Review 2010: The Opinion Engine: 6/31: Five things -- small, big, in-between, whatever -- you are grateful for right this second (suggested by Kat Herzog)


Life My flat looks out over Sefton Park and the River Mersey in one direction and Toxteth and the city centre beyond in the other, and on a clear day the Welsh mountains beyond that. If ever there was a place to enjoy and judge the changing of the seasons its from up here, so if there’s something to be grateful for at a time like this it’s the view from my window. Even after nearly twenty years, even in the middle of the suburbs, it’s a landscape which is ever changing, always surprising. Even yesterday, late in the afternoon, we were greeted with a phenomena new to us, but known from a song, the mist over the Mersey, whipping across the surface as though a cloud had swooped from the sky to drift across the water like one of the sea gulls. The few photographs I’ve taken over the years barely capture the majesty of the landscape, even if some of that landscape has now been blotted out by the new giant Tesco on Higher Park Street. But then everything will disappear behind the trees once spring and summer return and we’re reminded that we live above the tree tops.

With Veronica Mars, creator Rob Thomas takes a fairly hokey premise, a teen detective in high school, but applies all the sass and character of noir, Christie and just a touch of Conan Doyle, whilst injecting the class struggle of The OC (or Dickens) whilst simultaneously making it as mysterious and complex as a 70s conspiracy thriller. Veronica’s best friend is murdered and whilst she works to discover who amongst the wealthy citizens of her home town is really guilty, takes on cases from her school friends and whatever her father, a private investigator, can’t cope with. As four or five storylines jostle for attention in an episode, it’s sometimes difficult to understand everything which is happening, and as in the best drama, the meaning of some scenes develops as each layer of information is pulled away but unlike the worst drama, there are always answers. In the lead, Kirsten Bell catches the mood perfectly, Philip Marlowe in the body of a teen queen, and there’s a huge, perfectly chosen supporting cast. Joss Whedon has said it is his favourite tv show, and two seasons in (just beginning now with the difficult college years), I can absolutely understand why.

When writing this post, I forgot patronising and lonely. I was a bullied teenager. There’s no room for the details, except to say that I can well believe what this report says about such things having the power to change a person. Something which helped, in the end, was to begin to think of all the bad things about myself, what I’m least pleased with and then whenever I was bullied, I could always point to those and think, well, you can’t say any worst to me than I think of myself. When asked “Who is the real Stuart Ian Burns?” I decided, rather than joking around a bit and leaving myself open for whoever this Jen is to come back with a potential rejoinder that I was in some way stretching the truth, I decided to be as brutally honest as I could and write down, time and experience adjusted, all of the things I’d point to when I was being picked on. I’m very grateful that a few people replied suggesting that’s not how they seem me at all. I suppose my problem is that I’ve never quite managed to convince myself otherwise, like a psychological feedback loop.

I’ve always been a huge fan of The Guardian’s theatre review staff, and particularly Lyn Gardner and Michael Billingham. I especially admire how they’re able to combine brevity and detail, within just a few paragraphs giving a flavour of a production, a synopsis and a thorough critique with some humour and whilst I’m sure much of that comes under the heading of “doing their job” and there are plenty of other writers just as a capable, few I’d wager have this depth of experience. On Friday, Billingham handed out one of his rare five-stars (only his second this year, I think) to the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet calling the best version he’s seen in fifty years and suggesting Mariah Gale's Juliet is “the best since Judi Dench”. The difference between him saying it and most others is that we know that he’s probably seen dozens of productions in the mean time and because his hyperbole is so rare, it must be something special (please film it for next Christmas, BBC and Illuminations, purlease). No wonder Gardner seems so grumpy during her Peppa Pig review on the same page (though you have to love that she somehow references Beckett in there).

Both Billingham and Gardner must be as grateful as I am for the spell check function on word processors, especially as I offer these opinions, most of which I’m attempting to keep within five or six hundred words simply so that I’m not still tapping away on Christmas Day as happened in 2006, the last occasion when I attempted something this labour intensive. When I was at college, I always considered the word lengths on essays, especially those with self-selected titles were cruel and unusual, particularly difficult to keep within, often writing hundreds, even thousands of words more than were required (my dissertation needed to be 15,000, I wrote 25,000 and was allowed to eventually submit 19,000). What I realise now was that these were supposed to be not only academia’s way of focusing ideas, but also a subliminal suggestion as to how much actual work we should have be putting into the piece, how we should be prioritising our time. If only I’d known that as spent days reading everything I could on the subject of Laura Mulvey’s gaze. It’s good to impose these limits which is why all five of these paragraphs are just two hundred words long.

No comments:

Post a Comment