentaries. I was a big fan of Saxondale and hoped Coogan could maintain such high standards, he has and more with this one.
Image – BBC
I’m sitting in Swiss Cottage library, the best library in the borough of Camden in my opinion, typing on my lap top and listening to the Withered Hand album Good News. I have an ever so slight hangover after trying to help a friend come to terms with the end of their relationship via the use of lager and whisky. I also tried to impart some advice although I’m not sure if I’m best qualified to do so. I’m very close to the travel section and it makes me wish I was somewhere else in the world and that when I was in New York recently, I had stayed there for longer. I did contemplate staying out there for longer but in the end decided to return at the same time as my friends I had gone there with. I wouldn’t have minded a few days there on my own, it would have given me the chance to live out some Holden Caulfield style fantasy. The picture is of me getting in to the taxi to take us to JFK and back to the UK. I quite like the photo, I just wish I hadn’t got in the cab so soon. Whilst on the subject of NYC and with an urge to maintain a public service, here is part 1 of a documentary on the birth of hip hop in the Bronx.
I feel I have a pretty good success rate with the books I choose to read. By that I mean I enjoy the majority of books I get lost in and have had a pretty good run of things recently. Whether it be fiction or non fiction, I have chosen wisely and been satisfied as a result. However, there are the ones which you devote time to but after around 100 pages have the inkling that it’s not quite living up to your expectations. I am in this place at the moment with The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. Things had looked good before embarking on this National Book Award winner for fiction in 1962. Firstly, the protagonist likes going to the movies so for a kick off there is something I can identify with and secondly on attempting to buy it in a central London book store I was told it wasn’t in stock but the chap serving me was keen to state that it wasn’t just a great story but his favourite book of all time. I think if I had invited him back to mine for an impromptu book group session he would have accepted but as we had just met, I thought it unwise to do so and besides I was in the mood for some record shopping after I had acquired the book. He was however very keen for me to track it down and this I did. Alas, it has failed to sparkle. This is obviously not a feeling shared with The Guardian who labelled it “Sharp, witty and profound” or The Times who state it is “A modern classic… wry and lyrical”. I would simply label it “well enough written, not as gripping as I had hoped and if I want wry and lyrical in the future I’ll dig out The Best Of Leonard Cohen”.
I did contemplate casting it aside and beginning something else but have decided to plod on to the end as it isn’t a long read, 242 pages to be precise. I had the same inclination when watching Scorsese‘s Shutter Island at the cinema earlier this year and while I would like to say I was glad I stayed to the end, all it served to do was prolong my disappointment with the film and wonder how such a great director could put his name to a piece of work that did so little for me. I am fully aware many others would not share this opinion.
The last book I neglected to finish was George Gissing‘s (pictured above) New Grub Street but it wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying it. I just got side tracked by some other books and fully intend to finish it at some point soon. The theme of artistic creativity over commercial gain is always an interesting one especially when applied to writers as it is in New Grub Street. It’s also a theme that anyone involved in the arts has to deal with at some point or other.
Regardless of how enjoyable and easy certain books are to digest compared to others, they all still require a concerted effort and one always hopes the effort is worthwhile. My question is, how far should you get in to a book before realising that continuing is futile and it would be better to start a new one? Conversely, is it the case that one should persevere in the hope that at the very least there will be some sense of achievement on completion? I hold out more hope for the next page turner I have lined up – a second hand copy of Let It Blurt: The Life And Times Of Lester Bangs. I can’t see that being tossed aside by page 70 or indeed 170. In fact on completition it may be the apt moment to reacquaint myself with Mr Gissing.
Image 1 – Cambridge Forecast
Image 2 – Alison Anderson
The argument that Americans don’t get satire has been all but quashed by the work of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher to name but three. In fact, as has been widely documented, their satire has segued in to the voice of reason on many occasions which can only be a good thing. Regardless of an individuals political leanings, especially in America with the mid term elections in full swing, it’s good to know all can be heard. For every idiosyncratic outburst by Tea Party favourite Christine O’Donnell such as those found here you can be sure there is a ready riposte from others although that would seem superfluous as she has a tendency to shoot herself in the foot. Such an example can be found here where she appears completely oblivious to the meaning of the first amendment in her countries own constitution.
Aside from this, there is still one satirist/comedian who has never received the acclaim he deserves in this country at least and it’s the Australian comedian Shaun Micallef. I used to watch his show on Paramount years ago and marveled at his work. It was with quite some surprise that even when I visited Australia, many seemed to be in the dark about the man and his work. So, in an attempt to readdress the balance here are a couple of examples of his work. I hope you enjoy them, he is an extremely talented chap and probably has at least a basic knowledge of the Australian Constitution as well.