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June 5th 2008
Today: Second instrument is out of tune? (5)
Last time: Prime Minister's garden (4)
Answer: Eden
First off, an apology to (the late) Colonel Parker - in a recent entry, I referred to the Beatles and Bob Dylan as the twin peaks of twentieth century music, when of course I should have referred to a trio of peaks, the third being Elvis. Musically, he doesn't compare in my opinion, but in terms of capturing public imagination he's right up there, and will be remembered by the masses long after Dylan is only discussed by musical purists. Now, onto weightier (or, at least, more topical) matters - it is currently de rigeur to make sequels after a gap of years, and after Die Hard 4.0, Rambo, Rocky Balboa etc (or possibly not etc - that could be it) comes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And (to bring some relevance to the matter) I saw it last night. As is usual, I'll try not to give too much away here, but I would advise people to look away now if they don't want to have the film at all spoilt for them. When it came to Rocky Balboa, the main struggle the film had to overcome was the ridiculous idea of a 50-something year old being able to box competitively with a twenty-something champion - and the film did this creditably. Indiana Jones, despite all the talk of Harrison Ford's age, didn't really have to worry about this one, since a film that follows on from a head-melting ark of the covenant, a brain-washing underground cult and an eternal-life holy grail (with resident everlasting knight) isn't too concerned with realism. OK, you may have a 65 year old guy leaping around like someone half his age, but you also have an alien skull made of crystal, so which one is more of a bother? Therein lies my general comment about the film, really: pretty much everything that was wrong with it was wrong with the first three as well, so you can't flaw it by that. In fact, I always thought Indiana Jones was a little bit too silly, and I would have preferred it to be a straight adventure tale without the pseudo-religious sci-fi stuff thrown in, and perhaps it's because I was never wild about the first three that I wasn't disappointed by instalment four. Before I go on to what was wrong with the film, let's examine what went well: there was a nice level of comedy, which mostly worked, and with the same kind of tone as previously - albeit with a few jokes that played heavily on nostalgia. Not that the nostaliga was always a bad idea - after all, it's what fills the cinema - for example, it was a masterstroke to bring back Marion Ravenwood from the first film, even if I would have preferred her interaction with Indy to have been built up better. Introducing a young character to follow in Indy's steps worked well - I'd heard the kid was annoying, but I didn't find him so at all - and while I'll not watch any spin-off featuring him (don't rule it out, folks), I thought he was a good addition to the cast. Likewise, Ray Winstone and John Hurt didn't disgrace themselves by any means. The set pieces were excellently done, and the special effects - especially the final one - were very, very good. Good enough, in fact, not to stand out as special effects - which is surely their purpose. The idea of updating Indiana Jones to a world of mods and rockers (or greasers, or whatever it is), where alien invasion and Soviet spies are hot topics of conversation, was controversial, but it worked. Well, it was no more silly than having Hitler appear last time round. So, why were so many people disappointed by the movie? The self-referential nature could get a little tiring (curiously, Ford even used the famous Star Wars line "I've got a bad feeling about this", which was rather too knowing) - Ford's first appearance centred around his iconic hat, and we saw photographs of previous cast members littered about. Thankfully there were no sly mentions of the ark of the covenant, or anything that painful: as I said above, nostalgia was selling tickets, and I think Spielberg (etc) got the balance just about right. There were also complaints about various actors, and I have to admit that Ford was rather more wooden than at his imperial best (see Star Wars IV-VI), and certainly Cate Blanchett was totally wasted - any half-decent actress with a bad wig and a dodgy Russian accent could have done the same job. Personally, though, I found the squirrels more annoying than anything else, and they certainly wouldn't stop me from recommending the film. Yes, it's preposterous nonsense, and yes, the character development often takes a back seat to the action set pieces (though not half so much as, say, the Bourne Supremacy, whose set pieces were vastly less imaginative or amusing) - but that's Indiana Jones. I think the Lucas/Spielberg/Ford team has succeeded in making a worthy successor to the original trilogy, reinventing the ideas without destroying them. The fifth instalment (which we've been vaguely promised already) will be interesting...

June 14th 2008
Today: Cream she spread? I don't know (6,2)
Last time: Second instrument is out of tune? (5)
Answer: sharp
Yes, I know I haven't relaunched this page yet. I get side-tracked, you see. And to prove it, instead of writing about my home group weekend away, as I meant to, I'm going to give you a lyrics quiz instead. All the lyrics below include the title of the song - but I'm left the title blank (the length of the blank doesn't necessarily indicate title length); what you have to do is get the song and artist. Answers on a postcard. Just so's you know, I have all the songs on CD, and I've not repeated any artists... I've tried to make it a little diverse, so Simon doesn't whinge about me only using 60s music.

Oh no, not me - I never lost control
You're face to face with __________

__________
Never reaching the end
Letters I've written
Never meaning to send

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue, and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
"Come in" she said, "I'll give you _________"

I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become ________

We are the ____________
God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety

And she won't write a letter, although I always tell her
And so it's my assumption, I'm really __________

We're all of us stars, we're fading away
Just try not to worry, you'll see us some day
Just take what you need, and be on your way
And ____________

Her kindness bangs a gong, it's moving me along
And _________ to fade away

__________, why don't you come to your senses?
You've been out riding fences for so long now

It looks like _________, must be the clouds in my eyes

Work for my daddy-o, work for my daddy-o
There's ___________-o

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
_________ I love you more

And if you don't love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break _________

She said "It's really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
But I'll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be _____________"

They say that I'm a fool to weep, that I won't go on losing sleep
__________
And someone else will mend the heart you've broken in two

_________ if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long

I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After ___________ have gone

But it's just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
I'm ____________

With no loving in our souls, and no money in our coats
You can't say we're satisfied
But ________, I still love you, baby
Everywhere I look I see your eyes

Wise men say only fools rush in
But I _____________ with you

June 19th 2008
Today: Resident of Buckingham Palace? (4)
Last time: Cream she spread? I don't know (6,2)
Answer: search me
I don't think much of the clue for last time - despite that, I think I may have used the structure before. Give me a minute and I'll check... or not. Anyways, results came out this evening, and I'm pleased to report that I've passed three out three! Having celebrated down the pub with Ben, Anna & Kate - and had phone calls from Ma, Pa and Simon - the next stop is cake time at work tomorrow. Anyways, I enjoyed the lyrics game from last time, so I don't want to spoil the fun for those of you who didn't actually write it. The answers are all below, but should be unreadable, if I know what I'm doing with html.

Oh no, not me - I never lost control
You're face to face with the man who sold the world

Nights in white satin
Never reaching the end
Letters I've written
Never meaning to send

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue, and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
"Come in" she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety

And she won't write a letter, although I always tell her
And so it's my assumption, I'm really up the junction

We're all of us stars, we're fading away
Just try not to worry, you'll see us some day
Just take what you need, and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

Her kindness bangs a gong, it's moving me along
And Anna begins to fade away

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You've been out riding fences for so long now

It looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Work for my daddy-o, work for my daddy-o
There's whisky in the jar-o

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

And if you don't love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain

She said "It's really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
But I'll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be 50 ways to leave your lover"

They say that I'm a fool to weep, that I won't go on losing sleep
The next time
And someone else will mend the heart you've broken in two

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long

I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After the boys of Summer have gone

But it's just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
I'm Mr. Brightside

With no loving in our souls, and no money in our coats
You can't say we're satisfied
But Angie, I still love you, baby
Everywhere I look I see your eyes

Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you

June 25th 2008
Today: Support in favour of dog? (4,2)
Last time: Resident of Buckingham Palace? (4)
Answer: king
People, by and large, are pretty stupid. And I by no means exclude myself from that - while I do not feel myself guilty of the stupidity I'm going to mention now, I must admit that most days I do something pretty stupid. Anyways, what other conclusion can I come to when we have the example of Patrick Mercer (I've mentioned him more than once previously - the man who said that some people who aren't white are lazy, and that soldiers might refer to someone as a 'black b******' much as they'd call someone a 'ginger b******'). He was pillaried. Then there was the nurse who was forced to resign when, at a meeting, lots of people left gradually and she said it was like Ten Little Niggers, the (excellent) book by Agatha Christie. Had she used its alternative title (And Then There Were None) or even its brief American title (Ten Little Indians), she'd have been fine - indeed, had she been black, she'd have been fine, and surely there's nothing more definedly racist than that. As a final example, there was a senator (or some such) in the States, joining in the debate on whether homosexual sex should be legalised. One party had said that it must be OK, because there is a law saying that consensual sex within doors is allowed; he pointed out that this would also legitimise incest. "Senator equates incest with gay sex" rang out the headlines, which is clearly nonsense. Anyways, the reason I've built up like this (in the above paragraph - I'm not referring to my he-man muscles) is that what I'm about to write could be misconstrued as 'Hitler wasn't that bad' if you use the same logic as above. Actually, that reminds me of another example, the German newsreader who said that Hitler's regime had some good points, such as the economy. I believe that she was forced out of her job. Now, even if she were wrong and Hitler had the economic competence of... well, of Alastair Darling ("Blogger compares Darling to Hitler shock!"), all that means is this newsreader was wrong. She was not neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, or pro-moustache. Anyways, I want to compare Hitler with Robert Mugabe, something which the Times did in passing a couple of days ago, and say that Mugabe is in some ways worse - and not just economically. You see, much of what Hitler did made sense (bear with me) if you see humanity as a science project devoid of any kind of morality - his desire to rid the world of 'weaker' people, such as the disabled, homosexuals, the Jewish etc, was in fact a monstrous kind of weeding. I can't see where he's coming from with the Jewish thing, but you can understand (though, naturally, detest) the ideas behind a sort of rampant unnatural-selection process designed to form a master race. What I'm saying is that, although a human being curiously devoid of humanity, Hitler had policies that - I imagine - he believed in. And remember, he somehow managed to get a couple of nations at least to fall in with his ideas. So, what of Mugabe? It seems that his sole policy is to be in power, he is an archetypal megalomaniac who is happy to destroy his nation and many of its inhabitants, not because he is driving forward some wrongheaded masterplan, but because he wants to be the boss. It does seem that Mugabe deserves our sympathy less than Hitler ever did. In other - rather more cheerful, and less controversial - news, I'm going to bang on about my recent exam passes just once more. For the first time, Mum and Dad (and, indeed, any other well-wishers) can use "Congratulations: You've Passed!" cards, which were rendered an absurdity at GCSE, A-level and degree level, as the exams I'm now sitting have only pass or fail. Actually, that's not quite true: it's either pass, or one of four levels of fail, known as FA, FB, FC and FD... and, as an irrelevance, we don't get told either our own marks or the mark required for any of those levels. Transparent they are not.

what was I listening to?
The Best of Bowie - David Bowie
what was I reading?
Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis - Dan Rockmore
what was I watching?
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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