Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Theatre of Noise is Dead - Long Live the Theatre of Noise

The more long-suffering visitors to this blog will know that for the last 6 years, I have been involved with a local RSL Christian radio station in Manchester called Refresh FM which broadcasts for 3-4 weeks at Easter time. This post is not for sympathy or for an agenda, but because the writing is a helpful expression of how I feel about what has happened over the last few months.

Over the years I have helped Refresh in a variety of roles although mainly as a presenter and producer. I have been part of the Scheduling Team and also helped set up the music playlist. They have been a big part of my volunteering life for over half a decade and I will always be grateful for the opportunities offered and the trust placed in me by Refresh FM.

However, unfortunately, that relationship has now had to come to an end. Every year I have presented a show called the Theatre of Noise with one of my friends. We have developed the show over the years and it has been a big part of the evening schedules. Eyan, my co-presenter, was asked in the summer if he was willing to take a larger role in the organising and leadership of the station.

At this stage, Eyan felt it was important to be open with Refresh and informed them that he was gay. Within a month, Eyan and I were invited to a meeting with the leaders of Refresh where Eyan was informed that it was no longer possible for him to continue as a presenter due to his sexuality and the incompatibility of his lifestyle choice with the core evangelical message of the church that runs Refresh FM. For Eyan's eloquent account of this incident visit his blog for the initial article and a follow up piece. There has also been an article in the Guardian CiF section on the wider issue of volunteer rights.

While Eyan was left with little choice as to whether he could carry on, it was made clear to me that because I am straight, I was welcome to continue with Refresh. In the end, I felt that I was unable to reconcile how my friend was treated due to the narrow evangelical views of Refresh's leadership and the core message of Christianity. Therefore, I took the decision to step down from presenting and my positions on the scheduling and playlist teams.

The whole situation has caused upset and soul-searching in all parties and I'm worried for Refresh's future. I have always had such high hopes for a station that has taken some very bold steps in the past (the moment they defied critics to broadcast a Catholic church service in the Sunday morning service slot made me very proud to be a part of the organisation), and I hoped they would react better in this situation. Sadly, it seems (as is the way with us Christians in general) sexuality proved a step too far. My worry is that Refresh will withdraw and look inwards and try to involve only those who share their core beliefs. Its biggest strength has always been the involvement of a wide range of Christians of all denominations, ages and backgrounds. My suspicion would be that a good number of key volunteers would not be willing or able to 'sign on' and that would only make the station poorer.

On a positive note, Eyan & I have already had a meeting with someone interested in perhaps giving the Theatre of Noise a new home. So the Theatre of Noise is dead. Long Live the Theatre of Noise.


This week saw the release of Twilight New Moon to the delight of millions of teenage girls around the world. The film is sweeping all before it and is predicted to make a gajillion dollars over the next couple of weeks. The Twilight empire is a commercial juggernaut of a size to make Harry Potter quiver in his Quidditch boots.

I have studiously ignored the Twilight films so far, but as I was doing my ironing one evening this week (yes, you read that right, ironing) I found myself watching the first one. It is truly astonishing, but not in a good way. If you are one of the three individuals unaware of the story enjoy this parody with bunnies.

Now, I am well aware that these films are not aimed at me, but I was amazed at how technically dreadful the first one is. On every level, the film is a catastrophe...

1) Directing/photography:
The direction is shabby and lazy, the pacing is completely botched, the action sequences (when they finally arrive) are badly arranged and executed. Watching the awful CG/stunt/wired up vampires bounce around trees trying to appear dangerous is simply laughable. The dull grey lighting motif that permeates the whole film is clearly meant to be stylish, but just makes everything appear like a grotty day in Preston.

2) Writing:
Even taking into account the target audience, the writing is woeful. The most publicised zinger is Robert Pattinson's comment to Kristen Stewart where he says that she is his "own personal heroin". However, the dialogue is uniformly idiotic and puerile and the plot holes could swallow entire towns.

3) Acting: Every single 'teenage' actor seems to be trying far far too hard. Pattinson in particular relies on one expression to show every single emotion from miserable to happy to lustful to enraged. The interplay between the two main characters is supposed to be charged with repressed sexual tension. However, it manifests itself in stupid staring and lying next to each other in grass.

4) Mythology: Vampires are undead. The fascination with the vampire legend is the combination of beauty and corruption. When exposed to sunlight, they should burst into flame. They should not appear to be glittering like diamonds. DIAMONDS!! for goodness sake...

My biggest problem with this film is that it treats its audience like idiots. It assumes that because Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books are so popular, they can put handsome clothes horses in front of the camera to churn out this drivel and the masses will lap it up. Sadly, they were right...

Just because a movie is aimed at teens or kids, it doesn't mean that it has to be a film for idiots. Pixar have taught us that. Just because you have budget constraints it doesn't mean you can ignore the basics of making a good film. Anyway, if you want a vampire film that shows a vaguely sweet yet very unsettling relationship between a human and a vampire watch the utterly bewitching and genuinely creepy Let the Right One In.

Have some movie reviews
Silent Hill **
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince ***
Madagascar 2 *
Resdient Evil Apocalypse ***
Enchanted **
Evan Almighty ***
Lake Placid **
The Hurt Locker ****
Prince Caspian ***
District 9 ****
Let the Right One In *****
Twilight *
The Escapist ****
The Kingdom ***
In Bruges ****
Outlander **

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Rise of the Geeks

We all knew it had to happen sooner or later. The geek/nerd/spod (insert derogatory term of your choice here) has enjoyed a meteoric cultural rise over the last 10 years. But as we come to the end of the noughties (for lots more noughties related thoughts, read Tim Footman's excellent blog Cultural Snow), something terrifying has happened.

We've become mainstream. We've conquered the movies with the vast majority of the top 50 grossing movies of the decade having sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural leanings.

TV became our bitch when Battlestar Galactica made it acceptable for people who'd avoided sci-fi to admit they watched it.

The graphic novels by the likes Alan Moore and Mike Mignola are read by cool looking people on the bus. We've even appropriated high literature with the marvellous Pride & Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith.

We bestride the world like a check-shirted, glasses-wearing behemoth justifying why Deep Space Nine is the best Star Trek series.

All of this begs the question, now we're in the majority we will be benevolent overlords or will we enact a terrible revenge on the 'cool' people who spent so much time mocking us? I personally don't mind, although I would like to take fashion Nazi Gok Wan and force him to watch every episode of Babylon 5 until he damn well appreciates it as quality drama...