Category Archives: THEORY

Looper -what is that all about then?

 

I’d like to talk about the movie Looper, which I saw today -but I won’t spoil the ending.

I can’t say this movie is exactly my cup of tea, but it’s great to see a mainstream movie that is actually about something for a change other than the usual goodie Vs. baddie affair.

In this case, it’s clearly all (/mostly) about child abuse/ ending the circle of violence (whilst not doing so overtly lest it put you off)
-and it’s just how such a subject should be presented if you ask me.

After all, we learn nothing from being lectured or spoonfed hard-to-take information, but wrap it up in an interesting sci-fi tale and we can learn all about it vicariously whilst puzzling and arguing over loopholes and paradoxes to our heart’s content. It has nothing to do with any of that if you ask me. It’s another Superman’s Underpants film -we should look beyond the easy-to-pick-at frontage to see what it’s actually about.

In that, it’s old-school cinema -it’s not that it’s there to teach us all a lesson, but there’s plenty going on under the skin if you choose to look. View it as a straightforward Time Travel movie if you choose not to.

Bruce Willis is excellent, playing a complex character who does some not-so-nice things. Levitt is very good too, but I must say I was most distracted by his eyebrows throughout. Not since Julia Roberts’ lips in Oceans Twelve have physical features upstaged the person to which they were attached in a movie.

Overall, Looper is a little bit too violent/ aggressive for this sensitive little soul, but I guess that’s the point.

 

In what way is this film “about child abuse”?

 

First of all, there’s the first shot of the film (if I remember correctly, I’ve only seen it once and I can’t capture still-frames for this piece -if it’s not the first shot, then it’s the first person we see) -a close-up of a proto-typical “abused child”, forced to eke out its existence in abusive circumstances. Since this is “a time travel movie”, during this extended shot we are invited to consider this child’s past and likely future.

Secondly, consider every child we come across. One has been abandoned by his mother at an early age and is already traumatised by the experiece. Will he have a future that is free of abuse? One is the child of a stripper and is on the target list of his “surrogate father”. The only ‘possibly non-traumatised’ child is left alone just long enough to have violence come a-knocking.

Consider also the upbringing of the main character (Joe?)
To be honest I can’t remember the details, but he did not have a happy childhood and it is clear that when Jeff Daniels/ “Abe” discovered him, the work was already done that qualified him for his life as a Looper. As a result of Abe’s intervention his violent life could take on a more structured form. So you could say the abuser showed him how to abuse -and this is what he has always done.

Also think of Abe himself -a man from the future -our future-self (or the typical future-self of each character in this movie). He too is a victim, doomed to exile in this dreary “past”, reinforcing this cycle of violence, ensuring its continuance.

There is also the “Kid Blue” character to look at, who appears to love Abe as a son would a father (or an abused child toward his manipulative abuser perhaps? -Think of how Abe behaved toward Joe when he wanted something from him -“I gave you all you have” type dialogue -Kid Blue likely got the same speech regularly and has obviously taken it more to heart than Joe has.)
Either way, Abe appears to return this love enough not to kill Kid Blue, but clearly he isn’t averse to violent outbursts when he feels its called for.

 

There are many paradoxes and loopholes to Looper, but the main one that bothers me is this (and this last bit I’m afraid will be a spoiler):

 

Highlight the text between the following markers to see the ‘spoiler':

 

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The premise appears to be that the main kid (Cid I think?) is given a chance to be spared the cycle of violence, whereby the victim ultimately becomes the perpetrator, by him being freed of his “abuser” to be brought up in the care of his loving mother… therefore, by the time he grows up he presumably has “learnt” not to become the “evil Rainmaker”, going on a rampage, killing all loopers. Therefore, the world of “Looping” continues. ?

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OK, it doesn’t ‘bother’ me. It makes me smile. This is a movie after all, not a psychology journal. There’s enough in it to consider at least. Even if most people don’t consider such things while they watch a movie, it’s the reason why fiction is so powerful -it allows us all to take on board (if only perhaps on a subconscious level) topics and truths that otherwise cannot and will not be confronted.

 

Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting for one minute that everyone who abuses becomes an abuser. It is a theory at least that “abusers” of every kind learn to be like that during childhood. Thankfully it’s not as simple as that in real life.

 

 

Dexter -The Fall of The Western Empire

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Can I stick my head above the parapet and say I believe the whole concept of the TV series “Dexter” is deplorable and symptomatic of the decline of western civilisation? Well I’ve said it.

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True I’ve only seen one episode (and it was very well written), but I really don’t want to ever see another -not because it’s not any good, but because I can see how it sucks you in and gets you to empathise with a serial killer and personally I don’t think it’s healthy for individuals or society as a whole to go there. It just ups the ante on what is acceptable.

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I’ll go one teensy bit further and say I believe the best “serial killer movies” are not about the killer himself/ herself (they don’t deserve a movie IMHO), but about the destruction on the individuals surrounding the incidents -detectives, reporters, others becoming obsessed by the crimes to the detriment of themselves and their loved ones. Films like Zodiac and Memories of Murder (Korean) deal with it very well.

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It’s my belief that with the advent of “The Serial Killer Hero”, embodied most blatantly in the likes of Dexter and Hannibal Lector, the whole of society (whatever that is) is becoming embroiled and obsessed by this kind of thing as though each of us is immediately affected.

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Over time and over a large population I don’t believe we are breeding serial killers, but we are increasing “the whole negative vibe”, which is nothing but a self-destructive downer.

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My catchy rallying call for an anti-Dexter type movement would be “Spread Love, not gouge out eyeballs with a tuning fork!”  Do you think it’d catch on? :)

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The Bag For Life

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Remember this bag?

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It was introduced by Super Valu supermarkets (in Ireland) prior to the introduction of the Plastic Bag levy in 2002.

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During the build-up to the new tax everybody complained. It would never work and it would drive people away from the shops, businesses argued.

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Convinced that footfall would suffer, Super Valu (and possibly a few others) decided to get one up on the competition by adopting this “Bag For Life” policy.

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The idea was that if & when the bag broke or deteriorated they would replace it -free of charge. For life.

It was “The Bag for Life”.

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…At least this is my recollection of it.

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I asked if this was correct in my local Super Valu recently. The staff member looked at me for a moment, counting my heads it seemed, before bursting out in tears of laughter. She had never heard the likes of it in the past nine years (since the levy) but it did ring a bell with her and she’d be interested to hear if it was true herself.

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We discussed it for a while and she admitted to me she had lots of these bags at home and she’d love to replace them with new ones.  Looking left and right she tried to find a manager for me to talk to, but there were none available. Meanwhile a queue had built up behind me and it was the only til open (being early in the morning). She asked if I did want a replacement bag. I said no -but I am curious about it. I know Mrs. Rumm threw some out a few years back and I’d like to know if she deserves my eternal scorn for doing so.

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The staff member offered to go find the manager but I told her to leave it -“I’ll be back,” I assured her, “we’ll do it then.”

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My question is, AM I WRONG?

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I searched online and so far the only thing I can find to suggest I’m right is this page from The Fingal Independent in 2000.

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In case that link goes dead at any time, here’s the relevant paragraph:

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Manager Shea Smith is planning a one-week promotion to give away the ‘Bag for Life’, which will normally cost 10p.

A very nominal sum given the supermarket’s promise to replace it free of charge if even after bearing the weight of many kilos of comestibles it tears or breaks.

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…Or maybe The Bag for Life (“Our Children will thank us for it”) means something else?

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I’ll let you know what the manager says when I return later this week.

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Would you do the lotto if…

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Odds on winning the Irish lotto (45 numbers to choose from): 1 in 8,145,060

 

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Odds on being involved in a fatal accident in one of the world’s Top 25 airlines with the best accident rates: 1 in 9.2 million (according to planecrashinfo.com).

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Obviously the second rate could change depending on the airline, but lets just say the above numbers are more or less comparable.

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My question is… if there was a lottery whereby you could win “the grand prize” (whatever that may be) and also be as likely to win the booby-prize of Death (delivered by the press of a button by the lotto organisers, causing your whole being to immediately explode)… would you do the lotto?

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Simple Solution #8: Irish Dáil Reform

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THE PROBLEM: The Irish house of Parliament (the Dáil) is in a mess. There’s a massive job ahead to be done, but time and again politicians are voted into power based on their ability to bring investment or at least a little positive attention to their local area, rather than having an ability to face or tackle the national problems of the country.

“He may not be able to renegotiate a deal with Brussels, but he’ll make sure the road outside my house looks alright.”

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THE SOLUTION: Nobody should be allowed vote for their own ministers.

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ie. ..People in Cork should be given a choice of Carlow candidates, people in Donegal should vote to put in Waterford ministers, Galway people should be given a choice of Louth political wannabes, etc..

Existing political approaches and constructs such as “clinics” should be allowed continue as before, but not in the voting areas -rather in the area in which the politician has been elected to represent. (eg. a Louth TD should live in Louth and not be allowed have a clinic in Galway.)

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This ensures that

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a) Nobody can think only of himself/herself when voting for a candidate since the person who gets in will not be responsible for “the road outside my house”.

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b) Everyone will consider the national interest when voting.

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c) Candidates will run with a national-interest mindset and agenda.

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What’s good for the country will ultimately trickle down to local rights, rules and regulations.

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OF COURSE THIS WON’T BE ADOPTED BECAUSE: Irish people have voted for the same political party since ever. Even now they are set to vote back in their local Fianna Fáil (or any other “established” party candidate) because “he’s not one of them fellas who made the mess -an’ didn’t he turn up to Johnny’s funeral last November on a rainy day!”

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“Political Reform” to any of these people means a token reduction in expenses and perhaps removing automatic rights for some TDs to a state car & driver.

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Same ole wankers will get back in, even if some of them have different faces. Same ole crap will be the result. Nothing will change except the people of Ireland slouch their shoulders and prepare for a hundred years of hardship.

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Superman’s Underpants and the movie “Inception”

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See this?

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IMG_3800

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Now, sorry for showing you my bathroom wall, but there’s more to it.

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It’s not easy to explain, but once this photo is put in the frame and placed in that location, behind that piece of string, it then takes on a whole new depth that you can’t see in this photo.

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When Mrs. Rumm saw it she shrugged and sighed and smiled and walked away. Nothing new there then.

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As my (then) 8 year old daughter immediately explained when she first saw it “the first picture is outside!

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Precisely!

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…When we look at this picture in this place we are standing in the outside layer of the image. It’s quite beautiful. :)

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Anyway, I posted that pic to illustrate my other point, which is to do with the movie INCEPTION, directed by Christopher Nolan. If you haven’t seen it, look away now because what I’m about to discuss could be seen as a possible spoiler in a way…

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Simple Solutions #6: How to End a Soccer Stalemate

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Penalties are great for tension, but few people believe they are a fair way to settle the score between two seemingly-inseperable sides in a soccer match.

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THE PROBLEM: How to end a ‘stalemate’ game of soccer after a half hour of extra time has been played in a manner that is fairer and uses more all-round “soccer skills” than penalty shoot-outs.

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THE SOLUTION #1: After extra time, move the goal-posts five yards closer together (including the pitch lines of course) on either end. Every 5-10 minutes thereafter, move each goal another 5 yards closer until a goal is scored.

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THE SOLUTION #2: If that doesn’t grab ya, expand the goal-size every 5-10 minutes until a ball gets in.

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Both these solutions have an advantage over penalties, in that they utilise all the skills of a team rather than relying solely on the ability of a single player from one side and the goalie from the other.

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Of course this won’t be adopted because: Football/ Soccer never changes unless its dragged kicking and screaming to change. It’s also full of unimaginative, over-serious ball-fiddlers who wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit them on the head.

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Plus, I don’t know about you, but I rather like penalty-shootouts. Still, many people moan and groan about how unfair they are, so I’m just putting these out there for the record.

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Your Country My Call

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I read and re-read the email sent to me by the organisers of the Your Country Your Call competition, trying to figure out what it was saying. Maybe I was too excited to concentrate on the multiple paragraphs.

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It read like a kiss-off/ thanks-and-tough-luck email, but I couldn’t find where it was actually stating that.

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…Then I spotted it on my third-time round. Why these people don’t put “Dear Sir/Madam, You didn’t make it” as their first line instead of burying it in side-mouthed form-letter compliments I’ll never ever know. :(

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(It reminds me of people in a cinema opening a packet of popcorn slowly instead of quickly out of misplaced, pathetic sympathy.)

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The list of semi-finalists is posted here and mine isnt’ on there. Aww. :(

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Best of luck to the winner I say, but at a glance at least, it looks to me like the same old “corporate vested interest” notions that crop up time and again rather than a proper decent, simple, original thought.
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“Ireland should be a hub for online gaming” …Now why didn’t I think of that??
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“Green Ireland – a new brand for developing Irish Food and Tourism” …wow this is cutting-edge this is!

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“YEATS INSTITUTE OF LANGUAGE AND CULTURE” -well we must make it look like we at least give a damn about these things I suppose.
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Shoulda known. :(

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Now, I realise good ideas can sometimes come across as ridiculous or ill-considered when given a quick description, so there’s a possibility some or all of the above aren’t as stoopid and uninventive as they look.

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With that in mind, I’m not going to divulge my grand idea in a 1-line descriptor, but if anyone is interested you can read my proposal in full here.

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Unknown Knowns

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“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.” -Donald Rumsfeld, 2002.

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I believe Rummy missed one: The unknown knowns.
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In fact, I believe most popular movies/ books/ anything else misses this too. It is a highly underrated knowledge.
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The unknown knowns are those things you know, but aren’t aware you know. They could be things you take for granted or something right under your nose that you never knew you knew about -for example you might “know” something to be true, but never actually think about it (and so not know you know) until perhaps someone else mentions it.

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“She’s pregnant!” …only after you hear it do you realise that you somehow “knew” all along.
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Similarly, the best comedy is often to be had from these unknown knowns -everyday life events we already know about, but weren’t aware we knew or did. When they are held up in front of our eyes, perhaps through a skewed lens, we have to laugh because we recognise what we already knew, but somehow didn’t know we knew.

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Why do I say this is missed by most books and movies nowadays?

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Well, in my opinion the best “works of art” are almost indescribable, yet speak sometimes in a personal nature directly to the reader/ viewer. It’s not something that can be described in the blurb in the back of the book, so it’s not easily marketable, so it’s unappreciated.
Or under-appreciated at least.

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Maybe the book/ movie hasn’t even broached a topic, but yet puts a certain thought in your head or leaves you with a mood that is familiar and yet new. These are the greatest.

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I’ve often turned the last page of a book I really enjoyed and half an hour later could barely remember any of it. To me, that makes the book almost a complete waste of time.

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On the other hand, the best books can often be harder to get into -they need some work by us readers, to place ourselves in the right frame of mind to appreciate “the full show”. But as the last page is turned, we are left floating for a long time afterward. Maybe with much to think about or just to appreciate the mood.

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The unknown knowns can also lead one to that “ah yes of course!” moment, as when you suddenly realise “AAHHH So *THIS* is where it’s all going! -I didn’t know that, but now that I know I know it, I knew it all along!”


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The unknown knowns are the best of all knowns and unknowns because they take the least effort with the greatest reward (or at least the groundwork has already been done, maybe subconsciously).

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NOW… The next time you find a forgotten tenner in your back-pocket you will hold it aloft and declare with joy: “The unknown known!”  :)

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Jim Emerson has a good discussion on Rumsfeld’s points here.

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Why Beauty Matters

Roger Scruton had a documentary/ report/ essay on BBC a couple of months ago called Why Beauty Matters. It’s about how the idea of beauty in art is/has been lost/ abandoned.

I agree pretty much with the views expressed in that. People on the whole have become too cynical for beauty in Art. As with in all other artistic areas these days, I would suggest the portrayal of negative attributes is what is often most highly praised.

Most “modern art” (at least the most popular kind) is a jaded death spasm of an urge to rebel, which itself is now nothing more than conformity because few people have the courage to portray Beauty or Happiness or pleasant scenes or thoughts or actions when the Art world is expecting -and only allows- “mind-pricks” with a particular message or non-message or a cynical “dare to nay-say this!”

Beauty in modern art is often used only as a counterpoint to the pain and suffering of others or to come or that has been. It is rarely the focus, the raison d’etre. Beauty is too subjective, and so, too many people might not “get it”.

Death and Fear and disdain and cynicism are more universally shared commodities.

It’s hard to dismiss a portrayal of Death or a work of art that justifies itself simply as “a bit of a mess”. To criticise -or even discuss- this last one is lending it credence and adds to the mockery and disdain of my personal view and ‘wants’ from Art.

That’s not to say “it’s not Art” -but just that it’s nothing I care to talk about or debate.
Feel free to enjoy it yourself. Sleep in it for all I care.

A work that is made to “uplift” is nowadays dismissed precisely because of the bland, homogenised, compartmentalised, formulaic, “digital” view of the world. Everything is labelled and put in its box for easy consumption. Want “uplifting”? Go to Disney or see a Ron Howard movie.

But those places we are “supposed to” go to for that uplifting experience are themselves the greatest distributors of Cynicism and Formula and disdain. They languish in Politically Corrective strategy groups, paring edges off anything that might offend, almost always leaving nothing but the bare bones of a thread that will “appeal to” (which now means little more than ‘not offend’) as wide an audience as possible (which translates as ‘doesn’t have any nipples in it because granny might have a heart attack if she knows the 3-year-old suspects women have breasts!’)

Here’s the programme I mentioned above

Artgenda Movies

I don’t like films with “agendas” -even if it’s in support of a viewpoint I might otherwise agree with. At least not an agenda that must be conformed to in order to appreciate the tale at hand. If I want to be preached at I’ll go to church. I don’t think any “art” (and by that I do include “entertainment”) should have any leaning bias.

Viewers should be free to form their own conclusions and opinions -not have it forced upon them.

Pleasantville is an example off the top of my head.
It’s black & white and slowly goes into colour as characters develop less “50s strict” lifestyles and learn to live in increasingly more liberal ways.

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Tellytubbies -what’s that all about then?

Dipsy, Tinky Winky, La La and Po.

There is something of value in The Tellytubbies. Besides the fun for a child in seeing a group of fat furry friendly alien looking characters with big eyes and backsides run around and fall down, there is an educational element of sorts: The whole programme is teaching all the basic vowel-sounds. La La– “Ah Ah”. Po– “Oh”. Both Tinky Winky and Dipsy have the same “ih” and “ee” sounds. The “ih” sound is a tough one for young vocal chords. They need to commit to it as though they’re about to burble something profound and yet to then cut themselves short abruptly. “Ih”. The trailing “ee” is a reward for getting it right. “Ih ee”.

The same Effort & Reward system is used in the programme-title: Tellytubbies – “eh ee uh ee”. Though neither the eh nor the uh sound are quite as complicated as ih, the title itself still ends both sections with a celebratory pat-on-the-back. Whoopee.

What thought must have been put into The Tellytubbies! The much maligned, poor old Tellytubbies. How many people buy the dolls thinking of their kids’ vowels? What a shame we don’t think of the vowels more often. The much forgotten, poor old vowels.

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Ih ee, Ih ee Ih ee, Ah ah and Oh. Yesterday.

Just about the only thing the Tellytubbies say is “uh-oh”. Note the uh and oh sounds herein. We’ve met the uh previously in the “tub” above, but the oh is brand new. We get the baby with the bath water here. They also say eh-oh (for “hello”) which teaches children subtle vowelish variations and how the proper use thereof can alter its whole meaning, describing circumstances so far removed from each other that they are in effect opposites. Thus we have the smiley, happy eh-oh and the dangerous, run-and-hide uh-oh.

Between the programme title and each character’s names we have the vowel sounds “ah”, “eh”, “ih”, “uh”, “oh” all right there screaming out at us. I know what some people are thinking around now… So where’s the main ‘U’ sound? Where’s the “oooh”?

Well, that’s what those who are not in the know might ask, for indeed there is a fifth member to the Tellytubby-team.

The fifth Tellytubby is their little pet vacuum cleaner – “Noo Noo” (Note the repeated ooo for emphasis). If you have seen it you must surely have wondered why? Why do they have a pet vacuum cleaner? Well now you know. The word “vacuum” itself is comprised mainly of this very same “ooo”. Indeed, it goes deeper than this. Just think of the other little word by which most of us refer to a vacuum cleaner. The creators of the Tellytubbies are most certainly geniuses. They covered all the bases. They place the children in a magic box from which it is impossible for them to escape without being forced to learn something. These people know that the adult audience won’t all say “oh look: a vacuum cleaner!” whereby the children would be further fortified with knowledge. They know that half the population would call this pet a hoover, but of course they had that covered too! Ooooooh!

The last remaining vowel sound. Yesterday.
The last remaining vowel sound. Yesterday.

The Tellytubbies is near abstract art for tots. It paints a picture of the almost-invisible building blocks to learning. It encourages toddlers to form ideas. It doesn’t lecture or explain. It doesn’t tell and it doesn’t preach. Unlike a certain purple dinosaur I despise. bleurgh

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This is why I believe The Tellytubbies should never be allowed fade out of popularity. It speaks to children in their own tongue whilst simultaneously teaching them the basics of most Western languages.

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Extract from the excellent The High Kicking Kung Fu Soccer Playing Bunny Rabbit Tree. Available here. And on Amazon.com, etc.

A Sitty Choice

This is the seating layout for the NCT (National Car Test) Centre I previously mentioned. Fellow attendees marked by letters. Females in pink. Males red.

Seating

The TV is blaring, showing Sky News broadcasting live from the UK house of commons where half a dozen half asleep politicians are trying hard not to be disturbed by the animated speaker.

I enter and stand in the place marked ‘IN’ and find myself at a loss… Where do I sit?


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Which cup is you?

I’ve been thinking of cups. Well someone has to.

For the purpose of this discussion (and I hope you jump in) I will keep it down to just two types of cup: Those that are attractive to The Male and to The Female.

My first example is the shape most commonly found in every house that I’ve been to…

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