Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

It was quite a year, 1984. It was the year that Frankie said Relax, and for Admiral Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise, the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many, and they went off in search of Spock.

It was the year of Ghostbusters, the Space Shuttle Discovery, Torvill and Dean, and African famine.

Madonna was on the verge of world domination with the release of Like a Virgin, as was Clive Sinclair in his field of expertise with the Spectrum+. Both of these were to have some significance as I plunged irrevocably towards teenagerhood, as was the fact that 1984 was when my family upped and left the home of my childhood for what seemed like a far less desirable place a stones throw from Birmingham.

It’s fair to say I have mixed feelings about that year and its legacy, and maybe that’s why it has taken me so long to read its official biography by George Orwell. And, now that I have, I have mixed feelings about that too.

It was kinda hard to get into at first, took a while before the descriptive/info-dumping phase finished and Winston met his co-protagonist Julia, and their somewhat stop-start illicit affair began in whatever moments they could snatch away from the prying eyes of Big Brother. Then that gets interrupted by a big chunk of the book (The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanual Goldstein), which although supposedly some sort of Bible for the more rebellious drones of the Party, was very dull and much harder to wade through than the actual story.

And in the last part of the book, Julia and Winston are caught, separated, tortured and finally rehabilitated into life under the Party. From a plot perspective, this is where most of the interesting stuff happens, much of it I found reminiscent of scenes from The Prisoner (good 1960s original, not crappy Hollywood remake).

On the subject of plot, it should be noted that not very much actually happens. It’s something of a fall and rise of Winston Smith (or possibly it’s a rise and fall?), precipitated by his befriending Julia. But for all the shortfalls of the plot, there is no denying that the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four speaks loud and clear into the Airstrip One Britain of 2012. We are all too familiar with the concept of Big Brother; Newspeak of a sort is taking ova thx 2 txt msgs; and even perpetual war does not take a massive leap of imagination.

In fact, with the exception of the extreme sexual repression under the Party, much about the world of 1984 is alarmingly plausible from the outset:
The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures... Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speak-write…
And by pen, Winston is not referring to the type of ink-pencil I usually use these days, but one with a proper nib and everything. Very prescient, in the details as in the bigger picture, and for that reason a definite must-read. I would have to say, however, it’s probably not a must-read again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Badly thought out Despair of the Week

I wasn't going to make a habit of this, but I saw this video on and, honestly, it was too good (ie bad) to ignore. It's straight out of the '90s, when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Vanilla Ice (apparently) were at the peak of their powers, and is a prime example of Christians sticking their beards into what other people's children should or should not be watching on TV and getting for Christmas.

They do make one good point in the course of the video, but I'm not convinced the Mickey Mouse comic with the ouija board in was contemporary with the rest of the stuff.

I suspect it's been cut to make them look even more stupid than they would otherwise -
What's the problem with this guy [Vanilla Ice]?
MC Hammer is certainly not a role model we as Christians should emulate, though he claims to be a Christian.
Actually, the thought of these guys doing the Hammer dance, I think he may have a point after all. Although I'm still curious as to what the problem with Vanilla Ice actually was.

Anyway, my point, besides ruthlessly mocking these muppets, is that this kind of thing actually happens in real life - Christians decrying things they have only a passing knowledge of, like the Harry Potter phenomenon (which must have made these guys' heads explode) that many condemned on the basis of what Mavis said about it after church last week.

I have no problem with people having a genuine problem with the way some stuff is marketed these days - the fact that you can pick up Playboy branded stationary on the High Street, blatantly aimed at the average schoolgirl, is a bit of a worry - but you might at least try watching these things before telling us all why they're evil.

What I have a problem with is people like these, who (a) make Christians out to be a bunch of opinionated killjoys; (b) seem to think children can't tell the difference between an animated pizza-eating reptile and real life; and (c) are probably so wrapped up in seeing the devil behind every successful TV franchise that they've completely missed the real problems in the world.

Next week: I attempt to stop ranting and get this blog back on topic - tune in to see if I succeed!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Daily Mail Despair of the Week

Apparently, Peppa Pig is a bad influence on children. According to the Daily Mail:
One father spoke of his despair at how his four-year-old son had taken to splashing in what he gleefully called ‘muddy puddles’ on his way to school - copying Peppa's favourite pastime.
I wish I lived in a world where that was the biggest problem facing society. Kids are being forced to grow up too quickly anyway these days, without causing despair or having their favourite TV characters banned for, um, being children!

Let's get a few things straight to start with:
  1. Peppa always puts her wellies on before jumping up and down in those muddy puddles (don't get me started on the fact that she's a pig)
  2. Puddle jumping is often enjoyed as a fun activity for the whole family. Heaven forbid.
  3. Out in the fresh air, no less. 
  4. George may ask for chocolate cake for breakfast, but to my knowledge he never gets it. 
  5. One episode even gives a handy tutorial in making salad more appealing to kids by forming it into the shape of a dinosaur. 
  6. I've given this far too much thought haven't I? 
  7. Peppa is a pig. 
Maybe I have given this too much thought, but seriously? A kid jumps in a puddle or asks for chocolate instead of broccoli and all you can do is lash out at a cartoon pig?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying we should let our kids have chocolate cake for breakfast, but experience tells me that if we don't let our children have small amounts of chocolate cake under close supervision, they will end up binge-eating it down the park with those unruly kids from the next street. 

And it never stops with chocolate cake. Oh no, it will soon progress to Mississippi Mud Pie and Black Forest Gateaux, and before you know it they'll be hopped up on a cocktail of banoffee pie and treacle sponge, indulging in wild, cake-fuelled orgies of unashamed muddy puddle-jumping.

Surely we, as parents, have a duty to educate our children, to show them that things like cake - and cartoons - can be highly enjoyable, in the right context. 

I mean come on, everyone loves jumping up and down in muddy puddles! 

Enjoy Peppa Pig responsibly 
For the facts about excessive cake consumption visit 
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article... meh.