Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bond - Growing old gracefully

Let me share my new movie crush.
Last weekend, I had a moviegoing epiphany.  I went to see Skyfall, not knowing what to expect but guessing I would be somewhat underwhelmed.  I should nail my Bond colours to the mast.  I was convinced the new Bond needed to be Clive Owen.  Tall, dark, handsome, suave, sophisticated, the ability to carry off shaken but not stirred with an air of superiority - you know what I mean.  
I didn't get Daniel Craig.  He looked and felt all wrong to me.  Like everyone else on the planet, I saw the clip of him in his first Bond outing, emerging, scantily clad and dripping from the ocean in a scene cleverly reminiscent of  Bond girls Ursula Andress and more recently, Halle Berry.  I thought he looked great but unBondlike and I was sure Bond had been Hollywoodised but not in a good way.

No-one was more surpised than me when I left the movie theatre declaring my love for Daniel Bond Craig.  He's even taken over Roger Moore as my all time favourite.  Already.  And I've only seen Skyfall.

I'm not familiar enough with Ian Fleming's vision of Bond to know whether he is more or less like he should be, but I know this - I loved Craig's portrayal of the character, I loved his interplay with the other Bond stalwarts and I loved the look and feel of the movie.   Sam Mendes has done a magnificent job.  For me, the movie looked fresh, exciting, stripped back and uncomplicated but was still edge of your seat adventure stuff that had me gripped from start to finish.  I found it atmospheric, beautifully shot and quite old fashioned looking.  It felt like an attempt to move away from the gadget weilding, presposterous plot Bond.  And how!  What he's allowed Daniel Craig to create is a believable, mean, gritty, human, ageing, less than perfect, hard as nails Bond that I absolutely adore.  Now I can see that Clive Owen wouldn't have worked.

He looks and behaves like a man in his 40s, struggling to keep up with the rigours of being a fearless, trained killer.  His lettered enablers, M & Q, play crucial parts in the story, but there are twists in this particular plot that make them vitally important.  Q's back to basics approach to gadgetry is refreshing and works perfectly with our ageing hero.  We only get to see his true technical wizardry as the plot emerges and young Ben Whishaw plays this part brillliantly.  What a find, he looks born to play the role.   If you remain one of the only people who still haven't seen Skyfall, I won't spoil it for you.  Suffice to say, Bond's relationship with M is played out beautifully with professionalism but enough tenderness to melt even the hardest heart.

Not only is this a must see action and adventure movie,  I think it is one of the best Bond movies I have ever seen.  I'm sure it cost squillions to make but the special effects are very light touch - the only fireworks on show were the 12a version of Bond's sexual climax.   

For me, Bond finally has a realistic context - we can see how old he is, we are not that far removed from the world he inhabits and we get to watching him navigate his way, with extreme difficulty, through the path of the baddies.  Casting Daniel Craig was a stroke of genius and watching him come to terms with his age  was a real pleasure.

Isn't that what we all want - to grow old gracefully..?

Go see it.  Now. 

DanielCraigoutof10? - a definite 10.

This is what I imagine James Bond listens to on his ipod when he's contemplating his next job. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A life less ordinary

I decided to start blogging for a number of reasons:
  1. I have a few chums who blog and I was always interested in their blog-chat.
  2. I am fascinated by the creative process but felt I had pretty much nothing artistic to contribute.  I wondered if blogging might be my foray into the art of writing.
  3. I don't mind admitting that for a while, I wanted to be a journalist/writer when I grew up.  
Imagine the technology existing that allows us to get involved creatively, without the need for publishers, money, like minded or sycophantic people with influence.  Once I convinced myself I would get my blog on, I thought about what I would write. Now that was the hard but interesting part. I began to think that what people choose to blog about kind of defines them - in as much as it's important enough for them to commit those thoughts and opinions to the blogosphere.  

I've been called lazy.  I prefer to think of it as reflective and contemplative.  I suppose it depends who you ask. When I started to consider what I think about during all of my "downtime" I realised it would be the perfect inspiration for my new blog.  I am fortunate enough to be a naturally positive person so I thought I would blog about the ordinary things that make me happy.  I also hoped other people, who might come across the blog, would start to reflect on the things in their own lives that make them happy.  Perhaps I would start a new movement...  I also thought it would give some justification to my procrastination - "yeah, I'm just reflecting on what has made me happy this week so I can share it with my blog chums." And I have a probably annoying habit of rating everything out of 10.  It makes sense to me.

A learned blogger said it's important to blog once a week @ least, in order to keep any potential readers hungry and interested. Well, I fell @ the first hurdle since my last blog entry was in July.  It's not that I haven't been counting my blessings and rating them out of 10.  It's just that I've not managed to share them with anyone other than my best chum. 

But today I found the headspace.  I wonder if it's because I'm spending the weekend on a Scottish island with a population of less than 100.  I'm in a beautiful place and have had plenty of time to consider what life and blogging are all about and the effect outside influences have on our ability to be happy.  If this was the view from my window every morning, would my life feel differently I wonder?

So.  I'm going to find the time every week to stop, reflect on what's made me happy and to tell you dear blog chums.  

As I write, one of my musical heroes, Paul Weller, is on telly, advertising his forthcoming programme from Abbey Road Studios.  I have a feeling I will blog about this in the coming weeks.  Music has always been a huge part of my life - a great companion, a source of much happiness and something that makes me smile and dance.  Two of my favourite things. 

A wonderful old guy called Terry Callier died this week.  He collaborated with Paul Weller you know.  But my favourite song of his is a Northern Soul classic.  This fills my heart with joy and my feet with the urge to move.  I'm now off to smile and dance...  Catch you next week. :) x

Weekends in Vatersay outof10 - 9.75

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Calling all the heroes

What a weekend it's been!  I'm a big fan of superheroes but Batman is my very, very favourite.  So, ofcourse I went to the movies on the evening of general release of the Dark Knight Rises, lining up excitedly for my fix of the caped crusader and the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's trilogy.  

I thought the first instalment, Batman Begins, was brilliant.   I loved Christopher Nolan's take on the story and the clever fusion of Eastern philosophy played out in the very heart of Western, Capitalist society.  The unfolding relationship between Bruce Wayne and his ever so English butler, Alfred, was beautiful to watch.  It reminded me of many such relationships I've seen on the big screen where the hired help take on a very special role in the rearing of their young charges - loving them every bit as a parent whilst maintaining a respectful, professional distance.  Glossing over the second movie, The Dark Knight, brings me to the final masterpiece.   The Dark Knight Rises - and how!
This movie was littered with the fruits of Nolan's labour in the first two movies.  Having spent time crafting a string of important relationships in Bruce Wayne's life, these are further developed and played out in a way that held me completely captivated.   Seldom has 164 mins passed in the blink of an eye, such was my interest in all that unfolded.  
Nolan takes on two huge current and controversial themes in the Dark Knight Rises - renewable energy using nuclear fusion (which ofcourse the baddies want to commandeer for their evil ends) and the public uprising against big business and capitalism - essentially the "have nots" against the "haves".  I thought he rather cleverly plotted these themes, whilst leaving the big questions unanswered.  Is nuclear energy the way forward?  Who exactly are the wealthy capitalists we blame for the mess we are in and where is the line drawn between the "haves" and the "have nots"?  
What a supporting cast, each one playing a role as important as Batman.  I was excited to see Matthew Modine, who plays the politician, Foley.  He has never received the acclaim he deserves - another fine actor playing a small but crucial part.  This is something Nolan does so well, weaving all the characters together into a story that is worthy of even the harshest critics praise.  He has masterfully produced an action packed blockbuster, with a child friendly rating,  that is worthy of an oscar nomination for the script and performances alone.   
The biggest and cleverest questions of all were a piece of movie making genius.  Does Bruce Wayne need Batman to define his very self and does Batman need Gotham City more than Gotham City needs Batman?   
And if all this isn't reason enough - OMG Christian Bale looks hot as hell in black Kevlar.  Thank you Christopher Nolan - nicely done. rates the Dark Knight Rises 9.1/10.  For me it's a definite 10!

Which brings me to Bradley Wiggins.  What can I say about the man who has just won the Tour de France, without question the greatest sporting endurance event on earth.  The first British man to do so, he was favourite from the start after a blistering season up to that point.  No pressure then Brad.    Anyway, get this.  He covered 3500km in 87hours, 34 mins & 47 secs.  He rides on the flat @ a pretty consistent 50km per hour.  Yes, read that again because those stats seem almost impossible for a mere mortal.  He was pretty much assured of the yellow jersey in the final week but, like a true hero, he gave his all until the final km, leading out his wingman, the great Mark Cavendish, for one final stage win.   I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him @ a cycling dinner a couple of years ago before his rise to cycling god status.  He was Olympic champion mind you and one of only two British Olympians to have a medal tally of 6, including 3 golds.  And like a true Northern lad, he gleefully drank pints and chummed almost everyone in the room.  I'll tell you what though - just like Bruce Wayne I'm sure, if you looked closely enough you could almost see his cape under his Fred Perry button down shirt and Farah slacks.  BradleyWigginsoutof10 - a well deserved 10!

Only one thing separates Batman and Bradley Wiggins - one wears black and   the other, yellow.  But they're both true heroes.  

From the movie Drive, here's my musical tribute to them both.


Sunday, 1 July 2012

And I didn't see one Alien.....

I recently spent a weekend on the beautiful Isle of Skye, in the Scottish Highlands.  I was excited about this trip for a few reasons.
- I would be accompanied on the journey by Rickie Lee Jones & Admiral Fallow
- I would be spending time in the great outdoors
-I was staying in a B&B run by Paul Weller!

Even although I can listen to music @ home anytime, I always think there is something rather special about embarking on a car journey armed with my chosen musical companions.  I heart the new Admiral Fallow album, Tree Bursts in Snow and always, always love listening to Rickie Lee Jones on long journeys.  Smooth, groovy and with an aura that's just a tad edgy, she somehow makes the passing scenery feel even more beautiful.
I'm always a wee bit nervous about staying in B&Bs, sometimes it's a bit too much like sharing a stranger's house.  However, I was willing to let this slide to stay in a house run by a guy called Paul Weller.  I knew it wouldn't be the Paul Weller I had had a musical crush on for 30 years, but it was a close enough association to have me thrilled @ the prospect.
I think you need to be a certain kind of person to open up your home and look after paying strangers and Paul & Jan Weller did it wonderfully.  Comfy bed, brilliant shower, fabulous breakfast and just enough charming but gossipy chat about previous guests to have me hooked.    If, like me, you get a kick out of staying with people who could possibly be celebrities, you could do worse than stay @ the old Church House on the Isle of Skye.

The main event however, was the breathtaking scenery and challenging terrain.  Climbers will recognise the term "bouldering" as something entirely different, but, for me, it's all about clambering gleefully over big boulders, a pastime which fills me with sheer delight.  Add an uneven surface with lots of mud underfoot and I am moved to take to my heels.    So, the thought of clambering 300m up to the Old Man of Storr on a drizzly weekend afternoon was my idea of heaven.   I was superexcited to see this landmark for the first time, since the opening scenes of the recent Prometheus movie, where the scientists discover caves with ancient paintings, were filmed there.  A challenging half hour climb saw us arrive @ this wonderful stone formation, which has been fascinatingly fashioned from thousands of years of landslip.  There were a few movie fans tracing the steps of the actors and taking pictures from just the right angle to reflect the director's viewpoint. 
Once they had gone, the top of the hill was deserted, allowing me to sit in complete silence, taking in an awe inspiring view and filling my lungs with the freshest of air.  Until I started climbing, I didn't get it.  Now, I will never tire of this experience.  The only moving objects sharing my sense of wonder were a couple of sheep and my climbing chum, who was excitedly pointing his camera all around.   The enlosed picture is his version of the Prometheus view.
I am interested in the notion of mindfullness.  For me, it means being present in the moment and thankful for the here and now.  How easy to be present in such an environment.  My challenge is to recreate that feeling of calm and groundedness when my circumstances and environment are quite different.   The more time I spend in the great outdoors, the easier I find it to recreate the feeling in my mind's eye.    There's a lesson in there somewhere - for me @ least.

The only disappointing thing about my first visit to the Old Man of Storr - I never did find those cave paintings and I didn't see one alien...

isleofskyeoutof10 - 10!

my favourite weekend in skye songs:

Monday, 11 June 2012

The New Gary Numan

I thought Muse were the new Gary Numan, the natural successors to his throne.  Until recently that is.   Little did I know, Gary Numan is the new Gary Numan.

I made my way to my first Gary Numan gig with caution.   Being in my mid 40s, I’ve seen a few old heroes in recent years whose music just doesn’t sound relevant or exciting anymore.  And I left those gigs feeling a bit sad.  I’ve always thought the point in experiencing music live was to be excited by it.  Otherwise, why not listen at home?  I was aware that he had become darker and more industrial sounding in the years following his biggest commercial success, but that had largely slipped under my radar.  I also wondered how my old favourites -Down in the Park, We are Glass, Are Friends Electric?- would sound. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation I opened the door to catch my first glimpse and make sense of the pulsating beats I had heard as I climbed the stairs.

Dressed in black from head to toe, naturally and with a magnificent stage presence, Gary Numan live was already a sight to behold.  I admit to letting out a little scream, my initial reaction being much more powerful than I had expected.   I watched, at times mesmerised. He was graceful, lithe and feline, in turns reminding me of Bono and Dave Gahan.  Even although I found it difficult to take my eyes from him, I couldn’t help but notice the band.  Young, gifted and dressed in black would sum them up in a sentence.   For me, they were so much more; two keyboard players straddled the drummer, as usual, making up the rear guard.  It thrilled me to see one of the keyboard players so engrossed, I could feel his excitement as he gyrated, waiting for his intro.  The bassist, stage right of course, was a vision.  Tall, black skinny jeans & cravat, replica Numan hair and radiating cool; that young man plucked and slapped his bass like it was a lover.  I suspect you only get that good, that young,   if you’ve spent your formative years locked in your bedroom caressing your guitar.  In my head, he learned his craft listening to Numan records.  Collectively, they sounded exceptional.

Whether by accident or design, the sound levels were perfect for me.  I believe the technical team knew just how to hit the musical nail right on the head for our 40-something ears.  And Numan bravely kept his microphone loud enough to ensure he was the main event.  I wanted to hear him, really hear him, and I wasn’t’ disappointed.  His dramatic, emotional, strong voice sounded as good as it did on vinyl some 30 years ago.   The overall effect was a wall of sound so sophisticated I could pick up every note. 

But what really blew me away was the way he has evolved his sound to construct live music that you only get to hear on really special occasions.  I wondered how his softer, synthesiser-driven early stuff would translate next to the meatier, ‘down and dirty’ newer creations.   What Numan and his band delivered was a blistering set of songs, with only us old fans being able to distinguish the old from the new.   They have turned Down in the Park, Cars &  We are Glass into brand new songs with a sound I would describe as  Kraftwerk meets The Foo Fighters.  And then, in a masterstroke, they closed with Are Friends Electric?  What started with a very slow, quiet, electronic intro unleashed into a frenzied but precise chorus of heavy, bass driven, thumping noise that made me and I suspect just about everyone else, gasp.  He smiled, waved an accomplished salute and was gone.   Sometimes, just sometimes, you’re lucky enough to experience music in a way that is so powerful you can feel it inside.   Gary Numan, I salute you right back. 

I would bet my last bottle of black nail varnish that Matt Bellamy fantasises about being Gary Numan.    Why wouldn’t he….?

GaryNumanoutof10?   10!

here's what all the fuss is about.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

It's like a penis, only bigger...

Today I led a chant of penis & vagina with a bunch of 80+ teachers.  Let me explain.  For my paid work, I promote health and wellbeing in schools and I had the pleasure of chatting to a whole school about being more confident to teach young people about sex.   
Part of being confident is being able to say the words out loud, without passing out in front of the students.  And we all know, practise makes perfect.  Some of the teachers were less than impressed when they realised I was serious about the chant.  I wish I'd recorded it for my blog.  And it got worse... 
One of the sex lessons for students in third year (who are 14...) is teaching them how to put a condom on properly.  Yes, teachers have to show giggling teenagers how to cover an erection safely.   For this purpose, I first have to show them, using a condom demonstrator.  That's code for a big blue rubber erection.  I would've included a picture of said rubber erection but I didn't want to be too graphic, too soon.  Use your imagination - it's like a penis, only bigger.   I've been doing this for many years and am virtually immune to embarrassment - just as well.
My favourite part of the day was a written comment from one of the staff, an overheard conversation between two 12 year olds who had just been doing their puberty lesson.

On discussing the female anatomy and the term vagina, one boy says to his chum.  "I think I saw one of those".  The other boy said "Wow, was it nice!"

I love my job :)

Todayoutof10 - 9.25

My favourite record today

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