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The Diaries of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Reflect All of Life

For centuries people from every walk of life have kept accounts of their daily lives, which are at once historical masterpieces and exercises in hubris. Mae West said: ‘Keep a diary, and some day it’ll keep you’. Oscar Wilde quipped, ‘Inever travel without my diary. I like to have something sensational to read on the train’. Both remarks suggest diaries are not only kept for private thoughts/remembrances, but may also be read in the future by others. This applies to the famous or those close to events, like politicians or creatives. English 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) set the standard. He lived in interesting times, but also was privy to workings of the English crown restored in the person of Charles II … Read entire article »

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Comedy of Errors

RoughCast Theatre Company, at The Cut, Halesworth Review published in Eastern Daily Press, 27 June 2011 Purists might gulp, but RoughCast took liberties with Shakespeare’s fiendishly complex plot of absurdities, coincidences and unlikely encounters to make a hilarious night out. They plunged headlong into the box of theatrical genres and tricks. Director Paul Baker cleverly shaped lots of character quirks and movements, at times somewhere between the physicality and slapstick of commedia dell’Arte and manic farce, with a nod to panto. The story is the often imitated one of noble twin brothers separated years ago and twin servants who didn’t know about each other. Aiding confusion, the nobles are called Antipholus, while both servants rejoice in the name Dromio. The lords (Steven Phipps and Mark Burridge) conveyed the increasing insanity convincingly. The zany naivety … Read entire article »

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Some of the Known Costliest Mistakes in the World, So Far

From oil spills to war, anybody can make errors of judgment, but some lapses turn out to be eye-wateringly, jaw-droppingly expensive. And embarrassing. According to Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich in Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes, people could avoid making major fiscal errors by application of what is emerging as a new science, ‘behavioral economics.’ This grew out of Israeli studies that were conducted thirty years ago; the studies examined the impact of rewards and punishments in judgment-making. Belsky and Gilovich argue that in order to overcome blind spots that lead to financial errors, people must grasp the underlying psychological causes behind those decisions, both large and small – from buying/selling a house or stocks/shares, to grabbing supermarket bargains, betting and tipping. Decisions may turn out to be wrong only … Read entire article »

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Why Hair, the Tribal Rock Musical, Just Keeps on Grooving

After a 2009 US hit run, Hair in 2010 is rocking London’s West End. This revival says a lot about both cultural history and political performance. The New York Times called it: “Thrilling! Intense, unadulterated joy”. The UK’s Daily Mail said, “Enough mega wattage to light up London”. How can a 1967 hippie-fest be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in the hard-bitten, austere early years of the 21st century? Hair: the Tribal Love-Rock Musical is about The Summer of Love (1966, USA, 1967, UK) and a hippie community of both sexes and all races protesting about drafting into the US army, singing songs that chimed with the spirit of a new era, the dawning of the age of Aquarius, with flowers in the hair and much Eastern religion thrown … Read entire article »

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Post-Apocalyptic Movies: Not Quite the End of the World

Are people attracted to doom-filled, survivor tales because they offer hope, or because they make real everybody’s deepest fears of an unknown future? Movie observers assume people’s fascination with post-apocalyptic horror stories began after World War 2, when the nuclear arms race heated up and global war, or MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) seemed inevitable. More recently, man’s environmental destruction unleashes apocalypse. Others point to Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie classic Metropolis showing social crisis between workers and owners. However, it began a century earlier in 1826 when Mary Shelley (who also wrote Frankenstein) published The Last Man, set in a future world devastated by plague. Dystopian Movies Dystopia is the opposite of utopia. Life is rendered harsh for many for the benefit of the few. Regimes enforce … Read entire article »

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Madness and Genius Are Close Relations in the Creative Arts

It’s often said that there is a fine line between lunacy and brilliance, but mental illness can actually be an artist’s inspiration. Writers, painters, film makers and composers are often assumed to be barking mad, or they wouldn’t create. Comedians suffer the same misapprehension. The fact is many creative people experience periods of mental illness and mood disorders, like depression and bipolar, Asperger’s and other forms of autism. Others draw on the results of thought experiments and mind-games to confuse, twist and alter normal perception. Savant Syndrome is characterised by remarkable artistic, mathematical or musical skills. UK’s Stephen ‘Human Camera’ Wiltshire has perfect pitch and paints uncannily detailed cityscapes from memory after short viewings. Madness is a somewhat outdated, catch-all phrase to describe behaviour which some see … Read entire article »

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Traffic Report 4 – Humps

Just back from the garage, having been towed by the ever-helpful RAC. I’m hundreds poorer. The problem? Both coil springs gone. Why? I’m told that modern, lightweight cars are unable to cope with increasing pot holes and excessive speed humps, the so-called ‘sleeping policemen’. Let’s leave aside the poor quality of so many roads, repaired in grudging fits and starts by overburdened taxpayers generally getting very little for their road/fuel/repair taxes. Yes, pot holes play their part in racking cars, but It’s speed humps that cause the greatest damage. The theory, like so much in our world, is that traffic-calming by dangerous obstructions are a good idea. They slow traffic in residential and school areas, since patently some people refuse to obey speed limits by signs and cameras. If I there is proof … Read entire article »

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Bringing Comedy to Audiences Is No Laughing Matter

One person’s comedy may be another’s tragedy. People don’t always laugh at the same things, but no serious performance student can ignore comedy these days. Some performers claim they don’t do comedy, or are not funny on stage, and some training establishments frown on comedy. However, if one can be funny with friends, then a true performer can get a laugh out of an audience. It is hard work, unless a person is naturally gifted in the art of self-mocking willingness to endure the prat fall, of being the butt of the gag, of publicly suffering error, failure and defeat and of enjoying the tears of the clown. Peter Ustinov, the late Russian raconteur who made a career on stage and screen playing … Read entire article »

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Postmodernism Can Be Both Bewildering and Inspiring

Is postmodernism a handy catch-all phrase for eclectism, or an end-of-history movement? Either way, every art form seems to be irredeemably affected by it. Some postmodernism began in the 1960s, entering academic study in the 1980s. Perceptions of modern scientific viewpoints, identity, unity and authority was modernism. Postmodernism is distinctly a rejection of previously accepted objective truth, stressing language, redefining absolute definitions and boundaries. It merges black/ white, present/past, gay/heterosexual, and almost any opposites/differences. It absorbs diverse times and cultures in a cross-genre world, mixing and sampling everything. It is evident in music and drama, painting, media, linguistics, architecture and cultural identity. It uses contextuality and sometimes scepticism to underline unwritten theories. One exponent, Fredric Jameson, claims it as the ‘dominant cultural logic … Read entire article »

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Ex-MPs: Life After (Parliamentary) Death

With a new UK Parliament, a record number of former MPs are in the jobs market. Some stood down; others were pushed by the voters. Most must find new work. Before the 2010 election, 97 Labour and 35 Conservatives declared they’d not stand again. Some faced near-certain defeat after recent expenses scandals, some retired naturally, others just fancied the resettlement grant, worth up to £65,000 for longest-serving members. The election created 232 new MPs: 148 Conservatives, 66 Labour, 10 Liberal Democrat, 8 others. This scale is consistent with a big swing from one party to another. In 1997’s Labour landslide, 160 Conservative MPs lost their seats. As many gain new jobs, others lose theirs. Thrown on the Scrapheap Few people are sacked in … Read entire article »

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