C4's conspiracy thriller Utopia has a fascinating web-site attached, describing how we are being watched by government and others and our privacy invaded - but also the many ways in which we collaborate, willingly or from ignorance, in that process. Did you know for example that the government are considering ways to use ANPR cameras at filling stations to restrict access to fuel for uninsured drivers? Of course it
doesn't have to be the uninsured. You just might be on a list somewhere and making you buy fuel more frequently keeps you under observation and limits your mobility.
Remember - just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they are not out to get you...
One of the things I dislike about getting older is an increasing tendency to sentimentality. I don't think this is just me. Even so some stories would move anyone to tears.
In September 1940, the liner City of Benares was in a convoy heading for North America. Among its passengers were 90 children being evacuated to Canada. The ship was torpedoed and started to sink within 15 minutes trapping many passengers below decks. In the end 248 people died including 77 children, causing the immediuate cancellation of the programme of overseas evacuation.
The loss of so many people in a single incident is tragic enough, especially including so many children, but this is not the worst of the story. Included among the passengers were two young boys aged 9 and 5. The 9 year old had promised his mother on departure that he would look after his younger brother. When the torpedo struck, they were in their bunks but made it to the lifeboat station. In the confusion the 9 year old, Derek Capel, was caught up and thrown into a lifeboat. "That was the last time I saw my brother" he said in a TV interview. In the interview he recounts how many years later he met a seaman who had been on the Royal Navy ship that had picked up his brother. There were three young boys in the boat who it appears had died of exposure. The sailor told him how the three boys had been buried at sea in a service attended by 90% of the ships crew, the other 10% being on watch.
"90% attended the funeral" said the sailor, "but 100% were in tears."
No apologies for yet more exquisite dancing. This season of Strictly come dancing has the highest number of genuinely good dancers I have seen. Kara Tointon, Pamela Stephenson Matt Baker and Scott Maslen have all produced great performances. Gavin Henson must remain an outsider I think. Of them all, for consistently delivering at a superb standard the winner I think should be Kara Tointon and the performance last night was no exception.
Pamela Stephenson seems to be the exception to something I have noticed over the past three seasons, which is that women 'of a certain age' (ie over about 50) tend to be voted off before men of a comparable or even lower ability and before younger women. In 2008 Cheri Lunghi and this year Felicity Kendall were both voted off earlier than men with much less talent. See the two routines below for evidence.
Still, at least Ann Widdecombe has finally gone. Although she could have probably made a fair living in the days of the Music Hall with her routines, this show is after all about dancing, not Music Hall.
I have to come out of the closet and admit to watching and enjoying the BBC TV programme "Strictly Come Dancing". Not the judges so much, although they are of course a key element of the show and certainly not the insane whooping and cheering of the audience or the booing of the tiniest critical comment. However last night saw something as near to perfection as I have ever seen with a stunning performance of the Argentine Tango by soap actress Kara Tointon and her partner.
It doesn't hurt of course that she is a beautiful woman in a very sexy dance but this performance was superb. I don't know the technical terms, but the way her body shapes in the dance mirrored and complemented those of her partner, the crisp precision of her footwork, the elegance of her movement all added up to sheer poetry. For once even Bruce Forsyth was almost lost for words.
By contrast I thought the higher scoring (by one point) jive by her fellow soap star Scott Maslen was pretty tame, more of a routine from a musical show than a ballroom dance - and don't even think about Anne Widdecombe. Maslen can dance, as can the other top contender, Matt Baker, but taken overall, last nights Tango will take some beating.
I've had the DVDs of the two Star Wars trilogies for a while, but never had the free time to watch them in story sequence until recently, while recovering from illness. The remastered original trilogy looks great, Lucas at last having the capacity to make it look as he originally conceived it. The dialogue is of course as clunky as ever, but the great sweep of the story still carries you along, first the tragedy of Anikin Skywalker, then the triumph of his son Luke in the face of the same moral dilemma and the eventual restoration of Anikin. Lucas is often said to have conceived the story as three trilogies. He now says that this is not the case and that the 6 films we now have are all there will be. Looking at the story arcs, it does look difficult to think of anything that would be anything other than a warming over of themes in the first two trilogies.
One interesting option would be to take the story a long way forward and marry it into the world of Ian M Banks' Culture novels. There are seeds in the two trilogies that could be picked up and developed, like androids and the various mechanical creatures that inhabit the background of many scenes. R2D2 and C3P0 might even survive into that future. A conflict between the straight laced Jedi and and Bank's Special Circumstances would have the potential for a great deal of moral ambiguity and allow the storyline to explore some of the less acceptable aspects of the Republic like its excessive centrality.
When someone says that a movie is too violent, they usually mean that it made them feel uncomfortable because it portrayed violence too explicitly, and when I hear it, it makes angry, because they are asking for censorship. They want to deny themselves the only truly valuable depiction of violence on film: the reminder of exactly what it is that we do to each other every day, through wars, crimes, and stupid, preventable car accidents!
The latest episode of Doctor Who (Saturday 21st June) demonstrated both the strengths and weaknesses of Russell T Davies as a writer of SF. I seem to recall reading an interview somewhere in which he acknowledged that original ideas were not his forte and it is true that he seem to cheerfully pillage ideas from everywhere. The range of references and plot ideas he drops into an average episode is huge. This works well with his great strength I think - he is simply brilliant at world building. The last episode - and the two part season finale to come - seem as if they will depend on a series of small visual and narrative clues built in to previous episodes going back in some cases over previous series and even to the old Who from years back. At the time some of this at the time seemed merely to be 'fleshing out' the story line, but in many cases they turn out to have a significance out of all proportion to their impact on the story line at the time. His juggling of these ideas as both writer and executive producer is a world apart (sorry!) from the dross of Heroes or Buffy. I suspect if Firefly had been able to keep going it might have achieved something similar. Other than that only Babylon 5 seems to have taken the world in which it was set seriously enough to make it coherent, and within the story line, believable. Let's hope Stephen Moffat proves as good.