21 June, 2008

My Dog World War! (part 3 !!!)

Today at Blackpool & District Canine Society Championship Dog Show, at least three people congratulated me on, and otherwise agreed with my letter published in Dog World this week.

This is amazing for one particular reason:

No one knows who I am.

O.K., I should qualify this, my wife uses her maiden name for many things: work, dog showing, and writing about gardening for the dog show press. I probably go to less than half the dog shows she attends and during the course of the 16 years, 8 months, 2 days and approximately 12 hours of our relationship, only a few of those in the show ring side of her life have more than an inkling of my existence, let alone the notion that I am NOT Mr. Barnes.

Well, there is the fact that one of Dog World's professional photographers did our wedding, but that was a favor from Ruth, and it was before Finuala became a writer for the paper (Ruth introduced her to them, another story....). And some people showed up at the wedding to form the Welsh Springer Guard of Honour outside the hotel before the ceremony (a case of my brother in law's joke taken literally too far). Anyway, that was nearly ten years ago, surely the whole thing has blown over by now, we own the negatives, so apart from those of us in on the whole secret, nothing really has to see the light of day.

I suppose I do have my unusual, and strangely non-ancestral surname (taken by my Russian grand-parents as their free gift from the immigrant experience). So those few people in the know would have worked it out. But as far as I can tell, only one of those three people, are "In" the in-the-know subset. My surname does appear alongside my wife's "showing" name in the index of the breed yearbook, so perhaps the others merely had too much time on their hands.

I thank them all for their support, but there is the possibility that the universe is lulling me into a false sense of security before the true gauntlet is laid down.

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19 June, 2008

My Dog World War! (part 2 !!!)

The letter to the editor of Dog World was published!

Dog World

(you'll have to select "View Editions" from the top left, select 20/06/2008, navigate to page 6, it's the third letter published).

For those of you who didn't read my previous post (scroll down or click the link, lazy ass). I've been compelled to respond to a nasty insinuation by a dog judge that infirm people using assistance whilst showing their dogs are appearing in the ring for calculated (and indeed spurious) reasons that he was, heaven forfend, insulted by.

There are a few edits, the one that niggled slightly:

Mr. Brace's limited and cynical imagination can find only one motive for this

Mr. Brace can find only one motive for this
However, one of the other letters on the same subject already labels Brace's attitude as cynical. There is a slight edit, an insertion of the words "and were" before "not hobbled by pain" by someone who clearly doesn't understand the use of a comma, and the word penalize is given it's anglo spelling penalise. The strangest stylistic edit is that every single sentence is given it's own paragraph, which, as the author, I find jarring as it discards some of the cohesion of the original.

After a quick look at Mr. Brace's article, I commented that he hasn't responded yet, but I wouldn't expect him to. Finuala suggested that he probably writes a couple of weeks in advance, but also thought it unlikely that he'd respond at all. Well, I will keep my eyes peeled for an apology, nonetheless.

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16 June, 2008

My Dog World War! (part 1 ???)

In last Friday's edition of Dog World, one of two (can you imagine) UK weekly newspapers entirely devoted to dog showing and other canine competitions, Andrew Brace, a judge in the upper echelons of the dog showing world, expressed in his regular column his bad opinion of infirm people who use another handler to move their dogs in the ring: "Personally I dislike this intensely" and finds it "just an insult to the judge." To read his full two paragraphs on the subject, follow this link:

Dog World June 13th

(you'll have to select "View Editions" from the top left, select 13/06/2008, navigate to page 8 and skip to halfway down the third column near the end of the article, zoom in). I will quote the lot directly after I have obtained permission from Dog World.

Naturally, Finuala and I found this opinion pretty offensive. As (full disclosure) she writes a semi-regular Gardening column for the paper, she felt less in a position to respond. So, I have taken up the cudgel, which I have emailed to the letters editor of Dog World:

Letters Page: Runners in the Show Ring (response to Andrew
Brace's June 13th column)

In his "Going Around" column in Dog World, June 13th, Andrew Brace rails against the possibly rising practice of "employing 'runners' when they presumably feel they are not fit enough to gait their dogs."

Mr. Brace's limited and cynical imagination can find only one motive for this: "...the exhibitor does not trust the judge to find their dog without their face behind it." This ignores the fact that not every exhibitor is a "face" in their given breed; many successfully show only one or two animals at a time who are primarily their pets, without joining some cliquey coterie of breeders with many champions. Many owners feel that their animals are most comfortable with their handling, and, perhaps a newsflash to Mr. Brace, take pleasure and pride in their display in the ring as a result of their effort, time and expense.

My wife, for example, suffered increasingly appalling arthritis in one of her hips whilst waiting for diagnosis and a subsequent operation. During this time she tried to continue enjoying showing our dog to the best of her ability and felt most qualified to stack the animal, and confident that he would move like a dream alongside someone who could actually move, not hobbled by pain. If she was having an off day, she would ask a friend to run the dog in the ring.

With the increasingly average age of the general population, and inevitably of the showing community (not to mention waiting lists for treatment), the practice of using runners cannot help but rise. I would hope that we can expect judges to look at what they should be looking at, the animal, it's confirmation and performance, not who happens to be standing behind, or along side it. Strangely this seems to be something that Mr. Brace may not be willing to do as he vents his "intense" dislike.

We can only hope that Mr. Brace can swallow his pride, look past what he sees as an "insult to the judge", and not penalize the animal or exhibitor for what is a completely irrelevant factor. Otherwise all his prejudices should be published on any schedule that lists his future judging appointments. Let's also wish him continued good health so that he should never know where his true insult lies.

Brian Tarnoff

I will of course update here should this letter be published. And follow any possible repercussions.

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13 June, 2008

Surfin' Multiplex: The Incredbile Hulk, Gone Baby Gone, Mongol the Rise of Genghis Khan + unsurfed Sex and the City and Indiana Jones

The Incredbile Hulk (The somewhat credible Hulk -- would be more apt.)

They are kind enough not to put us through much of the "origin" story, which occurs under the opening titles, a montage of Banner's POV during the fateful Hulk inducing accident, news clippings, schematics and "top secret documents" (some usefully namecheck other Marvel stablemates, Stark and Nick Fury). The downside of this, is we don't get much character development of Bruce Banner or his love interest Betty Ross. Ed Norton and Liv Tyler bring enough to the roles to squeak by, but it doesn't have the lovably goof factor that Robert Downey, Jr brought to Iron Man. William Hurt and Tim Roth fill out the cast as military Hulk pursuers with some questionable motives. It also is a pleasure to see Tim Blake Nelson in a role that doesn't require blacked out teeth and a Banjo.

It's OK, passes the time well enough, but is mired in predictability. Apart from the first pursuit through a Brazilian slum, which has a Bourne trilogy vibe with Norton attempting to evade peril and Hulk "incident", most of the action is of the "bring a bigger weapon - fire at Hulk - fail - get even bigger weapon" variety (or lack thereof). Not to mention yet another climactic battle between the Marvel hero and a villain with nearly identical powers (see Iron Man and Spidey3).

We do get a bit of Norton training Capoeira to control his anger (also makes his non-Hulk fight moves believable). But the film is otherwise low on invention, and skimps on details (like how does Banner cross several borders without being detected?) OK, I'd happily sit still just to adore Liv Tyler. I would like to see the Iron Man - Hulk - Nick Fury film hinted at in the last scene. It's better than the Ang Lee misfire, but perhaps only looks good in comparison.

Gone Baby Gone

Give up the day job, Ben! (An excellent film, and if it's just a d├ębut fluke, we'll have him away from the front of the camera).

Well directed ensemble. Excellent slice of down and out in Boston. Much better than the horribly contrived Greek Tragedy of author Lehane's Mystic River (which covers similar child endangerment ground). The cavalcade of twists/endings could possibly have been a little better paced, considering the slightly predictable end. Despite this, you're unlikely to see a more gripping modern noirish thriller actually informed by a whole coloring book of moral greytones.

Mongol the Rise of Genghis Khan

Beautiful epic scenery, good performances, and good insight into a nomadic and war torn culture. However this is stretched out over a film that spends a bit too much time on the young Temudgin (his pre-Khan name) in adversity, getting his ass kicked, not enough of his kick-ass strategies. It begins well enough in his boyhood, as we're introduced to Mongol customs and life, with his father taking the nine year old to select his bride from another clan. After his father dies, there follows an endless cycle of enslavement, escape, and wives stolen into ignominy. We're shown a few skirmishes along the way, but once he emerges from his final imprisonment, we're shown little of Genghis' actual gathering of forces and power. They jump, more or less to the big budget battle for the end of the film. This does dull the impact of the climactic scenes, which is a shame as the first hour is excellent, if only the middle of the script had been tightened a bit.

Worth seeing in a theatre for the cinematography, but be prepared for lots of slow bits (not even artsy slow, just pointlessly slow). You may lose out on the scenery watching this at home, but at least you'll be able to fast forward.... And of course, infinitely preferable to the little known Dr. Seuss version of the story "Who got HURT in the YURT!"....

Sex and the City

Enjoyable enough. But the strong current of body fascism (apparently if you're near fifty and have a belly, or don't Brazilian your pubes, you're a slob), seemed strangely anti-feminist. Empowerment only available to those with designer labels. Also a few hefty slices of melodrama that would have passed on TV seem risible on the big screen.

It does, at times feel more like watching a Tribute act than the real thing, some incidental characters appear only as box-ticking cameos, only to be ditched when this function has been performed (or in the case of Stanford and Anthony, incongruously/awkwardly/pointlessly hooking up in a montage). Why the entire universe isn't simply waiting for this on video, I can't understand. Attendance seems to be more of a party for the initiated, the movie itself is an afterthought. Which is exactly what it is.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

If only it had been the Kingdom of Greyskull, now there's a missed cross-over opportunity! This time passage acknowledging entry in the no longer "trilogy" but now "series" of Indy jumps 20 years or so into the middle of the Cold War, complete with a Rasputin in fetish gear Cate Blanchett as a Ninotchkaesque psychic (seriously, if they are ever stupid enough to do another Boris and Natasha movie, hey, 3rd times the charm, she's your N. Fatale).

Great to have Karen Allen back, Lucas was a fool for excluding her character from the other episodes of the series, and even here, she's slightly underused (more Marion/Indy banter/bicker, please). Hopefully Lucas is now too busy retconning titles (I see that IMDB lists Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark as the video title of Raiders, perhaps he should go on to Ep 1 A New Disappointment, Ep 2 The Cloned Merchandise and Ep 3 A Streaming Pile of Sith). Also, just hearing Marion's theme back in the soundtrack (one of William's best from past scores), is almost enough justification on its own. (Maybe we can have John Rhys Davies as Sallah back in the next one.)

Slightly better than Last Crusade. The best snake scene since the original. A bit lax in parts, but a welcome return all the same.