Archive for the ‘UK’ category


The return of Van der Valk

08.09.2021

I came across an old post of mine on Euston Films remakes, at the time the American version of Widows hit the big screen. My last question, after going through Minder, The Sweeney and Widows reboots, sequels and remakes: ‘Now, who’ll star in a new Van der Valk?’
   Since local TV programmers and I have entirely different tastes, I only happened across the new Van der Valk from 2020 recently thanks to a French reviewer on Twitter. I wish I knew earlier: I rate Marc Warren as an actor, it has a great ensemble cast, and for those of us who are older, the theme tune is based on the original (Jack Trombey still gets a credit in each episode, though it should be noted that it’s a pseudonym for the Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart).
   As far as I know, few (if any?) of the Van der Valk episodes with Barry Foster were based on the Nicolas Freeling stories, so I didn’t really mind the absence of Samson and Arlette. Mentally I treated it as a prequel, pre-Arlette, till I found out that showrunner Chris Murray had killed her off in a flashback sequence in episode 3 (giving stuntwoman Wendy Vrijenhoek the least screen time of the four actresses who have played her in the British versions). Which is, of course, the opposite to how Freeling had it, since he had killed off van der Valk and had Arlette star in two novels.
   I read that one reviewer noted that the stories weren’t particularly Dutch, but then, were they ever? I didn’t really get into Broen or Wallander because of how Scandinavian the storylines were (though it must be said, I enjoyed Zen for its Italianness). I do, however, appreciate the change of scene from London or Los Angeles, which seem to be the home of so many cop shows. I even welcomed Brighton with Grace, starring John Simm, and produced by Kieran Murray-Smith (of the Murray-Smiths), or, for that matter, Sheffield with Doctor Who.
   But a Van der Valk sans Arlette does mean the heart of the old stories is gone, and we have yet another emotionally broken TV detective, a ploy that we’ve all seen before. But the casting is solid, and the very likeable Marc Warren shows he can lead a series ably.
   Of the Euston Films shows I followed as a youngster, it does appear they have all now been revisited in my lifetime, except for one: Special Branch. Bring back Craven!

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Nostalgia: Money for Nothing

06.09.2021


Money for Nothing—image from Amazon Prime, where, as of yesterday, you can watch a presumably cleaner copy than what’s on YouTube.

As a young lad, I enjoyed the Screen One TV movie Money for Nothing (1993), which aired on the BBC in the UK and TV1 here. Not to be confused with the John Cusack movie Money for Nothing (1993).
   As someone who started my career very young, I could identify with the lead character, Gary Worrall (played by Christien Anholt), a teenager who finds himself in the adult world—and in the TV film, well out of his depth in a massive property deal that takes him to New York. It’s one film where Martin Short plays it straight (and is really good), Jayne Ashbourne does a cute Scots accent, Julian Glover is his usual brilliant self, and there’s a fantastic Johnny Dankworth score, with his wife Cleo Laine singing. I had the good fortune to see them both perform in Aotearoa in 1994.
   Because it’s television, of course the deals that Worrall does at the start of the TV movie work out. And he’s audacious. It was a little easier to believe as a 20-something (Anholt and I are about the same age), not so much in middle age!
   I’m still a romantic at heart and the love story that screenwriter Tim Firth added for Anholt and Ashbourne’s characters comes across nicely and innocently.
   There’s a line, however, between actually having made something or being able to do something, then proving to the doubters that you’re capable (which is where real life is, at least for me); and BSing your way forward not having done the hard yards. As it’s fiction, Worrall falls into the latter group. You wouldn’t want to be in the latter in real life—that’s where the Elizabeth Holmeses of this world wind up.
   I hadn’t seen Money for Nothing for over 25 years, but on a whim, I looked it up on July 27, and there it was on YouTube. Enjoy this far more innocent, post-Thatcher time.

PS.: Only today did I realize that Christien is the late Tony Anholt’s (The Protectors) son.

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September 2021 gallery

02.09.2021

Here are September 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month. It sure beats having a Pinterest.

 
Sources
The 2016 Dodge Neon sold in México. More at Autocade.
   IKCO Peugeot 207. More at Autocade.

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Baseless threats

27.08.2021

A couple of years ago, friends in Wellington, who own a business—let’s call it X—were approached by a US company with the same name, though in a slightly different industry.
   They wanted my friends to give up their page name facebook.com/x to them, and suggested that they should be facebook.com/xnz.
   No suggestion of payment, just a “you should consider”, and if I recall correctly, something to do with how much bigger they were.
   This was a really strange argument from someone in the US where their culture’s often based around the plucky individual taking on bigger players.
   How many myriads or even millions did Condé Nast pay to get style.com from Express all those years ago? If you’re that much bigger, maybe you could have afforded it? Or maybe you were just being cheeky, thinking you could get something for nothing. Well, not quite nothing. A little bit of bullying.
   Basically, taking away all the legalese and wank designed to make my friends hesitate, the Americans were upset that someone got in there with a Facebook page name years (nine years, if I recall correctly) before they did. How dare these Kiwis!
   ‘How should we respond?’ asked my friends.
   ‘You can either (a) ignore them or (b) tell them to go to hell,’ I advised. I think they chose (a). After all, there’s no point replying to one-sided rudeness.
   I’m reminded of this story because of emails from another US company recently and, again, stripping away the rudeness and implying I was a liar, boils down to them not really liking their First Amendment. Not when someone else exercises it fairly.
   Americans aren’t alone in being dicks about something but these particular two companies sure don’t like other people doing things that they can equally do. They trotted out a level of rudeness from the outset that you seldom see from their country, where regular Americans try their best to be nice.
   A third case was from the UK, where we received a threat from the agent of a fading celebrity whose crowning achievements were probably some soap opera and shooting for FHM in the 1990s. I don’t recall the circumstances in depth but I can tell you that that woman has not had much coverage since, by us or any other publication. Choose the wrong people, and you flush your goodwill down the toilet. Who’d touch you now, when there are plenty more stories that we can pursue with fewer headaches?
   I don’t know where the rudeness comes from, but I presume it’s a superiority complex that hides the fact that their arguments bear little merit. The result is that they damage their brands or their client’s reputations in the process.
   If you encounter it in business, then it’s a cinch that they don’t really have much to stand on. They feel bullying is their only means, because if they argued it rationally or faced the issue honestly they wouldn’t get what they want. It’s worth keeping an eye out for, and not waste your time on.

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Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’

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July 2021 gallery

02.07.2021

Here are July 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Star Trek: 1999 reposted from Alex on NewTumbl. Didn’t Star Trek and Space: 1999 share a producer?
   Publicity shot for French actress Manon Azem, from Section de recherches.
   Charlie Chaplin got there first with this meme. Reposted from Twitter.
   I realize the history page in Lucire KSA for July 2021 suggests that you need a four-letter surname to work for Lucire.
   The 1981 Morris Ital two-door—sold only as a low-spec 1·3 for export. Reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Ford Capri 1300 double-page spread, reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Felix Graf, reposted from Instagram.
   South America relief map, reposted from Twitter.
   From the Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei episode ‘Abflug’, to air July 29, 2021. RTL publicity photo.
   Lucire’s Festival de Cannes coverage can be found here. Photo courtesy L’Oréal Paris.
   Last of the Ford Vedette wagons, as the Simca Jangada in Brazil, for the 1967 model year. The facelift later that year saw to the wagon’s demise.
   Ford Consul advertisement in Germany, announcing the 17M’s successor. Interesting that the fastback, so often referred to as a coupé, is captioned as a two-door saloon, even though Ford did launch a “standard” two-door. More on the Consul in Autocade here. Image from the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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COVID-19 infections as a percentage of tests done, June 28

29.06.2021

I haven’t done one of these since February, where I look at the COVID-19 positivity rates of selected countries. The arrows indicate the direction of change since that post. Happily, I imagine with the vaccine roll-outs, we are seeing drops, though there is a new wave in Taiwan, contributing to a rise; other territories showing rises are Brazil, India, Germany, and South Korea.

Brazil 34·67% ↑
Sweden 10·06% ↓
India 7·43% ↑
Spain 7·20% ↓
USA 6·84% ↓
France 6·21% ↓
Italy 5·98% ↓
Germany 5·85% ↑
Russia 3·68% ↓
UK 2·26% ↓
KSA 2·23% ↓
South Korea 1·48% ↑
Taiwan 0·67% ↑
Singapore 0·47% ↓
Australia 0·15% ↓
New Zealand 0·12% ↓
Hong Kong 0·07% ↓

   This is also a good time to remind people of a Toot that was liked and shared quite a few times on Mastodon. For me, it’s a record.

   As Umair Haque put it (original emphases):

Its creators — researchers — pledged to make it open source, available to manufacture and develop anywhere. After all, this was a global pandemic. And yet — with some helpful intervention from Bill Gates — the Oxford vaccine was privatized. Given exclusively to AstraZeneca, Britain’s key pharmaceutical corporation.
   So instead of vaccinating the world — or at least helping the world get vaccinated — Britain engaged in the stupid, selfish game of vaccine nationalism. It kept its newly privatised vaccine for itself. It prevented even Europe from having the Oxford vaccine. What was being selfish about a vaccine going to do? Breed vaccine resistance.
   In India, meanwhile, there weren’t enough vaccines available. So Covid mutated and mutated, until new mutations could “escape” the vaccine, by altering the shape of the “spike protein.” If all that sounds like gibberish to you, don’t worry — the point is simple. By keeping its vaccine to itself, all Britain did was ensure that variants resistant to it would breed at light speed, in the world’s worst hit countries — like India.

   You can read the rest of his post here. Don’t point the blame for delta at India. It’s been British policy since day one to use the UK as a COVID-19 mutation petri dish. And now it wants to export this tactic to other places. Their friends are getting rich off this. Reminds me a bit of what happened in Zimbabwe when Mugabe and his cronies took everything while tanking the country.

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Why the British people still prefer Boris Johnson

27.06.2021

When you see the utter dog’s dinner the British government has made of COVID-19, namely turning their country into a petri dish for mutations while they plunder the place with impunity, you have to wonder why many there still prefer these current Tories, when even Max Hastings and Sir Nicholas Soames don’t. Is it because Labour has no direction? That they don’t like Sir Phony Blair? The latest balls-up is this, by the Cabinet’s own Karl Pilkington, (now former) health secretary Matt Hancock:

I jokingly Tweeted (italics added): ‘Terrible casting in the Hancock’s Half-Hour remake. I can deal with the sidekick now being a woman called Sydney James but you never saw scenes like this with Tony and the original Sid.’ Not many liked the post so I assume I am getting a bit on the old side for the mainstream to get these references. And I thought I was doing so well matching the grey from the original titles and the Clarendon type.
   The answer of why Boris Johnson still appears to be their preferred prime minister, how he can constantly fall upwards (reference below), appears to lie in Hancock, too, specifically Tony Hancock.

   For those of us old enough to remember Tony Hancock’s sitcoms (note: I saw them as repeats), he played a version of himself, but one who was poorer, more outspoken and exaggerated. (Surely as he was voted Britain’s greatest comedian this side of the 21st century, enough of you must know what I am talking about.) But most of all, he lived in a world of self-delusion, that he was the cleverest man around and if only the right people would just see his genius. This is part of the same British comedy tradition as Alan Partridge and David Brent. As I said in a Toot on Mastodon tonight (inter alia): ‘Audiences sympathize with failures, and none have failed as much as this PM.’

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June 2021 gallery

01.06.2021

Here are June 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
The Guardian letter, from Twitter.
   Ford Cortina Mk II pick-up made by Hyundai, referred by 강동우 on Twitter.
   Ikea water, reposted from Twitter.
   Alexa launch, reposted from Twitter.
   Protest Sportswear’s women’s range for spring–summer 2021. Read more at Lucire.
   Collusion between Google and Facebook, from Bob Hoffman’s The Ad Contrarian newsletter.
   Ford Falcon ESP limited edition—a familiar image to those of us who read Australian car magazines in the early 1980s. More on the Ford Falcon (XD) at Autocade.
   This was the famous advertisement for the 1965 Ford Mustang, for its début in April 1964 at the World’s Fair in New York. It was mentioned in Lee Iacocca’s autobiography, but I had not seen it till 2020.
   Dido Harding work history, shared by James O’Brien on Twitter, possibly from The Eye.

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My 10 favourite Don Black lyrics

21.05.2021

I’ve bought Don Black’s The Sanest Guy in the Room, which is a great read—you know that it’s piqued your interest if you can do 110 pages in a single sitting. There’s more to go, and it’s entertaining learning a bit about the backgrounds to his songs, ‘Born Free’ arguably his best known. (I do know there are insurance commercials with the song, so I hope he, and the families of John Barry and Matt Monro are getting decent royalties from them—though it’s pretty bad I have no idea which company it’s for. I assume it’s a successor firm to AA Mutual.)
   Don has been very humble in this book and in one part, excerpts his favourite lyrics that others have written. In my mind, however, Don is the top man in his business, and it seems right that I highlight a few of my favourites out of his extensive repertoire and honour him. These come to mind, in no particular order. Many show a good use of rhyme, and all evoke imagery. The repetition of a root word is also clever. And they’re “singable”. As someone who works with the English language professionally they appeal to me for their ingenuity and, in some cases, brevity. Surprisingly, by the time I chose 10, I realized I had not included any of his James Bond lyrics.
   Any errors are mine as I recall the songs in my head.

But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
(‘To Sir with Love’, from To Sir with Love)

You’ve been dancing round my mind
Like a bright carousel.
(‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, from Hoffman)

While your eyes played games with mine
(‘On Days Like These’, from The Italian Job)

This way Mary, come Mary,
While the sun is high,
Make this summer the summer that refused to die
(‘This Way Mary’, from Mary, Queen of Scots)

Walkabout,
And as you wander on
Reflect and ponder on
The dreams today forgot to bring.
(‘Walkabout’, from Walkabout)

The me I never knew
Began to stir some time this morning.
The me I never knew
Arrived without a word of warning.
You smiled and you uncovered
What I had not discovered.
(‘The Me I Never Knew’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Most people stay and battle on with their boredom
But what’s the sense in dreaming dreams if you hoard ’em?
(‘I Belong to the Stars’, from Billy)

Love has no season,
There are no rules.
Those who stop dreaming are fools.
(‘Our Time Is Now’, from the Shirley Bassey album The Performance)

Main attraction, couldn’t buy a seat
The celebrity celebrities would die to meet
(‘If I Never Sing Another Song’, as originally performed by Matt Monro)

There’s so much more for me to find,
I’m glad I’ve left behind behind.
(‘I’ve Never Been This Far Before’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

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