So there I was, undermining the idea of family again...
Every generation has a responsibility to its children, to make them better equipped to deal with the complex cock-up of a world that we leave behind them. But they fuck you up, your Mum and Dad. As a group, society propogates its prejudices down through generations and they evolve and mutate and take on a life of their own. A feud over property can lead to war thousands of years later. This is profoundly sad, tragic and inevitable.
We should be better than that. We should embrace our differences. We should not demonise what we fear, rather we should try to understand it. We should not preach hate to our children, nor should we fill them with cruel compassion. The greatest gift we can give the next generation is an open mind and the chance to live in a world where it is self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Too much to ask? Yup.
In the 1980s, this restaurant achieved its third Michelin Star, a rarity indeed. Over the last twenty years it has lost two of them, but even a One-Star Restaurant is an event to be looked forward to. Particularly given the quote in the Guardian a couple of years ago when England's greatest living intellectual was thinking about moving to Madrid.
The Beckhams would almost certainly have no problem getting a table at the city's exclusive Zalacain restaurant, a favourite with Zidane, Raul and Figo, where other wealthy diners may have to wait up to two months to get a place.
It was certainly exclusive, and the clientele all appeared to be well-heeled. It was, however, one of the most disappointing restaurants I have been to.
Let's start with the superficial matters.
The menu. My Spanish isn't great, but I suspect I would have been better off with a Spanish menu than with the English one they provided. All of the words were English words, true, but they were not necessarily in an order that made any sense. Now, while having a section of the menu labelled "Side Dishes" rather than the more conventional "Starters" might be charming in somewhere quaint in a side-street, this sort of mistake isn't a good sign in a restaurant with an international reputation.
It should have rung alarm bells. Indeed, it did ring alarm bells, but I was thinking "funky Spanish charm, funky Spanish charm." There's only so far that thought can take you, though. The menu looked a bit varied. In a Michelin Star restaurant I'd expect maybe 8 main courses at most. Not fifty. But never mind. The prices looked right. I was still expecting something special.
The service was poor. The waiters were clumsy to the extent of walking in to people and dropping things, and forgetful, missing people out when pouring wine.
All this before the food arrived. Let's just say that the table looked fantastic.
And then they cleared away the floral display and brought us a starter. A little platter of tapas. If you're being generous you would call them tapas. If you're working in Domino's you'd call them "Chicken Strippers, hold the dips".
And on it went.
The food was flat, uninspiring and disappointing. I won't deny that I ate a significant quantity of caviar, and I won't deny that I enjoyed that at least. But from a restaurant with that sort of reputation, and with those sort of prices, I expected a little bit more. I expected my food to be vaguely exciting. I expected something where a little effort had gone in to cooking the food - or at least you felt that it had. I expected the plates that arrived to excite the eye as well as the taste buds. I expected food so good I felt forced to share it with Mr Twinky rather than food that embarrassed me so much that I wanted to hide.
Perhaps I've been spoiled. I've eaten in some excellent restaurants in my time. I'd eaten at an excellent restaurant the night before. I'd hoped for better, really I had.
Sadly, I can't recommend this place. I would avoid it like the plague. Go to the terrace at the Ritz instead.
Is full-frontal nudity on television:
- never acceptable?
- acceptable in some sort of context?
- to be encouraged?
Is the naked human body:
- a horrendous thing that nobody should ever have to see?
- a beautiful, special thing that one should only share with a lover?
- a natural thing that one should be comfortable with, regardless of shape?
- reflect all aspects of society?
- reflect a responsible view of society?
- shape society?
- be mainly programmes about willies and bums?
"This is not easy to write - as you will readily understand. But here goes - congratulations to all involved... to whoever commissioned it, those who executed it, the writers, the cast, the publicity folk that promoted it, the schedulers and of course the late Sydney Newman who invented the whole thing. I truly enjoyed it and watched it every week with my six and half year old son who is now a fan. A classy, popular triumph for people of all ages and all backgrounds - real value for money for our licence fee payers. PS never dreamed I would ever write this. I must be going soft!"
It's going to be a cruel, cruel summer. I'm feeling pretty good about myself, so it's a fine time to tackle the few things left that are making me slightly unhappy. My company loves me, my boyfriend is very nice and has agreed to upgrade our relationship to civil partnership, I've got over my health hiccup from last year and I've remembered several birthdays this year. So obviously it makes sense to torture myself.
Phew. That's enough. I don't expect to do half of that, because I will be in the pub.
The elevation of a person who performs good deeds to the status of sainthood is controversial.
It sends mixed messages to society. It says that so and so was a great person who did great good to mankind. But in doing so, it gives the deceased do-gooder a status greater than any of those around them who also do good. And doing "good" is in itself a subjective thing. I'm tired of writing about the awful atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity, decency, or family values. How anyone can hate in the name of love, or discriminate in the name of freedom is something that frankly horrifies me. Enough about that.
I suspect that's why the Catholic Church don't give out sainthoods to people just for having been good. There have to be genuine miracles involved. But miracles are hard to verify, as they're matters of faith. In today's weary society where we destroy our heroes as randomly as we raise them, it seems as random and divisive a process as ever, and perhaps generates more questions than it answers.
If the saints were to look down and see the kerfuffle that goes on in their name, in declaring them to be worthy of the nomenclature Saint, would they approve?
Fame is a fickle mistress, and few among us could know this truism as well as the erstwhile Peter Pan of Pop, Saint Michael Jackson.
The slackfaced children's entertainer was, while I was on holiday, acquitted of a range of charges from molestation to being slightly twee. The world rejoices. Hoorah.
Sadly, Jackson is a perennial ingenue, who thrilled the world twenty years ago by proclaiming that Billie Jean was not his lover, but later jumped around on cars clutching his crotch in a way that was described as "oddly unerotic". The man comes across as childlike and innocent, but also as his own biggest fan. This is possibly a mistake.
If one were trying to restructure Jackson's career, the sensible approach might be to go low-key. Working with some of today's contemporary youth artists, perhaps. Or hiding for a year and then producing a song so stunning and beautiful that it heals the world, and makes it a better place. But Jackson, I suspect, is not like that.
I predict a triumphant "Greatest Hits" tour, around the amjor cities of America and of poor War-torn Iraq, standing proud in open limos, waving to his vocal and often uncannily quirky fan-base, while doing nothing to attract new fans. If he is really to become a success again and pay for his exorbitant legal fees, it seems likely that the best approach would be to disappear for a couple of years and then emerge with a new face, the same music, and Billie Piper as a sidekick. I hear that she'll be out of work soon.
UK-based Psychic Uri Geller was unavailable for comment on the verdict, but is reported as having said that he always knew Jackson would be acquitted.
There's a product advertised at the moment that claims to be able to reverse the seven signs of ageing without stating what they are.
In an exclusive revelation, based on years of experience of getting older, I can exclusively reveal the seven signs of ageing that this product tackles.
It doesn't handle not being able to get it up three times in a night any more. That's not a sign of ageing, it's a sign of underuse.
Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything, apparently. Here's a quick view of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The movie looks great. The texture is fantastic, the use of colour is great, the whole black and white thing is done in a way that makes fim noir look grey.
It feels like Raymond Chandler turned up two notches beyond the end of the dial.
Structurally, it works - the disjointed narrative gives it an episodic feel, but you're never left hanging, wanting to know what happens next.
It's possibly the most accurate adaptation of a comic you'll get, in terms of the visual look and the narrative style.
Elijah Wood is damn scary.
The dialogue's awful. It's a comic book adaptation, and the trick would have been to adapt the dialogue so it felt like stuff that people would say, rather than your basic stock "Kill him for me, kill him good" that I laughed out loud at.
The whole dirty feeling that you leave the cinema with, like you've just spent two hours lurking at the back of the mind of someone who has some serious issues.
Women are whores or lapdancers, or failing that they're lesbians who walk around in just a g-string. They're all beautiful and statuesque.
The men are either hard, scarred ruthless killers or pretty, psychopathic ruthless killers. It's hard to tell the bad guys from the good guys. You wouldn't want to go for dinner with any of them.
The horror is... gruesome. I have no real issue with gruesome but this is pretty bad. Where the most heroic character in the piece also happens to enjoy sadistic torture it's never going to be cheery and relentlessly upbeat, is it?
Somewhat cautiously, I enjoyed it. It's not for everyone, although the cinema was packed and largely quiet throughout. It looks great. Take a bucket.
There's an art to telling a good story. The trick is to plan in advance, start at the beginning, know where it's going at all times, and drive the narrative forward to an inexorable and plausible solution.
Cinema doesn't work like this. Scripts are revised and rehashed and rewritten. Plot consistency doesn't matter as much as it might in, say a novel or in oral tradition, because cinema is essentially ephemeral. It's about instant gratification, and the plot is, perhaps, secondary to the spectacle.
There are exceptions to this, obviously. There are some damn well crafted films out there. I've been slightly immersed in European and Asian cinema recently, and there are some cracking tales out there. The bulk of the output of Hollywood, however, is about Names and Spectacle. Plot's just used as a way to tie explosions together (or scenes where Julia Roberts falls over. Very funny.)
The worst case that leaps to mind is, of course, Star Wars.
"A New Hope" is fine in itself. But a year after it was released, Lucas decided to rename it and declare that it was Episode IV. Lo and behold we've now got an ongoing story where we've started in the middle.
Sometimes this can work. Memento works really well, and it starts at the end. 21 Grams doesn't work, because it's completely and utterly all over the place and there's nothing except a sense of confusion and alienation.
Does it work in Star Wars? Does it deserve to? It was certainly a masterpiece of lack of planning. The whole big twist at the end of Empire wasn't there until the fourth draft. It turned into the whole point of the story. Planning? What's that? I'm not going to mention the awkward Luke/Leia/Han triangle. Tempted though I am.
Is it any wonder that Lucas tampered with the films to try to make them hang together better? Add to that the fact that when he came to the prequel trilogy he had to make the films consistent with films made twenty years earlier. That restricted his freedom to plot, and left him in the awkward position of having Episode I based around a relationship between a ten year old boy and a twenty year old woman, and Episodes II and III based around a relationship between the same kid eleven years later and the same woman two years later.
And Lucas can't do characters. Guns, battles, sure. Midichlorians and seduction by the dark side, no worries. Jar Jar Binks - perfect. Building up and destroying a loving relationship and coaxing three dimensional portrayals out of Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen and Ewan MacGregor - useless.
It's therefore a testament to something that Revenge of the Sith is actually a pretty good film. The first half's marred by the acting, but they don't bother with any of that after the first hour or so and it improves dramatically as a result. The bulk of the loose ends are tied up in a kind of satisfying way. It feels like it's being set up for a sequel. When we saw it, we went home and watched that sequel immediately afterwards.
And I don't care who shoots first, it's definitely as good now as it was in 1977.
Can it cope with the call for people to descend upon it to protest against world poverty? Maybe. Who knows? Why does it have to?
Holding the G8 summit at Gleneagles is going to cause a significant upheaval in Scotland anyway. People who live quiet lives in quiet rural areas will find themselves living quiet lives in quiet exclusion zones. Roads and railways will be closed. There will be protesters around, as there always are, and it'll be inconvenient. But the point of holding the summit at Gleneagles was surely to minimise the impact on people who aren't actively involved in the summit. Yes, the summit will be disturbed, yes it will make the news, and no, people who are not involved in the summit will not be affected by protestors.
Edinburgh is a city of half a million people. It's hoped that a million will go to Edinburgh. Not to attend anything, just to be in Edinburgh. We know that Edinburgh can cope, because we have been told so by a living saint who cannot be contradicted - who makes this claim on the basis of exactly no evidence or fact whatsoever. This from a man who is famous for talking about stuff he knows about with the same fervour that he uses when he is talking complete and utter shite. And who once had a pop hit with a song about a rat trap.
Here's a few facts. Gleneagles is over forty miles from Edinburgh. It's about the same from Glasgow. The nearest city is Stirling, about 20 miles away.
Nobody at Gleneagles is going to be any the wiser. No matter how loudly people shout to make poverty history, no matter how many white plastic armbands are sold, the G8 summit is going to be completely and utterly unaffected by this protest. It is like a child doing its first number two on its own and showing it off to mummy. Mummy would be vaguely interested, but at the end of the day she'd just flush it away.
Making poverty history is important. Making the G8 summit aware of the views of the British people is important. Calling for a million people to descend on Edinburgh is irresponsible, ill-conceived and arrogant.
Climbs back off soap box, wanders away muttering. Note that I'm from Edinburgh, so I take this personally. Other opinions are available and valid.