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Posted by markswill in Cars and Bikes, Media, Navel Gazing.

In The Counsellor, a violent but not unappealing drug trafficking thriller due out later this month, Cameron Diaz’s deliciously villainous character spouts a lengthy homily about change, its inevitability and the smart person’s decision not to fight it. Obviously I am not a smart person because Canute-like, I constantly resist change. I was also reminded of the foolishness of this when visiting the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern, for although in his day (1879-1940) Klee was a serious thinker and teacher about matters artistic, on the evidence of this rather disappointing show he failed to put his thoughts into action, or rather onto canvas. Which in failing to put most of my own stridently voiced opinions into practice, I am also a craven hypocrite.

And it is of course this untypically honest admission that partly accounts for the hiatus in blogging which I whined about six weeks ago, although then I cited the irrelevance of one man’s views in a world where better brains than I have bigger and better fora to disseminate them and the usually despicable acts of mankind that prompt them. So whilst I still advocate Private Eye, The New Yorker and even Prospect if you really want to know about mankind’s horrors and follies, I was moved by Ms Diaz’s, or rather scriptwriter Cormac McCarthy’s observations to re-consider my position on a few matters that had recently vexed me.

HS2   The current political wrangling over the proposed £42billion north-south trainline is characterised by the opposing sides constantly issuing contradictory reports on its viability, cost and disruptive elements. My view is that it’d be a disaster, especially for the citizens of north London whose properties and lives would be blighted for a decade whilst it was built (I spend a lot of time in north London, see), and as a regular traveler on a creaking east-west train service to and from and my Welsh home, I’d far rather see the money used upgrading existing rail routes. But because so much political capital depends on HS2 going ahead, it almost certainly will. Just as it almost certainly will be beset by cost overruns and delays and do nothing for the economies of northern England that are its supposed beneficiaries.

MEDIA & BOOKS   The recent sacking of its arts critics by The Independent and the steady cull of journalists by the Telegraph, Times and Guardian confirm that mass print media is doomed. Ditto the ongoing closure of independent bookshops due to the increase in sales of digital readers with Amazon, the arch-villains of the piece, rubbing salt into the wound with a series of ads showing an ugly man smiling at his Kindle in front of a pile of discarded books. A recent report that children, often encouraged by parents desperate to keep them occupied, just don’t have the attention spans to read anything other than digitized gobbets of information confirms that the printed word is doomed. And with it, probably anyway, the power of the press to challenge authority and commerce to account for their myriad venality. So I’d better get used to that, too. But a bracing if surprising counterpoint came from Murdoch’s News UK paywall-loving boss, Mike Darcey, in the latest In Publishing (print edition, natch): “Papers like The Guardian are eating themselves alive by publishing a newspaper at £1.40 and then giving all the content away for free.” Precisely.

CAR TROUBLE    A rare case of contrition now regarding my unfashionable romance with the internal combustion engine. I got it wrong with the Twingo I irrationally bought in August (because I liked its cheeky looks and supposed economy), and am having doubts about both selling my Lancia Gamma and my continuing ownership of the gorgeous technological marvel/nightmare that is my Citroen XM. Since acquiring it, the Twingo has needed a replacement driveshaft and cambelt, both nightmarish to source because it was never an UK import and Renault UK can’t or won’t identify relevant parts numbers. Ergo many frustrating hours spent badgering confused and irritated friends/mechanics/axe-murderers for help. The Citruin has developed a leak from I know not where, probably because I stupidly let a garage who didn’t know XMs service it instead of doing it myself. And winter’s coming and its bum’s getting rusty. Until I bought the XM, I maintained that one’s ‘daily driver’ should cost no more than £1000 and deliver at least two and usually three year’s virtually trouble-free motoring, after which I’d flog it for a few hundred less than it cost and move onto another cheaply insurable old banger, arrogantly assuming that I knew enough to do rudimentary maintenance and avoid buying a dog. Oh, and I’d keep and cherish a classic for high days and showing off. The XM, glorious to drive though it is, proved the exception in every respect, but I thought I’d box clever by replacing the Lancia with it as my object of automotive lust and make the Twingo my daily driver. Wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong. And worse, when I occasionally drive a modern BMW or, gulp, Ford, I kinda hanker after transport that’s quiet, reliable and economical… even if it has no soul.

TALKING OF SOUL    All of this unrequited resistance to the march of progress has this month been ameliorated by some determined cultural consumption, but as your attention span has probably already been stretched to its limits, the details of which I’ll peddle around early next week in a unexpectedly prompt second instalment.

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1. Neil Murray - November 8, 2013

Can’t help agreeing with the ‘death of print’ comments, while smiling at the tales of woe concerning the Citruin. Am learning all about the pleasures and pitfalls of classic car ownership, after buying my wife, in an inspired moment of 2012 Christmas-gift idiocy, a 1988 Porsche 911 (the one with the desirable Getrag G50 gearbox) Targa. Marvellous when it’s going, frustrating when not, though to be fair, all the reasons for ‘not’ have hopefully been sorted now the three (three!) alarm & immobiliser systems that were in it have been ripped out and replaced by a single brand new one.

markswill - November 8, 2013

You must love her very, very much (the wife that is, and indeed the Porsche).

2. Paul Blezard - November 8, 2013

That was a cracking blog, Mark, marred only by a couple of typos. (Does anyone apart from me care about the possessive apostrophe in plurals? I doubt it!). Couldn’t agree more with Mr Darcy; in the not-too-distant future people will shake their heads in disbelief saying, “Why on earth did anyone imagine that people would carry on putting their hand in their pocket to buy newspapers when they could have it *all*, every single last word, on-line, for nichts, nada and nowt?!”
As for Ms Diaz, I’m afraid I’ve never been able to think about her in quite the same way since I saw “The Holiday”. The best example I know of a good idea for a film ruined by the fact that no-one, including Diaz, had the sense to say to the writer/director Nancy Meyers, “Nancy, no-one with half a brain will be able to suspend their disbelief about the tossed-off tosh you’ve written for that scene!” (Several times over). PNB

markswill - November 8, 2013

My Paul, your moviegoing habits are even more perverse than mine.

Paul Blezard - November 10, 2013

In my defence, Mark, there was a particular local interest in the making of ‘The Holiday’ since it entailed coating almost a mile of my girlfriend’s road with artificial snow for at least a fortnight in order to shoot one 30 second scene. One of the better ones, it must be said, even though it was immediately followed by one of the worst, in which Ms Diaz’s character was seen shoplifting booze and drinking herself into a stupor while walking around a made-up, olde worlde, non-existent, created-for-the movie ‘general store’ in the centre of Godalming knowing that she had to drive a strange car, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, in the snow, back up the narrow country road which she had only just managed to do on the way into town, when she was stone cold sober! Preposterous cack? I should coco!

markswill - November 11, 2013

Preposterous cack is what I live for Paul, as you well know. Film sounds ghastly in all other respects though, but I must admit a fondness for Ms Diaz in general terms.

Paul Blezard - November 11, 2013

FWIW, we watched “The Holiday” in the quaint community hall ‘pop-up’ cinema in Godalming, since there is no actual cinema in the town. Apparently it was the most popular film the Godalming film club has ever screened. This is entirely due to the local interest & nothing to do with the quality of the film which was an insult to the intelligence of anyone over 10.
Still, I had to smile at the thought that we were watching the movie in a building opposite the massive Waitrose supermarket where well-heeled Godalming-ites do their shopping. (The less well-off shop at the equally large Sainsbury’s round the corner). No-one shops in the general store shown in the film because it doesn’t exist. Preposterous pandering to the fantasies of yanks who’ve never been to li’l ol’ Englandland!

3. David Cobbold - November 8, 2013

Mark, having dismally failed you on 2 scores recently, one having to do with your Twingo part number quest (is that one solved by the way?), I can but commiserate with your transport woes. My unreasonable transport whims tend to the two-wheeled varieties, having settled some years ago for a modern and reliable small Audi that does what it’s asked to do quite well.
As for Ms Diaz, I am encouraged to see the film, despite the comments by Paul, because in this case the scriptwirter is Cormac McCarthy. Fare thee well.

markswill - November 9, 2013

Hi David. Apologise not on the Twingo front: it was a big ask after all, ‘specially to one so busy but in the end I found a friendly Francophile in Kent who helped out and the correct CV joint/driveshaft was sourced in the UK (at half the Renault price!). Sad to relate that Cormac’s script for The Counsellor is far too wordy and Ridley Scott rather let him get away with it, although overall the flick is, as I originally noted, well worth a gander.

4. Peter Collins - November 8, 2013

Poor Mark! “Lord, make me sensible, but not quite yet”. The gods must laugh along with the rest of us as you fall again into the ditch that lies between hope and reality. I’m just glad it’s not my turn down there…

5. WTK - November 8, 2013

A Short History of Media. First, the Sumerian then Roman graffiti established a dialogue for news and data. The monklets and Gutenberg and mass media turned this into a one-way conversation and monologue. The Internet is recreating the natural dialogue of people where everyone is a publisher. Mass Media is doomed as no one cares to listen to self-serving and self-certified experts of thought. Anarchy will reign in a shower of diverse opinion. Q.E.D.

markswill - November 9, 2013

Mass-media doomed eh, Terry? That’s a drag as I always franked myself as a pop pundit, but it;s a little late for that now and in any case you’re absolutely right.

6. Steve Kane - November 9, 2013

I can see it’s no point trying to convert you to a sensible, yet enjoyable car, I have known you long enough to have realised that the whole nature of decision making functions differently in your breast than in mine, you actually enjoy late century Italian engineering because its made of iron oxide lace.
Pleased to see you blogging again though. As to the movie, both Rush and Tom Hanks as the good Captain Phillips have quite shocked me by giving me unexpected pleasure on two consecutive weekends, after the drive from the mountains to the city, after the relative let-down of Gravity, so we might well take up your suggestion. All the while thanking the divine that the Portuguese still prefer their movies subtitled rather than dubbed, as over the border in Spain.
My brother-in-law has a Twingo, they were commonplace here, he loves it, we have a (sensible for our dirt roads) Ford Fusion, and I have a 15yr old Ztec head 16valve Fiesta (Yamaha designed, remember) commonplace for you, but our dealers picked up the one with the next registration number and made it into their rally car back then, and they were absolutely right, they won a shelf of local trophies with it. It sits out on their forecourt still.
Familiarity probably bred contempt for them where you live, but mine has only once failed to start when the battery was utterly dead, and it goes around our endless corners (which are not unlike yours) with a gleeful willingness that all cars should emulate. When that little engine is making its respectable torque it drinks some, you don’t get such fun for nothing, but you can ease off. I do let those dealers service it and have done all its life, costs me a couple of hundred annually, but that’s it, not a speck of rust on it, though it’s only ever washed before our stringent version of the M.O.T., as a politeness to the inspector. Breezes through.

7. dmc - November 12, 2013

I have just bought a pristine copy of “running out of road too” in stockwell, good to discover your blog…

david mccairley

markswill - November 12, 2013

Blimey David, I hope you got it cheap.

dmc - November 12, 2013

its priceless…

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