Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Another disturbing film to keep me awake at night.

It's been 15 months since 'Paranormal Activities' (the first one) had pressed all the right 'scare- buttons' in my mind. So it was that yesterday I saw the next film to give me the most sleepless night for quite some time.
'Never Let me Go' is a British film about three young adults who, as children, had attended a kind of boarding school where all the pupils are reared (and this isn't a spoiler as it's evident in the early part of the film) with the sole intention of being organ-donors when they reach maturity. The story behind this frightening scenario has a fine pedigree - based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro ('The Remains of the Day' etc) and given a screenplay by Alex Garland ('The Beach', 'Sunshine', '28 Days Later' etc.)
What I found particularly unsettling in this film was that the 'victims' accepted their fate without question and, furthermore, their highest aspiration was to survive long enough to denote as many as three varied organs over a relatively short period of time, while being progressively debilitated in the process. However, they are given to understand that they may, by demonstrating satisfactorily that they've 'fallen in love', defer their fate by being given a year or two's grace to enjoy their experience. Of course they don't know in advance which organs will be eventually removed from them. It could be something as survivable as the extraction of an eye or it could be their entire liver.
There is little, if any, visual 'horror' to be shown on screen. It's the very notion that is so disturbing and which made me almost break out into a sweat last night when all was still and quiet and my mind gravitated to where it wanted to dwell.
It's usually ideas, sometimes only suggested or implied, that tend to scare me more than full-frontal horror. For example, even though I don't care for the sight of blood I've never found the notion of vampires particularly frightening. Everyone has their own personal 'trigger-points'.
Incidentally, much has been made here that the trailer for 'Never Let Me Go' gives no indication of the seriousness of the storyline. If I hadn't known beforehand, when I first saw the trailer I thought it was just about a love triangle between two young women and a young man, and I wouldn't have bothered to go. But even though I was definitely disturbed by the experience of seeing it, I'm glad I'd heard about the reality of what it was about and I made the effort. So, if you're not entirely put off by what's involved, I'd say "Do see it. A good film."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tony Blair - still a nasty after-taste.

It's impossible to glean any pleasure from seeing the Gaddafi-inspired horrors currently going on in Libya, but I do derive some gloating satisfaction in seeing our news channels replaying footage of Tony Blair's visits to that maniac, greeting him with the traditional double kiss, warm, smiling embrace and handshakes. Blair certainly never took too much trouble in choosing his friends (that buffoon, Berlusconi, was another of them!) and I can only hope he's doubled-up and cringing with embarrassment as he sees yet another aspect of his foreign policy history replayed to a world, a large part of whom knew at the time that he, Blair, was making such a fool of himself and would live to regret it. As he hides away in his multi-millionaire world, I'd love to hear him come out now and try to defend his acts at a time when money and oil did the talking. (Did I just say 'did'?)
Blair was always a conundrum. Coming to the fore in the 1990s as a champion of the working classes; a Prime Minister, many of whose domestic social policies were truly commendable, and for which he fought for against the odds; and yet when it came to foreign policy (one does not even have to mention Iraq) he was so ham-fisted and plain wrong that it's virtually impossible to square the circle. Meanwhile, nearly four years since his grudging resignation as Prime Minister, he now travels the world, receiving astronomical sums for giving speeches about his political experience laced with his advice and, erm, 'wisdom'. He ensconces himself away in his multi-million pound residence (I think he may have several), still protected by bodyguards (very telling that he still needs them!) which we British taxpayers have to pay for.

His wife, through her legal career even wealthier than he was at the time he was Prime Minister, is also on the speeches-for-money binge-circuit as well as receiving her regular fees for her judiciary work, which in many single cases would dwarf what most people earn in a full year. She also originated from a 'working class' background. (Her actor-father, a lifelong socialist activist, and still so, long since denounced his son-in-law's politics and refused to vote for his party.)
Of course one can say that if the Blairs are still receiving colossal sums, then good for them. But I do wonder how often they, in their ivory towers, think of their roots and the people they left behind, those very people whom they at one time championed. Or are they just too busy totting up their bank balances?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Rollercoasters - A fun I wish I'd done more of.

We surely all have regrets at not having done more of things we know we'd have liked. One of my major ones is not having visited more funfairs and riding on rollercoasters.
I've always been fascinated by fairground rides of all types, including roundabouts, waltzers, ghost trains etc., yet haven't had the opportunity, or the nerve, to try them out - usually because I've nearly always been alone and don't want to look conspicuous by being a solitary rider. But rollercoasters are the ultimate.
There's only been one occasion in my life when I had the chance to throw caution to the winds and go on all the rides I wanted. It was at the annual Munich Beer Festival of 1985 which I attended with a German friend, with whom I still have contact, though he's long since been married to his boyfriend. At that time the Oktoberfest funfair was the largest non-permanently-sited fair in the world, and may well still be so, and by now it's certain to be even bigger! But it was simply huge even then, with so many different rides that I wanted to try them all, with the exception of those that turned one upside-down. (I'd still be a bit nervous about that.) I suppose the rides would be considered tame by today's standards but I vividly recall how exhilarating I felt after each one. It was quite addictive, and we went on several more than once in one evening. As neither of us were great beer drinkers, rather than 'wasting' valuable time in a beer tent, we spent all our time being spun and whizzed around, shaken up, twisted, rattled and jerked this way and that - really great fun. That was my only time. Even as a boy with my brothers I never ventured onto anything but the very safest rides and recall seeing them on their first time on a big dipper (as we called them then) and I was too frightened to join them, remaining on solid ground but watching them enviously. But that time in Munich - at the age of nearly 40! - was my first ever time on one, and I loved it. And I've never been on any fairground ride since.
We've seen TV programmes here about people who travel the world just to ride on the most extreme rides, and I really do wish I could be one of them. I'm not sure that, even if I could, it would be advisable to try out the very most extreme as, although having no heart problems (or so I'm told), I do suffer from high blood pressure, so it might not be the wisest thing. But there are sure to be many other safer ones to enjoy.
I'm not giving up hope that some time in the not-too-distant future I might be able to catch up on something of what I've missed. In fact I have a fantasy; when I win our National Lottery (note the 'when'!) and I can afford to visit my transatlantic blog-pals, I'm hoping that there might be an amusement park within accessible distance of where they live so that they can take me there and ride with me - and in return I'd promise to try not to embarrass them during any rapid descents by emitting an ear-piercing, nelly-type scream. Well I'll try!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

When I'm Gone - decisions, decisions!

I've not yet made arrangements for disposal of my remains when the time comes. It's high time it was done. One of my brothers died just over two years ago (at an age younger than I am now) and he'd left no indications at all about what his wishes were, leaving my sister (9 years older than me, and living closest to him) to sort out his funeral as well as having to wind up his business affairs (he was a freelance wedding photographer with a diary full of future committed assignments). A massive prolonged headache it was for her too. I don't want any of my remaining surviving siblings to have the same trouble, though one thing I won't be leaving is any debts. My credit cards were taken off me 15 years ago following my inability to pay them off. I've lived daily hand-to-mouth ever since with no loans and no regrets about that. When I don't have the cash I simply can't buy it.
I won't be the only one who has had departed friends who've made clear that they do NOT want a religious funeral, only to have their parents stubbornly over-rule them after death. The last such friend for me got the full works of an incense-fumed Requiem Mass even though he'd been sacked by the Church who'd employed him as social counsellor when he came out as being gay. I don't know if he would have been deeply hurt or would have laughed!
I've already told my sister that any form of religious service is definitely out for me. Ideally I want to be buried (rather than cremated) in a cardboard eco-coffin (rapidly bio-degradable) in some woodlands, though the price for this type of disposal is quite significantly higher. (Around £5,000 or more, 0r $8,000). On the other hand I don't expect one single person to attend my funeral so there wouldn't be the costs of a cortege or a religious minister's expenses. I've told my family that it's too far for them to travel - and what's the point, anyway?. I certainly don't see why anyone should bear the expense of my body being transported up to the area where my two brothers and sister live and where I was brought up, only to have it buried there. As for wreaths or flowers, I don't want them. (Any donations in lieu of flowers to 'Animal Rescue' please!)
Andrew, on his 'the widow's world' blog, has, with perfect timing, talked about donating his organs or entire body for research - and I should throw this into the mix of possibilities although we both share a squeamishness about the idea. But I must give it serious thought. It's not something which can be postponed for long. (I suppose one can always change one's mind later.)
So, a morbid subject but it's got to be faced by all of us. Better take a deep breath and get on with it.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Let's be controversial: Legalise polygamy and incest!

Nearly all my blogs to date have been on cosily uncontentious matters; so it's high time I entered the lion's den and gave my opinion on a few subjects which many would consider taboo.

I read of opponents of gay marriage saying things like "Well, if we allow people of the same sex to marry what will be next? - marriage to children? marriage to animals? " The answer to that argument is obvious, and I just cannot understand why it's not so to everyone. These latter two must remain illegal because they're not between consenting adults mutually wishing to marry. And if it's (quite rightly) considered that human beings under the age of consent are unable to signify their understanding and agreement to all the ramifications of a legally binding contract, why should anyone even think that animals are placed to do so? Utterly absurd, of course, and anyway, I've yet to detect a significant demand for child-sex and bestiality to be legally sanctioned. The fact that child-marriage is still accepted, and even required, in some countries' cultures - often promoted, of course, on a religious pretext (now there's a surprise!) - does not make it any less undesirable, oppressive and cruel. But that's a subject for another day.

What I would propose is that there are two particular types of relationships between consenting adults which ought to be seriously considered for de-criminalisation.
Firstly, polygamy. I don't see why we are all bound to adhere to the traditional Christian concept of monogamy, when so many of us are not Christian, or even theist. If two or more adult women wish to marry one man, or two or more men wish to marry one woman, or two or more men wish to marry each other, or several women equally wish to marry - why on earth not? Some would doubtlessly argue that such marriages would constitute a 'legal minefield'. That may or may not be so, but it's hardly a reason for criminalising them. Since when did legal expediency determine one's emotions? Besides, I would imagine that there are more than a few lawyers around who would relish the prospect of caring for their legally-recognised polygamous clients. If several adults of sound mind wish to enter such a relationship I think it's arrogant for anyone else to tell them that they mustn't. If churches refuse to recognise such marriages that's their prerogative, only please don't think that a religious viewpoint is the only acceptable position. It only makes the secularisation of marriage more urgent. Let's get churches out of the equation for good! Why don't more countries see religious wedding ceremonies as an optional 'add-on', as is done in France? That seems more sensible by far.

As for incest, I accept that there is an additional factor to be considered here, namely the higher chance of any offspring of such a union being physically and/or mentally 'enfeebled' through close inbreeding, though that need not always be the case - and certainly isn't always the case in the animal world. Anyway, should such pregnancies occur, there is always the ultimate, though intensely grave, option of abortion - as there is to any prospective mother with evidence that the foetus is irretrievably damaged. ("Oh horror!" say those who maintain that conception is always God's will and must be allowed to take its course - and thus shoot themselves in the foot by saying such.) But if the m/f adult couple of brother/sister, father/daughter, mother/son, really do not wish to have a child, then there are all the options open to them as there is to any other couple not wishing to reproduce.
As for relationships between closely related adult males or between closely related adult females, I see no counter-arguments at all. Not a single one! Furthermore, in any such adult relationships, I do not see why they should be barred from marrying, should they wish.

It's a shame that words like 'incest' and 'adultery' can carry such a baggage of disapproval and prejudice, accrued over centuries of (religious) intolerance and bigotry, which are plainly unfair in contemporary enlightened times. Indeed, in both cases, it could be that acts within those particular definitions may be more honest and loving than any act within a legally recognised marriage to which either or both parties may belong. If only they could be called by different names.

I would admit that, unlike in the case of gay marriage, there is no groundswell of significant opinion calling for polygamy and incest to be legalised. I think the numbers who would wish for either to be pretty small, though I do particularly feel for those mature persons who are unable to declare publicly their sexual love for a close relative. I think the number may actually be greater than many would like to think, though as it's so (understandably) hidden because of the opprobium directed at this type of relationship, I doubt if there's been any reliable data collected on the subject.

Anyway, so there's a few thoughts from outside my comfort-zone. I fully expect others to want to shoot them down, but that's fine with me.

Next time - Making religious-only marriages invalid, and recognising civil partnerships as being the compulsory minimum for validity in law! Well, maybe not.... However, hmmmmm...........