It’s All In A Good Cause

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“It’s for charity though,” said Kevin.

“I couldn’t care less,” said Toby, “I’m not bloody doing it.”

“C’mon mate, don’t be such a curmudgeon.” said Dave.

“I don’t think I’m being the slightest bit curmudgeonly,” protested Toby, “I’m just exercising my free will. I don’t want to do it. So I’m not going to do it.”

“But we need you,” said Kevin, “We can’t do it without you!”

“I don’t care,” said Toby, “It’s stupid and pointless and I’m not doing it.”

“But it’s for charity mate,” said Dave, “It’s a really good cause.”

“Fine, I’ll make a donation,” said Toby, fishing a ten pound note out of his wallet, and then hastily returning it to his wallet when he realised he could ill-afford to part with that much money just to prove a point.

“Don’t be so boring!” said Kevin, “C’mon, it’ll be a laugh.”

“I fail to see how losing my dignity in front of other people is, in any way, ‘a laugh’” argued Toby. “Look, I’m not doing it and that’s final. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve actually got some work to do and I’d be very surprised if you two don’t also have things you need to get on with.”

He turned back to his monitor and continued the largely mundane task of entering information into a database.

Kevin and Dave, who both did indeed have plenty of their own application forms to enter onto the system, continued to ignore their work, but did at least move away from Toby, presumably to try and find some other poor sap to try and coerce into their ridiculous scheme.

As if those two idiots even remotely cared about raising money for charity, reflected Toby. This was all about wasting time at work, showing off to their colleagues and no doubt trying to hit on some of the more impressionable new-starters at the inevitable Friday night piss-up that would surely follow.

Not that they were the only two at it. For some reason the office had turned into a bizarre homage to the worst kind of TV talent show in the last week or so. It was nothing new, unfortunately. It seemed every well-publicised fundraising campaign caused this kind of lunacy, and if it was inspired by a viral YouTube video, then all the better. Apparently that was why someone had assaulted him with a bucket of freezing cold water eighteen months ago. In spite of his vociferous protests, no disciplinary action had been taken against the offender, indeed they had been congratulated for their actions and it was he – Toby – who had been told to stop being so tetchy.

When had work stopped being just about, you know, doing work? Why was there any need for all this stupidity? It wasn’t as if any charities even benefited. For all the supposed ‘fundraising’ that went on, there was no indication that any funds were actually raised. Perhaps he was being overly cynical, but to Toby’s mind it all seemed to be far more about ‘having a giggle’ than supporting any good causes.

Out of the corner of his eye, he became aware that Kevin and Dave had begun chatting to Samantha. This unsettled Toby greatly. There was no way they would be trying to convince Samantha to partake in their ill-advised scheme, which probably meant they were up to something far less palatable. The frequent glances in his direction more or less confirmed his worst fears, but it wasn’t until Samatha made her way over to his desk that his misgivings were confirmed.

“Hi Toby,” she said.

Toby managed an incoherent grunt in response. It was always this way with Samantha. He could never seem to manage to articulate any actual words.

“Kev and Dave have just been telling me what you guys are up to on Friday,” she said, “I must say I think you’re being very brave.”

Toby shot the two conspirators a look of sheer hatred, which merely served to cause them to collapse in silent laughter. He looked at Samantha, and tried to find the right words

What he wanted to say was, “I’m sorry Samantha, but you’re mistaken. There’s absolutely no way that I would ever participate in anything so insane as this. I’m really not that kind of person. I said as much to those two clowns a few moments ago, and now, in an act so unscrupulous and vile as to be beyond description, they are using the fact that I am clearly attracted to you, to manipulate me into going along with their stupid plan. But I’m not going to Samantha, I’m better than that. Instead, what I’m going to do, is take this opportunity to finally ask you to go out for a drink with me some time, which is something I really should have done a long time ago.”

Toby wanted to say all this to Samantha, but he couldn’t.

Instead all he could manage was to utter, in a barely audible mumble, “it’s all in a good cause.”


On Amplifie Également Le Malheur Et Le Bonheur, Nous Ne Sommes Jamais Ni Si Malheureux, Ni Si Heureux Qu’on Le Dit

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“He’s reading Balzac, knocking back Prozac, it’s a helping hand that makes you feel wonderfully bland”

The first I’d ever heard of Balzac was in the above song lyrics from the Britpop classic ‘Country House’ by Blur. I loved that song when it came out, but then I loved all things Britpop back in the mid-nineties. ‘Country House’ was the single that beat Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ to the number one slot, back when people cared about the singles chart. It was the beginning of a faux rivalry between the two that would result in both bands going on to sell lots of records. As a fan of both groups at the time, I loved the whole affair, but it was clearly absolute nonsense. This stuff was in the actual news for goodness sake, and not just the tabloid press, it was the number one story on the BBC news.

I wonder what Balzac would have made of it all. Probably not much. He was French and unlikely to have been overly interested in Britpop. Particularly because it all took place 145 years after his death.

I later came across Balzac when I was studying for my degree in French Studies. There was a significant literary component to my course, so studying Balzac was inevitable. Unfortunately, as I was struggling to master French literacy at the time, reading literature in the language was a little beyond me. I couldn’t find an English translation of the Balzac novel we were supposed to read (Le Colonel Chabert) so I chose to study the other authors on the reading list instead – namely Stendhal and Flaubert, for whom the chosen texts were readily available in English. By the end of the course my French was good enough to have a go at the original texts, but by that stage I’d chosen to specialise in other areas – more of the aforementioned Stendhal (on the basis that I’d already read his stuff) and quite a lot of French theatre, (on the basis that plays are quicker and easier to read than novels).

So I never got around to reading any Balzac. I’m not sure if I missed out too much. Mrs Proclaims has read quite a bit, indeed that is predominantly what she spends most of her time doing these days. We met on our degree course. She was the one who came top of all the classes we were in, whereas I was the one who rolled into the lectures bleary-eyed and hungover most of the time.  She seems to not hate Balzac, but I’m not sure she loves his work, so much as she enjoys the act of studying. We’re very different to each other in that regard.

Maybe one day I’ll read some Balzac. Although, if I’m honest, the Prozac does sound more appealing.

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 11: The Silence Of The Lambs

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Hannibal Lecter is arguably one of the most iconic screen characters of all time. There have been multiple incarnations of Thomas Harris’ man-eating serial killer over the years, both in movies and through a more recent TV series. The most notorious portrayal is without doubt that of Anthony Hopkins, and of his three outings, the definitive performance is his work in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. Which is fortunate for me, as that remains the only Hannibal Lecter film I’ve ever seen.

This is in part due to a general indifference I have towards the genre. I don’t mind a good psychological thriller, but given a choice of watching that or a lower quality action flick starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, well, sometimes you just need to switch your brain off. But a good film is a good film and there’s no denying that The Silence of the Lambs is a very good film. It’s possibly an additional reason that I’ve never really bothered to watch another Hannibal Lecter outing – the 1991 movie is so astoundingly excellent that even if all the other incarnations are good, they still can’t possibly live up to the standards set by Jonathan Demme’s directorial masterpiece.

Winning multiple Academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, alongside an Oscar apiece for leading actors Hopkins and the equally brilliant Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs absolutely transcends any notion of genre and instead is the kind of movie for which there are insufficient superlatives to describe it’s virtuosity.

Hopkins rightly picked up the plaudits for his chilling portrayal as Lecter, but it’s actually Foster who does most of the heavy lifting and her performance as Clarice Starling is really what holds the movie together – she doesn’t get to have as much fun as Hopkins does, but it’s hard to imagine how the movie could work with anyone else in the lead role.

I first watched The Silence of the Lambs shortly after its release, some time in the early nineties. I was probably a bit too young to appreciate all of its merits at the time, though there was more than enough gore to keep the attention of a prepubescent teenager. On re-watching it in recent weeks though, it still seems to be more than a cut above Hollywood’s usual offerings. Given the darkness of the subject matter, and the occasionally visceral nature of some of the scenes, it doesn’t make for easy viewing and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has more than stood the test of time. It’s abundantly clear why there will almost certainly be many more incarnations of everyone’s favourite cannibal for years to come, though it remains improbable that any will ever quite match this cinematic tour de force.

My Poem Is Better Than Yours

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It might seem disrespectful
To compare poems that we wrote
But in a poetry competition
Mine would get my vote

I’m not saying yours is bad,
I’m sure it is just fine
But alas it isn’t really
Quite as good as mine

No, I don’t think as a poet
You can compete with me
But I will try to teach you
To improve your poetry

No more soporific sonnets
Or repetitive refrains
Say goodbye to boring ballads
And quotidian quatrains

Metaphors are monsters
Holding back your verse
And as for snake-like similes
They are even worse

Alliterations are annoying
Personification looks askance
Bang goes onomatopoeia
Who can stand assonance?

You can enhance your work
By trying less hard to be smart
You don’t need all those tricks
Stop embellishing your art

Instead just keep things simple
And stick to this paradigm
It cannot be a poem
If it doesn’t even rhyme

James Explains The Art Of The Nap Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Today represents a tragedy for fact-seekers everywhere, as this will be the last ‘James Explains’ for a while. I might bring it back in a few weeks or I might not. Only time will tell. There’s inevitably going to be something of a grieving process for some of you at this news. We’ll get through this together somehow. There are lots of other people who are still explaining stuff on the internet. You’ll be OK. But, just to tide you over, while you try to find another site that quenches your never ending thirst for knowledge as well as this one does, let’s enjoy one last Q&A together.

Pete, who has managed a question every week, is back again with this query:

Can I ask a question?

Now, it’s abundantly clear that you can ask a question Pete as you have asked many before. You are quite the accomplished questioner. But, alas, there will be no further opportunities for you to ask me questions that I will actually bother to answer. At least not for a few weeks. But you can still ask questions. You can always ask questions Pete.

Bear R Humphreys, who may or may not be the same person as regular contributor Bryntin asks:

Why can’t you stop once you’ve popped? I would have thought that was pretty much the end of your balloon trip myself.

Well Bear, that is a question, and you’re absolutely correct, the popping of a hot air balloon would indeed result in a fairly imminent ‘stop’. But there are other forms of popping. Most of them can also be stopped. For example, if I pop to the shop, I tend only to need to do it the once.

Even in the context of the savoury snack Pringles, which is where the claim about being unable to cease post-pop appears to originate, the claim is misleading. Presumably one will inevitably stop when one runs out of Pringles. Also, I once had the misfortune to try Mint-Choc flavour Pringles, which were a novelty flavour released for Christmas one year. I had no difficulty stopping on that occasion. No difficulty at all.

Meanwhile my friend Andrew, who doesn’t have a blog but occasionally likes to heckle me from other social media (I wrote about him before in this awesome post about Glastonbury and David Bowie, and he was also the ‘Second Bow Street Runner’ in this post I wrote on Friday), queries my assertion from last week that there are multiple ways to nap while at work. Less a question and more of a demand he says:

There are more ways to nap at work? I want to know what they are.

Obviously I don’t actually nap at work. That would be incredibly unprofessional, even for me. But if I were to nap at work I would do any one of the following, and fully expect to get away with it.

  1. As discussed last week, I might  pretend to have a meeting but, instead, not have a meeting and nap in the meeting room.
  2. I might sleep in a cleverly constructed den under my desk, like George Costanza does on that episode of Seinfeld
  3. I might well pretend to have a medical condition which necessitates the wearing of sunglasses at work, and then just sleep wherever and whenever I feel like it, while also looking cool.
  4. I could also make a mask of using a picture of my ‘awake face’, and then wear it over my actual sleeping face.
  5. I could design and make a robot that looks and sounds exactly like me, as per the trope of many a sci-fi film and TV show. Then I could have the robot live my life for me, while I stay in bed. Technically I wouldn’t even have to go into work for that one.
  6. Most likely though, I would just openly sleep at my desk without any form of pretence and see if anyone even notices or cares.

 

And that’s it for James Explains. Possibly forever. But maybe not. You can still ask questions in the comments section below. But those questions could be in vain,

The Horror Of Horology

James Proclaims (4)

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The clocks went forward yesterday. The downside of this is that we all have to get up an hour earlier. The upside is that it is now, horologically speaking, British Summer Time.

Actually, by anyone’s definition, British Summer Time is not really much of an upside. No-one comes to Britain for the weather.

Although the weather was quite nice today.

The snow and ice of recent weeks seems to have dissipated for the time being, although a third strike by the Beast from the East is apparently imminent and due to arrive in time for the Easter weekend.

Which will be nice. Who doesn’t dream of a White Easter?

Just like the ones I used to know.

It seems hard to believe that snow is on the way though, because today was positively balmy.

Not, really summer weather though. More like spring weather.

Because it is spring and not summer. British Summer Time doesn’t actually mean that it is summer. Much like when we go back to Greenwich Meantime, it doesn’t follow that we’ll all be mean to each other. Although we might be, because it’ll be colder and darker and generally a bit rubbish, all of which might engender a slightly meaner attitude towards the rest of humanity. Although GMT does bring a later start to the day, which mitigates the horror of winter a little.

But for now let us enjoy the fact that the days are getting a little longer and the weather is occasionally clement.

I’m still struggling with the getting up earlier though.

 

Magic Penguin And The Season Finale

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Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe, Mystic Mouse, Stupid Donkey, Ed The Ostrich, Happy Rhino, Anxious Bull, Mardy Puffin, Fast Gibbon, Mistaken Moose, and Wise Owl were enjoying a drink in the Shoe and Phone one afternoon.

“Wow, there are a lot of us here today,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Including some characters who don’t usually come into the Shoe and Phone,” said Mistaken Moose.

“I think you’re mistaken there,” said Mardy Puffin.

“Well they don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing!” said Mistaken Moose.

“Actually, on this occasion I think it’s Mardy Puffin who is mistaken,” said Fast Gibbon, “given that Mardy Puffin, Mistaken Moose and myself were all part of an ill-conceived comic device used by the writer when we starred in a Magic Penguin story which didn’t feature any of the usual main characters and was set in a different – though equally badly named – pub to the Shoe and Phone.”

“Oh yes, that’s right,” said Mistaken Moose, “so I was mistaken about being mistaken. Well they don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing!”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Mardy Puffin, “but if the joke is that we don’t feature in the main Magic Penguin stories and never drink in the Shoe and Phone, then why are we currently in the Shoe and Phone?”

“That is a good question,” said Fast Gibbon.

“I’m not sure why I’m here either,” said Anxious Bull, “I’ve only briefly featured in one Magic Penguin story and that was as the punchline to a rather stupid joke about ‘grabbing the bull by the horns’….”

“I quite liked that joke,” said Happy Rhino, “but I too, as an entirely unmemorable and forgettable character, am wondering why we’re all here.”

“It’s political correctness gone mad if you ask me!” said Wise Owl.

“That doesn’t make even the tiniest bit of sense,” said Ed the Ostrich, “and no-one did ask you.”

“You don’t make any sense!” retorted Wise Owl.

“Why are there so many of us here though?” asked Stupid Donkey, “I mean there’s rarely ever more than two or three characters in any of the stories. I should know, I was on the cusp of becoming one of the regular characters until Mystic Mouse came along and ruined it for me.”

“What can I say? The writer needed a token female character,” said Mystic Mouse.

“You’re so much more than a token female character,” said Magic Penguin.

“Am I?” asked Mystic Mouse with scepticism, “Can you see any other female characters here?”

“Well no,” conceded Magic Penguin, “but the writer assures me that he intends to correct this oversight at the earliest opportunity.”

“A cynic might say that this is the earliest opportunity,” said a peeved Mystic Mouse, “ and yet he has singularly failed to correct anything.”

Just then, the door opened and another female character came in. She was called Friendly Goose.

“Hello everyone,” said Friendly Goose, “I’m here to correct an oversight.”

“Oh that’s much better,” said Mystic Mouse making no attempt to hide her sarcasm and thus wounding the feelings of the writer, who really was trying his best in spite of evidence to the contrary.

“Now that is political correctness gone mad!” said Wise Owl.

“I’m not sure that it is you know,” said Ed the Ostrich.

“So why are there so many of us here MP?” asked Fat Giraffe, who was trying out a new ‘thing’ of referring to other characters by their initials.

“Well, this is likely to be the last Magic Penguin story for a while,” said Magic Penguin, who assumed, correctly, that Fat Giraffe was talking to him, even though Mardy Puffin could also have legitimately been referred to as ‘MP’, “the writer has decided, against all reasonable judgement, to take part in that A-Z blog challenge thing in April, so this is sort of like the end of Season 1 of Magic Penguin, and as such I thought it might be appropriate to have a Season Finale.”

“Hold on,” said Fat Giraffe, “aren’t we British? Isn’t ‘season’ in this context more of an American term? Surely this is a Series Finale?”

“You say potato and I say potato,” said Magic Penguin.

“You do know that comparing that way two people say potato doesn’t really work in the written form?” said Fat Giraffe.

“I did know that, yes,” said Magic Penguin, “perhaps I should have used tomato/tomato instead.”

“Same problem,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Anyway, whether it’s a ‘season finale’ or a ‘series finale’, this is the last ‘episode’ of Magic Penguin for a while, so I thought it’d be good to go out on a high,” said Magic Penguin.

“I’m not sure this is a high, “ said Fat Giraffe, “It kind of feels like the opposite to a high if you ask me.”

“Perhaps we should just get Red Herring to show up with another of his misleading cliffhangers,” said Mystic Mouse, “they’ve always served us pretty well in the past.”

“Yeah, ok, let’s just do that,” said Magic Penguin.

There was a brief silence while the ensemble waited for Red Herring to come bursting through the door.

Friendly Goose broke the silence.

“Actually, I’ve just remembered, Red Herring can’t come and do a cliffhanger this week.” she said.

“Why not?” asked Magic Penguin.

“Well, it’s just that he’s disappeared without a trace,” said Friendly Goose, “no-one knows where he is. He just seems to have vanished.”

“But that means there’ll be no more cliffhangers for the Magic Penguin stories!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe.

“I dunno,” said Mystic Mouse, “that kind of sounds like a cliffhanger to me.”

“It does indeed,” said Magic Penguin, “and a pretty feeble one at that.”

“Oh, well that’s a relief, “ said Fat Giraffe, “I’d hate to think we were going to end our first series without a slightly rubbish cliffhanger.”

Will Red Herring be ok? Or will season 2 of Magic Penguin have to survive without cliffhangers? Will the writer even bother to write any more Magic Penguin stories?

Only time will tell.

But he probably will I expect.

And I should know, for I am he.

But maybe he won’t.

And maybe he isn’t me at all.

Who can tell anymore?

A Commuted Commute

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There was a narrow window between the earliest time that Stan could legitimately leave work and the point at which navigating the evening traffic became unfeasible. He had got it down to a fine art in recent weeks, but his decision to field an unexpectedly long call that afternoon had somewhat scuppered his plans to avoid the gruesome gridlock of rush hour.

Consequently he found himself sitting in a near-stationary queue, waiting to join the equally static dual carriageway, that would in turn lead to the Old Cross Roundabout, a veritable disc of despair that could render even the most cool-headed of motorists a seething sack of primordial rage.

The radio was playing an irreverent and satirical review of the week in politics. Stan found it vaguely entertaining, though its inevitable association with a gruelling commute, given that he only caught it on the occasions he found himself in this driver’s dystopia, muted the comedy value somewhat.

Still, the radio did provide some small relief as his little runabout crawled down the slip road towards the next stage of his purgatory. It was approaching the midway point of the show when he finally managed to navigate his way into the left-hand lane of the dual carriageway, though in some ways this did serve to slightly elevate his stress levels, as he now needed to achieve the more challenging feat of manoeuvring his car into the other lane, so that when he eventually did make it to the Old Cross Roundabout, he would be able to affect a right turn.

This was easier said than done, the traffic in the right-hand lane was moving a touch quicker than the lane he was currently sitting in, and he was rather dependent on the kindness of others in order to make his move. He flipped on his right indicator to alert other motorists to his desired outcome. It did not seem to serve as much of an incentive for the right lane motorists to let him in however, so he continued to crawl slowly forwards in the left lane, hoping in vain for a gap to open up.

The comedy show ended and another light-hearted, though less intrinsically funny, show started. It was tolerable as radio emissions went , but rather less entertaining that its predecessor. Stan also became acutely aware of his bladder being fuller than he was comfortable with. He had eschewed the chance of a quick trip to the gents on his way out of the office in his haste to fulfil his ultimately doomed desire of beating the traffic.

As the car crept slowly closer to the roundabout, a left turn was looking like it might become an unfortunate  necessity. He could still get home by taking this route, but it would likely add another fifteen minutes to his journey and he’d rather avoid that given the increasing urgency of his need to relieve himself.

Still, there was no give in the right hand lane, and Stan was loathe to try and force his way across, as some other motorists were attempting to do. The dual carriageway was a notorious accident hot spot and he didn’t want to risk a collision on this most anger-inducing of roads. Someone was bound to let him in soon, he reasoned.

As he edged ever closer to the roundabout and his optimism began to fade, he became aware of flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and the sound of sirens. There was an ambulance trying to force its way through the gridlock. It was  progressing at a speed that would utterly belie the sense of urgency that the sight and sound of an emergency medical vehicle ought to engender. Still, cars were attempting to move out of the way, albeit in an ultimately futile manner. It was, however, very much in the lane that Stan wanted to be in, and so a plan began to form. Eventually the ambulance was alongside Stan’s own little chariot and he gripped his steering wheel in anticipation. As the emergency vehicle moved slowly past, Stan swerved into its wake, before other motorists had had time to react.

Stan had no idea how serious the medical emergency was that had necessitated the arrival of the paramedics and he genuinely hoped all would end well for the afflicted parties. However, as he made his coveted right turn at the roundabout, he couldn’t help but reflect that their misfortune was rather a stroke of luck for him.

 

There Are Books Of Which The Backs And Covers Are By Far The Best Parts

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Today I’m taking the unusual step of honouring (through the medium of doodle) a literary figure whose works I am actually familiar with. Because even I have seen The Muppets’ Christmas Carol…

I jest of course, I’ve read actual books by Charles Dickens. And watched their on-screen adaptations. My favourite one to read was A Tale of Two Cities. My favourite one to watch was the aforementioned Muppet classic, but I generally enjoy a good Dickens tale, both to read and to watch.

And to star in of course, because I have appeared in two stage versions of Oliver! The first was for a primary school Christmas concert. My class did a rendition of ‘Food Glorious Food’. I played the pivotal role of ‘nondescript orphan’. My costume was a bin bag.

The second time was much later in my scholastic career, when I was in sixth form. I had a mate who was quite big on being in school productions and he got the plum role of none other than Bill Sykes. Me and my other friend auditioned to keep him company (and also cos we thought it would be a good way to meet girls – it was not). We were given the unforgettable roles of ‘First Bow Street Runner’ and ‘Second Bow Street Runner’.

A Bow Street Runner was a sort of policeman. We had a line each. We also got to do a comedy run, which wasn’t nearly as funny as we hoped it would be.

I was First Bow Street Runner. My line was “Stand Back! Stand Back!”

Surprisingly Second Bow Street Runner was a slightly meatier role. He got the line “This gentleman seems to know the lady.” He made the most of it and delivered it in a slightly different way for each of the performances.

Oh the fun we had.

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 11: The Specialist

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I saw 1994’s The Specialist in the cinema when it came out. Until recently that was the only time I’d ever seen it, so I imagine that even as a teenager I didn’t think much of it. Many years on, and when I saw it was freely available on one of the web based content providers I subscribe to, I thought I’d give it another shot. And that’s 105 minutes of my life I won’t be getting back anytime soon. Dubbed an ‘action thriller’, it’s not remotely thrilling and, while there is some action, there’s not a whole lot of it. What there is a lot of is brooding and staring and deep contemplative thought, although quite what the characters are actually thinking about is difficult to establish. There is also a lot of is really bad dialogue. Justifiably nominated for a host of Razzies at the time, age hasn’t been kind and it might possibly be even harder to watch now than it was then. I’m not even sure it could be considered as being ‘so bad it’s good’ – it takes itself far too seriously for that.

Directed by Luis Llosa, a man who is probably best known for 1997’s Anaconda, which probably tells you all you need to know about his credentials, the film stars Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Eric Roberts, and Rod Steiger, all of whom are better than this and none of whom manage to bring an ounce of credibility to the movie.

Stallone plays Ray Quick, a man who seems to have some kind of a moral code, but who literally blows people up for a living, and he’s probably the most plausible character in the film. Stone does do her best with the revenge-seeking May Munro, but honestly has nothing at all to work with. Woods, as villain, Ned Trent has some moments which are almost engaging and probably has the most potential to be interesting, but, actually, when he meets his entirely predictable end, it’s hard to care very much at all.

Truthfully, I didn’t hate The Specialist, it wasn’t anywhere near intriguing enough to provoke such a vitriolic reaction. What it provoked instead was a complete sense of indifference.