December, 2003

Harry’s Baptism

Congratulations to young Harry Bowie, my nephew, on his baptism today.
(What a coincidence that he was born the day Saddam’s statue toppled, and was baptised the day Saddam was captured – I wouldn’t want to read too much into all that).

Saddam Captured

It came as something as a suprise, since I thought that he would be holed up in some far flung corner of the globe, but Saddam Hussein’s been captured with a shot being fired.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Al Franken is only a name that I am very feintly familiar with, since he’s best known as an American comedian who’s regularly appeared on Saturday Night Live – not a show we get especially in the UK.
I’d read about this book on liberal-leaning websites, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to go out and get a copy. Franken takes apart the lies and untruths served up by the prevalent right-wing media in the US in a style not dissimilar to Michael Moore.
Interestingly, it took a little hunting down in Borders on Oxford Street. I first tried the best-sellers on the ground floor. No dice. Then I went upstairs to politics, where there were shelves of books by Moore. No luck again. Finally I traipsed up to the top floor to the media section where once again I was out of luck. Sold out then. But I went to the customer service desk to be told that they had plenty of copies – in humour. Obviously!
As to the book? Well I’ve only had very limited direct experience of that kind of talk radio, and I don’t get Fox News. But I’ve heard Sean Hannity on the net, and hilarious listening it is too. So self-righteous and certain of himself. And I’ve never read a book by Ann Coulter (although I’m never likely to either).
But it’s an excellent read, and the lies depicted through osmosis can be spread quite as easily through the press in Britain as they can in the wider media in the States, and for that reason alone, it should be read.

Michael Kamen

I’ve only just learnt that composer Michael Kamen has died at the age of 55. Only a couple of weeks ago, I was transferring my cassette of his soundtrack (with Eric Clapton) for Edge of Darkness from cassette to my PC for burning to CD. He had loads of film credits and recently he did the wonderful music for Band of Brothers.
Here are some obituaries from The Telegraph, the BBC and The Guardian.

BBC Charter Review

The DCMS have an initiative aimed at gaining responses to how the BBC’s Charter Review should procede. There’s a website as part of this, and they say that they’ll publish all the responses they get online.
I shall certainly be participating and answering their eight questions.
There’s an accompanying document available too (PDF).

Touching The Void

In 1985 Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, a pair of young climbers, went to Peru to climb an unscaled face of a 21,000 ft Andean mountain, Siula Grande.
The journey went horribly wrong on the descent, with the pair getting separated and Joe Simpson being left, quite probably dead. Now obviously he wasn’t because he later wrote his bestselling book, Touching the Void, and he’s the first narrator we see in the film.
I can’t remember exactly when I first read the book. But this slim volume, recommended somewhere on the web I expect, was a revolation, and I’ve since read all Simpson’s other work.
Which brings us to this film. It’s made by Kevin McDonald as is a dramatised documentary – in a form that we don’t usually get to see, and certainly not on the big screen. McDonald previously made the excellent Oscar winning documentary One Day in September, and again he tells a thrilling story simply and ably. The only voices you hear are those of Joe, Simon and a non-climbing traveller they met and who looked after their camp. Alongside these are dramatised clips of the journey.
The dramatisation is impressive and the grandeur just has to be seen on the big screen. I must admit that I’m always thoroughly impressed by the methodology that must be employed in making a film like this (something for the DVD I guess). We’re told at the end of the film that no-one has ever repeated their feat of scaling that face of the mountain, yet it seems some climbers did do quite a lot of it from the images we see. Of course there are plenty of tricks of the trade to use, and the credits reveal that portions of the film were shot in the Alps, but I didn’t see any sign of special effects teams working on the film.
I’m glad this is getting a decent release, and hopefully a good number of people will see it.

BBC4

Nice piece in today’s Guardian about BBC4 by Toby Young.
Sadly the one problem is that Freeview isn’t available universally, otherwise it’d be my parents’ default Christmas present.

Road to McCarthy

I didn’t get around to reading Pete McCarthy’s first book, McCarthy’s Bar, although my sister left a copy around my flat a while ago, so it’s there for me when I get a chance.
The fact that Tesco had this (not a Tesco link) on sale for 2.99 may have swayed me, but this was an entertaining travel book in the style of Bill Bryson.
I used to enjoy the various travel TV shows that Pete McCarthy used to do a few years ago, and the same kind of humour still emerges. A good read then – maybe learning a couple of things along the way.
But I still have a slight problem with this type of book. When you have your first hit book, effectively backpacking around the world, maybe with a few more quid in your pocket than a gap-year student has, that’s fair enough.
But when you’ve earned many thousands from sales all over the world (McCarthy sees someone buy a copy of his last book in Tasmania), then I know that all your moans about travelling economy are a little misplaced. We know you could pay the business fair if you wanted to. You can get the good hire car. There’s no real need to eat too economically etc. I suppose that if I was travelling and loaded, I certainly wouldn’t be limo-ed around and stay at only five star hotels; indeed I’d probably do much as McCarthy does. So where’s the contradiction?
Uh… good point.