Monday, 13 January 2014

Did YOU ever try Cocaine?!

In the fateful summer of 1916, when battle was raging on the Somme, peculiar questions were being asked in the House. Sir J. Lonsdale MP asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he was now in a position to say what steps were proposed by the Government to deal with the sale of cocaine?

Mr. Samuel MP, replying on behalf of the Government, said, "The sale of cocaine to any member of the Forces is already prohibited by Order 40 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations. Further steps, however, are necessary to put a stop to the illegitimate traffic in this drug which is now prevalent, and I am proposing to obtain at once an extension of the Regulations to enable the Government to control the sale of the drug generally."

And we think of the drugs problem as something that began with people listening to the Rolling Stones ...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

WW1 German Submarines at Westminster?

Everyone has heard of the House of Commons, haven't they? It's the mother of parliaments, the rock of democracy, the far-famed Thames-side debating chamber that considers very great matters ...
During arguably the hottest fighting of what we now call the First World War, the Commons chamber heard the following remarks on the 20th of July, 1916. A Mr. J. D. Gilbert MP had asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether it was the Admiralty's intention to exhibit a captured German submarine, and, if so, what opportunity the public would have of seeing her. Dr. Macnamara MP, in reply, said that Admiralty proposed to bring the said submarine up the Thames to lie alongside at Temple Pier and to be shown to the public.

"It will be on view at this pier for a fortnight, beginning Wednesday, 26th July. I ought perhaps to say that it will not be possible to go on board. From the point of view of the police it is considered necessary to control admission to the pier and to charge a small admission fee. The charge will be 6d. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3d. from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Parties of children from schools and institutions will be admitted in the mornings, by arrangement, at a charge of 1d. a head.  The hours of admission will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day (including Sundays). The proceeds will be devoted to Naval and Merchant Service charities, with a contribution to the Police Orphanage, and the amount and its distribution will be made public in due course."
Who happened to be in the chamber at the time, but Winston Churchill MP. He asked in characteristic fashion, "Is there no means of making use of this weapon against the enemy?  Dr. Macnamara opined: "I am afraid it might be mistaken for an enemy, but I will note the point.  Then a Mr. Field MP, mindful no doubt of Member's privileges, asked hopefully, "Could it not be exhibited on the terrace of the House of Commons free of charge?"  To which the adroit Macnamara swiftly retorted, "I presume the hon. Member means "off" the terrace, not "on" the terrace. I do not think it possible, but I will have the point considered."

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

More thoughts - Book vs Film?

 More Thoughts on the Audio-Visual Media. The Audio-Visual Media - that's film and TV to you and  I, Noble Readers - are often a delight in themselves, but they do play a rather bullying role when it comes to the gentle world of books, and I think it's about time that aspect was commented upon. All it takes is for a well-loved classic novel to be brutally assaulted by film or TV, and the results can be truly horrifying. The insensitive and inept handling of a delicately beautiful and subtly-perfumed narrative often renders it a vile and stinking corpse. This we all know very well, and I shall not sink to identifying specific instances - I'm sure, Noble Reader, that you can supply many of those yourself.
But even when film and TV makes the transformation finely and nicely and there is professionalism and sensitivity oozing from the production, there is still always something important lost, make no mistake about it.

Let me explain. Take for example that widely-approved adaptation of The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson. I myself thought the films excellent, and they were rewarded with multiple honours and doubtless many box-office dollars. But it's awful to contemplate and sad to report, Noble Readers, that their very popularity has left the Tolkien world divided into two sorts of people.
There are those who read the trilogy  before seeing the movie, and there are those who read it after seeing the movie. The former group - few now, and growing fewer by the year, I suspect - had to do their own spade-work, by which I mean they had to imagine the appearance of Middle Earth and all that it contained. Each reader imagined it differently. Each vision, so created, was personal. This is the way with books.

The latter group have been denied this important pleasure.  Many of their number would have read a trilogy whose very covers showed Peter Jackson's images, and all of them would have had Peter Jackson's Frodo and Peter Jackson's Gollum fixed immovably in their minds before ever Tolkien's Gandalf the Grey turned up at any birthday party.
On the whole, I'm glad the films appeared. I enjoyed them, and I did marvel at the excellent job Peter Jackson managed, but his creation has diminished Tolkien's books. About that there can be no question at all.