Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Listless Days of January

Maybe it is the miserable weather, maybe it is all the depressing stuff in the news (President Trump and the car crash known as Brexit), maybe it is just the time of year, but so far this year I just haven't been able to get into any kind of rhythm.  I'm back in that state of mind where I just can't settle to any particular thing, which is undoubtedly why my posts here have been all over the place.  Perhaps my inability to settle into any kind of routine simply reflects my wider feeling of detachment with regard to work - I feel like I'm in limbo as I count down to my mortgage being paid off completely.  I really don't want to be doing my current job any more, but I feel obligated to stick at it, just to play safe financially, until I'm mortgage-free.  That said, last Saturday I had one of those moments of absolute clarity, when I admitted to myself that there is absolutely nothing about the job that I enjoy any more, nothing which even gives me a sense of professional satisfaction, and that there is nobody I work with that I'd miss if I walked away.  Clearly, I need to start making plans for when the mortgage is paid, so that I can make a clean break from work.  If only I could figure out a way to make money from what I do online, it would be easy.

Anyway, to get back to the point of this post, I thought that, as I can't actually settle to write anything specific, I'd instead tell you about what I plan to do, post-wise, in the near future. (I'm also hoping that by saying I'm going to write these things, my sense of obligation will force me to actually make the posts).  Despite my general feelings of listlessness, I haven't been entirely idle since the start of the year - if nothing else, I've watched a fair number of exploitation movies, which I'll hopefully be writing about here in the foreseeable future.  Most notable amongst these are a pair of sixties British 'shockumentaries', West End Jungle and London in the Raw, which I was given on DVD at Christmas.  Both DVDs also featured a terrific selection of extras, including a number of rare short films on exploitation themes.  There's also a 1970s Italian police thriller, The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist, in the queue to be written up.  I'm also trying to draw up a schedule of further scuzzy exploitation pieces to watch in the coming weeks, which will, hopefully, provide more material for posts.  Away from exploitation films, I still haven't forgotten that model railway locomotive I'm meant to be restoring: I was planning to do some more work on it last weekend, but a bout of severe idleness intervened.  I'm also inching forward with putting together that new compact model railway layout to run the locomotive and other ongoing projects on.  Speaking of these ongoing projects, I'm currently awaiting delivery of a couple of old baggage vans I bought on eBay the other day.  All of which should provide me with more material to post about in the future.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Extreme Breast Feeding

The release of another XXX film, (starring Vin Diesel, thank God, rather than Ice Cube, a man permanently looks as if he's either angry or constipated, possibly both, as the second one did), left me thinking about the whole 'extreme sports' thing, which was big way back when the first film in the series was released.  It just doesn't seem as big any more - maybe it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt.  After all, stuff doesn't extreme after you've seen it dome over and over again. On the contrary, it becomes routine.  Which is probably why, at one time, they started coming up with stuff like 'Extreme Ironing', which involved people climbing mountains, setting up ironing boards on dangerous ledges before proceeding to iron their shirts.  Yes, really.  I'm not making this up.  Clearly an attempt to make extreme sports seem even more extreme, the problem with this is that ironing is simply boring.  Whether you do it on a mountain ledge or in your living room, it's dull.  That said, the underlying idea - of making an everyday activity extreme in order to broaden the popularity of extreme sports - is perfectly sound.  They just needed to pick a different activity, one which, unlike ironing, could be combined with a variety of extreme sports.

Which is where extreme breast feeding comes in.  Now, before you condemn the idea, just think about it - from a broadcaster's point of view it has numerous attractions.  Not least that they could argue that it is showcasing female athletes (unless they can find some lactating men) - women's sports are notoriously poorly served by TV.  Moreover, they can play the public service card by saying that they are encouraging breast feeding by making it appear more glamourous and exciting, whilst, at the same time, giving them a legitimate reason for showing bare breasts, thereby catering to the sexist lad segment of the TV audience.  Surely that would be unique?  Sports programming that appeals to both feminists and pimply sex-starved teenage boys.  Anyway, as I said, it could cover the full gamut of extreme sports.  Not only could you have women breast feeding their babies half way up a mountain, but they could also do it whilst white water canoeing, (it would be bloody difficult to set an ironing board up on a canoe), or even hang gliding.  Sure, there are bound to be people claiming that extreme breast feeding would be dangerous for the participants' babies.  But babies are resilient, you can drop them a few times without doing any real harm, (or so I'm told).  I mean, surely exposing some babies to a bit of risk is worth it if it means that you can glorify the institution of motherhood?  

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Catching Bullshit

It's all bullshit. Except if you write for the likes of the Daily Mail or Daily Express, in which you credulously report it as if it is true.  Conjuring, stage magic or whatever you want to call it, is what I refer to, of course.  We all know that it isn't real, it's an illusion.  There is no real danger involved, only the appearance of risk. Yet the press were recently happily reporting, as if it were fact, self-styled street magician and prize prick David Blaine's latest bit of publicity bullshit as if it were fact.  'David Blaine injured performing dangerous bullet-catching stunt', or words to that effect, were emblazoned across their headlines and web sites.  The clear implication being that the bullet catching illusion, (note that word 'illusion'), actually involves somehow 'catching' a real bullet.  Which is bullshit.  The only sense in which you can 'catch' a bullet is if you are actually shot with one.  Which often proves fatal.  Bullets typically move faster than the speed of sound - that's too fast to dodge or 'catch'.  It's bullshit.  It's a trick.

I can tell you how it is done, if you like.  Well, I can tell you the way it is usually done nowadays.  Historically, there have been quite a few variations, usually dictated by whatever firearms technology was prevalent at the time the trick was being performed.  Anyway, to return to the point, it's actually quite simple: they use a wax bullet.  The heat produced by the combustion of the charge in the cartridge when the round is fired, combined with the friction as it moves through the air, means that the bullet melts before it can hit the target.  But, I hear you say, they sometimes have a sheet of glass in front of the magician being shot at, which shatters when the gun is fired.  Well, that can be achieved several ways, but if the glass is positioned at the correct distance from the gun's muzzle, then the wax bullet, although melting, will still have sufficient mass and momentum to shatter the glass, (which will also handily ensure that the bullet is completely destroyed before it can ever get near the target).  Yes, that's all very well, you are doubtless saying, but how do you explain the fact that they get someone to write their initials on the bullet, which shows that the bullet 'caught' by the magician is the same one that was loaded into the gun and fired.  Again, bullshit.  I refer you back to the heat generated by actually firing the cartridge and the friction against the air as the bullet travels - whilst these obviously wouldn't melt a real bullet, they are sufficient to burn off anything written or inscribed on it.  So if the bullet caught by the magician still has stuff written on it, it hasn't been fired from a gun.  It's been palmed by the magician or his associate as the wax tipped round was substituted for the real one by sleight of hand,  The magician simply holds it in his hand until after the gun has been fired, then he reveals it, claiming that he has caught it.

So there you go, I've spoiled a classic magic trick for you.  You now know it is just an illusion.  Except that you already knew that.  We all know there is no such thing as magic.  Except apparently right wing tabloids who are seemingly in the pay of David Blaine's PR firm.  'Fake News' anybody?

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fake Gold

Well, I guess there are only two topics of conversation today: the fall-out from the allegations tat Trump has been taking golden showers with Russian prostitutes and the snow.  The latter is in the process of melting, so that just leaves Trump.  I have no idea whether the claims about Trump and the compromising material about him the Russians may or may not are true, (although, despite the lack of direct evidence, they seem very well sourced), but it speaks volumes about the President-elect that a lot of people seem to have no difficulty in believing them to be true.  Rather like Cameron and that pig.  In a way, I find it sad that we live in an age when people can so easily believe such things about  our political leaders.  Not that I'm harking back to some mythical Golden Age of Politics during my childhood, when politicians were all fine upstanding people, moral exemplars every one of them.  But back then, the worst you might suspect of them were a few dodgy business connections or the odd discreet affair.  Political scandals really were political: the issue in the Profumo affair was less that a member of the government was paying a prostitute for sex, than that he'd been foolish enough to sleep with one who was also seeing a Soviet embassy official.  

But to get back to Trump, his response to the allegations has been fascinating, angrily labeling them 'fake news'.  Which is interesting because the so-called 'fake news' which has become such an issue with regard to the Presidential election was universally associated with attempts to boost Trump's standing and the denigration of his opponents.  'Fake News' - the current media buzz word' - was of no concern to the right until it started targeting their man.  It was apparently OK for false news stories to be peddled if they only concerned the alleged involvement of leading Democrats with a peadophile ring centred around a restaurant, but not when they allege Trump was being pissed on in a Moscow hotel room.  Except, of course, that these Trump allegations aren't 'Fake News' by any stretch of the imagination.  They aren't click bait concocted by some teenager in their bedroom and posted on social media.  They are the result of an investigation by a former intelligence professional, using sources and contacts built up over the course of a long career in the business.  But, as we've seen all too often in contemporary politics, the right have moved quickly to co-opt liberal nomenclature to discredit their enemies.  'Fake News' is a phenomena created entirely by the left as an explanation for their defeat.  It was always a nonsensical idea and now it has been turned against them.  Just as the right have succeeded in stealing the liberal's clothes, portraying themselves as the outsiders and champions of the disenfranchised, now they've also stolen what their opponents thought was their new weapon to discredit the right.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Not So Fan-tastic

Fans, they're the pits, aren't they?  Oh, I don't mean your casual fan of things - the sort of people who are interested and knowledgeable about something, but not obsessive about it.  You know the sort I mean - they become obsessed with a film, TV series, pop group, book or celebrity to the point that they seem to believe that they have some kind of 'ownership' over the object of their obsession.  I've talked about their ilk before, these 'fans' who have developed a clear idea of what their favourite TV series or film franchise should look like or be about and won't tolerate any deviation from this, seeing it as a 'betrayal' on the part of the series' creators.  As I've noted before, Dr Who fans seem particularly prone to this mindset, with many seemingly unable to get past whichever regeneration of the Doctor they first saw, denouncing all other versions as heretical.  I was reminded of them the other day when I was reading, for no particular reason, something about Star Wars.  I was struck by the level of hatred many of the Star Wars fanatics directed at the franchise's creator, George Lucas.  Indeed, their refusal to allow him any credit for the movies' success is extraordinary.

According to them, the first film was a success in spite of Lucas, rather than because of him.  In this fan narrative, the film was saved by the intervention of others, particularly in post-production.  (This type of narrative is also common amongst those trying to debunk cinematic idols: the film Hitchcock, for instance, tries to rewrite history by casting Hitchcock's wife as the true genius behind Psycho, rescuing the film in the editing suite.  A nice story, but completely untrue).  As further evidence of Lucas' failings as a film-maker, they point to the despised (mainly by them) prequel trilogy.  Which, of course, brings us to the kernel of their problem - Lucas delivered a set of prequels which didn't conform to these fans' vision of Star Wars.  They'd convinced themselves that they 'owned' the franchise and saw themselves as 'keepers of the flame'.  Unfortunately for them, Star Wars was George Lucas vision, (at least, until he sold Lucasfilm to Disney).  Whether the fans like it or not (and they don't), Lucas was the creative force behind the franchise - without his determined efforts to put his vision on screen, the first film would never have happened.  And without that, the rest of the franchise wouldn't exist.

Regardless of who may or may not have done what to Lucas original footage, they couldn't have done it without his having shot it, imperfect though it might have been, in the first place.  Which is why their mean-spiritedness irks me so much.  They should be grateful, not petulant.  However, Lucas had the audacity to maintain creative control of his concept (for six films, anyway), challenging their vision. How dare he frustrate the ambitions of people who had no part, whatsoever, in the creative process?  It's notable that the first non-Lucas Star Wars film pandered to the fans by effectively recycling much of the plot and imagery of the first film.  Not surprisingly, they loved it - it wasn't challenging their vision of Star Wars.   Sadly, such an approach to film-making leaves little room for originality or innovation.  


Monday, January 09, 2017

Celebrity Apocalypse 2017?

Oh my God!  Oh my God!  It's started!  The 2017 celebrity apocalypse is upon us!  Haven't you heard?  Peter Sarstedt dies yesterday!  More famous people are sure to follow!  OK, I know Sarstedt's death might not have the same resonance of that of, say David Bowie, but I'm surprised not to have seen more bleating about how awful it is that 2017 has already claimed a celebrity victim when, after last year's holocaust, we'd apparently been promised, (by whom, I'm not clear), that no famous people would die this year.   I guess some old sixties singer just isn't famous enough for those social media hipsters to get worked up about.  Of course, he wasn't the first celebrity death of 2017.  I believe that 'honour' fell to Indian actor Om Puri.  Obviously, as he was a 'foreigner' (ie, not white and didn't appear mainly in English-language blockbuster movies), he didn't count.  Despite the fact that he was a major figure in Indian cinema and a familiar face in British films and TV, giving many fine performances, perhaps most notably in East is East

But why were people making such a fuss about last year's celebrity deaths?  It wasn't just the volume, there seemed to be much more in the way of public grief surrounding many of the individual deaths.  I'm guessing it was because for a particular generation of people, now active online in social media, many of the celebrities who died last year were 'iconic' figures, who represented an important part of their cultural personal histories.  I certainly understand why, for people of my age group, the deaths of Bowie and Carrie Fisher, felt hugely significant: Bowie seemed ever-present throughout my teens and adult life, whilst I'm one of those people who, as a teenager, queued up outside their local cinema to see Star Wars on its UK release.  Indeed, Star Wars was a huge part of my teen years - I remember being obsessed by everyone and everything associated with it.  But I outgrew it and whilst saddened by Carrie Fisher's untimely death, i don't feel devastated by it, or feel that part of my childhood has died with her.  To be honest, the only celebrity death last year which really affected me was that of Muhammed Ali.  I'd admired so much, for the better part of my life.  Not as a boxer - I'm not really a boxing fan - but for the fact that, over the issue of the Vietnam draft, he stood, unwaveringly, by his principles, regardless of the cost.  And it cost him dearly, losing his titles and having his boxing licence suspended for several years.  I remember seeing him on British TV in the early seventies, when I was very young - he impressed me immensely: witty and funny, frequently self-deprecating and passionate about the cause of civil rights.  In every way he contradicted the popular stereotypes of black people prevalent in popular media at the time.  So, when he died, I did feel a profound sense of loss.  He really was 'The Greatest', in and out of the ring.


Friday, January 06, 2017

Unhealthy Advice

I thought that today I'd respond to some of the vital questions recently posed by the press.  The Guardian, for instance, asks 'Is it time to give up sugar?'  The answer, obviously, is 'no', followed by 'now fuck off'.  Unless, that is, you are some kind of sanctimonious kill-joy who likes to spend their time telling the rest of us how everything we enjoy is bad, so we have to stop it.  According to this article, 'sugar induces the same responses in the brain as nicotine, cocaine and alcohol', as if that's a bad thing.  After all, the reason people smoke, take drugs or drink, at first at least, is because they enjoy it -doing these things is a pleasurable experience.  Unlike smoking, drugs and booze, sugar has the advantage of not being addictive.  Sure, it carries its own health risks - it can rot your teeth, contribute to obesity and late onset diabetes - but, overall, this seem to me to be less catastrophic than cancer, lung disease, kidney failure, heart problems and sclerosis of the liver, which the other stuff can contribute to.  Not, of course, that any of those things are an inevitable consequence of drinking, smoking or taking drugs.  Indeed, like everything else, done in moderation, they are probably relatively harmless, (cue hordes of experts telling me the terrible effects of smoking even a single cigarette). 

I'm at an age when every ache, pain or minor illness is, according to medical opinion, a possible signifier of something more serious and potentially life-threatening.  Every time I watch TV there seems to be some public health ad or another warning, for instance, that a persistent cough could be a symptom of lung cancer.  (Or, it could just be a persistent cough).   You end up checking your urine for blood, worrying whether an upset stomach is a sign of bowel cancer or that headaches are precursors to brain tumours.  Believe me, it sucks all the joy out of life.  Things aren't helped by realising that you are also now the target audience for all those ads about taking out insurance to cover your funeral expenses.  So those little pleasures in life, such as alcohol or a bacon sandwich, suddenly become more important: they can temporarily lift the gloom generated by all the health warnings and intimations of mortality being beamed at us by the media.  Yet we're even being warned off of these now.  Bacon is evil and will clog up your arteries, whilst drinking even a single pint of beer will destroy your liver.  I suddenly found myself reclassified as a heavy drinker when, following that alarmist report last year, the government decided to revise its guidelines on recommended weekly alcohol consumption, yet I'm lucky if I manage to drink half a dozen pints of beer a week.  And now I'm to be deprived even a sugar rush on health grounds! 

What I really object to in all these health scare tactics is that they treat me (and everyone else) like an idiot, as if we can't grasp the fact that imbibing these substances carry a risk.  Of course they involve a degree of risk but, like everything else we do in life, it is surely up to us to decide whether we consider that risk acceptable or not.  Every time I cross the road, I incur the risk of being run over, but I can lessen that risk by applying my judgement as to when traffic is lightest, or by finding a pedestrian crossing.  It's the same with, say, alcohol.  I can choose to regulate my intake, not drink every day, not drink super-strength brain rotting lager.  Besides, with the media telling me that I'm about to die horribly from some disease or another, I might as well kill myself doing something I enjoy, like drinking beer, or eating sugar-filled doughnuts. 


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Twelfth Night

I was glad to see that many people still had their Christmas lights blazing away today, when I was out and about.  God knows, we need something to brighten up these cold gloomy days.  But all that will end tonight, with the media urging us to take the decorations down as we've reached Twelfth Night.  not that they bother marking the end of 'Christmastide' in any other way, (just as they ignore all the days of Christmas which fall after 1st January).  Anyway, I'm busy trying to enjoy my own, personal, Twelfth Night celebration - which mainly involves eating as much of the stuff I've got left over from Christmas as possible.  I've already spent the evening eating chocolates and I've currently got the last of my cocktail sausage rolls baking in the oven.  Then there's the cheese - I've got to finish that tonight, as well.  Not to mention some mince pies. Of course, the one thing I won't be able to finish today is the Christmas cake which my mother insists on making for me every year.  Don't misunderstand me, it's very nice Christmas cake, which I enjoy greatly.  But it does take me an age to get through.  I'll undoubtedly still be eating it next week.

This little celebration is at least providing me with some temporary cheer in an otherwise miserable week.  It's always tough going back to work after a holiday, but going back over Christmas is worse still.  Apart from the abrupt end to all that seasonal cheer, there are inevitably also sub-zero temperatures to deal with.  I've spent the entire week so far feeling that I should still be at home, in bed.  But hey, surely TV, which was apparently so glad to hasten away Christmas, will provide us with some respite?  After all, with the festive season consigned to history for another year, they're free to show us all their fabulous new programming, which will chase away the New Year blues, won't they?  Yeah.  Tory voting tax dodger Gary Barlow is just the thing to brighten up our Saturday evenings, isn't he?  Well, that's what the BBC seem to think, as they have him fronting yet another talent show.  ITV, meanwhile, are countering it by dredging up an equally stale format in the shape of The Voice, poached from the BBC despite its singular failure to set the ratings alight.  And to think, on top of all that. we've still got Brexit and a Trump presidency to look forward to in the coming months.  Jesus Christ!  2017 is already shaping up to be a shitter of a year!


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Spectre (1977)

Definitely not to be confused with the 2015 Bond movie of the same name, 1977's Spectre nevertheless has a thoroughbred pedigree, in US TV movie terms, at least.  For that is what this horror movie actually is: a busted TV pilot given a theatrical release outside of the US, incorporating additionally shot footage.  It represents the culmination of two 1970s US TV trends: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's attempts to get another TV series off the ground and attempts by producers like Dan Curtis to create horror subjects within the constraints of network TV.  The former had included a number of failed pilots like The Questor Tapes and Planet Earth, whilst the latter had yielded the Kolchak TV movies (and the subsequent, short-lived TV series), The Norliss Tapes (another failed pilot for a series about a supernatural investigator) and one off TV movies like Gargoyles and The Cat Creature.  Clearly feeling that the networks just weren't buying science fiction, Roddenberry decided to try his hand at the supernatural instead, (possibly inspired by the good ratings garnered by some of the horror themed TV movies of the era and the cult following built up by Dan Curtis' earlier Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows).

In short, Spectre concerns criminologist William Sebastian (Robert Culp) who, having exhausted rational explanations for the persistence of human evil, has turned instead to the study of the supernatural to provide an explanation.  Accompanied by his former associate and sceptic Dr Hamilton (Gig Young), he finds himself embroiled in the affairs of a trio of wealthy Brits, (portrayed by James Villiers, Ann Bell and John Hurt, yes, that's right, John Hurt), and the strange goings on at their country mansion.  The sister believes that one of her brothers is possessed by an evil spirit, whilst the eldest brother thinks his sister is mad.  The American duo endure various supernatural threats, have to fend off the police in the form of Gordon Jackson's Scotland Yard inspector, who is investigating the murder of an occultist associate of Sebastian and uncover an underground temple before resolving the situation.  Whether this could have been sustained as a weekly series is questionable, but as a one-off movie, Spectre is actually pretty entertaining.  Culp and Young carry off their occult Holmes and Watson act with considerable aplomb.  Whilst keeping commendably straight faces for most of the proceedings, (which do get pretty bizarre in places), they know when to take a lighter approach without tumbling over into full on campiness.  The rest of the, mainly British, cast provide stalwart support.  Villiers, in particular, was no stranger to this sort of material, having appeared in horror movies for both Hammer and Amicus.  Behind the cameras, Clive Donner provides stronger direction than usually seen in TV movies, building up reasonable amounts of suspense and atmosphere when needed and choreographing an effectively nightmarish climax in the underground temple.

As noted earlier, the version of Spectre I saw was the the one prepared for European theatrical release.  Producing such versions wasn't an uncommon practice at the time, as it provided production companies with an opportunity to recoup the costs of expensively shot pilot movies which never made it to series. And, to be fair, Spectre looks like a more expensive than the average TV pilot, filmed largely on location in the UK and featuring several credible name actors, it avoids the somewhat 'identikit' feel that pervaded many US TV shows in the seventies (most of which seemed to be filmed on the, by then, overly familiar Universal backlot). Not that this doesn't stop it from featuring its fair quota of styrofoam rocks and unconvincing interiors, but they don't detract too much from the film's otherwise superior production values.  The new footage - which was usually inserted into pilots to bring them up to proper feature length and/or provide material which couldn't then be shown on US network TV - is pretty obvious, consisting mainly of some bared breasts in the climactic orgy-cum-ritual sacrifice scene at the climax, which also includes a threat of both rape and incest. Not the sort of stuff you'd see in a TV movie of the era.  There's also more gore on display than you'd expect from a regular TV pilot.

However, I have to say that the question which kept nagging at me whilst watching Spectre was whether David Icke had ever seen the film.  Most of the central tenets of his main conspiracy theory seem to present: powerful members of the establishment are part of a cult based around human sacrifice, with its leaders being able to shape shift into various monstrous forms.  Indeed, at the climax, the cult's leader transmogrifies into a giant humanoid lizard.  OK, said lizard is, in the film, actually an ancient demon able to corrupt mortals by appealing to their basest desires, rather than being part of an ancient reptilian race, but the fundamental imagery of Icke's schtick is all there.  Perhaps it is all just coincidence, but I can't help but suspect that David Icke once watched Spectre and the imagery and basic plot stuck in his subconscious, so that when he had his revelation/breakdown, these long submerged memories reasserted themselves as the basis of his new world view.  It's a tantalising thought, that a whole best-selling cobspiracy theory had its origins in an unsuccessful 1970s TV pilot.


Monday, January 02, 2017

A New Year, Hurrah!

2017 at last.  The glorious new year when, apparently, nobody famous will die - because, like, that's 2016's bag, like, and 2017 just isn't into that celebrity death gig, is it?  That seems to be consensus of 'opinion' on Twitter, at least.  I can't help but feel that a lot of people are going to be disappointed once the celebrities start dying again.  New Year or not, I'm still not making any resolutions and I'm refusing point blank to make any predictions: Brexit and President-elect Trump have rammed home how bad I am at the latter.    The only thing I will say is that, in 2017, I intend finding a way to work less - I definitely need more time to myself.  Indeed, despite a large part of my recent time off being taken up with Christmas, I've still managed to advance various of the projects I'm currently working on more in less than two weeks than I have in the past year.  So productive has the Christmas season been, that I'm more reluctant than ever to let it go, this bank holiday being my last day of freedom.

But, although we might have entered a new year, strictly speaking, we haven't left the Christmas season - it is still Christmas until Twelfth Night.  Yeah, you've guessed it, I'm back on my annual beef about our failure to properly respect the Christmas season.  It is, after all, meant to be a twelve day celebration (thirteen, if you include Christmas Eve).  That's right TV stations and newspapers, it doesn't end with the dawn of New Year's Day, (when they all seem to drop their seasonal branding).  Indeed, today the BBC refused to acknowledge even that it was a bank holiday, reverting to its regular weekday schedule.  Only Channel Five, to its credit, retained its Christmas idents today.  The fact is that until at least the English Civil War, Twelfth Night was almost as big a celebration as Christmas Day.  Now it is marked only by exhortations to remember to take your decorations down.  (Quite where this 'tradition' originates is a mystery, as, traditionally, lights and decorations stayed up until Candlemas, In February, in order to bring some much needed brightness and cheer to the depths of Winter.  A tradition which continues to this day in some parts of Northern Europe).  The older I get, the less I understand why, having made such a fuss about it during the run up, people seem to be in so much haste to get Christmas over with and forget about it.  That's the trouble with the modern Christmas: it is all about the expectation rather than the experience of the event.  Ah well, back to bloody work tomorrow.