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. imdb.com 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: