portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


I thoroughly enjoyed the new production of Midsummer Night's Dream as part of the BBC's season of celebration of Shakespeare last night. The casting was particularly impressive I thought and Matt Lucas as Bottom was exceptional as was the incandescent Maxine Peak. Now I must admit to being biased in all sorts of ways about these two but I have always enjoyed all of Matt's comedy work and here he excelled, albeit in a comic role but who knew he was capable of great acting and Maxine Peak of whom I have long been a fan and have enjoyed again I think everything she has done from 'dinnerladies' where I discovered her first with Victoria Wood's startling brave and genius casting to her starring role in 'Silk' and other more serious roles (Myra Hindley anyone?!) Here she was positively ribald and naughty as only Queen Titania should be!

Also it seem to me she is a shining example of the exception being the rule of that age old adage regarding men and women that 'men improve with age' as she is getting more and more beautiful with age! (I guess I'll get into trouble for that one but it is true IMHO)
the incandescent Maxine Peak
I could have done without some of the larger ideas from Russell T Davies and the Whovian scale of the Fascist motif was largely an indulgence but everything else seemed to honour the original and it pulled off in 90 minutes what many grander productions have been unable to and that is to hold our attention and not hack or unnecessarily abridge the story. Where Davis does excel is in the special effects which I found particularly effective with lightning bolts and firefly faeries and landscapes beyond belief.

The Mechanicals
The Mechanicals were impeccably cast with old hands and masters Richard Wilson and Bernard Cribbins ( a masterstroke of genius casting) and Elaine Page as Mistress Quince was good if under used somehow but the youngsters here in Javone Prince and Fisayo Akinade as 'Flute' are very good

I wasn't sure about the casting role of Oberon with Nonso Anozie as that is not how I envisaged the King of the Faeries and no it is not to do with the colour of his skin. Neither was I sure about the use of Jon Hannah who I thought wasted here as a heavy handed Theseus and the Hannibal Lecter quote for Hippolyte (Eleanor Matsuura) was heavy to the point of clankingly bad and Eleanor cruelly underused.

'Puck' however was a delight played with mischievous glee by Hiran Abeysekera who I thought I had seen before, he has one of those faces it seems and was simply perfection but it was I understand his debut on TV and he was astonishingly good. Mention should also go to the make-up and costume, the fairy folk being especially well done and Peaseblossom, Mustardseed,  
Mustardseed played by Marlene Madenge
Cobweb and Moth beautifully cast and acted as Queen Titania's attendants. Special mention must also go to new (to me) youngsters cast in the roles of a somewhat obvious Harry Potteresque 'Lysander' (Matthew Tenyson), the hilarious towering Helena played to perfection by Kate Kennedy and the beautiful 'Hermia' played by the radiant Prisca Bakare. I also noted also the stretch for comic Javone Prince (Phone Shop etc) as 'Snug'. I always love to see folk associated with comedy stretch into theatrical roles and proving themselves. Whilst comedy is considered a difficult art to master often we judge our actors if they start there. 
There is something to say about a certain hullabaloo prior to it's broadcast and the Telegraph and the Mirror published some outrage that there was to be a 'gay' kiss and there has been a mention about the end where Theseus is killed and there is a dance sequence in which Queen Titania and Hypolita kiss. There is also a scene where two of the male characters kiss after lining up together in the dance but there seems to have been little mention of that. Frankly this is all beneath us to even comment on but as it caused such hullabaloo I will state for the record that it did not bother me one jot and was rather emotionally satisfying and brought some resolution to the end but as the characters are fantasy figures their 'gayness' did not occur to me at all. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable end to my evening and I would watch it all over again and look forward to doing so. 

Now we can all say we have seen Matt Lucas' Bottom! [well someone had to say it!]

I have always enjoyed the work of Lisa Hannigan from her backing other folk to her own albums and this came through posted yesterday but I am pleased to say I don't understand it at all! A little snippet of something . . . . . . ? I still liked it though . . . . . . . . if you check out her website you find she has just finished recording a new album to be out later in the year and if this is an advert for it, I approve

Sunday, May 29, 2016

I enjoy subscribing to Atheist Republic and here is their latest posting


While it can be challenging to find them, we like to share positive stories with you. Stories that inspire and encourage, and some that simply make us laugh. Stories like that of Czech Pastafarian, Lukas Novy.

In July of 2013, Novy demanded to be allowed to wear a plastic colander in his official ID photo, claiming that wearing it is a religious requirement to show respect to the Pastafarian deity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Pastafarianism and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was an invention of Bobby Henderson, used satirically in an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education prior to a series of evolution hearings in January, 2005. The first known instance of someone being allowed to wear a colander in an official ID photograph was Austrian atheist Niko Alm in 2011.

From the story: "Today, it is 'insisted' by thousands of followers all over the world that Pastafarianism is an authentic religion. The deity of the religion is referred to as His Noodliness the Flying Spaghetti Monster by the followers." A pasta strainer or colander is their official headgear.

Due to their religious equality laws, Czech officials had no other choice but to allow Novy to use the colander as long as his face wasn't hidden.

Some of your comments were even more funny than the story itself. Like this one from Charlie Bloom, "I would wear a sieve but his Noodliness has told me personally that as a moderate member I am not required to do so. However, my balls are revered and kept well supported! All hail to his Noodliness, fountain of all flavour!"

And this from teacher, Tom Justice, "The sad part is in a 1000 years we'll have wars between the Penne Pastafarians and Linguini Pastafarians over who has the one true Pasta religion......and one will probably have to snip the ends off of their sausages....."

Since we reported this story, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was granted permission to register as a religion in Poland, and a student at Texas Tech University in the U.S.A. also got approval to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his driver's license photo.

Citizens of the Republic have a knack for using satire and humor in conversations and debates. Sometimes, in the face of absurdity, all you can do is laugh. How do you keep your sense of humor as an atheist? We would love to share more funny and encouraging news stories and blog posts with you. Please reply to this email to share your thoughts and any story leads you might have. Please let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

Support Atheist Republic! ♥ http://bit.ly/1BUHbyQ

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Friday, May 27, 2016



Tuesday, May 10, 2016



May 10, 2016 – 1:28 pm
Also just in from Big O and copied from zerohedge.com
+ + + + +
In 1940, Charlie Chaplin made The Great Dictator to warn the world of fascism, in whatever form it may take. Now, as democracy gets eroded or taken away - in the name of safeguarding your homeland, Chaplin’s Great Dictator speech is more relevant than ever before.
Every now and then, it is good to refresh knowledge of what is truly important in life. So it’s time to redux SmartKnowledgeU’s post “The Greatest Speech Ever” by Charlie Chaplin (click here). Charlie Chaplin was known as the greatest silent actor ever…
Click here for the video clip.
“And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.
“To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”And particularly relevant, is the following, as it applies to nearly all world leaders today and it should serve to awaken us to the knowledge that divided we will fall to the brutal immorality of today’s banking/government/military complex, but united, we have the power to change our futures for the better:You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. “Of course, speaking out as such then (and even more so now), was frowned upon by the elites (and thus the mainstream media)… But more so, the establishment cracked down…[Chaplin arrived in Los Angeles, home of the Keystone studio, in early December 1913. The 1940s saw Chaplin face a series of controversies, both in his work and his personal life, which changed his fortunes and severely affected his popularity in America. The first of these was a new boldness in expressing his political beliefs. Deeply disturbed by the surge of militaristic nationalism in 1930s world politics, Chaplin found that he could not keep these issues out of his work: “How could I throw myself into feminine whimsy or think of romance or the problems of love when madness was being stirred up by a hideous grotesque, Adolf Hitler?”]He chose to make The Great Dictator – a “satirical attack on fascism” and his “most overtly political film”.Chaplin decided to hold the world premiere of his film, Limelight, in London, since it was the setting of the film. As he left Los Angeles, Chaplin expressed a premonition that he would not be returning. At New York, he boarded the RMS Queen Elizabeth with his family on September 18, 1952. The next day, Attorney General James P McGranery revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit and stated that he would have to submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral behaviour in order to re-enter the US. US Congressman John E Rankin of Mississippi told the House in June 1947:“[Chaplin] has refused to become an American citizen. His very life in Hollywood is detrimental to the moral fabric of America. [If he is deported]… his loathsome pictures can be kept from before the eyes of the American youth. He should be deported and gotten rid of at once.” What is remarkable about the above is that Chaplin’s speech about fascism in The Great Dictator nearly 75 years ago is as relevant today, if not more relevant, as it was back then.In addition, as Chaplin was demonized for telling the truth back then, administrations worldwide today, like the current White House administration, are relentlessly demonizing and persecuting truth tellers as well, after deceitfully pledging to protect them.It is for these reasons, in an Orwellian age when telling the truth is a revolutionary act, that we must spread “The Greatest Speech Ever” far and wide.

Note: The above article was posted at zerohedge.com.

Rolling Stones CHILE 2016 - CREAM 1968

Big O have posted a couple of beauties this morning from different ends of the Rock 'n'Roll continuum one from now and one from then both worth checking out and downloading. First THe Rolling Stones with combined age of 286 or thereabouts show how it is done kicking off their tour of South America in Chile with a fine matrix recording of soundboard and audience mix without equal

then they post a fine soundboard from '68 (did we even GET soundboards back then!?) of Cream's Farewell Tour this set from San Diego

Despite it's age it is worth a punt for sure and is as crisp as can be

Friday, May 06, 2016


My son pointed out that my favourite truly dreadful 'pop video' 'Peaky Blinders' is back for a third series. As ever I appear to be a lone critical voice. A wholly spurious historically inaccurate fantasy with a burgeoning soundtrack including the ever maudlin Nick Cave, hipsters the Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead is not something anyone could have predicted as a recipe for success but the charisma and mesmerisingly handsome lead in Cillian Murphy seems awful slim pickings to hang another entire series run on. 

What do I know? So be it, never underestimate the power of the female audience for tripe and the sexist attraction of an actor as handsome as Murphy but I find it difficult to trust any man who is prettier than all the female cast combined. The writing continues to be trite, confused, dull and rather fanciful for something purportedly about gritty life in Brumagum's Small Heath. But then it is written by Steven Knight the man who brought you 'Who Wants To Be a Millionaire'? And wrote for Jasper Carrot'! No, really!

The sets have always troubled me too being straight out of some ersatz pop vid portraying working folk. The sanitised streets, the charcoal road surfaces really bother me, they look hand carved in dark chocolate crumb but then I have been watching far too much Masterchef and the queasy soft focus slow-mo effects continue to be matched only by the preposterously pretty costumes. And that's just the men!

Although quite what dreadlocked Professor Benjamin Zephaniah is doing acting as the Christian minister clearly on the side of a gang of murderous thugs when Birmingham had scant ethnic African community prior to the Windrush arrival in 1948 is anyone's guess. Still the soundtrack is going to include some David Bowie later on Murphy tells us as he was a fan (if only of the costumes). Which is nice. . . .

The accents continue to waver all over the countryside like a drunk on a slide trombone Murphy stating recently and somewhat engagingly how much he values the Brummies restraint in their criticism but at least we are shot of Sam Neil's cod Irishman who appears to have begged to be let go as his character was shot some episodes ago. 

We start off Series III to find our hero Tommy Shelby pending his execution into an open grave and being let free otherwise the story would have been blessedly short. The notion that these were grown ups capable of negotiating with the Irish Republicans let alone the New York gangsters of the day is lamentably laughable.

The haircuts continue to astonish and must have a budget all of their own. Quite how what passes for a short back and sides could end up so preposterously modern is beyond belief but here we are in the mid twenties when the real Blinder gangs had long gone so accuracy was never going to encumber this nonsense. 

The Real Peaky Blinders 
The reinvented flat cap of the poor and working class in the nation still holds the gaze as it has been replaced by the American Newsboys cherry on a cake confection of a cap on all heads bar a few. The silk scarves for which they were known replaced with elegant silk ties and wing collars. There is of course no evidence the razor in the peak was anything other than myth building amongst what was in truth a gang of violent unruly children (the only culprit of gang crime in the area guilty of any more than stealing bikes to order was someone in possession of a gun at the ripe old age of 13!) 

Cillian Murphy they were NOT!

The swearing also troubles me and for the sheer amount of effing and jeffing it was I believe something that the Chauvinism of the day would allow no self respecting working class man to do in front of a woman but seeing as Auntie Pol, the beautiful Helen McCrory lost, totally wasted and underused here, is the worst offender I cannot but admire it's equal handed er, 'feminist' balance.

Still lessons learnt from elsewhere and the female viewers were not to be denied their ounce of flesh and Our Cillian did a Tom Hiddleston from The Night Manager and obligingly showed them his bottom so for the first episode at least all was well in the world of sneaky peaking.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016


Marisol, an Artist Known for Blithely Shattering Boundaries, Dies at 85

Another woman artist I admired who I discovered through my obsessively buying books on Pop Art though she was a unique voice and really stood outside any movement, she was fascinating like Larry Rivers, RB Kitaj and a generation of artists trying to say something 'different' with a singular approach where the rules have gone out the window
Older than many of her generation of artists discovered at this time somehow,  the feminist approach to art history will note her importance I trust for somehow she has been written out of art history thus far, it is reported she has passed away aged 85

Marisol - 'Love'

Marisol - in her studio with 'The Kennedy Family'

Monday, May 02, 2016


“One day he trapped a large raven, whose wings he painted red, the breast green, and the tail blue. When a flock of ravens appeared over our hut, Lekh freed the painted bird. As soon as it joined the flock a desperate battle began. The changeling was attacked from all sides. Black, red, green, blue feathers began to drop at our feet. The ravens ran amuck in the skies, and suddenly the painted raven plummeted to the freshly-plowed soil. It was still alive, opening its beak and vainly trying to move its wings. Its eyes had been pecked out, and fresh blood streamed over its painted feathers. It made yet another attempt to flutter up from the sticky earth, but its strength was gone.” 
― Jerzy KosiƄskiThe Painted Bird

Polanski and Kosinski were life long friends and my following Roman's work and reading all the Kosinski books was interrupted by the most violent of events in the death of his pregnant partner the incandescently beautiful intelligent actor Sharon Tate who was slaughtered (no other word seem apposite really) with her house guests by the Charlie Manson gang in 1969. 

The murder hit my generation with a venomous dark impact beyond belief. Those of us who were of an age to be starting to buy into the Hippie dream, this event alone was enough to shatter all illusions and whilst there were others (the deaths of Janis, Jimi and later Jim Morrison and  the shooting of students at Kent State) this singular barbaric murder of our own counter culture heroes  or prime examples of the 'beautiful people' was a full stop and sent us all scrabbling to hide back down in the Underground and stay indoors awaiting the armchair revolution rather than go outside as the streets clearly were no longer safe. 

It has haunted me ever since that Roman and Jerzy Kosinski (the author of another favourite film in 'Being There' with Peter Sellars' acting swan song) were scheduled to fly back to the USA from Europe but their  flight was delayed and they had to postpone otherwise they would have been there in the house in Cielo Drive when Manson's brainwashed acid freak gang came a creepy crawling. So perverse was this influence they had no compunction when stabbing Sharon who was clearly several months pregnant they hung a rope around her neck and stuck a fork in her stomach and wiped their bloody hands upon the wall. I am not sure if the unborn child of hers with Polanski was counted amongst the victims but certainly should have been. 

Amongst the worst and most horrific of crimes and the sole reason Manson is still incarcerated and deserves to die in prison in my humble opinion. I use this as reason to justify my support for Roman in his later trials and tribulations although the accusation needs inquiry for sure.  The accusation of under age sex and child abuse requires some understanding and exploration as to the context but the plain fact of the event is challenged even by his supposed victim but that's another story. Kosinski committed suicide some years later for reasons of ill health and being hounded by several writers accusing him of plagiarism but I have a tendency to forgive Polanki anything. How do you survive that? I am not sure . . . . .