Shrek Forever After (Mitchell, 2010)

I am periodically re-publishing the posts that I want to preserve from the previous incarnation of this blog, just in case I ever lose control of that site or it vanishes. What follows was originally published on 2 July 2010 on

This blog contains spoilers.

The Shrek franchise has always riffed on surrounding culture to humorous effect. And like most contemporary franchises, it surrounds itself with merchandise: action figures, duvet covers, video games, clothes. This sort of activity has been around for a long time. However, I discovered this evening another form of diffusion/repurposing that is at least a little newer. There is a particularly memorable ‘turn’ early in the movie, and at what turns out to be a crucial narrative juncture, which involves a young boy, reminiscent of Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, repeatedly demanding that Shrek ‘do the roar’. The repetition, editing pattern and timing of this in the movie make it very funny. And ‘do the roar’, a web search reveals, has, to use an ostensibly vague trio of words which in fact precisely captures the nature of the phenomenon we are faced with, ‘become a thing’. When I google ‘shrek do the roar’ this is what I get: There is a YouTube video that re-edits the movie to MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This’, to great effect. There is a link to a Facebook group page which bears the following description: ‘Welcome to a Facebook Page about The kid from shrek who says “Do the Roar!” Join Facebook to start connecting with The kid from shrek who says Do the Roar!“‘. And, perhaps inevitably, there is an iTunes App: ‘Do The Roar, will allow anyone to annoy Shrek, and cause him to bellow out his enormous Ogre roar. Use Butterpants to help you annoy Shrek,‘ And those are just the first three hits!

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Some sort of promise

I originally posted this quotation, which I love, the day after my daughter was born. I am re-posting it on her 7th birthday.

Where you went out the back door of that house there was a stone water trough in the weeds by the side of the house. A galvanized pipe come off the roof and the trough stayed pretty much full and I remember stoppin there one time and squattin down and lookin at it and I got to thinkin about it. I dont know how long it had been there. A hundred years. Two hundred. You could see the chisel marks in the stone. It was hewed out of solid rock and it was about six foot long and maybe a foot and a half wide and about that deep. Just chiseled out of the rock. And I got to thinkin about the man that done that. That country had not had a time of peace much of any length at all that I knew of. I’ve read a little of the history of it since and I aint sure it ever had one. But this man had set down with a hammer and chisel and carved out a stone water trough to last ten thousand years. Why was that? What was it that he had faith in? It wasnt that nothin would change. Which is what you might think, I suppose. He had to know bettern that. I’ve thought about it a good deal. I thought about it after I left there with that house blown to pieces. I’m goin to say that water trough is there yet. It would of took somethin to move it, I can tell you that. So I think about him settin there with his hammer and his chisel, maybe just a hour or two after supper, I dont know. And I have to say that the only thing I can think is that there was some sort of promise in his heart. And I dont have no intentions of carvin a stone water trough. But I would like to be able to make that kind of promise. I think that’s what I would like most of all.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men

Stories and the internet

I am periodically re-publishing the posts that I want to preserve from the previous incarnation of this blog, just in case I ever lose control of that site or it vanishes. What follows was originally published on 29 April 2010 on

New technologies have an effect upon the way we ‘consume’ fiction (amongst other things), but they also have an effect on the kinds of fictional scenarios that are plausible if stories are set in the present. ‘Don’t let a mobile phone ruin your movie’ is the tagline of and premise behind a still-current series of Orange cinema adverts (which, although they do not ‘ruin’ my trips to the cinema, certainly constitute a source of irritation).

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The Social Network (Fincher, 2010)

I am periodically re-publishing the posts that I want to preserve from the previous incarnation of this blog, just in case I ever lose control of that site or it vanishes. What follows was originally published on 8 November 2010 on

I got to see The Social Network on Saturday night, a film I had wanted to see for some time. It begins with a character returning home (well, home on campus) after a night out and venting his frustration via the internet. After the movie, I wanted to do the same. A couple of days later, the impulse to get out what I want to say and the opposing one not to spend time and space simply being negative about something are still battling, and are in fact proving a distraction, so I am just going to make a few observations, which make no claim to completeness or balance, so that I can get them out of my system! My points are reactions partly to the movie, and partly to positive things that have been asserted or suggested concerning the movie in its reviews (see David Denby’s piece in The New Yorker for the piece where praise multiplied by prestige of outlet is highest).

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The Road

I am periodically re-publishing the posts that I want to preserve from the previous incarnation of this blog, just in case I ever lose control of that site or it vanishes. What follows was originally published on 10 August 2010 on

This blog contains spoilers.

Most of last week I was camping in the Lake District, and I managed to read a novel that I’ve been wanting to get around to for a long time.

I spend more time than might be healthy worrying about fuel and food shortages, resource conflict, and social collapse – thinking about all the things that need to keep happening to keep society going, and about how I’d cope if I found myself in the position of Robinson Crusoe, or the ‘castaways’ on Desert Island Discs. Should I be spending time learning how to grow my own food? Build drystone walls? Fashion spectacles for if my eyesight continues to deteriorate?! For this reason, and because I was so gripped by No Country for Old Men, I felt primed for The Road.

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The 30 books I intend to read in 2017

Not necessarily in this order…

  1. Graham Greene. The End of the Affair. Penguin, 1962. (Book first published 1951.) 187 pages.
  2. John Yorke. Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them. Penguin, 2013. 300 pages.
  3. Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years. Vintage, 2005. (Book first published 1997.) 457 pages.
  4. Patricia Highsmith. The Talented Mr Ripley. Vintage, 1999. (Book first published 1955.) 249 pages.
  5. Robert B Pippin. Fatalism in American Film Noir: Some Cinematic Philosophy. University of Virginia Press, 2012. 106 pages.
  6. The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul. Composed and arranged by Douglas R Hofstadter and Daniel C Dennett. Penguin, 1982. (Book first published 1981.) 483 pages.
  7. Alison Bechdel. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Jonathan Cape, 2006. 232 pages.
  8. Alberto Manguel. A History of Reading. Flamingo, 1997. (Book first published 1996.) 319 pages.
  9. Dudley Andrew. Mists of Regret: Culture and Sensibility in Classic French Film. Princeton University Press, 1995. 350 pages.
  10. Steve Silberman. Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently. Allen & Unwin, 2015. 521 pages.
  11. Ali Smith. Autumn. Hamish Hamilton, 2016. 260 pages.
  12. George Eliot. Middlemarch. Wordsworth Editions, 2000. (Book first published 1872.) 688 pages.
  13. Herman Hesse. The Glass Bead Game. Trans. Richard and Clara WInston. Vintage, 2000. (Das Glasperlenspiel first published 1943.) 530 pages.
  14. Martin Jay. Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme. University of California Press, 2005. 409 pages.
  15. Patrick Ness. The Knife of Never Letting Go. Walker Books, 2008. 479 pages.
  16. Steven Pinker. The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity. Penguin, 2012. (Book first published 2011.) 841 pages.
  17. Tony Judt. Ill Fares the Land. Penguin, 2010. 237 pages.
  18. Eleanor Catton. The Luminaries. Granta, 2013. 832 pages.
  19. Bruce Springsteen. Born to Run. Simon & Schuster, 2016. 510 pages.
  20. Joe Moran. Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV. Profile Books, 2013. 376 pages.
  21. Richard Feynman. Six Easy Pieces. Penguin, 2001. (It’s complicated.) 138 pages.
  22. James Gleick. The Information. Fourth Estate, 2011. 427 pages.
  23. Richard McGuire. Here. Hamish Hamilton, 2014. 320 pages.
  24. David Hendy. Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening. Ecco, 2013. 335 pages.
  25. Naomi Klein. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. Penguin, 2015. (Book first published 2014.) 466 pages.
  26. Stephen Miller. Conversation: A History of a Declining Art. Yale University Press, 2006. 328 pages.
  27. Sven Birkerts. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Fawcett Columbine, 1994. 229 pages.
  28. Raymond Williams. Border Country. Parthian, 2006. (Book first published 1960.) 436 pages.
  29. Ted Hughes. Birthday Letters. Faber and Faber, 1998. 198 pages.
  30. David Bordwell. The Rhapsodes: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture. University of Chicago Press, 2016. 142 pages.

That’s 11,385 pages. Dividing that by 300 (which allows for a fair few non-reading days) produces a number just under 38. So if I aim to read 40 pages a day, every day, then by the end of 2017 I will have read all of these books!

Small, striking moments

I am periodically re-publishing the posts that I want to preserve from the previous incarnation of this blog, just in case I ever lose control of that site or it vanishes. What follows was originally published on 3 April 2010 on

This is the comment I wanted to leave on Girish’s latest blog entry, which has the same title as this one, but there wasn’t enough space in the comment box!

I’ve been working on Hitchcock’s Rope for some time now. It’s a film full of striking moments (like the moment, already discussed by V F Perkins, where a swing door’s movement is synchronised with a character’s actions, perhaps suggesting complicity between the director and the murderous protagonist). There are two great moments that sprang to mind after reading this blog. Perhaps I thought of them because they’re arresting moments, moments of thought, for the characters as well as for the viewer.

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