March 28, 2006

Cultural Identity - How Do We Get It?

I was thinking the other day about cultural identity and what the chances were that one day we might "all just get along". During the wanderings that my mind took through this subject came this quote from Ronald Regan (not exact but to paraphrase) "If the earth ever faced an extra-terrestrial threat then we would unite". One of his more lucid thoughts. Seriously.

Personally there is nothing more that I would like than for all of us to be able to just get along. Not to be the same, but for us all to respect the identities of our various cultures and to be able to co-exist. It won't happen though. There is too much that we let separate us or too much that is enforced separation.


This is always a biggy. Take the basic faith denominations and divide along those lines. Then take the variants within a faith and divide those. Then take the interpritations of each variant and divide those. Then take the geographical variants and divide those. It looks messy already and we haven't even begun to include the other cultural/socio-economic pressures that go to make all this up yet.

Within the Christian doctrine you have a myriad of denominations - Orthodox (Greek and Russian), Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic - and none of these can agree on the exact nature of their religion.


The disdain that people from one culture hold for another just along the divide of language is astonishing. Look at the Serbs, Croats, Slavs - basic varients of the same language but miles apart. There is the English and the French.


How do you unite a world that is so economically unbalanced?

Regional Variation

Even within a country there is the problem of geography. How many Americans who come from one state will poke fun at someone from another?


Self determination within a countries traditional borders can cause all kinds of tensions (Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Indonesia, etc). Then there is the question of political systems themselves


Posted by AlexC at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2006

Issac Hayes - Is He Right?

It has been reported that Issac Hayes is to leave "South Park" because he feels that the show has become bigoted. Quoting from IMDB:

"Singer-turned-voice-over-actor Isaac Hayes has quit the animated South Park series, citing the show's satirical depiction of religion. In a statement, Hayes commented, "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs ... begins." However, series co-creator Matt Stone promptly issued a statement accusing Hayes of being primarily angered by the show's decision to lampoon the Church of Scientology, of which Hayes is a member. and its celebrity members. "In ten years and over 150 episodes of South Park, Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslim, Mormons or Jews," Stone said in the statement that Hayes "got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show.""

*Cough hypocritical bas.. Cough*

It has been said that Scientologists take themselves far too seriously and that, amongst the power players of Hollywood that they might have just a tad too much influence. Really? This never occurred to me...

This is bullsh*t of the worst sort. Seriously. I've watched South Park (not for a while I have to admit) and it is fairly even handed in its satirising of EVERYONE. From what I saw it had no favourites and took no prisoners (I still think "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" was a satirical materpiece that made a lot of people, not just American's, uncomfortable with its points about censorship and selectivity) and it drew as much praise as it did criticism. To quit just after Scientology was satirised is bad timing - do the VO people not get their scripts beforehand? Could he not see what was coming up?

Any religion where a core belief is that UFO's are held prisoner in volcano's taking itself so seriously is a joke in itself. We seem to be reaching this odd point where religion, in the sense of it being like it was in the 8th century, is starting to dominate and for all the wrong reasons. There is nothing at all wrong with spiritual beliefs but surely in this modern world, particularly in terms of social interaction, this needs to be taken in context?

Posted by AlexC at 11:35 AM | Comments (5)

March 14, 2006

The Da Vinci Code - The Court Case Files

Going through the courts here in the UK at the moment is a case brought about by two of the authors of a book called "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" against Random House and, more specifically, Dan Brown. The argument is that Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, extrapolated ideas central to their book and so (I guess) infringed their Intellectual Property rights and copyright. More over they state that they were not credited (not even in the bibliography Brown used to cite his source materials).

(As a side note here at the beginning of each book I have noticed that there is a little catch all section that now states that the author is asserting their moral rights to be associated with the work and ideas contained within. How much bearing this has on a book that was published in the mid 1980's I am not sure.)

Would the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" have brought this case to court if Dan Brown 's book had not been so phenominally successful? It seems unlikely. The central themes to both books have been explored by many people over the years and, if I were feeling somewhat pedantic, I would point out that similar themes were explored by Nikos Kazantzakis and Paul Schrader in Martin Scorseses' "The Last Temptation of Christ" (incidentally, the book the film based on was published more than 50 years ago). Grail hunters themselves have had similar theories for countless years - the hunt for the Grail has fascinated people since even before the Crusades and there is a certain degree of romanticism attached to it. Poets and novelists, painters and playwrights have all used this material in some form or another to base a work off. So why Dan Brown, I ask. Perhaps this is something of a double edged sword for the authors?

The publicity that their book has received has certainly done sales no harm. Amazon reported a healthy rise in orders for it and I am sure other retailers too. The exposure is publicity you couldn't buy. It won't have done Dan Brown any harm either as I am sure his books too have benefited. The reported £50 million he has generated might also have some attraction as would the upcoming film and the royalties that will generate...

Personally I find it incredibly irritating. The success of 'The Da Vinci Code' was always going to attract someone, somewhere to do something like this. Let's face it - it's not even a particularly well written book; certainly not very good as a thriller (obvious plot devices, the dashing round solving relatively simple clues that even Scooby Doo could have a fair crack at) combined with people thinking it is based on solid fact rather than a lot of conjecture (hang your heads in shame people who have taken the 'Da Vinci Code Trail' tours). I described this book to Sally onces as 'A Housewive's Choice' and by that I meant that is was in small, easily digestable chapters and that it could be put down and picked up by busy housewive's without actually being a challenging read.

Still I bet Random House and the Hollywood studio (Sony, I think) that is producing the film are rubbing their hands with glee!

Posted by AlexC at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2006


How long would you wait for a job, on the understanding that you had been offered it?

What is the best book you have read in the last 6 months? What was the worst?

What is it that tells you that you are in love and how does it differ from lust?

Posted by AlexC at 01:38 PM | Comments (3)

March 08, 2006

Meme thing I

Harvey tagged me with this meme. While I have 30 mins to kill here between strangling the server and dealing with manic depression I thought I would have a go at it.

1) Two favourite colours: midnight blue as I find it calming; white due to it's cleanliness and the effect it has on Sally.

2) Two least favourite colours: willow green as my mom seems to have a fetish for it and my office is painted that colour; dark grey as it always gives a sense of foreboding.

3) Favourite fast food restaurant: I don't have one. I tend to avoid things like McDonalds due to the need to preserve my taste buds. In terms of chain restaurants then TGI Fridays and Frankie & Bennies over here are good, and the New York Cheesecake Factory got my vote when in the US.

4) Fave day of the week: Hmmmm. Saturday. I know that on a Sunday Star will go to her grandparents for a few hours and I get some alone time with Sally.

5) Least fave day: Monday. Another week of crushing oppression at work, 5 more days before I get to spend real quality time with my loved ones.

6) Best thing about your significant other: Just the one thing? The fact that she understands me when sometimes I don't even understand myself.

7) Least favorite thing about your significant other: That she cannot see how I see her actions.

8) Your significant other's favourite thing about you (without asking them): I try to do the best thing by us all, and keep trying even with all the setbacks I receive, and she knows how hard it is.

9) Your significant other's least favourite thing about you (again, without asking them): My stubborness and unwillingness to listen.

10) Black or white? White. It has interesting effects on Sally if it is clothing.

11) Red or blue? Blue is the colour I have preferred since childhood.

12) Day or night? Night. Quiet, no need to go anywhere or do anything, the lure of bed and a warm cozy Sally, the end to a hectic day.

13) Favorite part of your body: My fingers. They do so much, vital for work and for tickling the 2 tickle monsters in the house.

14) Least favorite part about your body: Knees. The left one particularly has given me so much trouble over the years and will do for the rest of my life.

15) Do you like walking in the rain at times? Sure. Summer days when it had gotten humid and then the blessed relief of rain falling from the heavens as I am out walking with Sally, or the sudden downpur that catches you unaware and, just for a second, you're a teenager again dashing for cover.

16) Do you have a tattoo? With my overwhelming phobia of needles?

17) “Short and sweet” or “long and hard”? With reference to what exactly? For a working week I would prefer the former but get the later.

18) Favourite kind of car: Subaru Impreza WRC 4 door 300 odd bhp thing. You Americans have no concept of cars. 300+ bhp from a 2 litre engine, permanent 4wd, 4 doors for getting people in and out of AND it can take corners :P

19) Favorite kind of ice cream: Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream. Lovely lumps of uncooked cookie dough.

20) Trix or Lucky Charms? WTF are these things?

People who need to answer this in the hapless way I did:

Contagion if only for him to be able to mention "haggis" in some fashion.

Sally even though she will ignore it and finally...

Onehappydogspeaks due to the fact she still reads me and I am a crap blogger.

Posted by AlexC at 02:29 PM | Comments (9)

March 05, 2006

Work In Progress

Asthetic changes to the site will be in progress for the next week or so. Possibly.

Posted by AlexC at 11:11 AM | Comments (2)

Help Me!

Who played the harmonica on 'Say Say Say'?

Posted by AlexC at 11:08 AM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2006

Movie Discussions...

First off thanks to Madfish Willy for the comment he left in Harveys film post about the comment I made:

"These are movies that are plot rather than effects driven. And some that stand the test of time are over 60 years old. Wonder how many modern films will stand up that long?

So what does consititute a good movie and has the emphasis changed with the era's that these films were made? I present a series of questions for discussion below:

Have Special Effects Killed The Need For Stories? Joey over at Harv's made this comment about the original King Kong "though heavy on the special effects, it used them as a vehicle rather than a crutch, for the most part" and it got me thinking about the Peter Jackson remake. I would argue that the Peter Jackson film is a better one than the orignal because of the underlying humanity of the story. Sure, it's a showcase for the effects, and some of the characters are a little underdeveloped but there was a genuine push for emotion particularly at the end of the film. Is that a sign of a better film maker than the original though? Better scripting? I would argue that the special effects in this case added to the impact of the film as you were able to be better emersed into the world and it added to the sense of occasion. However, a lot of films that rely on effects are one trick ponies (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow anyone?) and effects are used to prop up weak stories too often.

Have Actors Become Better or Worse? I would like to make a distinction here. We have two areas to consider here. There are "Stars" and there are "Actors". Think of it like this; when in the 30's studios like Warner Bro's were tying there "Stars" to long term contracts who were they? People like Bogart, Cagney, Edward G Robinson, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds - all stars but were they better actors than there modern day counterparts? Is Bogart better than Cruise? Or Cagney better than Matt Damon? (I might be comparing chalk and cheese here in genre terms). Then we have the "Actors" of today - people like Sir Ian McKellen, Morgan Freeman, Sean Bean. Would you go and see a film because these people are in it? Unlikely. However you know you would get a decent performance from them. There is one exception to this though: Tom Hanks. He is a good actor and has star power. Is more of that type of person needed?

Is there too little emphasis on story or plot? You could argue that the modern day stars are limited by their source material and that if you don't get a decent script or decent direction then what can they do? Films today cost $millions to produce and every single one is a risk for the studios. I would argue that less appalling filsm are produced today than 60 years ago simply due to the risks involved, but also that less varied films are produced too. Studios get a formula and stick to it, putting a particular star in there for box office draw.

Are films produced today that are simply "flavour of the moment"? Brokeback Mountain is a case in question. Morgan Freeman argued "it was the right film at the right time" and further went on to say "it is not necessarily more deserving of its Oscar nominations than others that have been overlooked". Then you have films that are producing political statements for or against something. Let's be honest here though. This has always happened. During WW2 and the Korean War a lot of flag waving "support our boys and your government" films were produced. After Vietnam a lot of anti war films were produced. This is always going to happen. There is no such thing as an impartial film - directors, scriptwriters have axes to grind and this is a way they can express it to a mass audience. Occasionally great films are produced ("The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Apocalypse Now") but how many more are forgotten?

Any other questions that should be asked?

Posted by AlexC at 10:57 AM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2006

It's not all Black and White...

Harvey put this link up about black and white films which I found interesting. They are always putting up lists about the top 100 greatest films/songs/elephants ever and rarely do we agree with their choices but I thought I would do a quick list decade by decade of my top 5 - feel free to disagree or propose your own!

1930's & 40's

1: The Maltese Falcon
2: The Public Enemy
3: Little Caesar
4: A Night At The Opera

1: The Night of the Hunter
2: The Quiet Man
3: On The Waterfront
4: Singing in the Rain
5: North by Northwest

1: 2001: A Space Odyssey
2: Butch Cassidey & The Sundance Kid
3: Planet of the Apes
4: The Magnificent Seven
5: The Good The Bad and the Ugly

1: Star Wars
2: The Godfather and The Godfather II
3: Alien
4: The Long Goodbye

The 1980's
1: The Shining
2: Heathers
3: Raiders of the Lost Ark
4: Akira
5: Blade Runner

1: Pulp Fiction
2: Seven
3: Edward Scissorhands
4: Saving Private Ryan
5: Schindler's List

I am hesitant to do 2000's. It's not over yet, and these things are always best looked at with time and distance. How many times has a film come out and a critic or someone you know told you it's the best film they have seen this year? How often does it turn out to be a damp squib?

If I had to pick recent ones I have enjoyed they would be:

Good Night and Good Luck which is flawed historically (I do check my facts) with the emphasis it puts on these events to bring an end to the McCarthy era witch hunts but serves as a timely reminder that media should be an independant medium that reports unbiased coverage.

Unforgiven due to it's masterful storytelling and the portrayal of complex characters that are neither good nor bad, just people.

Sin City which as an adaptation of a series of graphic novels managed to remain true to its source materials. The style, the performances, the sets and direction were all first class and as a testament Sally and I sat there throughout the whole film and hardly said a word to one another.

Jarhead for being a war film with no war. It didn't tell us that the war was good or bad, but did show us that there are always more complex human issues at work when people are thrust into a situation that they will never be prepared for.

Show me your choices!

Posted by AlexC at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

Muhammed Ali

Following on from the respect thing below is this little piece.

I know that Muhammed Ali is suffering from Parkinson's Disease and has been for 22 years now. At 63 it's sad to see such a superb athlete now unable to walk unaided.

This is a man that demanded respect for all of the right reasons. Intelligent, articulate, supremely confident, an athlete who was at the very top of his profession for so long, a black man living through times where it was almost impossible for him to be treated as an equal. He spoke up for the things that he believed in and had the courage of his convictions. You may not agree with everything he said, but when he said it you still listened.

"It's not bragging if you can back it up." he once said. I agree completely. He did too, and even now (where during an interview it took him 2 minutes just to get a sip of water) people who see him tell of the steely determination he still has, the fact that he won't let his disease beat him.

A true great.

Posted by AlexC at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

The Culture Of Respect

"Respect". Not me doing a Tupac impression but a word that has been banded about in this country for a while. Tony Blair proposed introducing a culture of respect to try to reinforce a drive back to values from a different age. We now live in the age of the ASBO, the hoodie, the feckless youths hanging around on street corners near to shops and of high crime.

These kids demand respect. Their arguments are that if you don't respect them then how can they respect you? They don't listen to their teachers and parents because they don't show them respect. Pardon me? I thought that respect was earned, not just given. I always figured that achieving something in life meant that there would be a small degree of respect for that person more or less straight away. Apparently not.

First off these kids should go and look up "respect" in a dictionary. Then after they have read it they should realise that the way they see respect is as an adult concept and not something that is just handed out like pocket money or sweets. Repect extends beyond the individual and touches on all aspects of life - you respect possessions, privacy, a person's rights - all of these have to be incorporated into it.

What Tony Blair and the other politicians don't realise is that these kids are the product of the Playstation era. Disposable technology, fast food, mobile phones and TV on demand have created this myth that everything can be had right now (this extends to teenage pregnancy I believe - wanting the perceived pleasures of sex but without any of the responsibility it brings) and that nothing should be any effort. Comedy shows pick up on this with the teenager with the "yeah, whatever" attitude but the frightening fact is that this is, in certain strata's of society, this is becoming the norm and not the exception.

I admit that as a child I had a different perspective on the world to the one that I now have. I remember thinking that the world of adults was something I wanted to stay away from for as long as possible because, as a child, I was free of the responsibilities that I heard my parents and their friends complaining about. Now it seems that kids want the "perks" that adults have but without the negative things. Something that I learned from being an adult is that perks become worth that much more if I do have to suffer the negative aspects of it. The people I have respect for have earned it in some way - it is not something I would give away on demand.

Posted by AlexC at 01:11 PM | Comments (3)