My 12-year-old sister shouted, ‘Come and watch this TV programme, you’ll love it. It is all about naked men trying to prove how tough they are.’ She was right, I did like it, so much so that at the end, when applicants were invited to apply for the second series, I filled in the online form immediately.The programme was Last Man Standing and involved six contestants travelling the world to live with tribes for two weeks.
Next Friday, 14 September, the worldwide restrictions on the celebration of the ancient Latin liturgy of the Catholic Church will be swept away. With a stroke of his pen, Pope Benedict XVI has ended a 40-year campaign to eradicate the Tridentine Mass, whose solemn rubrics are regarded with contempt by liberal bishops. In doing so, he has indicated that the entire worship of the Church — which has become tired and dreary since the Second Vatican Council — is on the brink of reformation.
I’m tempted, just for a second, to feel sorry for Clarissa Dickson Wright. There she is, with her back to me, 15 feet away, at a table in Valvona & Crolla — a refined little deli/café full of focaccia and Parmigiano Reggiano tucked in beside the lager shops on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk. There she sits, waiting for me: the last of the Two Fat Ladies, all alone: no fat husband to cook cakes for, no fat children to lick the icing from the bowl.
Imagine actually meeting Thomas Edison, or the Wright Brothers, or Newton, or Archimedes, or whichever Sumerian it was who invented the wheel in the fifth millennium bc. That, when you think about it, is what it’s like to have a conversation with Vint Cerf. Few people in the history of humanity can say with confidence that they invented or discovered something that has changed the trajectory of the species, but this genial Connecticut-born 64-year-old is among their number.
Nobody much likes television, especially not the people who work in it. They think it’s a cretinous medium, a sort of institutionalised con-trick, the cultural equivalent of a McDonald’s Happy Meal — processed excrement which everybody, including the consumer, knows to be dumb and bad for you. I suspect that this has always been true. It wouldn’t surprise me if John Logie Baird was gripped by a feeling of revulsion and self-disgust shortly after transmitting images of his fingers wiggling up and down back in the 1920s, the first ever TV show — and, you have to say, a suitably banal and metaphorically appropriate debut for the medium.
To many, 20 January 2009, George W. Bush’s last day in office, can’t come soon enough. The President’s pugnacious speech to the American Legion summed up why: not content with vigorously defending two wars, he seemed to start banging the drum for another with his statement that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons threatened to put the Middle East ‘under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust’ and pledge that America ‘will confront this danger before it is too late’.