I just walked home from the_meanest_cat's house after much wine and conversation. On my small hours perambulation home I mainly noticed the birdsong. Time was, when a late night walk of shame would have been proper shameful, and my ears would have been the least focused part of me.
I don't mind being 45. I mind being 45 and somewhat crippled and somewhat skint. Being old, for special values of old, is not how I thought it would be. I could, I suppose, last another 45 years. I'd rather not, unless they were a lot less exhausting than the last 45. That isn't melancholy; mostly it's laziness.
Being 45/old is not how I thought it would be. I expected, when I was young, that, right about now, I would basking on the sunlit uplands of my life. There are no sunlit uplands. I still have to watch my step down here in the valley.
I taught a boy this morning who is smarter than me. He doesn't read books, can't really write words beyond their first syllable, and yet his vocabulary, when you push him, is extensive. His verbal reasoning is superb. He's got an Oxbridge kind of brain, ticking away under his shaved eyebrows and stupid beanie hat. Give him my start in life (books, aspiration)and he'd do something good. Give him Chinless Dave Cameron's start in life (books, aspiration, money, entitlement) and he'd do something wonderful. As it is, he'll probably end up in jail.
When I was twenty I crossed the road to avoid boys like him. At thirty I taught boys like him but I didn't feel, so sharply, the waste they represented. Even at thirty, the phrase 'you only have one life' was a cliche. It meant no more to me, really, than any advertising slogan. Now, at 45, I look at a boy like him and know he only has one life and the chances are it won't be a good one, that it will have fewer opportunities and liberties and joys than mine. And the only positive I can think of when I look at him is ' At least this isn't my doing; at least he isn't my son'. I am many bad things, you see, but at least I am not my mother.
The other thing I did not - could not - anticipate about being oldish, is how I would come to feel about the past. I knew that past was another country; I read 'The Past is Myself'. I didn't expect to be a little in love with it. I remember the shape of the seventies. Not just the broad strokes of music and dress, but the weight of old money in my hand; the disappointing taste of the remnants of a Walls vanilla brick licked from its flimsy cardboard container; the school photographer telling me I should smile because I was so pretty, and telling my teacher, 'She IS pretty. Not dark enough to be offensive'; the feel of the crisp, stringy summer-of-'76 grass beneath my burning, dirty, happy, little feet.
Oh, to have happy feet again. That's what bad old is. Wishing your feet/hands/hips etc didn't hurt quite so much. Good old is realising that booze and conversation work just as well as prescription painkillers.
Oof. Too sleepy and sozzled to empty the rest of my fitful, fluttering, vanishing thoughts on to this kindly page.
We do it because the words 'king' and 'queen' had very different meanings and still have different values. 'King' comes from the Anglo-Saxon cyninge which originally meant supreme (elected) military leader with an implied sacral element. Her or His Britannic Majesty is still the titular head of the armed forces, to whom military personnel swear allegiance and Defender of the Faith. 'Queen' comes from Old English cwean (and/or Scots Gaelic wheen?) both of which meant litle more than 'wife'.
Eventually using the word 'queen' only for the wife of a King is pretty typical of English, where two words which were synonymous in their root languages are subsequently endowed with different meanings and values, and are consequently useful to unpick for their implications about culture, politics and gender. An obvious one is the way we use Anglo-Saxon words for animals, and Norman French ones for meat: cow/beef, sheep/mutton. I have read - in an A level English Language textbook no less - that this was a reflection of the superior culinary standards the Normans introduced. That's both a simplification and a cliche. The people shovelling the animals's shit in the barn were more likely to be the invaded, and the people scoffing the meat in the hall were more likely to be the invaders. The two mingled of course, but the fact that French became the language of the fine dining and Old English the language of the farmyard is reflected in the language we speak now.
The problematic nature of having a Queen as King, when the words are still laden with different values and implications, is why the term 'Prince Consort' was invented for Victoria's Albert. It ws too risky to call him a King, even a King Consort. It was one of the reasons why ELizabeth I never risked diluting her precarious authority and status by taking one of the many husbands who was mooted for her. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge - Princess Kate - will, in due course, will be called Queen, despite being a commoner, if Young Baldy Big Ears becomes King. It's already been publically stated that the calm, competent and well-adjusted Duchess of Cornwall will never bear that title if Old Baldy Big Ears becomes King. She's never sought the title of Queen (of Hearts or anything else), and there is a depressing assumption that residual public sentimentality about the dead, kitten-faced, neurotic, cripple-hugger would make it very difficult for her to do so.
It would be better - well, less problematic - to suggest calling Lizzy Two 'King', rather than calling it a 'Queendom' while she's Head of State. Which she is, as the elected PM still has to go through the ceremony of asking her permission to form a government, and she opens Parliament each Autumn. It is not an entirely ceremonial role, and could, in extreme circumstances, be a much more interesting one.
Ther cultural assumptions around gendered titles for royalty can be seen in any pound shop, with the amount of pink, sparkly tat retailed at and for little 'princesses'. Even the least politically aware father is unlikely to call his son his 'little prince', and there aren't blue, sparkly outfits for boys in the shops. 'Prince' still retains a veneer of power. 'Princess' is either a term of endearment (harmlessly affectionate or problematically patronising, according to one's poloitical outlook) or actively pejorative, as in 'Jewess Princess'.
- Current Location:sunnyish suburbia
- Current Mood: awake
- Current Music:bords squabbling and Radio 3
This may have been because I saw it in 3D, which meant the fight scenes were more interesting, and the giant spiders were properly exciting, and when bugger all was happening there was still the chance that a wasp might appear to fly out of the screen and liven things up a bit. The fight scenes in this one were often outside, in lovely bits of New Zealand, with personable elves wielding swords balletically, which is a huge improvement on the first one.
There was a female character in this one too, who did a lot of fighting and shouting, which was good. Unfortunately, she also did a bit of mumsy healing and a lot of falling in love with the least-munting of the dwarves when she should have been killing orcs. 'You can be hairy, smelly and ill-shaped but if you talk some syrup about your mum and are mildly amusing, high-achieving hot chicks will fall for you' is not a helpful message for this film's target audience, really.
You can't help but wonder why, if there was a big enough budget for three whole films and a load of glitzy tech and location shooting, no one thought to send the lump of ham-in-custard playing FlangeDrool, King of the Elves (is he 'Ducky Elf', eremite?) for some acting lessons. Or was his tendency to say everything slowly and portentously while moving awkwardly just a sop to the LARPers in the audience? The script is no help, though, any more than it is for Boring CroakinDild, King of the Dwarves, who is the other dud who gets far too much screentime. Perhaps I am being unjust because he just reminds me of every self-important, whingeing bloke with dirty dreadlocks and dirtier nails I've ever met in a goth/rock club.
Stephen Fry is good value, though, playing the Doge of a sort of Dickensian Jaywick-on-Sea as a pantomimic cross between David Cameron and Jimmy Saville. He is one of the many poor unfortunates in the cast with a cheap, ill-fitting, ginger wig, though these are perhaps less distracting in 2D. The first five minutes of Smeg the Dragon are brilliant to look at, but he soon palls, and this is where the film really starts to drag. You'd have to be prepared to have your credibility stretched to breaking point or be really into Shirlock (the modern one, who spends a lot of his time flouncing his curls and swirling his skirts in the manner of Miss Temple, hence the disambiguative spelling)/ Watson fanfic to enjoy the waste of two good actors and a huge budget. Save your popcorn for that bit, which is probably excruciating if you are watching in 2D.
They missed a trick with the music for the credits. Gold by Spandau Ballet would have been appropriate, amusing and woken the audience up, but instead there's some abysmal folk. I think this will probably be my favourite of the three films, as I suspect the last, like the first, will feature interminable scenes of dwarves eating and singing. If they could have been broken down into a TV series, I think these film would have been really excellent. I liked the book a great deal when I read it as a kid, though not enough to reread it as many of my friends did, and I abandoned my only attempt to read Lord of the Rings shortly after. It is a children's book, and a TV series with this kind of budget and lavish attention to detail would mirror, for children, the involvement of the experience of reading it. Alternatively, one good long film could have the captured the excitement of the plot and the worlds it creates, but three great long, floundering epics do not justice to it, really, both overwhelming and undervaluing it.
It is odd, given my predilection for men with blue eyes, that I developed my giant crush on him watching black and white telly. I remember him in the series Rogue Male when I was little and really, really, rooting for him. And I was bewitched by him when Lawrence of Arabia was first shown on TV. It wasn't just his beauty, it was the nervous, dangerous energy that dripped off the screen whenever he was on it. He was thrillingly alive, even when his roles were poor and his performance overblown. To me, he is the opposite of Robert Redford, whose youthful beauty was so static and lifeless it atrophied, grotesquely, in early middle age. And he is different from the equally beautiful Paul Newman, who holds his power in reserve, and uses it in performance, in precise doses. Redford is completely devoid of that magic energy, Newman is completely in control of it, and O'Toole leaked it as casually, as pungently, as sweat.
I met his first wife, Sian Phillips, when I lived in Wales. I had a friend who was close to her, and knew her throughout her marriage to him. There is a large body of Welsh luvvies who are convinced that she could have been the female Richard Burton - in terms of celebrity and wealth - if she had wanted to, and if she hadn't played second fiddle to O'Toole. In person, she has phenomenal presence, but it's glacial, inscrutable, with sudden flashes of vivid, sensual fire. I was too young and self-absorbed when I met her to know what to make of her; to discern whether she wasn't aware of quite how compelling she was or simply chose not to trade explicitly upon her beauty. Perhaps it simply went too far under the radar of those who could have made her famous. Female beauty and charisma are so essentially performative that when they are not actively displayed, they go unremarked, even in an actress. I'm thinking now of the story about Marilyn Monroe, at the start of her fame, walking down the street with an old friend, quietly being Norma Jean and saying 'Shall I be her, now? Shall I be Marilyn?' and turning up the wattage and affecting the wiggle and slipping into that role. Possibly the only men whose masculine charisma was so forcible assumed were those in the same sorry position as Rock Hudson.
I met Peter O' Toole once, in Cardiff. 'Met' is something of an exaggeration. He was in Wales filming Rebecca's Daughters and we had both just got off the London train. I discovered him standing behind me in the taxi queue outside the station. I turned round and there he was, swaying slightly like a poplar in his Crombie(?) coat, lazily emitting a force field of thrilling magnetism, with those eyes boyishly sparkling over a yawn like a ancient lion's. I couldn't speak but I kept opening and shutting my mouth and some syllables must have fallen out. 'How do you do?', he said, and he took my hand and shook it. My lucky, lucky hand. And then he said - projected - as if I were hard of hearing or foreign - 'I'm Peter O'Toole. I'm in Wales making a film called Rebecca's Daughters'. He said ' in Wales' as if he couldn't quite believe it himself. Then he swept past me, into my taxi, and disappeared, leaving only a faint odour of cologne, wet dog and magnificence behind him. Even old, and way past his heyday, he had that quality - in spades - that all stratospherically sexy people have, that renders one unable to take them in one, or a dozen, or a hundred glances. You just have to keep on looking, and wanting. That's why they are so compelling on the screen, because the camera is never sated.
I can't think of any 21st century men who are nearly as exciting as him. My female friends all seem to have the hots for David Tennant or Benzedrine Crumpetsnatch. Perhaps I am just old, but Tennant just seems too eager and twitchy and side-kickable to be a sex symbol. Besides looking a spaniel carved out of scone dough, Cumberbatch always seems a bit dreary. If you snogged him he'd probably taste of bile disguised with toothpaste, not fags and whisky and wickedness. The internet as I know it creamed its collective jeans over him when he held up a hand-written sign telling the paparazzi to stop taking pictures of him, and go and take some in Syria. That seemed to me, at best, the self-important posturing of a sixth-former and, at worst, as pompous as a man who pays to get into Spearmint Rhino and them berates his lap dancer for not performing Swan Lake. Tool, not O'Toole.
For the Child Who Became Christopher
May you come safe
May they gaze in awe
at your small creased wrists
at your perfect breath
May they gurgle at you
and drool gratitude
May your gaze and grip
May your limbs
be proper and deft
your crawl furious
your falls neat
May your most frightening dark
be in stories
the deepest thunder
over the hills yonder
May no one fence you round
with their own hopes
or shawl you in their dreams
May your teachers learn
from your crazes
May your friends
be a bridge to cross over
in any weather
May you have without too much wanting
and want without too much need
May there be sacred places
for you to return to
May stones fall short
and only low branches break
and swings miss you
on the way back
Originally posted by pw201 at Yep, it’s still there
A friend on Facebook linked to Louise Mensch vs Laurie Penny on the “check your privilege” thing. He went on to say he hadn’t come across that phrase, and wondered if it’s anything more than thinly veiled argumentum ad hominem. I done a comment, which seemed long enough to blog:
It’s jargon from the Internet social justice warrior subculture, as far as I can tell, so if you haven’t heard it, hang out on Tumblr, LiveJournal or bits of the feminist blogsphere (or, you know, don’t). It’s becoming more mainstream, if those articles are anything to go by.
The injunction to “check your privilege” means different things at different times. Sometimes it means “you are not in a position to know that”. For example, if I claimed “there is no homophobia in Cambridge”, someone could rightly point out that I’m not that likely to be a victim of homophobia. Saying that continues the argument by undercutting my claim.
Sometimes it does seem to act as what Suber calls “logical rudeness“, that is, saying “CYP!” insulates a theory from argument by attributing some fault to those who do not believe it, stopping the argument about the theory by switching it to an argument about the unbeliever. As Suber says, though, it’s not clear that there’s a general duty to respond to would-be debunkers of theories we hold, and claiming that, say, feminism is nonsense because so many feminists are fans of privilege checking is itself rude. However, Suber doesn’t seem to address the point that, if we’re interested in having accurate beliefs, we should debate those with the strongest counter-arguments: our rudeness should not allow the opposition to conclude we are mistaken, but it should worry us.
Using “CYP!” a single line response (on Twitter, or in a comment box, say) is just blowing off steam or cheering for your team, as far as I can tell. It doesn’t actually mean anything other than “yay for us and boo for you!”
Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
*Holier Than Thou
It was a book. A book called THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN Volume 1 Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe, in the Fantasy Masterworks series. You can, if you have ever met me (or probably even if you haven't), imagine how delighted I was to receive this item. Vin knew what my reaction would be, but said I shouldn't judge a book by the lumbering role player in a cloak and oddly-shaped codpiece on its cover, because it was his favourite book, and if I only gave it a chance, I would appreciate it as great literature, despite its genre.
When everyone was banging on about Game of Thrones (which just sounds like a spam email euphemism for coprophilia to me), and saying how good the telly series was, I wondered if the book Vin gave me was the book it was based on. So I dug it out and read it.
As soon as I mentioned on FB that I was reading it, Vin and steer started arguing over whether it was a fantasy novel or a sci fi novel. I think genre is irrelevent; it's just a terribly bad novel.
It is fantasy, not sci fi. It was written in the seventies and set a million years in the future, in a dystopian world that is loosely like the dark ages. Great sci fi is fascinating for what it reveals about the present in the way it depicts the future, but the future in this novel is just a tired mishmash of the past. This means the writer can use all sorts of ideas and features of the past and indulge himself in some terrible schoolboy Latin, but without any of the coherence or accuracy of a half decent historical novel.
Vin and Steer both claim it is beautifully written. It is very heavily influenced by Lord of The Rings, with the same strangulated, portentous leadenness of language. It has the same sort of 'can you guess where this came from, ooh aren't I well-read and isn't this book really, properly, intellectually serious' preoccupation with nomenclature. There is no sense of pace or urgency even in the bits that are supposed to be pacy and urgent. They are just as turgid and long-winded as the rest. It claims to be Volume 1, but it is actually two books. I'm afraid only made it through the first.
Gene Wolfe's - I bet that wasn't the name his parents gave him, by the way, I bet he was called Brian Evadne Spengler III - hero is an orphan, a torturer, has a sort of gothwish cloak of near invisibility and considerable sexual appeal and stamina. Most of the women he meets are remarkable for their near total lack of clothes and huge norks, described variously as 'two halved melons topped with cherries' or 'creamy amplitude'- I kid you not. He writes about women as if he has never spoken to one, let alone seen one naked (the blurb said he studied mechanical engineering at university).
I worked out it was't the Sport of Lavatories book pretty quickly, when I recognised the name of the author of that on the back of Book of the New etc attached to the quote 'One of the greatest science fantasy epics of all time'. It's put me right off reading anything by him, so I think my foray into 'science fantasy' is over. Unless, of course, anyone can recommend me anything of the calibre of Gormenghast.
Generally all I have to say to such people is "Naff off, you asinine twunt" or "Who the chuffbiscuit are you?" or "I am about as interested in your shop/business/website as I am in eating bat faeces." I know lots of you lovely people are on Twitter and find it entertaining and even useful, and I was, naturally, fascinated by it when my riots doodad was being retweeted all over the place, but I just don't have the attention span required to scroll through all the half-conversations and inanities you have to sift to get to a few crumbs of interest. I don't have any heroes, at least not any who'd be likely to have Twitter accounts, so don't like the 'celeb' angle, either. The ubiquity resulting from it has put me off people I used to quiet like, such as Stephen Fry.
FB has its uses, but I still really like Livejournal. I've never got in to reading any other blogs or websites, either, though I suspect I would if I had an office job.
When I said, in my last post, that I thought nostalgia was the last refuge of the mediocre, I wasn't talk about retro tastes or the desire to study the past. Had I meant the latter I wouldn't have been so fascinated by Leigh Fermor's travel writing in the first place. I meant the tendency to wallow in and romanticise the past, especially one's own past. and especially if that involves droning on about how good music was in the eighties. Unless it's the eighteen eighties, of course.