A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Constant Groaniad: time for British films to grow up.....

I was delighted that Bafta presented little but the wooden spoon to The Constant Gardener. I relished even more the ensuing hissy fit from the luvvies. Stephen Pollard has it exactly right in his blog this morning:
"... its student agitprop message - they're worse than gun runners, those nasty drug companies - and preposterous plot [less subtle than even The Mummy Returns, also starring Rachel Weisz, which is at least hilarious. Ed.] were so laughably stupid that even Bafta's membership saw more sense than to honour such drivel..."

The Constant Gardener suffers from that classic British disease, which I term the 'David Hare Syndrome', named after Hare's many sententious plays in which beautiful, left-wing heroines (and Ms Weisz is unquestionably stunning) save the day. It is Student Union stuff, and it has reminded me, yet again, how so much of British political environmentalism, from 'global warming' to 'organic food', has hardly escaped from nanny and the nursery.

Even more just, however, was the near complete omission from the Bafta awards of Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005). I thought this film a travesty of Austen, a kind of unique English tweeification of Austen's world, a sickening hybrid between Wuthering Heights and The Darling Buds of May. The scene where Keira Knightley (playing Elizabeth Bennet) lingeringly stares out at Derbyshire from a gothic-like promontory is pure Bronte, and it has as much to do with Austen as the Rolling Stones. It is time to stop traducing the immensely complex social world so brilliantly encapsulated by Austen.

As ever, we are thus left with a quintessentially British film, Wallace and Gromit in 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit', which follows, at least, a long tradition of English whimsy, from Pooh to Fantastic Mr. Fox. And, of course, it does make one smile and laugh out loud at the circus-like slapstick and punning word play, and, even better, it does give beautiful, left-wing lassies spouting PC rubbish a wide miss (though not English upper-crust oddballs). On Monday, they erected a glorious, wobbly, giant, inflated Gromit in Trafalgar Square, reaching half way up Nelson's Column. I have to admit, this quite made my morning (and clearly that of many excited tourists, camera phones to the fore). I adore the fact that Gromit has no mouth.

But, in comparison with, say, Brokeback Mountain (immensely subtle and no beautiful, left-wing women) and Cache (Hidden)* (Juliette Binoche is a truly great actor), let's be honest, we Brits are still in the cot.

It's time to grow up a bit, and to drop the student politics from films, all so redolent of The Independent and The [Constant] Groaniad at their most embarrassing.

Yet, to be fair, good old Marcel Berlins, writing in today's The Gloomiad, agrees (scroll down):
"Unbelievable. Outrageous. An evening of woe. A conspiracy. The world has caved in. The Brits did not do very well at the Baftas on Sunday, and there has seldom been such an outpouring of British whingeing, moaning and whining. You know what? There was a subtle reason behind the awards. The American films and actors were - how can I put this tactfully? - better. There's only one thing to do to prevent another debacle. Restrict the awards to British films. That will really give Baftas status and prestige in the film world."

Philip, still mulling over Hidden, a disturbing piece of cinema, and something, for once, worth chatting about over post-film cocktails. "I say, Tammers, what was that last scene about?"* Time for a thinking-cap morning coffee, I deem. Now, what's that camera doing in the tree across the road? And - oh! - the post has just arrived..... Help!

*And here's my take on that final enigmatic scene from 'Hidden': two things are worth noting: (a) the son is seen talking quite animatedly with Majid's son (left-hand corner of the screen) for some time. They are mouthing a genuine script which will, apparently, never be released. The two young men then part, and the son re-climbs the school steps to speak nonchalantly with school friends; but, also observe that (b) the two boys are, in turn, being filmed by a fixed camera shot, just as the house is filmed in the long, static, opening sequence. So who is watching whom? Is it all going to start over again? Who controls the static camera? God? Conscience? An unknown third party? We shall never know. And that's the point!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The real climate-change correlation.....

First, an apology: over the last couple of weeks my poor, limited brain has been full to overflowing with debates and broadcasts, and there has been no room in it for blogs of any value. Mental exhaustion housed my computer mouse, much, I am sure, to the delight of the febrile world.

At last, however, I feel there is, once again, just enough space in my tiny cranium to permit me to return to continue to discourse (more and more wearily, I must admit) on 'Wallace and the Curse of the Green Bunny'. Smile please: "Cheeeese!"

Yet, to be fair, I don't think that my lack-lustre performance is entirely down to my own senilifying neurons. There is something in the air, a barely perceptible change, as yet, but a new and most interesting climate-change correlation: the more apocalyptic and silly the media has become about drowning polar bears, a Gulf Stream on 'the rocks', Bacardi freezers, or olive groves ["Who she?" Ed.] in Owdham, the more the public seems to be turning off and getting on with busy and complex lives (while keeping a genuine eye out for avian 'flu - they know 'bugs' are always the real threat). I suddenly sense, through sheer inertia, that there is less of a need to blog.

Strangely, the unrelenting propagation of media-confused climate apocalypses appears to be assisting down-to-earth common sense to return. We have started to look back into history and we have, inevitably, re-discovered that which had been lost at the turn of the Millennium - namely, a tale of constant, and often violent, environmental change. We are marvelling again at the magnitude of past calamities, which so clearly dwarf Katrina and even the dreadful Boxing Day tsunami. Suddenly, there is a sense of history abroad in the air.

There is also - and this is not just down to the Eeyore-like prognostications of one James Lovelock - a growing sense that there is damn all we can do about things, other than, as in the past, adapt to, and assist people to withstand, change. Moreover, this feeling is underscored by a near-universal recognition among politically-astute folk that the Kyoto Protocol has been a waste of time and effort, and that Mr. Blair et al. can do nowt to curb rising emissions. Only this week, it has become painfully clear that the ever-moralistic UK will itself miss its Kyoto targets by miles [EU: by kilometers], despite previous protestations to the contrary. People are not going to change their lifestyles either for dodgy apocalyptic apologias or for the authoritarian austeriotons and neo-puritan nut-eaters. After all, the future will fundamentally happen in China and India, Brazil and Mexico. Compost toilets are being flushed down the loo with a lot of other 'Green' rubbish, some of which is downright dangerous and misleading (e.g. the bottled water scam) - although a few of our metropolitan elite will continue to make such Sunday Colour Supplement choices because these are so expensive and thus so self-defining, my dear.

We are further plainly bemused (and increasingly cynical) about the range of climatic scenarios with which we are daily bombarded: during the last six months alone, Brits have been told that they will have to become Pingus and/or Mediterranean olive farmers, cope with drier and/or wetter winters, and face up to less and/or more biodiversity. "What the ..... use is that?" I hear good people explete. Quite.

But, lastly, and above all, there have been just too many 'states of fear', with the inevitable result that 'fear', as a Green Bunny weapon, is losing credibility. Indeed, bird 'flu is about the only Matilda-fire truly burning down the pier. I recently experienced two straw polls happily resulting in an overwhelming vote for the incineration of municipal solid waste [this, despite all the activist hype against incineration in the UK] and for letting the coast retreat under management. There was no 'fear' - just doughty British pragmatism.

And beneath all the Green rhetoric, the UK political parties ['the everything-to-everyperson' party - the Lib Dems - inevitably excepted] are well aware of such realities. Only this week, Zac Goldsmith, the eye candy of the Conservatives, seemed to hint that 'Green' taxes were, well, not quite the right thing. Way to go, Zac.

And how about this? On March 5, the BBC will launch its new blockbuster television series, 'Planet Earth', avoiding all the usual sledgehammer environmental messages that have bedevilled past productions. There will be no PC doom-mongering dragged in at the end. Bravo. Well done the Beeb. I can now watch the series with pleasure. Your climate chaos stuff is increasingly boring and ever-so 1990s.

The first signs of world weariness over the climate-change debate are thus surfacing in the UK. The mantra is spouted daily, but automatically and without conviction. When smoking is banned, the media merrily propose the mass take-up of outside patio heaters - and 'green education' won't alter this. The focus is increasingly, and rightly so, on energy for economic growth. Good Wife Stott, ever the first to ignore her husband's rantings and concerns, exemplifies this trend well, immediately turning off (or re-tuning) the radio and television the moment she hears those dreaded words: 'global warming'. Yawn. As a well-trained historian, she is all too aware that the myths of the ages change with, and like, the weather.

So it is: "Yep, climate's changing. It always has. So what, mate? Is that patio heater free?"

Philip, seeking sanity in an increasingly febrile universe. Sunday lunch first, of course! And my 'global-warming' experiment to grow a banana in The Area doesn't look too promising! Not a monkey - or banana - in sight! However, I can at least make paper from the brown leaves and be interviewed for a Sunday Colour Supplement..... "Prof. Stott designs his own christmas cards from banana leaves, thus saving the planet from going bananas." Lucinda Hessian-Bloomers reports..... In the meantime, why not colour in a Pingu?

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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