Archive for January, 2006

BBC Drama Casts Past Off Quite Discourteously

I had a bout of precognition almost worthy of Minority Report last night, when I was watching that BBC drama about Queen Elizabeth. Watching the scene which began with her tinkling away at her harpsichord (if that is what it was) awaiting the arrival of the representative of Mary Queen of Scots (I think), I thought, she’s going to knock out a few bars of Greensleeves now and say her dad wrote it. And lo! She did!

According to the official Royal site, however, it seems that this particular version of Queen Bess may have been a bit too hasty to believe the hype at court about her father’s composing skills. It says:

Greensleeves, the popular melody frequently attributed to him is, however,
almost certainly not one of his compositions.

Now, if only I had been able to use said powers when watching the lead-in to Saturday night’s Irish Lightweight Championship bout between Peter McDonagh and Michael Gomez.

Blogging Horror Displayed In Graphic Detail

My blogging technique is not up to much. Whatever promises I may have made to plan posts, or at least think them through before clicking on the ‘Publish Post’ button, the banal truth is that my blojo deserts me all too frequently.

I feel a constant need to post something, but any time I sit down to type something, I start off with a sentence, and then delete it. Not selecting the sentence with the mouse and hitting delete, but pressing backspace and watching the words progressively disappear from the screen. This happens a few times, and then I give up.

The result of this is that I spend a lot more time ‘blogging’ than actually writing things which will end up in posts. I started thinking about the type of thing I write as part of my first sentence but then delete, and performed an, er, in-depth analysis of the themes they addressed, which I have represented, for your edification, in graphical format below:

Sectarian Muppets?

Of all the children’s TV programmes I watched, Sesame Street is the one I remember most vividly. I am surprised at how many of its characters, its jingles and sketches I remember. Whereas in hindsight Playschool seems prim and condescending, Bosco grim and almost Soviet, Sesame Street remains bright and breezy.

Even if I left aside such considerations as giant talking birds and dustbin-dwelling grouches, it was still pretty obvious that the world on Sesame Street was a lot different to the one I inhabited. For a start, the theme song told me that the air was ‘sweet’. I remember wondering how air could possibly be ‘sweet’. The theme song also left me wondering where the hell it was. The child’s voice singing it faded out on the tantalising ‘can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?’ No directions were ever given, but it was pretty clear that Sesame Street was in America. The buildings were taller, there were fire hydrants, and the programme was brought to you by the letter ‘zee’ instead of the letter ‘zed’.

Anyway, in the 25 or so years that have passed since, I have scarcely given it any thought. (Apart from the odd time when I found myself in the company of a group of people my age with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. The fallback for a conversation topic on those occasions is always children’s TV programmes.) But it now seems that there will be a Sesame Street project to promote tolerance in the North.

According to this report here, there will be a ‘specially designed show’ for this ‘troubled country’.
It appears there was a study which found that many children, as young as three years old, have sectarian beliefs.

To gauge the potential effectiveness of such an initiative, I recommend another study to investigate the effects of Sesame Street on grown-up sectarian thugs between the age of 20-35. (For comparison, I recommend a similar survey on British soldiers of the same age) I’m willing to bet twenty quid that upwards of 85% of said individuals will have watched Sesame Street as children, and many will be able to perform a rendition of ‘1-2-3-4-5/6-7-8-9-10/11-12.’ Many more will be able to tell you that the Spanish for water is ‘agua’. I’m pretty sure that Sesame Street is an effective vehicle for getting certain types of message across. But what kind of messages? And could they help to promote tolerance in the North?

The Irish Times article also happens to mention the matter of a new documentary called The World According to Sesame Street. The blurb on Rotten Tomatoes says:

‘These three producers from New York’s Sesame Street workshop take Sesame Street as we know it and localize it with indigenous songs, puppets, and curricula. However, this is far from the straightforward, benevolent task it may seem to be. The cultural and production challenges of formulating each region’s program are a complex of the political and the personal and make The World According to Sesame Street dramatic and edifying viewing.’
(Emphasis mine)

So from what I can gather, the intention would be to develop songs, characters and lessons specific to the North. I must confess that I find this rather worrying. From what I remember, I knew a lot more at the age of 5 about Sesame Street than I did about what Protestants and Catholics were (in fact, aged 3 and 4, at the height of ‘the Troubles’, I attended a mixed nursery school, and had no idea whatsoever who was Protestant and who was Catholic) Watching the characters interact on screen, would I have been able to identify with a Celtic-supporting Bert as opposed to a Rangers-supporting Ernie? How would I have reacted to a sash-wearing Big Bird sitting down to discuss his need to march up and down the street with grouchy Oscar who stores petrol bombs at the bottom of his trashcan?

There is a serious side to this. How do you develop Protestant and Catholic puppets? In order to develop meaningful lessons, wouldn’t the difference between Catholic and Protestant have to get accentuated, instead of removed? And why would anyone bother with this sort of thing, unless they were awash with piles of cash from well-meaning American aunties and uncles?

Sometimes the best of intentions lead to the worst of outcomes. This is the latest in a long line of education-for-mutual-understanding wheezes that bring zero results. Despite the millions poured into this sort of thing over the last 25 years, low-level sectarian attitudes are probably worse than ever; and this sort of thing serves to perpetuate the idea that having an industry devoted to bringing about ‘reconciliation’ is actually a good thing.

(One, two, three million English pounds HAHAHA!)

Evo Morales – Imperialist Lapdog

My next pay review:

“We think 3% is very generous, given the circumstances, I mean, it’s a global market these days, and I think we’re being competitive. Some places they pay you a little less for a lot more. Look at Bolivia – the guy charged with running a country with vast natural gas resources gets $1,800 a month. And he probably doesn’t have a subsidised canteen either.”

You Are What You Watch

TV these days is shit. This is literally true in the case of Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat. A few minutes ago I was on the phone, chatting away, when I looked up and saw a glistening brown 21-inch stool on my TV screen.

The Way I Chews

Chewing gum, if it is any good, should lose all flavour and then harden, until it seems pointless to continue chewing.

This morning I bought a packet of Wrigleys Extra, and chewed on a piece for a couple of hours in work and then as I made my way home.

On the way, I masticated without a care in the world, but there was a sudden change in the consistency of the gum, and within a couple of minutes, the gum had turned to a gooey, watery mush. This vile mixture was sloshed around in my mouth until I could contain it no longer, and I spat it out (down a drain, as it happens, ‘cos I’m environmentally conscious that way). It came out fluorescent white, with the consistency of slightly diluted Tipp-Ex.

It’s certainly a novel form of avoiding pavements blighted with chewing gum, but Lonnie Donegan would be appalled. Fergie would be enraged.

Caving In To Popular Opinion

A rather strongly-worded editorial in today’s New York Times on the role of the Partido Popular in the current difficulties surrounding declarations made by members of the armed forces in Spain.

Entitled Army Troglodytes (that’ll go down well at Libertad Digital), it invites the PP to STFU:

It is a basic principle of democracy that army officers do not publicly
challenge the legitimacy of elected governments or talk about marching their
troops into the capital to overturn decisions of Parliament. Yet that is just
what has happened twice this month in Spain, a country whose 20th-century
history compels it to take such threats seriously, even when the chances of
insubordinate words’ leading to insubordinate actions seems quite unlikely.

The response of the center-left government of Prime Minister José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero has been appropriately firm, including the dismissal and
arrest of one of the culprits, a senior army general. Regrettably, the
center-right Popular Party, the main opposition group, seems more interested in
making excuses for the officers than in defending the democratic order in which
it has a vital stake.

I on Twitter

January 2006