A Cat Video (To Celebrate The French Election)

Our cat here will demonstrate the relaxed and optimistic feelings that are induced by knowing Sarkozy is no longer leader of France. Until she becomes distracted by her own tail.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah… The relief is palpable.

OK, it’s not exactly a revolution. The fact that Hollande won by just a few percentage points against the man who presided over some of France’s biggest disasters in decades is hardly inspirational. But he does stand for things that actually require standing for, like social equality and regulation of the finance industry. It is at least a crack in the panic-induced consensus of social sadism.

So maybe now please we can have some actual debate about the Fiscal Compact?


A Tale Of Two Cities – The Musical

Tyrone Power Snr., father of movie star Tyrone...
A Young James May Tyrone Power Snr. as Sidney Carton

I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this too much. A musical by an amateur company could go wrong in simply breathtaking ways. Plus I find dialogue on stage hard to follow when spoken, let alone sung. Plus I’d never actually read A Tale of Two Cities and could recall little about it except that the cities in question were Paris and London at the time of the French Revolution. So there would be crowd scenes, mayhem, and possibly accents. I expected to start confused and to gradually become perplexed.

Indeed it threw me right at the start, because it didn’t begin with what’s possibly the most famous opening line in all literature, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Instead it went straight into a murder scene, which can really be only one of those things. Quickly though I found myself following the plot – indeed, caught up in it. To my pleasurable surprise, I was being entertained.

Particularly after the appearance of Sidney Carton, played by Alan Greaney. You hate to single anyone out in an amateur production, especially one with so many great performances, but Carton – or this interpretation of him – really brought the thing alive. Suddenly there was a funny, engaging, cynical, drunken character right next to the centre of the action. Lovely.

Did Dickens really write him as fun as this, or is it Jill Santoriello‘s adaptation? Some people swear to me that he’s a great comic author, but I’ve generally found his humorous characters too clownish to be genuinely funny. Mostly he elicits the sort of half-laugh that means “Yes, I can see how that probably slayed them a hundred and fifty years ago.” But Sidney Carton the dissolute barrister was not only funny, he was… cool. A perfectly modern antihero.

Alas, just after the intermission I suddenly remembered; I may not have read the novel, but the ending of A Tale of Two Cities is almost as famous as the beginning. So I watched an hour and a half of intricate plotting, knowing exactly how it was all going to turn out by surprise.

Yet though it is famous, I think the ending was the weakest part. I’ll try not to give it away here in case you don’t remember it, but the problem is that it’s, well… a bit downbeat.

Actually, quite seriously amazingly downbeat.

Yet musical theatre requires a big closing number, and a downbeat big musical number is… not ideal, I think. To me it seemed a little anticlimactic. It wasn’t the fault of the production – or even the writer, except insofar as she took on a problem that may not actually have a solution. Indeed it is to their credit that it did come off as tragic and dramatic. Dickens always sails close to the sort of melodrama that a modern audience finds hard to take seriously. As Wilde said of another work, one would need a heart of stone not to read the death of Little Nell without laughing. So if it didn’t quite hit the climactic high, it did avoid the pitfall.

But that quibble aside, a really fun evening. Good by any standard, astoundingly good for amateur theatre. And you have just barely got a chance to see it, with one matinée at 2:30 and the closing performance tonight.


Happy Same Year

World Calendar
All the calendar you'll ever need

More calendar bollocks. I linked to this a couple of days ago but it’s been picked up by Time, so now it’s real.

Some people think we should change the calendar so that each date falls on the same day of the week ever year. It’s one of those ideas that’s so brilliantly simple you wonder why no one’s ever done it. Until you realise the reason why no one’s ever done it is that there’s no bloody point in doing it.

The chief stumbling block to the enterprise is that 365 is not divisible by 7. But while others might give up at that point, these two have a simple solution: Adding a day that has no name. It ain’t a Tuesday or a Sunday or nothin’, it’s just “Worldsday”.

The advantages of this? Well, you wouldn’t need to buy a new calendar every year. If you still buy calendars. And you’ll be able to work out which day of the week every date is, forever. Instead of asking a computer to.

Any disadvantages? Well, we’ll have to memorise a different set of month lengths. Thirty days hath… November? And there’s the little detail that it puts an end to a seven-day cycle that has been unbroken for thousands of years. That… seems a shame.

I believe we have a seven day week simply because it divides evenly into both a 364-day solar year and a 28-day lunar month. Of course we know now that the year and month are both a little longer than that, but when the ancients came up with it I bet they thought it was really cool. It isn’t sacred though. Well, not any more. We don’t have to stick with their mistake. Indeed throughout history, people have tried to clear that mess up. What bugs me most about this attempt though is that it is so much change to achieve so little. The sixteenth of May will be a Thursday, forever. So ****ing what? If we’re going to rip it up and start again, let’s replace it with something that will be worth the trouble, something that will really blow the doors off calendrical conformity.

They tried to decimalise it after the French revolution. Unfortunately, ten divides into 365 even less well than seven does and the system was ridiculed. Merely being revolutionary for its own sake doesn’t cut it. For a new system to catch on, it will need to have real benefits. I’ve had a go at this myself, spending weeks on a radical but no doubt ultimately doomed scheme to harmonise the rhythms of the firmament. I’ll tell you how it works if there’s time – and such a thing as – tomorrow.

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