In Praise Of Rocky Balboa

Some call the Rocky movies cheesy, predictable, formulaic. And, sure, they are.

When I tweet about them I always say that whichever one I’m watching is “The worst Rocky movie – except all the others.” And, sure, it is.

But the truth is the movies are great. The story is fun, the soundtrack is magnificent, the action is thrilling. They’re about overcoming the odds, never giving up, fighting for what’s important. The metaphor is clunky, but whether it’s fighting for recognition, love, respect, pride, friendship or to prove something to yourself, that’s what the movie is about. Not a dubiously refereed boxing match.

And for all the reliability of the formula, Stallone writes a great script: nuance, subplots, pathos and inspiring speech. When the unknown writer was hawking the script in the early 70s, it was turned down by several studios because [spoiler alert] Rocky didn’t win the fight. Those studios didn’t get it: it wasn’t about the fight, it was about taking your chance, doing your best. And it was a love story. Yo, Adrian.

People don’t watch the films because they think they’re about boxing. The people who do are missing out.

Not many film series can run for 6 films over 30 years, keep to their roots and get better each time. Look at Elm Street: same formula, increasingly rubbish. Look at Zombie flicks: successful ones have to reinvent.

And from an 8 year old movie, we’re beginning to recognise Rocky’s speech to his son as one of film’s great inspirational speeches. It’s about time we started recognising the rest of the movies as greats too.

Advertisements

Linkedin’s New Year Resolution

Here’s the resolution I’d like from LinkedIn. It’s very simple. LinkedIn likes to allow people to view profiles anonymously. They give lots of good reasons why someone might want to do that: recruiters who want to check out potential leads, HR managers who want to investigate job applicants. Both these might want to not raise your awareness or hopes.
Okay, fine. But it doesn’t take much to think of negative, nefarious reasons someone might want to hide behind a veil of anonymity.
About 40% of views on my profile are anonymous. Many are repeat visitors (there is a way to tell that much). Who is so interested in me, yet so unwilling to let me know they are?
I don’t mind who looks at my profile, but I find it rude, frankly, to do it anonymously. It’s like meeting me at a party, asking all about me, and then refusing to even tell me your name when I ask.
You don’t want to tell people your name? Don’t want to tell them you’re looking? Fine, that’s your prerogative. But I should be able to deprive you of your opportunity to find out about me. As I would if you were so rude at a party.

So, LinkedIn, let me selectively block all anonymous views. That shouldn’t be difficult, and should be just as much my prerogative as anonymous viewing is theirs. There can be no valid reason for refusing.

Until then, if you’re an anonymous viewer, I’d invite you to consider your manners when viewing me. Or simply not to view me at all, thank you.

Christmas Tradition

Posting this at Christmas is a tradition.
So Merry Christmas to all I’ve known, and all who’ve known me.

Whisky Gift Guide

December is here, and that means you’ll be thinking about presents. Not necessarily for me, although that would be nice. But you know someone who’d like a bottle of whisky. No, you do.

No whisky lover, none of them, want to get a novelty hip flask, okay?

So what should you get them? Bells, Teachers or Johnnie Walker? Well you could if they’re alcoholics and don’t really care what they’re drinking, so long as they’re drinking. Or they have always expressed a particular liking for cheap blends. Or you could show them that you gave it a little thought.

If you’re thinking if a bottle of whisky, but want to spend less than £20, don’t. But between £20-30 there are lots of good standard 8-12 year old bottles. What would I like to open? Glad you asked….

Up to £30

Perfect for someone who’s really helped you out this year. A teacher for example. Or maybe your osteopath, (cough). Let me point you to a 16 year old Lagavulin. Easily available, but not something you’d have chosen just because you saw it during an ad break. Usually found at £30, if you keep your eyes open it’ll often be had for £25.

£30-60

For around £35 you can pick up my favourite 12 year old: Bunnahabhain. If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know its merit well. I’ve seen it sold for as much as £55. If you see that, leave the shop.

If you want to spend that much: Thank you. Try finding a Bunnahabhain Ceobanach. It’ll make the lucky recipient think you’ve really done your homework. (And I’m dying to review it!)

£60-150

You want to spend more? What, is it for your new girlfriend’s dad? If you like you could try an 18yr old Highland Park at £75-90. He’s going to hate you anyway, but at least he’ll love the scotch.
Top end of this price bracket, though and you could get a 21yr old Balvenie matured in Port Wood. He’ll hate you even more, simply because now he’ll feel so mean spirited to hate you at all. We’ve all been there.

Pushing the boat out

Unless you have more money than sense, you really shouldn’t spend more than £150 on a bottle of whisky for anyone but yourself, unless you already know it’s a favourite. So you’re off the hook spending more than that.

Merry Christmas. Mine will be if people get the hint.

Mmm, I wonder what it is!

Mmm, I wonder what it is!

Sleep and Insomnia

I love a good sleep. Going to bed after a successful but tiring day, and waking up the next morning after a solid night’s sleep feeling refreshed. I also like getting around a golf course in under 90, but that rarely happens either.

I’m a lifelong insomniac. Why am I so crap at something most people can do with their eyes closed? I spend my nights not blissfully drifting through the soft mist of the subconscious in the arms of Hypnos, but staring through the dark at the ceiling.

This has happened throughout my life. Every couple of weeks or so I simply lose a whole night of sleep. It’s like the opposite of jet lag. Certainly the opposite of that extreme fatigue virus that’s going around – I spent three days early this month barely able to rouse myself into something vaguely akin to ‘awake’. But I’m so used to losing a night now and then that you’d never guess the next day. After a lifetime of this, I just don’t need to sleep every night like ‘normal’ people.

Some people blame their wakefulness on worrying through the night, trying to work out what went wrong in this situation or how they could have done better in that one. A case of The Night Will Always Win. I’ve had my fair share of that, but not recently. That’s not for proper insomniacs, that’s for worriers. Not me: Life’s pretty good, this week is great. Work is going well, and much to most people’s chagrin I get up in the mornings eager to get started. I’m taking this week off and looking after the children because it’s their half term and so my biggest worry is how much of a mess they’ll make in the kitchen and living room that I keep so tidy when they’re not here. (Answer: it may be easier to rebuild than tidy up).

So I didn’t spend last night taken by sleep demons any more than I was taken by sleep gods. No, proper insomnia is when you don’t have any real problems, except you can’t sleep.

The best sleep I’ve had in the last 24 hours was the 45 minutes after giving the children breakfast, and I curled up in my dressing gown on the edge of the bed accompanied by the great lump of feline I still laughingly call a kitten, before my eldest brought me a cup of tea. What a star.

Goodbye Twitter

@Anthropith twitter passed away quietly.

Apart from a few fledgeling months in the first part of 2009, @anthropith was always very much for one thing. After a few years of good service, it lost that purpose. With that gone, it gradually declined into raving obsolescence. It’s private partner, @JVonHogflume was hacked in early 2013, and since then they and other feeds were both bothered by repeated intrusions.

@anthropith fought the decline bravely, but frankly, the bother wasn’t worth the return and it was laid to rest, to join its long departed equally unlamented Facebook brother.

It is survived by other social media: The new @ollieopath twitter, LinkedInPinterest and Instagram.

Gone, not missed. No flowers, just like you asked.

Sweetie Review: Refreshers Revisited

In June last year, I reviewed Refreshers. Having rediscovered them, they’ve made regular (if infrequent) appearances in my desk’s sweetie dish. They don’t last long.

But today, having not had them for a couple of weeks, I made a frightful discovery on the shelves of Mr McNobby’s shop: The little sugar temptresses have changed. The first clue is the packet. It’s no longer a paper roll around a foil wrap. It’s all paper, folded over at the ends. Boo Hiss. What’s worse – and this is the real shocker – the tube is narrower. Imperceptibly narrower, but narrower all the same. Yes, the little sweeties are slightly smaller. Massive Boo Hiss.

On closer inspection, this is because they’re now made by a company called ‘Candy Land’. Have the Americans bought out refreshers?

Will I stop buying them? Of course not, they taste exactly the same.

All Sweetie Reviews >>

All Reviews >>

 

Thunder

Thunder. Don’t you just love a good thunderstorm?
Thunder is amazing, though. It’s one of nature’s great phenomena. What causes it? Lighting. It’s the sound of lightning, right? Well, sort of. As your six inch thick bolt of lightning sears from cloud to cloud, or cloud to ground, it’s hotter than the surface of the sun. So the air it passes through gets pretty hot, too. So hot in fact, that it changes its state. It breaks apart the molecules of gas into atoms, and breaks the bonds within them to form a plasma.
Just as when you boil a kettle and change water into steam and it expands, so the plasma expands, too. But it has nowhere to go, there’s all that pesky air in the way. But so dramatic are the heat and expansion, that it pushes the billions of molecules of air out if the way faster than the speed of sound.

And that’s thunder: the sonic boom of the atmosphere as it gets pushed out of the way at supersonic speed.

Awesome.

Eulogy For A Centenarian

At over 100 years old, consider the lifetime of my Great Aunt Audrey who died this evening.

She married Bill, the Reverend William Dodd, after he turned her head delivering a sermon in the convent hospital that was her work and home. They were happily married for many years as he ran his parish in Gloucestershire. He died some twenty-five to thirty years ago, as part of that five year spell in my late teens that I look back on as the great purge of their generation. Somehow she survive the purge. And survived and survived. Sadly she survived with a diminishing amount of memory.

Dementia is a cruel disease. Your personality, your life, slips away, yet life itself goes on.

What memories Auntie Audrey must have lost. The personal ones, Me, Bill, the many parishioners she cared for in lieu of the children she never had. But what of the others, the century of incredible change and history?

The Great War, the rise of communism, Spanish ‘flu, Irish partition, the rise of Nazism, the Second World War, the holocaust, the establishment of the NHS,the Abdication of a King, the death of a King, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, The Beatles, JFK… You get the idea. If you don’t get the idea, try listening to the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (a bit US orientated, but it gives a long list).

The last century has seen so much change Great Auntie Audrey left a world that bore no similarity to the one in which she was born. Tonight my family lost her, but our world has lost so much in the time she lived. Valuable things. We ought to hold on to the things we value. They may not just happen, we have to make the effort to retain them.

Remember.

Thoughts On Burned Bridges

Sometimes, when we move on in our lives, we lash out at the thing we’re leaving behind. It’s a childish thing to do, but there are reasons why.

Perhaps we’re so vehement because we’re still trying to convince ourselves it’s the right thing to do, when deep down we know better.
Perhaps we’re trying to make the people around us happy.
Perhaps we’re trying to make going back such a humiliating climbdown that we could never countenance yielding to the temptation.

Whatever the reason, there are the times that we feel the need to burn the bridges and trample the charred remains underfoot. We burn the bridges to stop others following us over, and we burn them to stop ourselves crossing back. And we do it because we think we’re too weak to stick to our decision, one we often know to be wrong.

But every bridge had to be built in the first place. So no bridge can ever be burned so badly that it cannot be rebuilt.

…ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough…

After such a petulant, charged departure who can say what’s the other side of the bridge you could rebuild? And isn’t it always better to build than to burn? Stronger to discover what may be waiting than to hide from the fear of it? More courageous to acknowledge the mistakes and learn from them, than to angrily pretend no fault?

If you’ve burned a bridge you should take the brave, the courageous, the strong path and rebuild it – however hard it may seem. Cross over, find out what’s there. The worst that can happen is there’s nothing for you. But how is that worse than what you have now?

It’s out of character for me to burn bridges, to turn on something in my life. As you know I often choose the path that’s harder in the short term, to secure a less stressful long term. But I’ve burned a bridge, now I’m rebuilding it. It’ll be fascinating to discover what’s on the other side.

Do It Now