What price justice?

There’s a lot in the news at the moment which is distressing, confusing or depressing, sometimes all three at once.  Wars and rumours of wars.  Corruption and scandal.  And, or so it seems to me, a disturbing new direction in criminal justice laws, often prompted by the so-called war on terror.  I don’t often ‘do’ controversial or speak up in a public forum, but there are times when it seems necessary.  One of the most recent rumblings that has put my back up concerns a possible UK version of ‘Megan’s Law’.

This is a law that would allow the ‘naming and shaming’ of paedophiles and similar offenders who have served their prison term and been released into the community.  Now, you won’t find me arguing with anyone who says that paedophilia and child abuse are terrible, terrible things.  However, I cannot see how such a law would be a good thing.  Continue reading

Things not to do in the library on a hot day

Imagine, if you will, that Great Britain – that damp, green, eccentric island – is experiencing a heat-wave.  Imagine, if you will, that the hottest July temperatures since the reign of Queen Victoria have been recorded.  Imagine, if you will, that there is a library, the Library of Doom, which has an interesting building design with lots of glass and a general lack of air-conditioning.  Imagine, therefore, lots of very hot and sweaty members of library staff.

There are certain things which you would not recommend doing in these circumstances.  Continue reading

Superman Begins

No, I haven’t got my super-hero films muddled up, although I have seen Superman Returns, and rather enjoyed it.  Not a fantastic film, but good fun and with good performances all round.  I also have Batman Begins on DVD, and think it’s a rather smashing film with an odd, but very effective, soundtrack.  Anyway…  What I actually intend to ramble about are Superman’s beginnings.  Not his fictional back-story (rocketed from a dying world and all that stuff), but his first adventures in print, way back in the late 1930s. Continue reading

Not just a case of the blues

Recently, I have noticed some of the warning signs that I might be heading for a thrilling return trip to the land of clinical depression.  So this weekend, one of my fun jobs has been to speak to various people I am close to, a support network if you will, and warn them.  It’s never a fun journey, either for me or those who accompany me on the road, so I hope I’m mistaken.

Come to think of it, a return trip is a fairly inaccurate description to use, as it is an illness which doesn’t tend to leave me completely, but bubbles away in the background.  Most of the time, though, I can deal with any minor symptoms that rear their ugly heads and just get on with my life.  The drugs aren’t worth the side-effects and psychotherapy has never helped, so I’d rather not have to seek medical advice about it ever again.

Clinical depression is a widely misunderstood condition, and I have spent quite some time over the last couple of days trying to write a useful, interesting post which could help others understand it.  No joy,I’m afraid, so poetry will have to suffice.  One of my poems on the subject can be found on-line already: The Flame.  The poem that follows is a less polished reaction, written during the Christmas vacation in 1998:

Tears come unbidden
Hidden fears rise
Confusion rears its head
as darkness moves in

All sense departs
Control is lost
Of emotion
Of thought
Of action

Sanity fights a losing battle
Joy and peace lie submerged
with personality

But life stays afloat
Spirit survives
In the safest of hands, I can never be lost

It’s interesting that this is the most optimistic diary entry from that time.  The rest are in prose, and are far less positive.  I’m also intrigued by that lone comma.  I don’t know if the poems or the post are at all enlightening for anyone, and I hope this hasn’t scared any of the readers of this blog who know me in the outside world.  I’ll be fine, but if I look or act more ‘down’ than usual, please don’t tell me to cheer up, or I may have to kill you.


My most recent read was suggested by friends from the wonderful h2g2 site and is Pilgermann by Russell Hoban, author of my favourite book, Riddley Walker.  My brain is still whirling around trying to absorb this absolutely fascinating tale – Hoban certainly doesn’t write beach reads or airport novels!

The book concerns a wandering Jew, who finds himself in Antioch during the Crusades, and is about all sorts of things.  The search for order and meaning, the nature of God, the pattern of history, the dance of death, the weaving of fate.  The title character does little of his own volition, moving through life as fate, or God, or whatever, directs.  As he does so, he gains a strange circle of friends, most of them dead, who challenge his view of himself, the world and his place in things.  In some ways nothing happens, and in some ways everything happens.  There is love, sex, war and death, but the two main characters also spend a lot of time making a large pattern of tiles.  Oddly, this tile pattern is one of the most compelling things in the book, setting the mind spinning just as it causes a change in the culture of Antioch.  Movement and stillness in one thing, an infinity captured in one place.  Be still, my shooting neurons. Continue reading

Wrong note drag

I hate doing things wrong. No, I really hate it.  Really,. really hate it.  When it comes to things I do, I am an irritating perfectionist, with impossibly high standards.  Others can get away with many things, perhaps even most things that don’t involve apostrophes or murder, but I hate to get something wrong myself.

As a person who dabbles in theatre, I arguably have more opportunities to get things wrong publicly than most people tend to have.  Forgetting a line in a rehearsal is mortifying, and getting your legs in a twist reddens your face no end, but there is a truly terrible crime.  The wrong note.  Continue reading

Summer singing

Let’s have another attempt at a post about singing, shall we?

This weekend I performed at a garden party along with eight others from my operatic society.  The sun couldn’t be bothered to shine very much until the garden party was over, but a good time was had by all, and our vocal cords were given a good work-out.  Singing with a small group was good fun, and the rehearsals were nicely balanced between being laid-back and managing to get everything done.  You can hear the overall effect so much more easily in a small ensemble, as the people singing the other parts are right next to you.  This makes dynamics (volume) easier to play with, as you can balance your voice with those of your neighbours, creating lovely swells and fading away much more effectively than a chorus of 50 can fade and swell!

We sung a variety of pieces, mostly as an ensemble, but with some solos, duets and so on scattered throughout.  The average age of the audience meant that our selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein, plus the gorgeous ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man’ from Show Boat were received particularly well.  Of the solos, the woman who sang ‘Summertime’ was astounding.  I contributed Chicago‘s ‘Mister Cellophane’, a favourite song for me as it gets the audience on your side, and you can really work with your nerves, as the character starts the song in a fairly shaky way.

As ever with such things, I was very nervous, but as ever I’m glad that I did it.  As we sung the final chord of ‘As Long As I Have Music’, a warm glow came over me.  Music is a great gift, and it’s so much better when it’s shared!

A Slice of Saturday Night

Last night, I saw a local production of A Slice of Saturday Night, a show set in a 1960s nightclub, featuring the lives and loves of a group of teenagers over one typical Saturday night.  I went because I know several of the cast, including my housemate.

It’s not a particularly good show, in my opinion.  The music is 1960s pastiche, but it veers between outright stealing of tunes and general dullness.  There are some fun songs,though – with about 30 numbers, they had to strike gold at least once!  The plot is practically non-existent as well, just wandering around between the characters, with one character serving very little purpose as far as I could tell.  There are some laughs, but it doesn’t hold together particularly well.

However, the cast were very good and carried the material well.  Some of the singing was marvellous, and several of the cast managed to create characters out of very little from the script.  The dancing varied from competent to very good, and the band sizzled nicely.  It’s not a show I want to see again, but it entertained me.  A popcorn musical, I suppose!

Overall verdict: a not-very-good musical performed very well.

Singing silence

It has struck me that I have written about various things here, but I haven’t really touched on singing, which is an important part of my life and forms part of the blog’s title.  So why not?  I’ve realised that singing is surprisingly hard to talk about.

Technically, I’m not a great singer.  I read music very slowly, and I understand very few of the concepts.  Yet I can vibrate my vocal cords, flap my lips and tongue around and create a noise which people tell me is very pleasant.  I can’t improvise a harmony as many people can, but I can learn a harmony and stick to it.  When I sing, I like to use the words and the emotion as much as (perhaps more than) the notes, so I’m probably more an actor who sings than a singer who acts.

So, it doesn’t make any sense to me, but it feels very right indeed. Better than right, in fact.  Continue reading

52: Real-time comics

What do a drunken ex-cop, a social crusader with no face, the ruler of a Middle Eastern nation, a grieving detective, a man from the future and a moral scientist have in common?  52, that’s what.  Read on…  Continue reading

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