This week's 'Speccie' is excellent and I make no apologies for ransacking its columns today for material to 'rumble' over. Hopefully, some of you tightwads will be prepared to take out a subscription - it's as cheap as chips - and thereby help keep the world's best - and oldest - weekly magazine going.
Taki's fury at 'Fury': I don't mind a good war film so long as it remains in the realms of a jolly, spiffing adventure but ever since that opening half hour in Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan there has been a tendency for directors to sink towards what I can only call 'war porn'. I gather from the reviews that Fury, starring Brad Pitt, is just that. The sub-title to Taki's review says it all: There's enough blood on the screen in Brad Pitt's new blockbuster to turn Dracula to masturbation. To say that Taki is not amused is the understatement of the year but after corruscating everyone connected to the film he turns his fire on us, the contemporary audience;
All I’d like to know is where has all the talent gone? And as always I will answer my own question: movies today reflect what the audience wants to see, and the audiences are imbeciles and uneducated fools and that’s why Fury will be a hit, so help me God.
Ouch, that hurt!
More Rembrandt: Yes, I know I keep banging on about the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery but if you find yourself in London in the next three months or so, instead of wasting your time and money watching 'Fury', pop in and enjoy artistry of the very highest order. Martin Gayford provides not just a 'rave review' but a fascinating analysis of Rembrandt's artistry and technical skills.
Shrewd advice for 'Green Kippers': By "Green Kippers" I mean those increasing numbers of people who think that the 'old politics' is dead and that they, and they alone, are the 'new wave' who will sweep away all the ambiguities and complexities of modern government. Toby Young reflects on the hard lessons he learned as a leader of the Free Schools Movement. It all seemed so simple and straightforward 'back in the day' but reality soon kicked him in the shins:
As a general rule, you can’t bring about system-wide improvements just by being determined and having the right motives. If someone is standing in your way, it’s not realistic to expect them to bend to your will. You have to sit down with them, work out what their concerns are and see what you can do to address them. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you have to make a deal — and that can take a bloody long time, particularly if lawyers are involved.
To the angry outsider, this probably sounds like a rationalisation. One of the most common complaints about political leaders is that they lack conviction. The deals they make are invariably ‘sleazy’ or ‘shoddy’ because they involve sacrificing their principles, something they’re willing to do because their primary interest is to remain in power. But what these critics fail to appreciate is that politicians wouldn’t be able to do much in office if they weren’t willing to compromise. Politics is the art of the possible and what looks like cynicism to outsiders is often just realism to insiders.
He confirms my long-held suspicion that were the Greens or UKIP to form a substantial part of the next government the 'Sir Humphries' will have 'em tied in knots before they've even warmed the seat of their ministerial chairs! Politics is a vastly more difficult and sophisticated business than the average 'Green Kipper' realises.
Peregrine Worsthorne met eight American presidents: And he provides vignettes of all of them from Herbert Hoover to George Bush Snr. See, that's the sort of thing you get from The Speccie - so sign up now! Here's one of them:
One morning I was sitting in the dining car having breakfast when Eisenhower came strolling through and stopped to have a chat with the famous CBS correspondent, Eric Sevareid, whom I was by chance sitting next to. Out of politeness Sevareid introduced me. ‘This is Peregrine Worsthorne, General, the new Times man.’ Clearly finding my name a bit of a mouthful, the general asked me to spell it out, which I did, jumping up to add something I had learnt a very few days previously: that the first baby from Mayflower to be born on American soil, and therefore the first American citizen to be born, was also christened Peregrine. Another long pause. Then came the reply: ‘Well, sonny, that name sure didn’t catch on.’
Perhaps the most interesting historical note is that, 'back in the day', in fact, 'way back in the day', a meeting with the president was almost a given if you were the Washington correspondent of The London Times. Somehow, I don't think anyone told Obama!
Honestly, you just can't rely on the Royal Mail anymore! It was always quite obvious that dear George and his darling wife, Amal, would have invited me to their post-wedding bash at Marlow, not least because we are both world class actors - sorry, did you say something, darling? - but also because the Marlow area was once one of my old stomping grounds.
But, dammit, the invite never arrived which meant that the money I spent having my dinner suit cleaned and pressed for the first time since its last outing circa 1978 was completely wasted. Honestly, they should privatise Royal Mail - oh - er, I gather they have been privatised! Anyway, I'm sure dear George will soon arrange for me to fly to California in his private jet particularly if he tells dear Amal that I have a packet of Greek marbles I can bring with me!
"The Hard Problem" - Tom Stoppard: At long last Stoppard has forsaken Hollywood and returned to his roots, the English theatre. In January his first play since the brilliant 'Rock and Roll' opens at the Royal National Theatre. It is called 'The Hard Problem' and in this brief rumble there is no way I can summarise what that is - but I know a man who can - try Dan Haycock's site. The problems of consciousness are tricky beyond belief but you can always rely on Stoppard to dance wittily around the most complicated of ideas and produce a play that will entertain and move as well as teach. Needless to say, all seats are sold mostly because, I suspect, the bloody-bloody ticket agencies hoover them up. However, it will be shown in cinemas from April 16th - do not miss!
The 'donkeys' of WWI were brighter than this lot: I have just watched the first of the two BBC programmes on the total cluster-fuck that was the British army mission to Afghanistan. I really don't think I can bear to watch the second episode next week, my blood pressure might explode! The level of stupidity, moral cowardice and blind, preening pride within the high command of the British army is sickening to see.
No more rumbles tonight