Monday, February 20, 2012


Testing Maslow
Robert L. Fielding

Swedish Man Found After Being Stuck In His Snow Covered Car For Two Months

2 months – two months – I went out to work one morning in December, 2011 and didn’t get out of my car until yesterday, 19th February 2012 – I was snowed in for 62 days – without food, left to drink the drops of water that dribbled through my window. I had a radio, and a CD player, until the battery went flat on Day 2 - 60 days of silence – no klaxon to tell people where I was, nothing, just me and my car, and my thoughts.

Day 1
Stuck here in the freezing whiteout of a drift that enveloped me as I tried to get going in the sliding, skidding snow. Sleep came easily, at first, but my situation got worse very quickly – the car ran out of petrol, leaving me only the battery – a cold night.
Waking up at four, pitch blackness – this snow must be a meter over my roof, nothing but blackness, and the cold. Some water still left in the bottle I always carry with me, just in case.
Food’s all but gone – the crust of a tuna sandwich all I have until somebody gets here. I wouldn’t have wolfed it down if I’d known this was going to happen. Think before you eat – in future – if I have one! Hope nobody’s too worried about me – phone’s dead – no signal.

Day 2
Hunger cuts through me like a knife – thirst gnaws until I catch a drip – worry – that is starting to gnaw too – how are things going on without me? Who am I kidding, probably better than normal – the kids do what their Ma tells them, when she tells them – the guys in the office get on with what they’ve got to get on with, with or without me – the project – that is due to finish any day now – without me!

Day 3
I do miss everyone – wonder if I’ll ever see them again – if they’ll ever see me. Nobody is looking, that’s the trouble here. Everybody’s too tired, too warm, too damn smug to come looking for a loser like me – who goes out in this weather without first telling somebody – everybody, that’s who! This is just my luck – you think this is as good as it can be, or you think it can’t get any worse and BAM, here I am stuck in a snowdrift for 72 hours, I really don’t know how much longer I can stick this.

Day 4
Sleeping longer and longer, nothing going on, my metabolism’s slowed to nothing – I am in hibernation, like a mouse under a pile of straw, except the mouse got himself prepared first, ate a load of stuff, fattened out and then found a warm, dry place for the winter – like Florida, I guess.
This leather doesn’t taste of much, and chewing it as if it did is making my enzymes churn, getting ready for something that never arrives – just this leather. I tried paper, but that just clogs you up, and I don’t need anything to clog me up, can’t afford to defecate, to lose fluid or anything. Brain damage is what I’m in for at this rate. Starting to ramble in the night – night and day – what do I care? I sleep and then I wake, and sleeping and waking bring on their own problems. Delirium in sleep, cramps awake – give me the nightmares any day.

Day 5
Now I have really got to get out of here. Shouting didn’t help – all I did was weaken myself – my throat is as dry as parchment – don’t have a drop of saliva to swallow, can’t speak anything past my swollen tongue and my aching teeth.
Keep focused on something else out there – Inga and the kids, work, the team at work, the nights out, the better nights in – better not go that way or despair will hit me, but I need warmth, I need love, I need to belong, I need to get out.
This isn’t working, dreaming is turning up in waking moments, drifting off to somewhere I’ve never wanted to go, somewhere I know nothing of, but I am finding out about anyway. Me, I’m just a bundle of responses, a bundle of needs, for love and warmth, food and drink, shelter, the need to do something, be somebody, find out what I can do, instead, I’m finding out the trails to darkness, in my bowels, my belly, my ventricles, my brain – bowing to a lack – to need, pure need. I need to be freed from my needs!

Day 6
Now this is getting bad. I can’t think straight about anything – food, I think about food - nyponsoppa - warm and tasty, princesstårta, like Mama used to make, varmrökt lax, straight from the lake – STOP STOP STOP – I can’t think of what I haven’t got – that way madness lies. Think of what I have – a good family – good job – good life – money and to enjoy it all, the hea.. that is what I am not going to have if I don’t get this thing right. Concentrate, concentrate – think think, think, or stop thinking, be like the mouse and curl up to sleep through it all until spring comes and someone finds me stiff as a board, but with a glimmer of light and heat at my core – life – my life.

Day 7
Nnnnnnnn – to the power of ‘n’! LIFE IS ALL THERE IS LEFT, it seems, after all!

Robert L. Fielding

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Lakes

The Lakes – sylvan tranquility masks high emotion
Robert L. Fielding
Set in England’s Lake District, with Lake Ullswater as a backdrop, The Lakes (375 mins) a video of ‘one of the landmarks of last year’s BBC output, created, written and produced by Jimmy McGovern, also responsible for Cracker with Robbie Coultrane, and Brookside, tackles many of Britain’s social problems - ‘Broken Britain’ with alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity and moral meltdown in the spotlight.

The unfolding tale of murder, abuse and mayhem, family strife and debt, centres around Danny Kavanagh played by John Simm (Life on Mars – 24 hour party people - ) and the Quinlan family, as well as employees and owners of the local hotel, played by actors with faces familiar to fans of British TV’s ‘Corry’, ‘The Bill’, ‘Holby City’ and ‘Peak Practice’.

Moving from his native Liverpool to start anew, Kavanagh finds himself embroiled more in strife than sightseeing in what he imagined would be a peaceful part of England, where he could start over, stopping his own particular addiction - gambling.

McGovern’s exceptional ability and skill has given us all the ills of a Britain split apart by Hedonism and alienation gone mad, but in the magnificent final scenes, including the inside of a courtroom in which a rape trial is being conducted, McGovern, and his team (Joe Ainsworth, William Gaminara, and Julie Rutterford) and the domestic denoument in several households, we are led to the point of the thing, an expose and moral answer of, not just the main issues, but also, as if there weren’t enough for a modern audience to take in, the hypocrisy of certain high officials of the Church, and attitudes to rape and its victims.

If Britain is ‘broken’, and there is much evidence that it is, this film shows us the way forward through trust, reconciliation, and an increase in traditional family values. Be warned though, this fine production is NOT for the faint hearted!
Robert L. Fielding

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The lens of the artist

The focus of the artist’s lens: Austen, Hardy, Trollope and Dickens
Robert L. Fielding

Born in the same year as Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, Anthony Trollope lived a full life removed of the threat of invasion by the French. Hardy, on the other hand, knew those times and wrote about them; his novel ‘The Trumpet Major’ is full of the threat of imminent invasion by Napoleon’s Grande Armee. Austen, writing earlier than both, sharpened her focus to the drawing room’s of landowners and other gentry, bringing in the ‘outside world’ only rarely.

Hardy’s tragedies drew back from the inner confines of his protagonists, and included trends and changes of the days of which he wrote. Sergeant Troy enters the sylvan, bucolic tranquility of Bathsheba Everdene, struggling to run her farm, and brings worldliness and dash to her world of rustic simplicity.

With such innovations as the opening of the first public steam railway when he was yet a boy of ten, and later, in 1835, the mania created by steam, Trollope’s novels reflect, not entirely a sylvan setting in the cathedral close of Barchester, but an onrush of the modern to deluge his characters in the form of the dominance in all matters, public as well as private, of the fourth estate: the Press.

Tom Towers, top man at the Jupiter, represents both the independence of the Press, essentially a truly modern entity, and its ubiquitous presence, influence and commentary on every facet of life. Warden Harding’s peace of mind is disturbed, cataclysmically and forever, by a lawsuit against him and his inherited stipend.

Trollope, unlike Austen, and on a smaller scale than his contemporary, Charles Dickens, allowed the issues and trends of the day into his stories. And whereas Hardy let them intrude but little, preferring to use omnipotent forces to quell the beating hearts of his characters, Trollope showed his falling prey to the omnipotence of powers centred upon a country increasingly dominated by its capital, London.

Dickens embraced the life of London in a way that neither Hardy nor Trollope ever did. Trollope dealt with the power emanating from the capital at a more telescopic distance.

Dickens infused most of his novels with the influence of London, dealing with the malign forces that oppressed some of its inhabitants, chiefly the young and the very old, and the poor.

While the literature of these great novelists is not exactly looking at life through ‘the cracked looking glass of a servant’ as Irish art was once described, every writer purposely leaves out that which he or she does not wish to write about. Put the other way round, writers in any age only deal with those facets of life they know something about or wish to discover or delve into whilst writing. For Austen, it was the ways we can delude ourselves, for Hardy, how forces beyond our control often affect our lives, for Trollope, it was how institutions like the Church can be manipulated and themselves manipulate, for Dickens, it was the ways man can and does work against man.
Robert L. Fielding

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Alice: “Twas brillig!”
Robert L. Fielding
In Alice in Wonderland (108 mins), directed by Tim Burton, with an excellent screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based loosely on Lewis Carroll’s words, Alice Kingsley, Australian, Mia Wasikowska, plays the young woman who doesn’t quite fit into polite Victorian society. Shortly after the death of her father, she shuns a proposal of marriage and ‘escapes’ down a rabbit hole into the world inhabited by the creations of the mind of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson -Lewis Carroll.

In the topsy-turvy world she finds herself in, the bright-eyed Alice soon comes up against the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the grotesquely white-faced Iracebeth of Crims and her minions, who have helped her to conquer Underworld by stealing the crown from her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

The day will come when Alice has to fight the Jabberwock (with eyes aflame) on that day of days, the Frabjous Day. Meanwhile, labouring under a misunderstanding, Alice is pronounced to be ‘the wrong Alice’ – she has shrunk to a mere six inches in height, later to an improbable 20 feet tall.

She becomes the White Queen’s champion, eventually slaying the Jabberwock, the Red Queen’s dragon, that terrorises her subjects, keeping her on the throne.

Johnny Depp adds to his incredible versatility (Sweeney Todd, Chocolat, Public Enemy, Edward Scissorhands et al) playing the frenetic milliner, Tarrant Hightop, the Mad Hatter, complete with magical hat at the usual price of 10/6, and multiple personalities, one of which speaks Glaswegian based upon Rab C. Nesbitt, no less. He fights the Knave of Hearts, Ilosovic Stayne (Crispin Glover), to complete the Frab Day.

The graphics in Tim Burton’s creation are amazing – Carroll would have been ‘wellpleezed’, and the voice-overs from the likes of Stephen Fry (The Cheshire Cat), Barbara Windsor (Mallymkun, the dormouse), Micheal Sheen (the white rabbit), Timothy Spall (Bayard Hamar, the bloodhound), and Paul Whitehouse from The Fast Show (the March Hare) are a joy to hear and recognize.

Real people on screen included the multi-talented but now sadly infrequently seen Lindsay Duncan (Oliver Twist, GBH), and Geraldine James (The Calendar Girls, Ghandi) and the favourite from British television, Frances de la Tour (Rising Damp’s Miss Jones) – all playing the usual suspects in Burton’s/Carroll’s masterpiece.

The question that remains to be answered, for me, is whether Carroll or Burton, or both, intended any allegorical meaning in the production. I took it as telling me to be true to my own spirit, and/or alternatively, what can happen when despots hold sway – I could be wrong on both counts. Only wikipedia readers will tell you that the White and Red Queens represented the Houses of York and Lancaster, to the rest of us, it was what Carroll intended – ‘literary nonsense’ – much beloved by children and teachers of discourse analysis – ‘curiouser and curiouser!’
Robert L. Fielding

Robert L. Fielding
‘Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them, and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum – and vengeance is sweet until what goes around comes around – the essence of the messages Shakespeare may have intended in Titus Andronicus, his earliest tragedy. Titus (162 minutes) also depicts the brutality and the futility of our ‘need’ for revenge, and our abuse of power.

Sir Anthony Hopkins (Titus) is magnificently cruel, even sinister, while displaying sensitivity – the tragedy of a man doomed to follow a trait that leads him to his downfall (cf Hamlet, Coriolanus, KingLear, Macbeth etc).

His nemesis, Tamora (Jessica Lange) is the epitome of a vengeful, scheming, nasty piece of work, who seduces the corrupt Saturnine (Alan Cumming) to act in ways that are symptomatic of a Rome in its decline – with unutterable savagery and unspeakable decadence.

The film rather puzzlingly begins with a device straight out of a workshop for film directors/writers; a small boy stages a military debacle with his toys on a kitchen table, until a bomb explodes and he is taken (with us) into the world of agoras and temples in ancient Rome.

It has been suggested that the boy is a ‘stand-in’ for us – perhaps to involve us, perhaps to remove any alienation we might feel from the action, perhaps to place us centre stage. In all respects, the device failed – the boy was nearly always somewhere, which puzzled me, I must say.

The real action, when it begins, comes thick and fast, hot on the heals of Tamora’s plea for her son to be spared by Titus. No mercy was shown him and his death marked the first in a series of acts of brutal revenge, finishing, as Shakespearean tragedy usually does, with the deaths of most of the cast.

Violence begets more violence, and with malign dictators, violence knows no bounds. Saturnine, newly crowned Emperor of Rome starts as he means to carry on – with sadistic orgy and madness.

The appearance of what looked for all the world like staff cars from 1930s Germany, carrying the Emperor on his feet shouting at everyone gave the film a sort of universal appeal – this is how dictators in all ages behave.

Using cinematography/computer graphics to great effect, Luciano Tovoli, was able to bring the hatred of a soliloquy onto the silver screen. If they had had these techniques in Shakespeare’s day, this is how he would have done it!
Robert L. Fielding

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review of 'Dad's Army' by Graham McGann

Dad’s Army: The Story of a Classic Television Show by Graham McCann

Robert L. Fielding
‘A hugely entertaining read’ Daily Telegraph - sums up this marvelous book about a hugely entertaining sit-com, with all our old favourites, now sadly mostly no longer with us.
Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring; his nemesis, John Le Mesurier as Sergeant Wilson; the classical actor, John Laurie as Frazer; the perennial ‘old’ timer, Clive Dunn as everybody’s favourite Grandad, Corporal Jones; Arnold Ridley as the refined old gentleman, Godfrey; Ian Lavender as the “stupid boy”, Frank Pike; and James Beck as spiv, Taylor, with Bill Pertwee as the irascibly nasty, Warden Hodges – members of what seem like everybody’s extended family.

McCann begins this well written, painstakingly researched book, by giving us the facts about the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), later to be renamed, the Home Guard.

It is somewhat difficult, now that we are ‘all in Europe’, to imagine how it must have felt to be on the edge of imminent invasion in those dark days. Thomas Hardy hinted at an earlier threat from Napoleon’s Grande Armee in ‘The Trumpet Major’, but this much more deadly one must have felt like the end, particularly after the evacuations at Dunkirk.

What shows through in all the episodes of comic relief, tirelessly reviewed here by McCann, is Britain’s ‘bulldog spirit’ – a sort of Stoical self-belief, epitomized by Winston Churchill’s stance, and illustrated in a thousand different ways by people like Vera Lynn.

Jimmy Perry and David Croft, the writers, created a team and storylines that were both entirely believable and funny to generations of viewers; not just those who lived through it all.

With background information about Lowe, Le Mez, and all the rest, McCann has ‘fleshed out’ the characters who lived on the small screen every week for nine years and in over 80 episodes. Everybody who has ever laughed through even one is intimately connected to its main characters and the situations they found themselves in. We are all aware of the foibles of Captain Mainwaring, the rivalry underlined by class differences between him and his second in command, ‘uncle Sergeant’ Wilson, but it has taken this book to look further into the two well known and loved characters, magnificently portrayed by Lowe and Le Mesurier.

Really, reading this immensely enjoyable book was something like reading about members of my own family – so familiar, and yet with a life half over before I was born.

My father actually served in the Home Guard before his call-up to the Royal Navy – had served with chaps the same age as his father, even his grandfather, and had his tales to tell. All were retold and embellished with great aplomb and hilarity by this never to be forgotten team of actors who entered our lives as the real life ones had before them; to stand up for us and to make us proud to be British, and to portray for us, that peculiarly British trait - the ability to laugh at ourselves.
Robert L. Fielding

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A great film - 'Gran Torino'

Gran Torino
A movie with a message – to make you think about life and death, living and dying, ‘Gran Torino’ (116 minutes) does all that.

Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a retired car worker/Korean War veteran has just buried his wife, and sees the indifference of his family and the shallowness of her eulogy. Arriving home in a run- down quarter of Detroit, and still sore, he’s met by the folks next door, a Vietnam family.

Walt doesn’t take kindly to foreigners, kids – anybody, pretty much, but he acts to protect them from a gang of young thugs, even though it’s really just his own peace he’s looking out for. The family lavishes unwanted gifts of food and flowers on him – still he doesn’t like them.

Showing how immigrant kids can go wrong, the film has rival gangs doing the dozens and mouthing off before trying to get the young Thao (Bee Vang) on side, forcing him to steal or vandalize the Gran Torino in Walt’s garage.

Walt thwarts the attempt, and sounds off at the boy. Later, when the boy is assigned to do chores for a week as atonement, the old man teaches him about life – about how men talk to men, and how things work generally.

He’s invited into the house to eat with the family and is sort of adopted by Thao’s sister, Ahney Her (Sue Lor). The gangs get rougher and rougher on the two kids until hard man Walt roughs it up and the gang retaliate – shooting at the family home, beating up Thao and raping his sister.

Here you might have expected Walt/Clint to wade in with guns blazing, but instead he locks the boy in the garage and goes off to confront the gang alone. Surrounded by the silence of frightened neighbors, producer and director Eastwood makes the film end on an entirely unexpected and ultimately more meaningful note.

Eastwood’s performance as a vet that has lived with the horror of killing since the 50s and finds redemption and (for the padre at any rate) salvation is masterful and totally convincing.

Notable too are all the main characters – villains, grandmother, barber, and all. This film works primarily because it rings true, not because it uses graphics to great effect or goes the whole nine yards with action. It is precisely its lack of shoot-outs and car chases that makes it more of a drama, less of a spectacle.

I came out thinking about what I had learned about living and dying, about some of the roots of our social ills, which is always better than coming out deafened and partly blinded by cinematography.
Robert L. Fielding

Monday, August 04, 2008

Dad's Army - 40 years young this week

Still as popular as it soon became in 1968, everybody's favourite sit-com, 'Dad's Army' is 40 years old this week and still going strong, even though most of the senior citizens of its wonderful cast have passed away to that Home Guard platoon in the sky.
Its popularity has hardly lessened with avid fans eagerly watching repeated episodes on the box or buying up the DVDs and videos of the show.
Showing what the British people were made of back in the dark years of the 2nd World War is what 'Dad's Army' did best. At Warmington-on-sea, on the south coast of England, the threat from Hitler would have been at its greatest to those left on our mainland.
Younger, fitter men were elsewhere - fighting in Europe, leaving older and younger men and women to defend our treasure - Britain. These men and women did it all with a smile on their lips - the appeal of Dad's Army is made more so because it rings true, and because, of course, it is hilarious.
Robert L. Fielding