Wednesday, 27 July 2011

All that work gets in the way of work

I meant to sit down and begin writing something yesterday, but I had foolishly set my Ebay auctions all to end on the same day, so most of Monday was taken up with wrapping and posting parcels. The latter part was spent on a productive wargamery pursuit. I managed to knock out sufficient of those templates for six Chimera-type vehicles last night, and have spent this afternoon and evening detailing the sides. I finished a few more vehicles to a tabletop-standard, and will be sticking them and some other rather more nicely-done vehicles, including two supers, up on Ebay in a few days. I made an order for some more plasticard so I can get to work making ever more vehicles for this line of things.

Weather here is intolerable, so I slept outside last night, leading to a little bit of sunbathing this morning. When I remark on the terribleness of the weather, some readers may mistake this for me bewailing temperatures in the 30s or more on the Celsius scale. No, it's currently 23 on that gauge. I am not a hot weather individual, which means I lose a lot of my brainpower when temperatures rise. I always thought it was a particular cruelty that school (and university) end-of-year exams took place at the time of year that was both warmest and the hayfever season. "Take a boy at his stupidest, distracted by having to blow his nose every two minutes, and test his brain!" Tsk-tsk!

I chanced upon a cache of old films on Youtube, and have been distracting myself from applying rivets by applying my eyes (well, mainly ears) to a variety of black and white comedies from the thirties, forties and fifties. For some reason, doubtless nostalgia and distrust of novelty, one every so often runs into people who decry current films and their stars as dreadful. Indeed, my newspaper had just such a letter the other day, remarking how when the author was a lad (or little girl, I forget), that there were such actors and actresses that everyone went to see them. Brad Pitt and other modern luminaries seem to have passed that scribe by.

S/he also remarked on the quality of the films then as opposed to now. The handy thing about films from then is that the bad ones have vanished. Heck, even some of the good ones are AWOL. There's a similar lament often raised in music: "The '50s/'60s/'70s/'80s was the only true era of music! This stuff today is all manufactured rot! And these singers just remake songs!" Funnily enough, a cursory glance through the back-catalogues of singers will reveal half a dozen big names, Sinatra, say, reworking their contemporaries' warblings. The Beatles, to take another example, get a lot of praise, but nobody can honestly listen to Love Me Do and take it for more than the boy-band sap it is. I don't mind such froth. I've still got an S-Club 7 single in my car, though off-hand, despite listening to it on Saturday, I cannot recall its name. It's full of cheer and vigour rather than sound and fury, although it too signifies nothing.

Speaking of Shakespeare, the estimable Jane Horrocks recently gave an interview to The Radio Times in which she remarked on the Bard's inaccessibility. Some people have misconstrued this as criticism of old Billy. Last year I was reading Tristram Shandy, which is closer to our day than Shakey's plays and poems. It would be a silly person who didn't admit that language has changed over the course of a few centuries. I would recommend Sterne to anyone, as he's such an amusing writer, but I am forced to admit that linguistic changes can render him inaccessible. Happily, my edition contains a big crop of explanatory notes at the back. I've tried to battle my way through Marlowe before now, but my family's dated OUP edition is the text of his plays and nowt else. I gave up. If I want to translate French, Ancient Greek, Latin, German, Italian, &c, &c, I have dictionaries I can consult. These days there's the internet, but I admit I should feel odd tapping at keys then reading a sentence, then tapping again. But I could look puzzling words up. That's impractical with Marlowe. I have access to Dad's twenty-volume OED, but would you stumble back and forth with great books in your arms like that? I meant by reading Marlowe to improve my mind. Damned waste of time; but if I'd grabbed a volume whenever I didn't know a word, I'd probably still have arms like tree-trunks despite subsequent years of neglect.

Don't misunderstand me, please. When I wrote the other day that this business of being put off "classics" by incompetent schooling is a bad one, and that one should try to get over it, I meant it. But I don't think one should beat one's head against a wall for neither reward nor enjoyment. Hence these old films: their value is not derived simply from their age. There were bad films in the past, too, albeit perhaps not quite so tedious as Tomb Raider, to name something horrible from the last several years. No, their value derives from the script, the players' performances and so on. They have outlived their weaker brethren, but even then they might be inaccessible to a modern audience. Boys recording car number-plates? Whatever for? That's in at least two black and white British comedies, and is unthinkably dull to a kid with his X-Box nowadays. My father and his younger brother were taken by their mother to write down train numbers and models at the nearby railway station. So I, despite never doing so, can see the parallel. Will such awareness persist? Probably. Boys make lists even these days, I'm sure. Shakespeare might have Caesar waffling on about wanting fat men around him because Cassius has a lean and hungry look, and we can still get what he's driving at.

I must apologise. I've lost my train of thought. It might be the heat or it might be that I am just dull. Either way, fare well until next time, dear reader!

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