This is awesome.
I am rude about cyclists. I’m not rude to them – that would be rude – but when they sail through red lights when I’m at a pedestrian crossing, or cycle into me on the pavement, or ignore the existence of one-way systems, I mutter grumpily after their retreating backs and then retire to the internet to post mean-spirited anti-cyclist jibes.
So I’m as surprised as you are to discover that since starting a job that’s just too far away to walk to on days when I struggle to get out of bed (which is to say, all the days), I have found myself travelling to work by bike. Even more unexpectedly, I’m using Boris bikes, which should really be named after Ken, whose idea they were, and which are ridden not by the arrogant, hands-free, fuck-you cyclist who commits the above sins, but by a breed almost as bad: the wobbly, incompetent part-timer who weaves down the middle of the road and/or pavement, blissfully unaware of distractions like cars, and other people.
As it happens, wobbly and incompetent is an accurate description of my skills in all sorts of areas, and it’s certainly how I’d have described my cycling ability until recently, but an amazing thing has happened: in a very short time, I have become someone who swoops and zooms my way around the back streets of London, gaily clad in a silver helmet and garish neon yellow tabard, attracting the killer glares of white van drivers everywhere I go.
And I’ve realised that some of the dick-moves that cyclists pull aren’t quite the dick-moves they seem. I don’t run red lights, but I do sometimes fail to stop at zebra crossings, because when you are cycling on rush-hour streets you are using all your conscious thinking on staying upright and alive, and so you start to edit out things which aren’t a potential danger, and that sometimes includes people waiting to cross the road. I don’t do it often, and when I do I stop hard if I can, or wail out an apology if I can’t, but it happens.
And when I’m waiting at a junction and the light goes green and someone looks like they want to cross the road, I don’t sit and wait for them to do it, but that’s because those few seconds where you can get away ahead of the cars angrily revving their engines behind you are the safest time to negotiate a busy road, and if you wait the cars start beeping their horns at you, even though they wouldn’t have gotten away any faster, being cars. So you evade the rage by dashing off just as soon as you can.
And those times when you’re crossing the road and a cyclist seems to be trying to hit you? They’re not trying to hit you. They’re trying not to hit you, because you are crossing the road at an unexpected place and you can’t hear them and you didn’t look for them and the reason they’ve swerved around you at speed is because their alternative was to knock you over, which would be about as unpleasant for them as it would for you.
So I have had to grown-up-ly remind myself that I don’t have automatic right of way just by virtue of being me (my journey is more important than anyone else’s, the unconscious thinking goes, so I should automatically get to go first), that people pulling dick-moves might just be trying to stay upright and alive, and that the world turns more smoothly when we all try being a little bit nicer to one another.
I’m still going to mutter grumpily after the retreating backs of cyclists who run red lights, obviously, but now I’ll do it in a self-righteous “you’re giving us all a bad reputation” kind of a way, which might be even more fun.
Earlier this year, when Crystal Palace were still in the running for the FA Cup but looking pretty poor in the Premier League, someone asked me whether I’d rather win the cup or stay in the league. Now, no doubt you remember just as well as I do that our 1990 cup run, which saw us take Man Utd to a thrilling 3-3 draw before losing 1-0 in a heartbreaking replay, was one of the most exciting times there has ever been to be a Palace fan. What’s nice about the cup is that winning it is its own reward: when we won the playoff final at Wembley a year ago today we knew it meant we had a tough season ahead. But a cup victory is pure, sweet joy. (I am guessing, we’ve never won the cup. I’m not, for the purposes of this discussion or indeed any other, counting the Zenith Datasystems Cup.)
But winning the FA Cup over staying in the Premiership for the first time ever? No contest. Winning the cup would give us a point in history, a lifetime’s worth of memories, a shared experience that we would treasure forever. Staying up would keep the club in business and stave off ever-present fears of bankruptcy and administration. The club is well-run these days, but if you watched that game at Hillsborough four years ago and spent the last ten minutes not breathing, knowing that if we conceded another goal there was a good chance we’d go out of business altogether, you know why the chance to consolidate a top-division presence is worth ten cup finals. It’s not as exciting, it’s not as romantic, but survival trumps sentiment every single time for us fans of small, struggling, teetering-on-the-brink clubs.
Of course, the problem with being a football fan is that you’re never satisfied. I got my wish and we stayed up for the first time ever, and now I want a top-ten finish and a cup run for 2014/15, and if I don’t get it I’ll be disappointed, even though a year ago all I was hoping for was to finish in 17th. If I start to become one of those supporters who approaches every competition with a planet-sized sense of entitlement you will let me know, won’t you?
For the third year in a row, I will be attempting to stay up as late as possible this coming Saturday night in order to adjust my body clock such that I can liveblog the Oscars for MostlyFilm, and wonder again why they can’t hold the ceremony in New York or, ideally, London, so as to make the task less arduous for us European filmwatchers. Traditionally I have enlisted the assistance of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks to keep me going, but what also helps is having an investment in the outcome and since YET AGAIN I haven’t been nominated in a single category, I am reduced to trying to beat my record for the highest number of correct predictions. And in order to stop me cheating, I am bringing you along for the ride…
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street
This is, I’m sure, between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, and I think the latter will win because being accidentally turned into a slave in real life beats losing a fictional daughter in the heartstring-tugging stakes.
Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Matthew McConaughey ought to win; Chiwetel Ejiofor will, which I am also OK with because he is a Palace fan and we rarely win anything. (Leo, whom I love, is fantastic in WOWS, but it’s not a fantastic film and his character is so desperately unsympathetic that I don’t think he has a chance.)
Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August, Osage County)
Cate Blanchett has this nailed on, I think.
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Philips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
This is a really strong category. I’d be happy with a win for Abdi or Cooper, but Jared Leto‘s turn as Rayon in DBC is a career-best piece of loveliness and I hope he takes it. I would also like to point out that had Behind The Candelabra been eligible for Oscar nominations, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe would both have deserved nods in this category, as would Michael Douglas in Leading Actor.
Nominees: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), Julia Roberts (August, Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)
I didn’t love J-Law in American Hustle. Or maybe I mean I didn’t love her as much as I love her in Silver Linings Notebook or Real Life™ – but she will win this regardless.
Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises
From the buzz it’s generated among under-eights of my acquaintance, I’m saying Frozen.
Nominees: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners
I can’t imagine a world in which this won’t go to Gravity.
Nominees: The Grandmaster, American Hustle, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years A Slave
It should be nominated for hair and makeup but since it isn’t, I think American Hustle will take this one instead.
Nominees: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Cuarón will lose out on Best Picture but I think he’ll pip McQueen to the winning post in this category.
Nominees: The Act Of Killing, Cutie And The Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom
I will admit to not having had the guts to watch The Act Of Killing when I had the opportunity, but everything I’ve heard and read about it makes me think it has to win out here.
Nominees: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall
How far ahead of the ceremony does voting happen? Only the cynic in me wants to say that since Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old holocaust survivor who is the subject of The Lady In Number 6, has just died, the already-good chances that it would win have just improved.
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Philips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave
Gravity is so sparse and elegant and beautiful that again, I can’t imagine it not winning here.
Foreign Language Film
Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar
Right, so, uh, I was going to predict a win for Blue Is The Warmest Colour but I’ve just noticed it hasn’t been nominated. So in the absence of any other information I will employ my traditional method of closing my eyes and stabbing at the screen, which gives me The Broken Circle Breakdown. You heard it here first.
(One rule I have when I make my predictions, by the way, is that I can’t go googling for betting odds or anyone else’s views. It has to be based on my own knowledge. Which is why I am often wrong!)
Makeup and Hair
Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger
I’ve only seen one of these, but Jared Leto is so breathtakingly beautiful in Dallas Buyers Club that I hope it wins. Mainly, though, I just hope Jackass doesn’t. There is a time and a place for Jackass, and the Oscars ain’t it.
Nominees: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks
The rules are, when someone you know is nominated you have to say them. Now, nobody I know is nominated in this category, but someone I know knows someone who is, and so I’m going for Gravity (which also has a really good score).
Nominees: Happy (Despicable Me 2), Let It Go (Frozen), The Moon Song (Her), Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom)
Yeah, I haven’t heard any of these. Also, when was Tangled? There’s a good song in that. Let’s say Frozen.
Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her, 12 Years A Slave
Well actually this should definitely go to The Great Gatsby, but I think Gravity will win.
Nominees: Feral, Get A Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions, Room On The Broom
Cough. Well, Get A Horse! has the best name, right?
Live Action Short
Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo, Avant Que De Tour Perdre, Helium, Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?, The Voorman Problem
I wonder whether you tick a box or have to write in your answers, when you vote? Because nobody’s going to take the time to write out Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? by hand if they don’t have to. But it’s bound to be checkboxes, isn’t it? So let’s go with that. One day, when I grow up, I will be a person who watches the short films ahead of the Oscars (or even afterwards).
Nominees: All Is Lost, Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Lone Survivor
Nominees: Captain Philips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor
I think Gravity will take both of these.
Nominees: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness
I can’t remember whether the argument over possible or desirable punctuation in the name of the latest Star Trek movie came to a conclusion, so I’m leaving it out rather than get it wrong and risk the wrath of…well, you know. Obviously this will also go to Gravity.
Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Philips, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street
Before Midnight is an adaptation? Who knew? Well, the Academy, it would appear. I’m racing through these last few categories not because I want to go to bed, although I do, but because I think there’s barely any debate to be had about most of them. 12 Years A Slave will win this.
Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska
Whether he did or whether he didn’t, Woody will take this for Blue Jasmine, although I would give it to Dallas Buyers Club. But for some reason, nobody asked me. I know!
As you know, I’m very busy and important, which is why I’ve just been reading this Mumsnet “worst date ever” thread. There are some humdingers on there, but my favourite so far is this:
I briefly did internet dating, and found out we had a mutual interest in cycling so arranged a cycle ride for our first date. He was rather monosyllabic when he turned up but nevertheless we headed out of town on our bikes. The minute we got into the countryside, we headed up a steep hill (pre-agreed route) and he disappeared into the distance, never to be seen again.
I am, right this second, listening to a R4 programme on musical middle eights. It’s interesting, and you should listen to it when you get the chance, but it’s made me wonder what the definition of a “middle eight” really is. (I looked it up on the internet, but nobody on the internet agrees with anyone else on the internet.)
Obviously it needn’t be eight bars long (and if you feel sniffy about that, you can get around it by calling it a bridge), but it does probably need to be somewhere in the middle of the song, which is to say it can’t be the intro or the outro. And yet one of the first examples given by Helen Caddick, a composer and lecturer in songwriting at Goldsmith’s College, was Eleanor Rigby, which I don’t think has a middle eight at all, but Caddick thinks the “Ah, look at all the lonely people” section is a middle eight; and if your definition is that it’s not the verse or the chorus (I think that bit is part of the chorus, but I’m not a lecturer in songwriting) and that it has a different melody or theme from the rest of the piece, then I suppose she could be right.
But then her second example was Pulp’s Common People, and her middle eight was this section:
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
Still you’ll never get it right
Cause when you’re laying in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you call your dad he can stop it all
Now, the vocal is certainly different, and emotionally it’s the punchy centre of the song for sure, but the music playing behind it is (I’m going by memory, I can’t seem to be bothered to give it an actual listen; feel free to tell me I’m wrong) the same as the rest of the song.
So I’m still not sure what a middle eight is, but I do know what my favourite middle eight is (today). What are yours? And what’s your definition of a middle eight?
I would like to write about Pete Seeger, but MWB’s done it so eloquently and elegantly that I have nothing to add.
Originally posted on Possible fictions:
How to succeed as a musician? You play well but are modest about your talent. You sing strong without the need for any tuneless holler. You write about big things with words all folks can understand. You don’t avoid conclusions though you know some matters are contradictory at times. You respect what was, come to terms with what is and hold hope for the future. You love people even though sometimes they don’t seem worth much loving. You take all this and put it in your songs. You make the world a better place even though you’re gone. Thank you.
Gladallover is six today! When I was six I got a new baby sister AND a realistic baby doll, and I can’t remember which I was more excited by. Whilst I don’t anticipate any arrivals of quite that import on Gladallover, you never know; I might find something new to write about. But not today! So in the meantime if you are new, or bored, or amnesiac, you can read my most popular posts of the last six years, in ascending order:
4. Last month’s advent post featuring Lou Reed singing White Christmas (thank you Suzanne Vega, whose Twitter link to that post is entirely responsible for its high placement)
3. A photo of a baby baboon (if you only click on one of these links, I recommend this one)
1. A post about swimming pools. No, me neither.
Perhaps this year I will try to write about football. I mean, don’t hold your breath.
Sorry to harsh your buzz, but although this made me heavy-hearted, this sort of thing needs to be shared and talked about, if only so those responsible learn that they will be challenged, every time they do it.
I’d also love to know how many of the men (they all are) who’ve taken the brave step of tweeting misogynistic abuse at Beth Tweddle can do this: