Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hercule Poirot. R.I.P. ...


I'll miss the old bugger.

The Last Ever Poirot - Tonight ...

I was brought up on detective and crime stories. Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh, Dashiel Hammett, on to Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard and then more recently, Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankel and Jo Nesbo. But the greatest of all of them was Dame Agatha Christie.

David Suchet, sans moustache.
I have read everything she has written, and Hercule Poirot remains her - and the world's - best ever detective. (with apologies to fans of Sherlock Holmes, a close second)

David Suchet has starred as the sleuth in Agatha Christie's Poirot since 1989. In June 2013, Suchet finally finished filming of Curtain - Poirot's last case, which is aired tonight.

It truly is the end of an era.

No one could've guessed nearly 25 years ago that the series would span a quarter-century - or that the classically trained Suchet would complete the entire catalog of whodunits featuring the eccentric Belgian investigator, including 33 novels and dozens of short stories. The series castlist reads like a who's-who of British acting talent, including several early appearance by young actors who have gone on to great things, and no less than 15 actors who have played 2 different roles in different episodes. 

David Suchet as 'Poirot' in a scene from 'Curtain'.
Curtain, actually, although damn good, is perhaps not Dame Agatha's finest. The best novel (in my opinion) was The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd which has probably the best ever - and most controversial - final plot twist in Detective Fiction, and is considered one of the most influential crime novels in history. The best TV adaptation, again in my opinion, was the epic Five Little Pigs, with an unbeatable all-star cast - although 2010's Murder On The Orient Express was a close second, Suchet at his very, very best, and I challenge you to watch the intense last five minutes with dry eyes.

What Curtain is, is closure. A final act of the great man back at the same location as his very first case in Britain. The novel is tricky and twisty - not only does Hercule not know the identity of the murderer, he doesn't even know who the victim will be. And it is emotional - at least it is if you've come to love the fussy Belgian as I have.

It is time, then, to say goodbye to Hercule. The series will run and run as repeats, probably for a very long time, but tonight is the last time we will see fresh footage... It won't quite be the same. After this, every Poirot will be "I've seen it before and I know how it ends but I'll still watch it."

David Suchet, of course, has been the best man to ever play the role. It has been the defining role of his career, even the defining event in his life. "Poirot" he says, "has been my best friend." He is so perfect that Christie's grandson Mathew has commented: "Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet. I think that visually he is much the most convincing and perhaps he manages to convey to the viewer just enough of the irritation that we always associate with the perfectionist, to be convincing!"

There is, of course, the slim possibility that, just as the estate of Ian Fleming licensed the James Bond character to other authors after the original author died, so the family of Agatha Christie may choose, one day, to do the same. I hope not. Curtain was written specifically to put an end to the canon. Some things should just be let alone.

I remember I started reading Agatha Christie when I was 14. I remember finishing 'Curtain' (I read them in series order!) about a month before the Poirot series premiered. So, personally, I feel like I've been with Hercule almost all my life, either in print or on TV.

I hope you watch tonight. You will see one of the worlds finest actors play the one of the worlds finest ever characters, written by the greatest ever detective crime author.

Below is the official, and rather beautiful ITV trailer for the last series of four episodes.

Cloisters Shortcut, Westminster...

Skateboarder, South Bank, London...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dissecting The #EDL - Anatomy Of A #Nazi Tweet ...

In constant battles (in person at demonstrations and on-line as well) I see drunken Nazi thugs masquerading as 'Patriots' under the guise of the #EDL. When they're not being #BNP or #UKIP, of course.

They tend to rant on Twitter and Facebook quite a lot, making bold statements with no evidence to back them up. About time we took a close look at one of their vile rants and blew it out of the water. Here's a typical example ...


So, lets do this.

"WE ARE BIGGER THAN ANYONE EVER IMAGINED"

No, you're not. I'm sorry to break it to you but Facebook 'likes' do not equate to membership. The EDL peaked in 2011 with about 1200 attending one demonstration, and since then it's been shrinking slowly.

"WE ARE FOCUSED ON WHAT WE WANT"

Nobody is really sure what you want. Your leadership states one set of aims - for public consumption, and the media - yet what the EDL are really about is determined by social media posts of their 'followers', full of hate for anyone who isn't white, British, Christian, heterosexual and right-wing. The posts are full of threatened violence towards anyone different. Perhaps that's what the poster means when he mentioned being 'Focused on what we want'.

"WE ARE THE BIGGEST STREET MOVEMENT THIS COUNTRY HAS EVER SEEN"

Clearly the poster doesn't know his history. Need I mention the Peasants Revolt, the Suffragettes, the Jarrow Marches, the CND Marches, and more recently, 500,000 at the Anti-War Demo, 450,000 at the TUC Anti-Austerity March , and just this week, several thousands in London for the Million Mask March, joining brethren around the world in more than 400 cities. That's a street movement. Sadly, fifty guys drinking Stella hanging around a car park does not quality.

"WE GROW EVERY DAY"

Nope. I refer you to my previous answer. Basic maths would suggest that 'growth' would entail an increase in numbers. Which are decreasing, each demonstration. Today, 150 patriots showed up at Shotton.

"WE DO NOT GIVE IN"

Well, your leader has. As will the next one. And shrinking numbers suggest that your tagline 'NFSE' - No Fucking Surrender Ever' doesn't quite hold true for most of your 'followers'.

"BECAUSE GOD IS ON OUR SIDE"

He most certainly is not. Most Christians oppose you, as do the Church, the Clergy, and all right-minded people. Actually, God really hates racists. He told me personally.

"IT'S NOT RACIST"

Yes. It is.

Now go away.

Friday, November 08, 2013

My 3-Year #Twitterversary - And My All Time #Follow List...

Surbiton, Surrey is leafy and green, and where I used to live was surrounded by trees. I always used to see so much wildlife that I was inspired to hang up a birdfeeder on a bracket right outside my rear window.

On this day 3 years ago, a mini-storm, much like the one we've just experienced, hit Southern England, and I was reading by the window when a friendly squirrel appeared, braving the winds, to attack the sunflower seeds. [Birdfeeder Tip: Fill with just sunflower seeds for squirrels!]




Sadly this little fella was hit by a particularly strong gust and was almost thrown clear, just managing to swing below the birdfeeder attached by one claw. Bravely fighting the winds, this little warrior clung on, righted himself and hit paydirt as, hugging the feeder, he gorged himself on the contents.

What has this to do with Twitter? Well, I thought the incident was worthy of a comment.... but to whom? And then I remembered this new-ish service where you could broadcast messages about almost anything. So I opened my Twitter account with this masterpiece ...

  • Jesus, this mini-storm is really hitting #Surbiton! Squirrel just got blown off my birdfeeder!
    — John O'Connell (@jdpoc) November 8, 2010

Okay. Not earthshaking, I admit, but I soon got the hang of it.

3 years on and I count myself a relative veteran. I've taught Social Media to Charities and Faith Groups, used it to campaign strongly on issues I care about, to promote events I'm involved with, kept in touch with old friends, and met plenty of new ones, both solely on-line and later in person. I've been insulted - and given plenty of it back.

Here, then, is my all time top follows list, in no order at all. (Note: If I follow you and you're not on it - you'll just have to try harder. :-)

The List

@EveThomas40 - Eve Thomas
  • Founder of #OneVoice : Never Silenced. Mum, Speaker #victimseducation. Leading a national domestic violence campaign with @ukbarrister David Malone.

    Writes about her own own personal story and the campaign to create laws to protect Safe Houses. See also @EvesLaw. Very worthy of your support.
@zenpencils - Gavin Aung Than
  • I turn famous words into purdy pictures. zenpencils.com

    He undersells himself. Gavin converts inspiring quotations and book passages into works of beautiful graphic art good enough to hang on your walls. Luckily, he also sells them.
@A Girl Called Jack ‏ - MsJackMonroe
@zen_habits - Leo Babauta
@NoonPacific - Noon Pacific
  • Weekly playlist of songs from the best blogs delivered to your inbox. Snap Crackle Noon Pop.

    As it says. Makes Mondays bearable when they post a playlist of stuff you like and stuff you never heard of but also like. Which is every week without fail.
@halfabear - Emperor von Bunnies
  • Genderqueer femme, pinko commie bastard, abrasive cripple and full-time misandrist. Probably NSFW.

    Always provoking and interesting stuff. Has a menagerie of animals and great camera skills, always a top combination. Eclectic.
@xeni - Xeni Jardin
  • @boingboing, journalist. Breast cancer isn't something I have, but something my body is doing. I tweet about this & all that my mind is doing. xeni@xeni.net

    Apart from Tech News, tweets in a very intelligent fashion about her ongoing battle with breast cancer.
@SonOfTheWinds - TrafficDroid
@AgnesCPoirier - Agn├Ęs Poirier
  • Journalist, writer and broadcaster.

    London-resident French broadcaster who regularly appears on BBC. Speaks well of us Brits, usually.
@carltonreid - Carlton Reid
@prodnose - Danny Baker
  • How Much Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth? Foulenough! Begone!

    The brilliant Danny Baker, Broadcaster, writer, musicologist and general good egg. Always funny.
@KrustyAllslopp - CallEineNow!
  • NOT the one off the telly ... Just an all round gobby girl ;)

    Always amusing and spot-on with political stuff. And a talented opera singer, too. Must try to catch her sing live one of these days.
@fashionworked - Fashion Worked
  • Fashion & Fashion Related Issues Tweets, You Spend A lot Of Time In Clothes, Love Them

    My personal fashion guru. Yes, fashion. Me. Not a natural fit, but I'm thinking of colours now.
  • Author, journalist, feminist, reprobate, gentlewoman of fortune. Contributing Editor, @Newstatesman. Writer - @newinquiry,@guardian, @ViceUK. Tea and sedition.

    The unstoppable Penny Red. Often criticised, always fights back. A must follow.
@WhitsonGordon - Whitson Gordon
  • Editor-in-Chief of Lifehacker. Orange juice enthusiast. Conflicted Linux/Mac/Windows geek. Heretical Christian. Metalhead. Dragon slayer. Tetris ninja.

    The man behind the genius that is Lifehacker - the best site on the web.
@Frances_Coppola - Frances Coppola
  • Associate Editor at http://Pieria.co.uk . Singer, teacher, financial writer, bank refugee. Rubbish housewife. I may not even have read things I RT.

    Despite her self-deprecating bio, if there's a financial story in the news, read her timeline. Common sense explanations and clear views of complex matters.
@GemskaF - Gemma Hibee
  • Loves Edinburgh. Armed Forces, politics and news. Hibernian FC, from the Capital. Pride and pain in equal measures. GGTTH.

    The maddest Hibernian fan ever. Very knowledgeable about football, passionate about the UK Armed Forces. Talks Scots sometimes. See also the heroes of @37_Commando.
@Puffles2010 - The Dragon Fairy
  • This mythical creature used to spend a lot of time in Whitehall, & now spends a lot of time watching from outside. Likes jelly bellies, pistachio nuts & Rioja.

    The Legend that is Puffles. Politics and Cambridge, mostly, with all sorts of stuff mixed in. Had the pleasure of meeting Puffles in London a while ago - but then *everybody* knows Puffles. And yes, Puffles is a baby dragon fairy. It's a long story.
@dexradio - Declan McGlone
  • Lots of #cycling tweets, I'm a fan of all forms of cycling and cycling related things. The occasional rant about other things too :-)

    Essential follow for a cycling fan, especially when a major Tour is on. Really knows his stuff.
@MCNnews - Motorcycle News
  • The inside line in motorcycling. Get the latest news from the world's biggest motorcycling website and paper.

    Well, I have to find out what bikes I can't afford somewhere...
@latentexistence - Tentacle Sixteen
  • I complain, I rant and I swear but people seem to think I'm nice. I have mutant mitochondrial DNA. A triumph of curry over adversity.#Spoonie

    Blogger, Campaigner on disabled rights, occasional TV star, and a fellow Linux and RaspberryPi geek. Jolly fine chap in person, too.
@jonobacon - Jono Bacon
  • Dad, Ubuntu Community Manager, Consultant, author of The Art of Community, founder of the Community Leadership Summit, and slightly mad Brit.

    Started with a brilliant cult British online Linux Radio show - LUGRadio, ends up (so far) as US-based Ubuntu Community Manager. Also creates pretty mean thrash metal.
  • Raising money and awareness, uniting against breast cancer! #MoonWalk

    One of my favourite charities, with whom I've been involved as a volunteer for three years.
@stephenfry - Stephen Fry
  • British Actor, Writer, Lord of Dance, Prince of Swimwear & Blogger. NEVER reads Direct Messages: Instagram - stephenfryactually.

    Because you can't not. It's practically the law on Twitter. The unofficial God of Tech, also, by the way.