Monday, July 21, 2008

Barack Obama's Euro tour

Found this in the Guardian's "Comment" section:-

"When it comes to international affairs, he will be a huge improvement on Bush and much better than McCain. That takes him a long way from the parlous place where America is now. But his current platform will still leave America a considerable distance from where most Europeans who come out to greet him would like it to be.

"This would matter more if they thought their own leaders could do any better. But Obama's other asset right now is the pathetic state of European leadership. He arrives in a continent whose unifying project has been stalled by the Irish and is based in a country that is falling apart - Belgium.

"With the exception of Angela Merkel, riding high on folksy popularity, he will meet leaders (Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy) who are not much more popular than Bush. So Obama's arrival gives Europeans a chance to be passionate about politics - a feeling they have not had for a long time. In Obama, they pine for something they have singularly failed to produce - a politician who inspires them and a politics of hope."

Gary Younge, People see in Obama what they want to see... Guardian, Monday July 21 2008, p. 25

I don't necessarily endorse Younge's high opinion of Obama as a politician but I do agree wholeheartedly with his diagnosis of the candidate's appeal in Europe. Longterm, I suspect middle America will vote decisively for McCain because they don't get Obama at all. I fear Younge hit on the problem earlier in his piece:

"The division is not just racial but idealogical. Liberals refer to him as though he represents a second coming. The left sees him as a disappointment waiting to happen. Hillary Clinton's team tried to paint him as a condescending sexist. Jesse Jackson wants to cut his nuts off."

Candidacy is one thing, electoral victory something else altogether.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Death Defying Acts

From the business section of the Sunday Telegraph, July 20 2008.

"Death Defying Acts, a new $20m biopic of the magician Harry Houdini starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Guy Pearce, had a less than magical release in the US last weekend, writes Tom Teodorczuk in New York. Released by Third Rail, a distribution label of the Weinstein Company run by film mogul brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the film debuted with minimal fanfare and no premiere, in just two cinemas nationwide, grossing a paltry $5000."

Firstly, surely everyone realised early on this would be a turkey - neither Jones nor Pearce are major attractions, although both can shine in quality material - and no film about magicians has ever set the box office alight (simply put, who cares about illusion in a medium that is entirely illusory?). Secondly, as readers of Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures will instantly recognise, this is a classic case of Harvey Weinstein having fallen out with an obstreperous director or overly-independent producer. Come the autumn I'm betting there will be a more significant Weinstein release aimed at Oscar 2009.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Advice from the literary heart

"Of all human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin - the desk's too big, the desk's too small, there's too much noise, there's too much quiet, it's too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply to start."

Robert Harris, The Ghost (Arrow pb 2008) p. 180

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Apropos Bonekickers

The Times critic, in discussing the BBC's new, silly but amusing drama series, Bonekickers:

"To say I was surprised that a plodding forensic science series went round the bend into Hollywood fantasy puts it mildly, but there is a gigantism going on in television drama at the moment: the stakes are always too high, the body count too many, the appeal to plausibility too slight."

Andrew Billen, "Last night's TV: Bones of Contention", The Times Wednesday July 9 2008, p. 25

DAB viability

The Guardian continues its peculiar war on DAB radio.

The "long-term viability" of digital radio has today been questioned by the BBC Trust, which said that all digital-only stations, including those offered by the corporation, had "yet to make a breakthrough".

In the BBC's annual report for the year to the end of March, published today, the trust said it "remains to be seen" whether the launch of the second national commercial digital multiplex backed by Channel 4 later this year "will boost the market sufficiently to ensure its longterm viability".

"Although growing, reach and audience awareness [of digital audio broadcasting] remain low. In November, the government launched the Digital Radio Working Group to look at how to promote digital radio and increase penetration," the BBC Trust added.

Public awareness of digital-only radio services such as BBC 6Music also remains "low" according to the trust, with only 41% of the population having heard of them, even when prompted.
"Concerns have grown about the future of DAB within the commercial radio market," the BBC Trust warned.


Ben Dowell, "BBC Annual Report: Trust questions future of DAB radio", www.guardian.co.uk Tuesday July 8 2008.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Are you a writer?

"I'm a would-be writer."
"Why call yourself that?"
"Because I haven't published anything yet."
"Do you write most days of the week?"
"Every day."
"Then you are a writer. Because you write. You actually do it. Which separates the true artist from the poseur."

Douglas Kennedy (2007), The Woman in the Fifth. Arrow pb, p. 135