Asian short-clawed otters

One of the two Asian short-clawed otters tumbling underwater in the enclosure at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes. I think it was trying to get the sand out of its pelt after a quick roll around on land.

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Red Dust, Employees’ Entrance, Taxi!

The BFI is showing a season of pre-code films. These aren’t the respectable ones like King Kong but the “naughtier, rougher-edged and more shocking” ones. Not that King Kong is particularly respectable when you think about it.

Red Dust (1932)

This was the first film we saw (it was not actually part of the season but never mind) and it is one that I have seen probably twice before. It doesn’t say much for me that is only now that I noticed how horribly racist it is.

For most people, this film is all about Jean Harlow and Clark Gable and I can see why; Gable was astonishingly attractive and didn’t they know it at MGM with his topless moments; and Harlow is attractive too and funny, very funny in fact. But she’s totally obvious; unlike Mary Astor who was subtly gorgeous. Lots of people consider her too matronly in The Maltese Falcon but to me she is a low key smouldering volcano waiting to go off. And when buttoned up Astor gets wet in a rainstorm she is a million times more appealing than Harlow. And, as an added bonus, she reminds me of Julianne Moore.

One of the oddest parts of the film isn’t the pronunciation of Saigon but the how to make rubber lesson given by Gable; it was almost like an advert for the rubber industry.

Next up was a double bill.

Employees’ Entrance (1933)

Ironically, Andy hated this film for reasons that I usually make loud objections to – notably the issue of sexual consent (or the lack of it) but also having a leading character who is almost a complete and utter bastard. Now, I’ll not deny that the film is problematic but by taking the film as a black comedy then I found it very funny and very black. Loretta Young was beautiful, Wallace Ford was surprisingly appealing, and Warren William was fabulous – a truly forgotten film star.

Highlights include a dog in a bin and a drunken Young stubbing a lighted cigarette on a bald man’s head (honestly, this was funny).

Taxi! (1932)

This was our second Loretta Young film but the first chronologically. She wasn’t particularly good in this but I can partly blame the terrible role she had. Now, I really do object to this sort of thing – I understand that in real life this does happen but how many times did she say that this aggressive and violent man had one more chance? And if he had done the fist to the face thing once to me, I’d be off. And so would her character as written – she didn’t make any sense. Urgh, I just spent this film feeling totally uncomfortable. I think James Cagney’s early on screen persona is deeply unpleasant – as I said violent and aggressive but also mean to women, volatile, ill-tempered, and cross all the time.

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A chairlift in the Cairngorms

I’m rather taken by this shot. I’m not much of a photographer in the sense that I lack technical knowledge but sometimes I look at one of my photos and think that’s pretty good. I like the clouds here, I like the balance of the elements, I like the contrast between the blue and brown, and finally I like that hut.

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Graduation Day Part 2

I am surprised to say this but I’m relieved that this season is over. The Buffy Angel romance did absolutely nothing for me – and is responsible for the sappiest BtVS moments ever. And sap has to be Brief Encounter brilliant for me to care. Obviously it is still great television with some of the best episodes of the entire seven seasons (“The Wish”, “Doppelgangland”) as well as a host of fantastic moments.

I don’t have any problem with the ropey CGI. Growing up on Doctor Who makes me immune to that sort of thing, really. After all, having awesome effects is pointless if your script is written by James Cameron.

Cor blimey, lor love a duck, I do hate it when Buffy ventures into British/English stereotypes – it is always excruciating – from this side of the pond anyway. Though that does remind me – Alexis Denisof’s accent is excellent.

Lovely, lovely single shot in the hospital involving the mayor, Angel and comatose Buffy and Faith.


I hate Xander so much when he is both judgemental and wrong. And I don’t really get it either. Why is he written like that? Why don’t Willow or Oz say something in Angel’s defence? After all they know that he wasn’t in a position to “save his own ass”. It’s just annoying.


The Buffy/Faith dream is cool. I like Joss’s dreams.


“Scream like a woman.” Joss? Why? Why? Why? Why give this line to a woman who knows how strong women can be? A woman who knows how weak men can be. It’s horrible and inappropriate for BtVS.

General Buffy and Angel annoyance: why does Angel not fight all the time vamped out? – particularly when all the other vampires do – and particularly when the minion vampires are always vamped out even when they are not fighting. I know the practical answer but the show should have a reason too.

Talking of minions, the mayor’s vampires are paltry and uninteresting. I miss Mr Trick.

The final showdown must have looked great on paper but, in reality, with the exception of Snyder getting it, it was an bit anti-climatic. Funny that the end of part one with just the two characters was much more exciting than part two’s cast of dozens.

Roll on season 4 and Spike and Tara!


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Graduation Day Part 1

Buffy utterly surrenders the moral high ground as soon as she decides that she should murder Faith to save her “lover”. The fact that she fails to actually kill Faith does not mitigate what she does. This is no Ted situation when she was acting in self defence, this is murder. That said, the fight between Buffy and Faith ending with Faith toppling from the balcony is a brilliant BtVS moment.

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Other thoughts: did Joss and co always mean for Wesley to be right all the time? He may be a pompous ass but he’s a righteous pompous ass. I loved the exchange which cumulates in Willow asking if one of the tigers is coming. I’m not sure if I like that they made Faith murder the professor in such a cold blooded way. It makes her almost irredeemable despite that she is, erm, eventually redeemed. I love the return of Anya played wonderfully by Emma Caulfield but I do wonder at her characterisation: 900 years of helping women with their vengeance would surely give her an exceptional insight into human behaviour and not, in fact, the opposite.

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The Prom

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I assume that I will never get “The Prom”. There is plenty to like about it: Joyce isn’t unreasonable, she just asks Angel to think about what he is doing with a teenage girl; Angel’s subsequent nightmare is genuinely horrific; Cordelia’s storyline moves along at last giving both her and Xander some nice character development; we meet Anya again (plus a lovely unsubtle chunk of exposition); and Giles gets to say “blueberry scone” to Wesley.

However, when Giles says “I had no idea that children en masse could be gracious.”, I think that grace and a novelty umbrella isn’t quite a good enough gesture to thank the saviour of Sunnydale High. If I were Buffy and I found out that people knew that I was saving their lives every single night by risking my own that I would prefer something more substantial like a militia force or at least my supplies paid for.

Also, Buffy and Angel’s romance? All I can say, is thank goodness he’s off to star on his own show.


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Willow is terribly clever, or at least, academically brilliant. Well, I think she is, the episode is a little unclear on this fact.

Wesley was right. Willow (nobody) is worth the lives of thousands. Oz had no right to make that decision.

This is an enjoyable but not outstanding episode though it has some nice interactions between Faith/the Mayor, Faith/Willow and Willow/Buffy.

Thank goodness, the character of Cordelia is moving on at last. I hate the way this “feminist” show has treated a female character in such a one dimensional and stereotypical way.


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The Simpson family

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My dad in the army

Dad in the army

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James Alexander Simpson 12/12/36-03/03/2014


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