Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy birthday to me, happy ... etc

This is the first birthday where I have had no cards or presents or phone calls from family.

That said, it is the first birthday that I saw in while drinking Bollinger champagne, sat next to a pool at a luxury hotel in Los Angeles.

You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I don't believe in God, but I can't accept that there's nothing. I don't particularly like the current Pope or what he stands for, but I'm ambivalent about the Catholic church and I can't blame people for wanting to have faith. I am not very well educated on Islam, but I don't believe that all Muslims are experts at flying planes into buildings.

All that aside, I genuinely don't think that it was the Pope's intention, when he quoted the Byzantine emperor, Manuel II, who described Islam as "evil and inhuman", to make some kind of Catholic first-strike against Islam. He may be misinformed and naive, but I don't think that he's stupid. Or at least not enough to think that he could imply that followers of Islam are homicidal maniacs and get away with it. I actually think that he knew that his words would carry some resonance, but not in the way that he intended. In the speech he said that Manuel i's words were "startlingly brusque," and apparently made certain that the audience understood that he was reading a quotation.

Of course what he failed to do was allude to Christianity's history of violence, such as the crusades or the Inquisition. In every religion there are always people who take the "word" too literally and end up landing outside of the rational. Islam is tarnished by violence right now, but Christianity has been just as violent in the past.

But what do I say to my Mum when she says that she just watched the news and thinks that those who follow Islam might actually be homicidal maniacs, after all? I want to tell her off and encourage her to be open minded. But to my Mum she feels justified in saying this and thinking this, because Christianity's violence is in the past and Islam's is happening right now.

Because to her, the Pope's references to Islam's purported disposition for bloodshed caused some Islamic followers to become so enraged that they went out and killed a nun by shooting her in the back.

How can I argue against that logic?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Whenever I read a critics review of a movie that tells me that it is actually my "responsibility" to watch it, I end up feeling fairly resistant.

An Inconvenient Truth is a movie currently receiving such an accolade, but this time it didn't put me off because for quite a long time now I've had a secret crush on Al Gore.

Having now seen the movie, last night, I can reliably inform you that it is indeed everyone's responsibility to see it.

The movie is actually a combination of a keynotes speech where Gore addresses a lecture hall full of people using graphs, photographs and representations to demonstrate the key points about global warming and climate care - all to great effect. To break up these scenes and, I suppose, to lend a greater cinematic impression, the filmmakers have dropped in archive footage of Gore as a child, as a young man, at home, at work, as a younger and then elder statesman. There are also clips of him campaigning for his presidency and then clips of him losing. Gore narrates, or rather muses, over the top of these clips, but in a way that cleverly brings what we are seeing into context. For example, the scenes of his family consoling him after he loses out to Dubya, are there not to make us feel sorry for him, but to explain to us why he is here talking to us. Well, sort of.

I left the movie thinking two things:

The first was about the effect of global warming. Even at the one of the least dramatic levels, which in the movie is cited as being the partial melting of Antartica and / or Greenland, the sea level could rise about 20 feet (and if we carry on polluting the atmosphere they way we currently are, then this is almost certainly going to happen in my lifetime.) The repercussions would be gargantuan, resulting in the deaths of millions of people, not to mention the displacement of hundreds of millions of others. Put into context it makes other "important" issues such as the War on Terror and immigration seem like trifling irrelevancies (which they arguably are, anyway.)

The second is why-oh-why did Al lose out to George? What went wrong? Visually, the contrast between Al's handsome older-man "thang" and Dubya's gurning mug is really quite striking. George Bush Jr. almost always looks like a simpleton. Although I have no doubt that this was the intention of the filmmakers, as they trudged through the archives: to find the least attractive representations of him.

But what really comes out of the Gore / Bush comparison is that Gore clearly understands the war that he's campaigning for, what the positive effects will be if we win it and what will happen if we don't. This is in stark comparison to Bush, who probably understands very little, if anything.

I'm not entirely sure if An Inconvenient Truth was intended not only to be a call to arms, but also a presidential manifesto for a future Gore administration. It probably was. And while I don't pretend to be an aficionado on the intricacies of American politics, I do know that many people in 2008 will vote on a single issue.

Therefore whoever ends up running for office, I'm now convinced that the individual who is committed to the war against global warming, above anything else, is the one who should get the most votes.

After all, every issue - the War on Terror, the economy, human-rights, immigration, education, health - each of them pales into insignificance when you really look at and think about this ...

Friday, September 15, 2006


Now, I'm not normally one to boast (um?), but ...

In just over a week I'm jetting off to LA where a bike journo and I will ride along the Pacific coastline to San Francisco and then back again in just under five days.

In two weeks I'll actually be steering (for a small part of the journey) this very yacht ...

... to Spain from Monaco. I'll then be racing against the yacht, back to Monaco, in a luxury 4x4.

In four weeks I'll be in New York hanging out with The Strokes, who'll be driving publicity for an event that I have been helping to oversee.

In November I'll be in Morocco driving a brand-new 4x4 offroad with a bunch of lifestyle journos.

Finally I've begun to see a return on those turgid, corporate rivers of blood, sweat and tears.

The downside is that there's nothing like the opportunity to do things professionally that you will never, ever do in your private life to make you seriously question your reality and priorities.

Monday, September 11, 2006

An eventful date for an un-eventful day

Every morning, when I get to my desk, I change my voicemail message so that callers know my whereabouts and whether or not to try to get hold of me on my cellphone. As usual, this morning I re-recorded my message, beginning as always with today's date.

Ella, who sits in my team, turned to me and said, "That sounded really strange. When you read out the date."

It did sound strange, but only because today's date is no longer just "any old date". I think it was because I was using it in such mundane circumstances.

Used in similar commonplace contexts, I guess it will continue to sound strange for a long, long time. I wonder if it will never again be just like any other unremarkable date in the year. I know that it shouldn't be, but at the same time it feels sad that it won't be. But most of all that it ever had to become remarkable at all.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wardrobe malfunction

I keep seeing this poster all over London and it has been bothering me. Am I imagining it, or does it look like Gisele is, er, "pleased to see us"?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Another gem from Mr. Lagerfeld:

About Pete Doherty: "His music - the look - is over now. There is nothing to think about. It is too late."

Utter dismissiveness. God, he's fabulous.