Friday Five

Mar. 8th, 2019 11:55 am
1. Are we losing the art of listening?

For various mental & emotional reasons, there's some elements of listening that I'd love to be able to lose just at the moment. Overall, I'd say no, albeit with the proviso that some people never had the art.

2. Have you ever interacted with the police?

Under the GDPR, implemented May 2018, before providing sensitive data, I have the right to know why this data is being collected, how and how long the data would be stored and who would have access to it, amongst other things. You can find full details here.

I'd also like to know who your data protection officer is and what provision you have for restitution in the case of data breaches.

And if you think this is an over reaction to the question, then frankly it's no more an over reaction than the original question was thoughtless, intrusive and utterly out of place.

3. Do you like being alone?

No, but it's becoming necessary for my peace of mind worryingly often.

4. Who would you share your passwords with?

See question 2.

5. What are you grateful for today?

Friends and loved ones - today, yesterday and everyday.
15 December.

I'm visiting my father in hospital - he was taken in the day before with breathing difficulties. He's waiting for heart surgery to replace two leaking valves. He has developed pneumonia, which is holding up the surgery as they need to clear this before they can operate - open heart surgery on a man with pneumonia is unthinkable, as the infection would spread from his lungs to his heart and other organs. It's something to be avoided if at all possible.

My father is not someone who talks about his problems. His mother died when he was 12 and he learned to be self-reliant. When his brother died of cancer, I asked my father how he was. He shrugged slightly. "Alright," he said.

Now, as I sit by his bed, there's a pause in the conversation. "I don't think I'm going to make it through this," he says.

I'm taken aback and blurt, "Oh, I'm sure you'll be fine." I blather about surgeons and statistics of operations survived and what great things they can do these days.

Something closes behind his eyes. A moment, an opportunity lost.

17 December. Sunday night.

I have gone home. My father is stable. They plan to operate on Friday once the pneumonia has shifted. I'll go back to my parents' on Wednesday to stay with my mother while the operation is done.

There's a phone call. His condition has deteriorated. They will operate tomorrow despite the pneumonia. Can I come? He wants company.

The last train has gone. I don't drive. I cannot get there.

I don't sleep that night. I suspect he doesn't either. Whatever he does, it's without me being there.

23 December.

It's about 4am. The operation went ahead and there seems to be cause for hope. I've been spending nights sitting by his bed and reading to him. He's still unconscious, but it feels like something to do. They're talking about maybe waking him tomorrow. The nurse looking after him tells me to go get some sleep in the waiting room. She promises to wake me if his condition worsens.

5.30am. There's a knocking on the door. Slowly I wake and stumble to the door, open it. It's the nurse who promised to wake me. When i ask if he's going to die, she can't meet my eyes.

4 April.

It's a hundred days since he died. These things are what I'll think about tonight. And I'll wonder how long it'll be before they aren't and how long before I don't know how many days it's been.
It's been a shitty few weeks all round. I was told a few weeks ago that I probably have IBS, but that I needed a colonoscopy to make certain there wasn't anything abnormal hiding where the sun don't shine. The first day booked for this had to be shifted because it was a day I'd already told the hospital I was unavailable as I'd bought a weekend pass for the Bradford Widescreen Weekend at the National Media Museum. It'd cost £120 and I didn't want to miss out on seeing Suspiria, Lawrence of Arabia, The Untouchables, Jailhouse Rock, Apocalypse Now, My Fair Lady and a pile of other stuff besides.

Anyway, I got the appointment rebooked. Morning of the first day of the festival, I heard that my dad was seriously ill. He'd been on a cruise with my mother, got dehydrated while wandering round New York and developed a kidney infection. This started his heart fibrillating and he also reacted badly to the antibiotics prescribed him, which left him delirious for several nights and in massive pain.

So I abandoned the festival and spent the weekend trying to look after my mother who's still suffering after effects of surgery for cancer 12 years ago. My dad's out of hospital but all but house bound for the foreseeable future. He has a damaged kidney, two valves in his heart which are leaking so badly that they need to be replaced asap and scarring on his lungs. At present, he can't walk 50 yards without being exhausted, sleeps maybe 3 hours a night and feels permanently nauseous, so he can barely bring himself to eat.

The colonoscopy was this afternoon, so I had to fast all of yesterday - plus the joy of two litres of Moviprep bowel preparation, to make sure the consultant had a clear view. So that was every bit as joyous as you'd expect. Nothing abnormal showed. There's worse things to have than IBS, so that's a plus.

Me, my parents and my brother and sister were supposed to be going on a cruise in December. That's had to be postponed as there's no way my father would be able to go. Aviva, who they had travel insurance with, have stopped providing travel insurance. When they got back from the cruise, they had 3 days to transfer the policy to another provider and the broker refused to do anything towards this without full details of my father's medical condition - details which weren't available until after the deadline had passed.

My dad won't be able to get insurance until 12 months after his surgery, so the cruise has been postponed until October 2019. Props to Cunard, who were willing to do that once they realised the situation, so at least we still get a holiday. Unfortunately, I'd spent £100 on advance train tickets to Southampton, and as they were advance tickets, there's no facility for a refund.

I realise that missing out on a film festival and being down the price of a return train ticket are pretty small fry, but I'm worried - well, scared, to be honest - about my dad, and just to add insult to injury am suffering the aftereffects of a camera up my backside as well as industrial quantities of laxative.

Like I said, it's been a shitty few weeks.
So Holly and I went to the 4th day of the Test today at Headingley.

What should have been a very enjoyable day was sadly rather spoiled.

We got to Headingley and lined up to have our bags searched by security, who promptly told us that we couldn't go in with cutlery. For clarification, the cutlery was four small forks, four butter knives, four tea spoons and a bottle opener. Apparently these count as offensive weapons. There was some doubt about us being allowed to take in plates, but they backed down on that when I pointed out that I needed a crutch to walk and Holly had a white stick, being registered blind.

However, they still insisted that we weren't allowed to take the cutlery in. Once they'd established that we didn't have a car we could store things in and we weren't willing to bin them, we hit an impasse.

We were told to go to the ticket office and hand the cutlery in. Holly was given directions by the time honoured method of directing a blind person - pointing and saying "It's that way". We found the ticket office eventually and handed in the offensive weaponry to a gentleman who took the items, shut the door in my face and then opened it briefly to ask for my name.

Neither of us was happy about this, but we decided to make the best of it and go watch the cricket. And we enjoyed it very much. It was an engrossing day's play , with the balance of the game tipping back and forth.

We left a few minutes before close of play to get the cutlery back. We went back to the ticket office, I gave my name and we were given back some of the cutlery. I pointed out that there was more. One person in the office said that there wasn't, while the man next to him handed me our bottle opener.

This still left us missing one fork, three knives and a spoon of the items we'd handed over. I tried to point this out. By this point, the man I'd been talking to had moved on to the person behind me in the queue and wasn't acknowledging me. As play had finished, there was a queue of a few hundred wanting to buy tickets for the next day.

We gave up and left.

So, anyway, the cutlery came as part of a set with the hamper - a hamper which is not produced anymore, so it's going to be difficult to find replacements.

I had been thinking of paying for county membership next year. That's not going to happen now.

ETA I should add that I've had these terms and conditions pointed out to me.

Number six does mention knives and forks, although not spoons.

In my defence, the link for terms and conditions on the ticket sales page leads to this.

If you scroll down, there are sections dealing with Test and other international matches and I took it as read that this is what the various links at the head of the page led to.
Talking Pictures Tv have recently shown an episode of Colonel March of Scotland Yard dealing with an attempt to sell multiple copies of the Mona Lisa to different buyers. Can't help but wonder if this was ever on Douglas Adam's viewing of an evening.

I'm also curious whether Dennis Potter ever watched Dick Barton - Special Agent. There's been a night club singer mixed up with a criminal gang, a gangster double act called Titch and Lofty and some incidental music that I'm sure ended up in The Singing Detective.
Would very much like to see a Venn diagram showing the correlation between people who complained that the "squee brigade" abandoned Doctor Who because an older man was cast and people claiming that they will never watch again now that Jodie Whittaker has been cast.

I have concerns about how the character may be written, but none about who will be playing her.
It's just possible that the crossover between people who remember Terry and June and people who watched Tales from the Crypt (the Amicus version) will not be large.

However, for those few people who fit in that group and enjoy smutty jokes about sitcom characters...

Today was a red letter day for Terry. He hummed his purposeful hum as he hopped out of the car and strode up the garden path of their little house at 23 Tennyson Drive. It was his special hum for when he felt dynamic, based on the 1812 Overture, but with elements of Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet added. He liked to think that if Beethoven could only hear it, he’d nod approvingly and have to admit that Terry had improved on his work. He lengthened his stride as he headed round the back of the house to see if June was pottering around there. He had big news for her. This could be the evening that changed his career, that set him on a route to the top. He swung round the corner, mouth open to tell the glad tidings and -
Not there.
He felt a twinge of irritation. He had specifically asked her to dead head the azaleas. It wasn’t as if she had anything else to do all day. He was out making the big bucks to keep them - well, maybe not big yet, but that could all be about to change. He gazed round the garden for a moment before heading into the house, veering to one side to avoid the sun lounger. June must have moved it. He was sure it had been further to the left, past the rhododendrons. He would have a word with her. But later. It could wait till after the big night. He threw open the back door, calling to her in the voice that he knew she loved so well.
June was in the bedroom, wondering what had gone wrong with her life. She’d had plans once and ambitions. She was going to see the world and leave Purley far behind her. How had things come to this? Living with 2 hundredweight of tedium dressed in C & A polyester slacks and drip dry bri-nylon shirts. A man with the conversational aplomb of a haddock and the sexual technique of a sweaty octopus. She wondered occasionally what his reaction would be if he knew what she did while he was at work. The uses Paul had shown her for heated rollers. The threesomes with Tom and Margo. Rene, the flying helmet and the wet celery.
Her train of thought was broken as she heard the cracked tenor that signified the arrival of what she tried to think of as her husband. She had been brought up that it was best to say nothing if she could not say something nice, and so she said little about him and thought less. Ah well. At least she had plans for tonight.
“Ju-u-u-une?” The wheedling voice was heading up the stairs. Stitching a smile onto her face, she headed out of the bedroom.
“Hello, darling,” she said brightly. “How was your day?” This was usually a good way to start any conversation. Terry would launch into a lengthy account of what little had happened to him, leaving June free to wander off mentally into something more interesting. Tim, Graeme and Bill. Turned out when they said that they did anything, anywhere, anytime, it wasn’t just a slogan.
“Oh, June,” he spluttered. “I’ve got wonderful news. This could mean great things. Sir Dennis - he’s coming for dinner tonight. He’ll be here at six.” He paused for a moment as a thought crossed his mind, like a lone traveler crossing the Mojave desert. “That does give you time to cook something special, doesn’t it?”
June sighed and exchanged her “bright welcoming husband” smile for something a notch less cheerful and with a hint of reproach. “Well, dear, I think I can arrange something. Luckily, I’ve got something in the oven already. You remember we invited Mr Grimsdyke for dinner tonight?”
Colour slowly drained from Terry’s face as his mouth fell open, forming a perfect “O” of horror. The overall effect was not unlike a cream cheese were it ever to be on the point of achieving sentience. While his brain struggled to adjust to this news, his mouth apparently declared independence, determined to reclaim its sovereignty. “But what um er I. Oh,” he commented before his brain had the chance to regain control.
“But that’s terrible, June,” he wittered. “Don’t you remember what he did to Sybil when we made a foursome for golf? All she did was knock the ball with her foot and next morning she’s an eyeless corpse with a breakfast menu reading ‘Play the ball from where it lies. That is why you have no eyes.’
Ah yes, thought June. Sybil. She did go on so. Mind you, she was surprisingly adept with a mashie niblick… Thoughts of a happier time were abruptly punctured as she realised that Terry was still talking.
“Look at what happened to Tony. All he did was mention what happened at the end of “Lady Don’t Fall Backwards” and then he’s found choked to death with his own astrakhan hat with a message on the last page of the book reading “The name of the killer should be a mystery. That is why you are now history.”
Tony had been a bit of a disappointment. So full of himself.  Although the things he could do with alphabetti spaghetti… Even if he did insist on checking her spelling.
“And then there was Captain Peacock. Just because he snapped at his wife once. The next morning, his private parts were up a tree in Rutland and there’s a docket for 3 dozen shirts stapled to his forehead reading “Treat your wife as though she’s Venus. That is why you have no - “ He broke off, shuddering.
The Captain hadn’t been much of a loss, June reflected. Peacock by name… Not that she had anything against water sports. It was the asparagus. Made it so difficult to air the house out afterwards. She’d had to tell Terry it was ingredient of the month on Woman’s Hour.
She noticed that Terry had finally wound down. “Come on, dear,” she said brightly. “Let’s go sit in the garden for a few minutes. I’ll make you a drink and you can calm down.”
The garden did look particularly fine. Terry gulped at his gin and tonic - Gordon’s, of course. He insisted on it. And just a slice of lemon. He’d avoided the sun lounger by the rhododendrons and was standing on the patio, his back to the house, gazing out over the garden. His kingdom.  He was king and it was time he put his foot down. “June, he brayed. “I don’t want that Mr Grimsdyke here this evening. Now I don’t often give you orders, but today I’m going to do - “
He came to a halt, an expression of surprise on his face and looked down to see a wizened hand protruding from his rib cage. “Well, that’s just typ -” he managed, before exiting this life. Mr Grimsdyke withdrew his hand and Terry’s corpse fell backwards onto the sunlounger, as if it had been placed there specifically for the purpose.
June beamed at Mr Grimsdyke. “I know it’s not Valentine’s Day, but I’d like you to have this,” she said. A moment of apprehension might have crossed what was left of his face. It was hard to tell. He opened the card and read “Mr Grimsdyke, from the start you have always had my heart.”
You can tell a lot from a back garden. I don’t advise peering over the fence into no 23 Tennyson Close, but if you were to do so as the sun sets, what would you see? The eviscerated corpse of Sir Dennis, mounted on the arboretum. A light in the sitting room window as a voice can be heard saying, “But darling Mr G, I simply can’t find a rhyme for innards”. And the lifeless corpse of Terry Medford, his ambitions come to naught, as the sun lounger finally gives way and spills him onto the patio, where he rolls over twice before coming to rest, face down in the azalea bed.
Currently watching the Ian Richardson film of Hound of the Baskervilles.

Lestrade is the Peter Lorre knock off from Raiders. Watson appears to be educationally sub-normal. Doyle from The Professionals is Sir Henry, putting up a brave but losing fight with a Texan accent, while Stapleton is all sideburns and butterfly net. Meanwhire Polly from Fawlty Towers, Eleanor Bron and Soolin from Blakes 7 are lurking around the Moor.

And Brian Blessed is being Brian Blessed. It's a moot point whether he was written into the script or whether he just turned up on set and no one dared to tell him to leave.
I've just watched the Jeremy Brett version of The Final Problem. Moriarty is a consulting criminal, available for hire. Obviously, he's been retained by the 19 Century splinter of Scaroth from City of Death who's trying to raise money for his time experiments.
Observed on twitter today.

Man with 400,000 followers responds to news that woman was raped during making of film by tweeting that it was a rubbish film anyway.

Woman with fewer than 1% his number of followers quotes his tweet and asks whether that was really the most important point to be made here.

Man with 400,000 followers quotes her tweet, angrily denying that this was in any way what he meant and then blocks her while engaging in conversation with people who agree with him and also men who disagree with him.

You see that Twitter pile up? That's your best argument, that is.
At about 8.30 last night, John Carpenter was standing on a stage about 30 yards from me, alternating between playing two-finger chords on a synthesiser and performing what my first wife would call the Brady shuffle. Named after her father, this is a dance where the performer keeps both feet firmly planted and moves solely from the hips and shoulders, so the fists rotate in small circles, slowly as if the dancer is holding a pint of Guinness and trying not to spill any. It seemed oddly fitting that he was dressed entirely in black with a fringe of white hair, looking himself not unlike a rather cadaverous pint of stout.

But a decidedly charismatic one and one who appeared to rather enjoy having around 5000 adoring fans hanging on his every note. And I was one of them. Carpenter's been one of my favourite film makers for a very long time - I first saw The Fog about 30 years ago on Moviedrome one Sunday evening. The stage had a 20 foot screen above it and scenes from the films were played on it to match the music being played. So, we had the theme from Halloween as Michael Myers loomed out of the dark behind Jamie Lee Curtis, luminous fog billowing over San Antonio Bay with music to match, the theme from The Thing as a dog writhed and changed into something unrecogniseable, Big Trouble backed with Jack Burton showing that it's all in the reflexes and Escape From New York, as on stage Carpenter changed his normal sedate boogie into something more matching Snake Plisskin's loping strut.

All images and sounds I've known for years and seeing them brought together by the man who created them all made for a startlingly powerful experience.

As the evening went on, Carpenter relished his role as a kind of keyboard playing Rod Serling, delivering stentorian introductions to tracks, climaxing with his warning to the assembled crowd to drive carefully on their way home because "Christine is waiting", leading into an ear-splitting performance of the title track from the film backed with a flaming car from Hell.

Not sure I can think of a better wayto spend Halloween. Just a shame it was two days early.
Moments when you think a film may not be going well.

A character asks “Do you know who I am?” and I think “No, I don't. Am I supposed to?”

10 minutes after I thought the film was drawing to a close, a character asks “How much longer is this going on for?”

Suicide Squad is an odd film. Something that feels like it might have been an anarchic mid-size space filler between epics has been retooled into a summer tent-pole movie. The idea is straightforward. Criminals with particular talents are co-opted by the government to act as an off-the-books black ops team. If they refuse, small bombs which have been implanted in their necks will explode and kill them. Any similarity to Escape from New York is probably not co-incidental.

The structure at first seems to be tolerably straightforward too. As security bigwig Amanda Waller introduces each of her prospective team members, we get a flashback showing them in action. Or a few of them anyway. The rest get left to one side, their flashbacks coming later, or – in one case – not at all. This latter is Slipknot – a man introduced with the single line “He can climb anything”. Going by his example, unusual abilities do not necessarily go hand in hand with intelligence. After 90 seconds screen time, one of his less intelligent colleagues convinces him that the bombs are faked and his escape attempt is ended somewhat squelchily.

It'd be tempting to think that the increasingly random placement of flashbacks is a deliberate collapse of narrative structureas the chaos of the characters overtakes the film. However, rumour has it that the film was heavily re-edited after the hostile reception given Batman v Superman, as the studio wanted something more fun. One of the main victims of this is apparently Jared Leto's Joker. Myself, I'd say this is all for the better. The Joker can portrayed in many ways – Cesar Romero's camp clown, Heath Ledger's anarchist terrorist, Jack Nicholson in white face paint. One thing he really can't be is boring. Leto's Joker is visibly desperate to impress. He has “damaged” tattooed on his forehead and lies artily posed in the middle of concentric circles of knives. He comes across as a Marilyn Manson fan boy who has spent far too much time watching The Dark Knight and Breaking Bad, all metal capped teeth and gangsta tattoos. Reports from filming say that he remained in character permanently, leading to him sending severed animal heads to other castmates and pissing on Will Smith's breakfast. One might wish that Smith had similarly stayed in character – one suspects that Deadshot's reaction to having his morning oatmeal violated would have been quite final.

Smith is one of the film's strengths. It's not one of his better performances, but the level of charisma he brings still draws the gaze whenever he's on screen. The standout performance comes from Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. She and Smith remain detached from the film – he commenting on it's stupidity, she varying from childlike reactions of joy to explosions to off handedly diagnosing Smith as textbook sociopath after he denies feeling any emotions. She also manages to give the character a sense of depth – she gets a moment to mourn the Joker's apparent death, before putting her game face back on when the remainder of the squad catch up with her. In all, a character it may be interesting to see develop.

Part of the effect of the last minute reworking of the film seems to have been to make the Joker/Harley relationship less abusive. Given that as it stands, the relationship includes Harley being offered to another gangster as a bribe and also being tortured with the words “I'm going to hurt you real bad”, how successful this was must be open to doubt. The film has a familiar problem in that women are often seen to be a reward for good behaviour or something to be denied someone as a punishment. Besides the Joker who spends much of the film chasing the Squad to reclaim Harley, Rick Flag, leader of the Squad, is looking to get back his girlfriend, June.She's been possessed by an ancient witch, known as the Enchantress. At the film's close, he kills Enchantress, which he knows will kill June, and for his heroism is rewarded by having June come back to life. Team member El Diablo, who can control fire, is in mourning and lives with the fact that he burned his wife and children to death in a moment of frenzied rage. He is given a form of tragic heroism as he learns to trust himself and his control over his ability once again. Take away the fantasy elements of this though and we get a man who killed his family , plain and simple. Would Deadshot be given the same level of sympathy had he used his own special ability and shot his family? Given that he describes his ex-wife as a whore and advises Flag to control June/Enchantress by “beating her ass”, I wouldn't bet against it. Add casual displays of misogyny such as Slipknot being introduced by punching a woman in the face and explaining that “She had a mouth on her” and the film does not leave a good taste.

Simply by looking at the cast, the film seems to achieve a better level of diversity than many. Deadshot and Amanda Waller are black. There is also a Japanese woman, a Latino man and other women in Harley and June/Enchantress. Sadly, the film has a tendency to go for the stereotype. The Latino character is a gang member with rage control issues. The Japanese woman is a ninja called Katana. One of the squad is an Australian called Captain Boomerang who swills lager. No stereotype left unturned.

And yet, the film is still not as bad as Batman v Superman. This is a low wall to hurdle. Should a director's cut of Suicide Squad emerge, it may yet be an interesting film. A director's cut of BvS was never going to be anything other than longer.
This time yesterday, I was feeling quite despairing about the political process in the UK - the most important vote many of us will ever cast being reduced to Nigel Farage and Bob Geldof cocking about in boats on the Thames.

24 hours later, I would give an awful lot to go back to that.

Lots of people have been retweeting tweets by Jo Cox this evening, the most recent being a picture of her husband and children in a boat on the Thames yesterday. It is unspeakable that while she was doing this, indeed while she was doing anything for we don't know how long, someone had decided that she didn't deserve to live and that the world would be better off without her.

This is a very bad day. How do we make sure this is as bad as it gets?


May. 4th, 2016 09:50 pm
Very good piece by Andrew Hickey on why we can't take having good things for granted.
Can't help but think I'd have enjoyed it more had the opening credits featured, to the tune of Itchy and Scratchy,

They're grim
They're dark
They're dark and grim and dark
Grim, grim, grim
Dark, dark, dark
It's Batman v Superman!
Partway through BvS, Ben Affleck, playing Bruce Wayne as Donald Trump if he had a personal trainer and some self-discipline, shouts at his butler, Alfred, played by Jeremy Irons in the style of Professor Yaffle on a bad day, "If there is even a one per cent chance that he is our enemy, we must take it as an absolute certainty." Time was when the Adam West Batman used to take the piss out of the likes of Dick Cheney, not quote him approvingly. It says something of the attitudes of the makers of this that, not only does this appear in the film, it is also one of the lines singled out to appear in the trailer. Zack Snyder has history with superhero comic book movies. Sadly, by and large, it's not a particularly inspiring history.

Read more... )

Oh well. The film opened in the UK today. Apparently, Batman v Superman merchandise is already reduced in Sainsbury's. Hardly a vote of confidence.
Back when I was at school, some shitty things happened, as a result of which I was judged to be a pernicious and dangerous moral influence. This wasn't actually as fun as it sounds and there were only a few people who thought my company was worth risking. We'll call one of them John. When he was about 16, John came out. His parents didn't take well to this and, because they couldn't have raised someone gay, decided it must have been my influence. As I understand it, they tried to get the headmaster to expel me. He refused. Now we were told regularly during assembly - sometimes even by people other than him - that our headmaster was a man of high moral values and rectitude. So we'll assume his refusal was nothing to do with the fact that my parents paid full fees and John's didn't. Anyway, John and family moved away - Telford or some such place - and we lost touch, largely because his parents were vile and it just wasn't worth the effort.

I had a text this morning from John's parents reading as follows.

As you'll know John killed himself last Thursday. The funeral is tomorrow. If you've any shame over what you made him into, you'll stay away.

Now there's an entire history there. I hadn't thought of John in nearly 30 years. His parents have obviously thought of me quite a lot and - well - maybe assume I've been keeping some kind of watch over him. Or something. It's all beyond me. As is who they got my mobile number from. Anyway, presumably they're worried that I'm going to turn up at John's funeral and be a pernicious influence. Good. They bloody deserve it. Needless to say, I'm not going. John was a nice chap who I talked Doctor Who and cricket with nearly three decades ago and also quite fancied. For obvious reasons, he's not going to be there tomorrow and frankly his family aren't worth the sweat off my dog Spike's non-existent balls. So fuck them. The sole difference their spiteful little message made is that I now suspect that they hounded their son to kill himself and I actively despise them for it.

This post has been brought to you by a sense of despairing bewilderment and the letters F and U.
Because thus far, it's really not been good enough. David Bowie and Alan Rickman within the space of a few days.

As someone on line observed, you know things are going badly when Alan Rickman's death isn't the biggest cultural loss of the week. Someone else suggested that the other thousands of people who died this week are nudging each other and muttering "Isn't that David Bowie?" All except one, I'd suggest, clad in floor-length robes of night that drink the light, pale face highlighted against long black hair, who is muttering, "This is frankly unacceptable", each syllable enunciated to within an inch of its life and resisting the temptation to just drop a pinch of something unmentionable into the water cooler. Or possibly dressed in an immaculately cut suit, neatly bearded and announcing to the assembled masses "I am an exceptional thief." One gets the feeling that, had this happened three weeks earlier, Christmas really might have been called off.

Think of the performances that we never saw. We've just lost two of the great never-were Bond villains. Rickman telling Brosnan "For England, James." A bleached-blond Bowie sparring with Grace Jones, with no-one noticing the accumulated charisma entirely wiping Roger Moore off the screen. 1988's film of Dangerous Liaisons for some reason thought that John Malkovitch would make a more convincing amoral seducer than Alan Rickman. No. Me neither.

But then there are the moments we have. Rickman's spoon-related threat as the Sheriff, with the explanation "Because it'll hurt more, you twit!" and his reaction to the resulting Bafta - "This will be a healthy reminder to me that subtlety isn't everything!". Bowie's slightly cracked tenor crooning "Because my love for you would break my heart in two, if you should fall into my arms and tremble like a flower," the line delivered almost casually and reaching such a pitch of intensity on the last word. Rickman - well, Rickman saying almost anything with that voice of mingled sweetness and threat, like honey poured over broken glass.

It's been suggested that Christopher Lee, now that he's passed over, has decided to call his warriors to him for the onset of Ragnarok. Lemmy, Bowie and now Rickman. They said that the face of Helen launched a thousand ships. How many would set forth for the voice of Rickman?
So what have my highlights of the last 365 days been?

Best film

Of stuff that was newly released this year, there were actually a few things I really liked. Spectre passed a vital test for being a Bond film in that I could imagine watching it on ITV after the Queen's speech with 20 minutes cut out to make space for more ads. The Force Awakens reintroduced me to a long-gone childhood pleasure - not being disappointed by a Star Wars film.The best was Mad Max Fury Road, though. By the time you've got to the opening credits, you've had a car chase, a capture, an escape, another chase, a fight and a recapture and you're less than 10 minutes into the film. It doesn't hang around, and it pretty much keeps up that kind of pace for the rest of the film, as well as actually having things like character development as Max returns to being a human being from a PTSD-ridden animal. There was a certain amount of fuss when a group of idiots whose name I forget, but shall refer to as whiny entitlement-ridden fuckstains tried to organise a boycott on the grounds that there was a woman in it who did things like being competent. Personally, I saw that as a point in the film's favour - you know, half the planet's population having a character they might identify with - but it's their right to be abject whinging fuck knuckles if they choose to. There was a similar campaign mounted against Force Awakens also. Force Awakens is now on track to become the biggest film ever released, so that clearly went well.

Best TV

Last series of Hannibal, which was excellent and only marred by being the last series. Doctor Who - Heaven Sent, which was a remarkable piece of television and shows that the production team do actually appreciate how good Peter Capaldi is. Only Connect for being the single quiz show in history to contain the highest number of serial killers.

Best book

Werner Herzog - a Guide for the Perplexed. I first heard about this through Mark Cousins' article in Sight and Sound. I suspect quite a few other people did too, as by the time I started looking for it, Waterstones had 2 copies left in the country and I had to order one from Glasgow. It was worth it.Herzog is the kind of man who walks across Europe to have tea with a friend or who, on hearing that a volcano is about to erupt, decides that the best thing to do is climb up to the crater and film a documentary there. Anyone who's ever met me will have noticed that this is not an outlook I have anything in common with, and yet it's fascinating to read the thoughts of someone so different to myself.

Best music

Pretty much all the music I've bought this year has been film soundtracks. Two things stand out - both by John Carpenter - his soundtracks to Escape from New York and The Fog. Escape... has the most memorable single track in Snake Pliskin's theme, although I have a soft spot for the overcranked guitars on the version used on Escape from L A fifteen years later. The Fog is the better soundtrack though, far more atmospheric and all-enveloping.

Best blu-ray/DVD.

There's a fair few contenders here. Network have produced the third of their volumes of The Professionals as well as the 1979 ITV Quatermass - both looking pretty much unrecognisable from any previous release on DVD or VHS and quite possibly looking better than their original transmissions. Eureka and Masters of Cinema produced gorgeous discs of The Quiet Man and Shane. And then there's Arrow - box sets of the first three Hellraiser films, Videodrome, Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa, Fulci's Black Cat and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, as well as individual releases of My Darling Clementine, Rollerball, The Honeymoon Killers and What Have you Done With Solange, among many others. The highlight for me, though, was their disc of the Cushing/Morell/Lee Hound of the Baskervilles from Hammer. One of my favourite films, beautifully presented and with a metric fuckton of extras. Very happy with that.