Friday, 31 August 2007


I have been reading Stephen King for the past two decades and I don’t think I know of any other contemporary author whose works have been translated to the medium of film as many times as his. Most of the adaptations have been average save for an exceptional few, of which The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me comes to mind (incidentally both stories from the same book Different Seasons).

Although considerably expanded, this latest King adaptation of 1408, about a cynical author who spends a night in a haunted hotel room, manages to keep to the spirit of the slender tale of the same name in Everything’s Eventual, a collection of uneven short stories that failed to scale the same delicious heights of Skeleton Crew since it offered many rehashed familiar fiction from King’s previous works and that of others.

And this is no exception: haunted hotels have been done with The Shining and this stripped down version distils into just one “evil fucking room” (a tongue-in-cheek line which made me laugh out loud as it was clearly tailored specifically for Samuel L. Jackson who played the small but significant role as the hotel proprietor. I half expected him to go...I’ve absolutely positively have HAD it with this motherfucking room in this motherfucking hotel!!!).

Directed by Mikael Håfstrom, the film eschews gore and delivers in spades the psychological tension the moment the disbelieving victim barges his way into the Dolphin Hotel. The excellently cast John Cusack plays the jaded hack Mike Enslin whose own haunted past becomes unhinged in a game of psychological wits with the diabolical room in question. Although some clichés of horror films, from bleeding walls, ominous music and a Twilight Zone-esque ending may cheapen it somewhat, Cusack does very well to keep the audience entertained in this taut tale since the only two actors in the film were essentially him and the room.

Watching his cock-eyed sureness rapidly degenerate in front of the audience’s eyes with pulse quickening moments punctuated by occasional understandable human humour, it’s an actors’ piece through and through delivered via the horrors of the mind. From authors as varied as King and Vonnegut who recognise the art of short stories as like a quick affair and that of the novel like that of a marriage, this piece is one definite quick kiss in the dark delight.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Generation Debt

The Monkey House in Aberdeen with its labyrinthine route to the toilets, average food and girls with thong-baring-above-jeans backsides. Luverrely.

It’s been a very busy month for me so far…starting a new job with a pay rise, involved in a murder inquiry, Aberdeen becoming more and more like a weekend retreat, assuming a more responsible role at work, teaching the wonderful new batch of juniors the ropes, hunting for new accommodation and moving, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, hunkering down for more professional exams and courses, and the inevitable reading, drinks and eating loads (!)

It’s been a delicate balance but I’m well on track with my financial and professional targets I’ve set myself. I love Aberdeen but because of my new job I will be moving away from this oil capital of Europe, which is now the most expensive city to live in Scotland.

The long evening gaze down Union Street from Castlegate, Aberdeen with the Mercat Cross, built in 1686, in the foreground.

Although it has one of the oldest and most distinguished universities in the United Kingdom it makes me wonder how students here and the rest of the country these days are coping financially. Gosh, I remember my fabulous student digs in the highest risk area for insurance in the whole of the UK (heh) in good ‘ol Liverpool. It was the kind of place where our neighbours a few doors away got robbed or you’d imagine a chalked outline of a body lying outside your front door. A place where I shared the spacious paper-thin walled attic with my roommate Andrew with icicles INSIDE my room in winter, and all of us hunkering down in the living room (or Geoff’s room) for the warmth of the heaters! Seriously, even though we were skint, it was the truly special company that made it fun times, fun times.

With record numbers of students going deeper into the red, the future prospects of nurturing investments and getting onto the property ladder recede even further for many – and this is supposedly the brightest and most able cream of society. What about the “other” growing significant unambitious ill-educated masses who are becoming more disarticulated from society by genuine poverty…where up to three continuous generations consider unemployment the norm, surviving on cheap booze, cigarettes and junk food, worshiping reality TV Z-list celebrities and unwittingly spend more than they get from handouts? Where poor health, sorry education, drug abuse and petty crime are rampant? It’s a dangerous massive-in-denial existence at a societal level. Something is going to give in the very near future. What kind of future does that hold with stratospheric house prices, rising cost of living and mounting interest rates? Is it that surprising that the numbers declared bankrupt or slipping into insolvency in the UK rises year on year?

Even though it was published almost a decade ago (and it's been that long since I perused it), this remains a must read book into the politcs of poverty in the United Kingdom.

I have been fortunate to have the support of a loving family and the brains and hard work to earn a scholarship. This allowed me to enjoy travelling many a time in my student days. But I have also been disciplined and responsible and never been in debt. Seeing more and more people struggle, I have always resolved to avoid negative, unambitious, shallow, selfish or passionless people and to use my God given brain and talents to do the best to help myself, and others I love and care.