Orphan Black Season 1. If it wasn’t for a mention during one of the panels at Loncon3 I would never have known that this little gem existed. The story has enough twists and turns to make you have to watch the next episode immediately so I would advise getting the boxset rather than trying to watch it week to week. I have only watched Season 1 but I am hooked and will be sticking with this one through Season 2 and hopefully into Season 3 which has now been commissioned for next year.
Tatiana Maslany deserves a special mention for her portrayal of so many different characters on the one show. They are all her but she manages to make each clone so individual that you know who it is even when they are pretending to be one another. It must be exhausting flitting back and forth but she makes it look effortless.
Orphan Black explores human cloning by making us all think about identity, self-determination and the blurred lines between product and nature that exist in scientific and medical research. The clone characters are complex, flawed and not entirely lovable but you will be on their side any way, joining them on their investigative adventures, following the thin line of truth to their origin.
I am really glad that I wrote ‘Orphan Black’ in my notebook when I caught the excited buzz round the seminar room at its brief mention. Watch it if you can, even if its just to be amazed Tatiana Maslany’s acting prowess.
Vote For Change. Vote for Left Unity or the Green Party.
The Scottish referendum gave the Scots something that has been lost to most of our friends and family in the rest of the UK. It gave us back the vote. With that came a newly awakened society that is politically aware and hungry for change. We are galvanised, we are moving forward, we have plans in place to affect change in the way that we are governed, to bring forth a more equal and socially just country. We didn’t get independence but we haven’t given up on our goal of a more equal and socially just society, we are still fighting via the ballot box. Scotland is fortunate because we have political parties in place who can counteract the established trio of mediocrity but if we are to see real change then we need the rest of the UK to rise and vote for those who will fight the establishment and represent the will of the people.
As things stand, voters in England have lost their voice. The red Tories have shifted into the realm of Blah and left millions of people disenfranchised. The only protest party that the media seems to be aware of is UKIP and they are simply the media savvy wing of the BNP and Britain First. Give them the power they crave and those who saw fit to desecrate George Square the day after the Scottish referendum will be waiting in the wings, you can count on it. The void left by the defection of the Labour party is not the desolate land of tumbleweed that you might think though.
Left Unity http://leftunity.org/ @LeftUnityUk and the Green Party http://www.greenparty.org.uk/ @TheGreenParty are the parties for constitutional change, equality and social justice. They exist. What they need is a rush of support and a loud voice across social media. So, if you are feeling disheartened, if you feel like your vote is meaningless and there is nobody in Westminster who represents you and your needs - find these guys. Find your local group, volunteer with them, join them, fundraise with them, encourage them to put candidates forward at the general election, tell your friends and family about them, like them, follow them, share them, re-tweet them and ultimately vote for them.
What the Scottish referendum showed us in Scotland is that politics is about the people and it is the people who can affect change simply by refusing to vote with the status quo and voting for change. Find your voice and use it, your vote can make a difference. Left Unity and the Green Party have what you need, they just need the weight of your support to be your voice in Westminster.
We Live to Fight Another Day. It is not over. The world is changing and it’s changing fast. A fire has been lit and it’s spreading across the border to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Who knows what opportunities will present themselves? At least now we are aware enough, politically engaged enough, to see the opportunities when they arise and exploit them to their fullest.
Previous to the Scottish referendum I was clueless about politics and government. Now I’m all fired up, fully engaged and ravenous for change. I stayed up all night watching every declaration with an ever sinking heart. If this article is somewhat incoherent then I blame it entirely on the fact that I haven’t slept yet. There is no way that I’m the only one who has been gripped by the political process like this. It’s a movement with no allegiance to parties or personalities. The people are waking up, some more slowly than others, but eyes are opening.
I voted Yes. I am disappointed but I see no reason why I should be ashamed to sing Flower of Scotland or disown the people of Scotland. For us to be independent we have to be ready en masse. Not enough of us were ready this time. That’s democracy. You live by it or you create your own little kingdom and disengage (not necessarily a bad idea).
So we find other ways to make the constitutional changes that so many of us crave. We research, we learn, we engage. If we want social justice and a more democratic form of government then we need to come up with the framework that allows others to see the way forward. Not everybody can let go of the immediate concerns of their individual financial worries, not everybody can see that social change ultimately brings greater rewards. We have to find a way to make people feel safer on our path than they do on the old, overgrown but well trodden one. We just have to be think outside the box, there is more than one way to govern a nation, many ways to affect change and there are enough of us with the resourcefulness to figure it out.
A record number of Scots voted in last night’s referendum. People who had never voted before registered for the first time and made their voice heard. Almost half of us declared for independence. 1,617,989 Scots marked a cross in a box and said, Yes. We were never meant to get even that close, but we did. Granted, we were not quite bold enough this time but, even with the weight of our media and our elected UK representatives against us, we almost crossed the finish line. That is not something to be ashamed of and it is not something to walk away from. Democracy and social justice matter, we keep the momentum going and we grasp the opportunities when they arise. We are savvy enough now to know them when we see them.
For Scotland and for the rest of the United Kingdom, who we have democratically chosen to share our fate with, we march forward.
Pride. A fine example of what can be accomplished when we open our hearts and minds and refuse to believe in the impossible. Such a disparate cast of wonderful characters who come to realise that we are not really as different from one another as we might like to think. I learnt quite a bit too about a time in my own history, under my own government, that I was shamefully oblivious too. I was 11 or 12 and busy wishing for a pony at that particular time.
This movie is heart-wrenching, heart-warming and heart-jumping. There are times when you will want to throw things at the screen and times when you will want to get up and dance. You will laugh, you will cry. I sat in the cinema sobbing my heart out at the end for a complex multitude of emotions. It took until the end of the credits before I could compose myself enough to walk out into daylight under the scrutiny of baffled eyes.
Go watch it now. You will feel anger, joy, misery, nostalgia, shame, excitement, hope, love and, yes, you will feel Pride.
Indyref. It’s everywhere, there’s no escaping it. This Thursday, the 18th of September, Scotland decides. ”Should Scotland be an independent country?” One question. Yes or No answer. The question and the answer matters to so many of us and passions are high.
Many people say that voting No is the path to greater powers for Scotland without the risk but there have been no concrete promises from Westminster of new, meaningful powers. The risk is there in the steady march towards more right wing politics. All the promises have come from members of the Scottish parliament or notorious ex politicians who do not have the power to bring in the change that people are hoping for. New powers can only come from Westminster and it is not their policy to make any agreement on this issue. Read between the lines, they have not promised because they know that they will not have the backing of the majority of their electorate to agree these new powers. That’s right, the majority of their electorate do not live in Scotland.
Which brings us to the key reason for voting Yes. Voting Yes is about democracy, it’s about how we are governed. I do not expect it to be an easy path, in fact I expect it to be hard work. We will all have to get involved in politics for a very long time in order to bring our fledgling nation to its full potential. We will have to be vigilant, we will have to scrutinise every decision, every bit of legislation. I am not voting for the SNP or for Alex Salmond, I am voting for the right to vote in the politicians who put forward the best case for a new Scotland in 2016 and then at every election after that. For too long, I have stood in the voting booth and put a cross in the box for somebody who does not represent me. I can fully understand why many people do not bother to vote but I have always voted because I know how hard fought my right to vote was. Democracy matters, that cross in the box should matter. Independence for Scotland is the first step in bringing us back to that, not just within our nation on the northern edge of a small island between the Atlantic and the North Sea, but for people who feel disenfranchised everywhere. Breaking away takes courage, it won’t be easy but nothing worth having ever was.
I don’t believe any of the promises from either side on what will happen if they win the vote. Governments and key figures change, the world changes. Negotiations won’t even begin until they have to. Nothing they say is certain about what will happen after September 18th. Stop asking for the answers. Stop saying that you can’t make a decision without a definitive answer to a particular question. There are only two answers. If Scotland votes No then we will continue to vote for those who don’t represent us, we will put a cross in a box and watch it fly away on the breeze. If Scotland votes Yes then we will vote for those who live here, for those who rise or fall with us. Our votes, our needs, our wishes will matter to them, all of our resources will be in their hands. It’s a hard road but we would be leading the way for many others who feel that the shining jewel of democracy has lost its lustre.
Passions are high. Be sure that you know what you’re really voting for and be bold.
MPS. Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum, the largest travelling medieval festival in the world. It’s in Germany and it’s amazing. Whether you like living history, alternative music (pirate, medieval rock, folk), cosplay, medieval fighting, fire shows, great food and drink or all of the above this is the place to go for a weekend to remember.
There are a minimum of three music stages, large medieval camps ranging from the early to late periods, a huge array of trader’s tents selling at great prices, fight arenas, taverns, bath houses, food stalls and costumes everywhere. Costumes of all kinds ranging from historically authentic to steampunk to full on fantasy. The atmosphere is positive and friendly. It’s a real family event. On the Saturday night you can watch the most incredible fire show that I have ever seen. It’s huge, it’s spectacular and it’s coming to Duncarron this Halloween if you want to get a small taste of what MPS has to offer.
We were there mainly to shop and to see our Clanranald friends in Saor Patrol but we were made so welcome by everybody that we met that it really felt like home from home. I will be going back and hope to see more bands next time but the performances by Saor Patrol (celtic rock with pipes, electric guitar and the thunder of the drums, raising funds and awareness for Duncarron Medieval Village), The Dolmen (pirate musicians from Weymouth) and Rapalje (Irish / Scottish folk music played by Dutchmen in kilts) were uplifting, entertaining and a whole lot of fun.
Dates and information about MPS can be found at their website: www.spectaculum.de Maybe I’ll see you there next year!
Lucy. Too many ideas, not enough cohesion. Even somebody like me who can let plot flaws slide by unnoticed for the sake of a good ride couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough. Right from the start my internal dialogue was set to repeat, ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ ‘That makes no sense!’, over and over right to the end.
There are some good ideas smothered by the nonsense, the special effects have moments of brilliance and the flashes of stock footage make for a soothing distraction. The actors are wasted amongst the overly busy and muddled plot and Scarlett Johansson, who I love, just looks vague and confused all of the time - not that anyone watching could blame her!
I want to find more good things to say about this movie because I like the basic idea and it’s Scarlett Johansson. I did watch it to the end and I know that I would happily watch it again on dvd in company but mainly so that we could dissect it at our leisure and giggle at some of the more outrageously bad bits. It has the potential to become one of those cult ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ films. I’m really trying to find the positives… honest.
Nonsense, non sense.
Vikings at Duncarron Medieval Village. The last weekend in August brought the Vikings to Duncarron. It was a period in history that we hadn’t covered in depth before so there was much to learn and many shields to be made. Fortunately we love to to learn about history and we have lots of Viking friends who came along to help us out so the event was a lot of fun and a huge success.
Across the Carron Valley, the clash of the shield wall could be heard as our Vikings fought off the Britons who tried to take back the land that had been settled. The Vikings fought well and claimed victory in the end after some spectacular battles. Prisoners were taken, slaves were sold to the visitors and we honoured our dead.
I stepped away from my usual archery niche and took on the role of a seer. Armed with the basics of rune lore and my homemade hawthorn wand I spent the weekend assisting my friend Tania in the pagan services of thanks and victory that we conducted for the public. Seer Tania did an amazing job of calling on Odin, Frigg and Thor to bless our village, as well as bringing in the valkyries to escort our brave dead to Odin’s side in Valhalla. The visitors were treated to blessings in the form of ‘mead’ spray from soaked twigs and the battle tales of our warriors. We were also lucky enough to have a priestess amongst the visiting Magnus Vikings from Ireland. Alison McGrenaghan taught us a great deal about the runes that we couldn’t have learnt from books.
The temple was also used for the Thing (pronounced ting) - a form of Viking court where grievances were brought before the Jarl (earl) for him to rule on the solution. There were several marriage matches made including a rather dubious joining of a man with a hairy coo, slaves were allocated and we were treated to two ladies discussing the finer points of what makes a good husband in Norse - we didn’t need subtitles to understand this particular discussion!
Away from the temple there were stalls selling beautiful jewelry, leather, shields and other Viking goods. Visitors had the chance to play the Viking game, kubb, as well as learn to fight like a Viking. Our children’s battle was a huge success with our big brave warriors running for their lives from a horde of bloodthirsty kids. There was story telling and weaving in the longhouse with a beautiful interactive tapestry from the Magnus Vikings taking pride of place. Have-a-go archery was extremely popular as always and the Viking kitchen conjured up some culinary delights. We had a chef in charge of the bbq so the food being sold to our visitors was a cut above the usual burgers and hotdogs. On the Sunday, our friend Stuart Milne brought his beautiful birds of prey along and gave demonstrations of their hunting prowess.
We all had so much fun and made so many new friends that we will definitely be bringing the Vikings back to Duncarron. Hail Odin!