September 9th, 2003


Email Offer

Just renewing -- all of you who have an email address there should have received a request for £10 for your share of costs. If anyone knows someone who would like an email address(or two)+webspace for £10 for this year, please pass on the offer. If we get more people in, the cost for each of you will drop...

It's all about the drama

No, this post isn't going to be about the constant state of drama that my friend's lives are in - after all we all need a good giggle now and again and it's largely better than the tv. Instead it's about something I'm doing for the first time in over 20 years. I'm going to act.

Ed has found that while moving to Edinburgh means that he's a lot calmer and happier (a strange thought, considering that he's moved in with me and Erin) he now had a fair amount of free time on his hands and needed something to fill in the hours. Looking through the various courses available through Edinburgh Council's Adult Education, he hit upon Yoga (which Erin will also be going to) and Drama. I haven't acted at all since I was at school (and junior school at that) where I have vague memories of playing third shepherd in a nativity play, age 9.

Ed's always been a bit of a drama fiend, having acted as Hamlet, Peter Pan and numerous other roles during his time at school and having had a strong interest in theatre throughout his life. I've always felt a bit envious - acting looks like so much fun. But actually going to audition for something fills me with dread, because it's not something I feel even a smidgeon of confidence about. Indeed, I'm feel sure that I'd be terrible at it. But that doesn't mean that I couldn't both enjoy it and be good at it, given some training and a chance to experiment. 10 weeks of "Drama for Beginners" should be just the thing to either shake me out of my neuroses or put me off for life.


Studies show that people only get a temporary lift from having more luxuries. After a fairly short period they become used to their current resource levels and their happiness returns to its previous levels. Until, of course, they get another boost.

I didn't much like Citizen Kane. Having been repeatedly told that it was the best film of all time by whole generations of critics, I was somewhat surprised to see a fairly good fake biopic, nicely told, with some decent camerawork and solid performances.

These two facts are, of course, connected.

(I feel the urge at this point to leave you to draw your own conclusions but let's face it, if you didn't all suffer from a deadly combination of boredom, apathy and fascination with my thought patterns you wouldn't be reading this at all.)

When I was a kid I saw the fantastic black and white silent short that showed a trains-eye view from London to Dover in fast forward. The whole trip took maybe 5 minutes and it was a complete delight to me.

When cinema was first invented the public thrilled to such delights as "A train leaving a station" and "A horse eating hay", neither of which are likely to be troubling the box office this year, despite the fact that people were happy to watch them repeatedly when they first appeared.

When you've seen a 300-foot tall monster destroy New York, is there any point seeing a 200-foot tall monster do the same? When you've seen a true master at work behind the camera, it seems a little wasteful to watch someone whose only good. When you've seen all the reverse-pan-dollies and clever cross-cuts that you're likely to have in the past 20 years, why go back and watch the first film to have used them - unless you're a film historian, that is.

Sometimes I wish that I'd started at the beginning of cinema and not been allowed to watch any recent films until I'd seen the earlier ones. Starting at age 10 I could have been shown films from 1900-1905. At age 11, films from 1906-1910. I'd be reaching the present day round about now, only having enjoyed an awful lot of films that I now can't watch with anything but vague intellectual interest.

Which isn't to say that I can't watch any non-recent films (I love many films from all over the place), but I've definitely become dulled to mediocre films, and frequently even to 'pretty good' films. This, presumably, is part of growing up- after a while one is bound to become a tad jaded with things one's seen hundreds of times before. I find myself ignoring films that are only rated at 3 stars, because they aren't likely to contain anything I'm not bored with or don't find predictable.

What I'd give to suffer from voluntary amnesia, to wander into a cinema with a fresh mind and see these things for the first time. Not just to have a childlike sense of the wonder in the world, but to have a childlike ignorance of what's been done before.

Good Iraq news

Can be found here.

While the situation may not be going well (ha! understatement!), but apparently the fact there is even theoretical freedom in Iraq is prompting the surrounding countries to introdice new freedoms.

In Syria, President Bashar Assad has announced an end to 40 years of one-party rule by ordering the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party to no longer "interfere in the affairs of the government." The party is planning a long-overdue national conference to amend its constitution and, among other things, drop the word "socialist" from its official title.

Assad has also liberated scores of political prisoners and promised to hold multiparty elections soon. In July, a petition signed by over 400 prominent Syrians offered a damning analysis of Ba'athist rule and called for political and economic reform. The fact that the signatories were not arrested, and that their demands were mentioned in the state-controlled media, amount to a retreat by Syrian despotism.

"What we need is a space of freedom in which to think and speak without fear," says a leading Syrian economist. "Bashar knows that if he does not create that space, many Syrians will immigrate to Iraq and be free under American rule."

* A similar view is expressed by Hussein Khomeini, a mid-ranking mullah and a grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic in Iran.

"I decided to leave Iran and settle in Iraq where the Americans have created a space of freedom," Hussein Khomeini says. "The coming of freedom to Iraq will transform the Muslim world."

Hussein Khomeini is one of more than 200 Iranian mullahs who recently moved from Qom, the main centre of Iranian Shiism, to Najaf and Karbala, in central Iraq, to escape "the suffocating atmosphere of despotism in Iran."