Monday, February 26, 2007

Those Oscars in brief

Well done to Martin Scorsese for finally winning a little gold statuette after so many years of failure. I accidentally watched "The Departed" last night (I'd intended to see "The Last King of Scotland", as I've always been interested in James I/VI, but the bus was late so I plumped for next best choice) and was pleasantly surprised. Not that it's a pleasant film, with lots of shootings and Alec Baldwin, but it is well written and directed, and probably deserves the gongs it's received.

The acting is also pretty sharp, with "Marky" Mark Wahlberg in a great little fast-talking role. Reminded me of when he used to rap for a living.

I haven't seen "The Queen" yet, although I'm sure it will be shown on telly when Brenda finally pops her clogs. I am, of course, a huge fan of Helen Mirren. I think my favourite film of hers is "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", in which she plays the (frequently naked) wife. I also enjoyed "Excalibur", where she plays the scantily clad Morgana, "Caligula", where she's a saucy nymphomaniac, and er, "Calendar Girls", where she struggles to keep her clothes on, even as a middle-aged housewife. A fine body, of work, to be sure, and a worthy recipient of the Breast Actress, I mean, Best Actress Oscar.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Well, this being a Catholic country, the people don't start their countdown to Easter with anything as mundane as a pancake race. No, the burghers of Torres Vedras take to the streets in a five day orgy of dressing up and drinking.

Of course, being averse to such frivolity, I headed inland to the Alentejo for the first few days, taking advantage of my holiday time to see a bit more of the country.

However, I didn't want to miss all the fun, so yesterday we went and had a look at the final parade. The carnival in T.V. is famous as "the most Portuguese in Portugal" and has a lot of very good floats. This year's theme was "The People of the World", which was the cue for hundreds of people to dress in the crudest stereotypes of Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians, Native Americans, Austrians and gypsies. There were also a good few dressed as Scots; seeing them cavort around drunkenly reminded me of Edinburgh on a Saturday night.

Here is a video I took of one of the floats. The tradition here is to throw balls of paper to the crowds, who then throw them back - less dangerous than the Mardi Gras beads, eggs and kittens chucked about in some other towns.

Here are some more snaps of the other major floats:

Apologies for absence

Hi all,

Sorry for the non-posting for a bit - a combination of going away, having the flu (bloody turkey sandwiches) and Blogger being a useless website that doesn't always let me login.

Will rectify now with updates.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another seasonal message

Happy Valentine's Day from the little mole:

Monday, February 12, 2007

David Cameron and other news

How's about this for a new slogan?

"You don't have to be on drugs to vote Conservative, but it helps."

When will we get a proper discussion about drugs amongst politicians? There can't be anyone under 40 (Mr Cameron's age) who hasn't either tried pot or seen someone else smoke it, can there? Cannabis-fuelled sessions on the Playstation 2 are a major part of British life, aren't they? Or maybe Mike Skinner was wrong.

Meanwhile in the tropical south (17 degrees today), the Portuguese have said "Yes" to abortion in a referendum. A good thing, I think. The large number of abstentions (58%) means the result is not binding, but the government has promised to push the legislation through anyway. Only Ireland, Poland and Malta will now have super-strict abortion laws (Beeb guide here) in the European Union.

Finally, went to see Scoop, the latest Woody Allen film, with R yesterday. Quite a jolly little picture, and it's always encouraging to see Ian "Lovejoy" McShane getting gainful employment, even as a ghost. Best line went to the director (as usual): "I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but I converted to narcissism".

I'll try to post in the next few days, but if not I'll deffo do a report about carnaval next week.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worth comment

Finally something worth blogging about! England have won the one-day series! 2-0! In Australia! Break out the bubbly! Ring the bells! Don't bet on us for the World Cup, whatever you do!

Well done to the lads down under. They've had one hell of a tough tour and although it was far too long, at least they'll be coming home with some sense of pride intact. Paul Collingwood and Liam Plunkett have done particularly well (maybe it's the Australian weather they get in Durham) but the whole team deserves credit, especially Andrew Flintoff, who perhaps isn't a bad captain after all.

Let's hope they can play with as much fight in the West Indies. If we can get past Canada and Kenya in the group stage, the dream might just be realised.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Joy unconfined!

Aah, the happiness when one turns the TV on to find them showing "The Jerk", with Steve Martin at his best. I missed this scene, which is near the start, but the rest of the film is almost as good:

Friday, February 02, 2007

We don't need no thought control

Alan Johnson is proposing changes to geography teaching in schools so that children can learn more about climate change:

If we can instil in the next generation an understanding of how our actions can mitigate or cause global warming then we lock in a culture change that could, quite literally, save the world.

I think this is a little over-stated, but probably fair enough, as the environment is an important issue and kids, generally speaking, are interested in it.

I'm not sure, though, that all his proposals are about increasing young people's knowledge, rather they seem to be a thinly disguised attack on global capitalism:

Importing food from the other side of the world and unnecessary airplane travel have become significant sources of CO2 pollution and children should be aware of these consequences.

Similarly, the importance of reducing fossil fuels and the effects of shifting clothes manufacturing to developing economies are all issues worth of study and debate in our classrooms.

I hope there will be plenty of emphasis on the fact that air travel makes up only a very small part of global emissions, and that deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere (long a staple of the geography curriculum), and the construction of new power stations throughout the developing world are still much greater contibutors to the carbon mix.

(Just as an aside, does "airplane travel" stick in anyone else's craw? Surely "aeroplane travel" or "air travel" is the correct British English term?)

I also hope the stuff about shifting clothes manufacturing is not just a "globalisation bad, localism good" argument, because the reality is somewhat more complicated than that. If developing countries can sustain a successful textile industry, they become richer, helping lift their populations out of poverty. Money that countries like Bangladesh or Indonesia can earn from exports is massively important to their economies and buying goods from such places is not always a negative thing for us in the West to do.

The reason I'm a little cynical about AJ's ideas is this paragraph:

Children have a dual role as consumers and influences. Educating them about the impact of getting an extra pair of trainers for fashion's sake is as important as the pressure they put on their parents not to buy a gas-guzzling family car.

When the Education Secretary describes children as "consumers and influencers", I'm a little worried. Our priority should be educating them to read, write and add up (which many of our schools are failing to do adequately) and then equip them with the tools to analyse evidence and make sensible decisions for themselves as they go through life.

The last sentence, about gas-guzzlers, has me thinking about the real agenda here: the Government wants our kids to do what the congestion charge and road-pricing can't, namely get SUVs off the streets. Or am I reading too much into this?

It's been a while...

...since I last posted.

No excuse, except that I haven't had much to say. I'll try to make up for it today.

It's also been a while since England beat Australia at cricket (yes, unbelievably, we're still playing them). Even more unbelievably, that run of consecutive defeats has just come to an end.

Joyce inspires England to victory

It's not going to lead to World Cup glory, but it will bring some much needed cheer to the England dressing room. Special praise should go to Ed Joyce, with a century at the top of the order, and Liam Plunkett, who took 3-24 with the ball.

Let's hope we can make it to the finals of this series and, who knows, perhaps we can spring another surprise?