In The Shadow of the Moon

One of the reasons for being at the various Edinburgh festivals is the opportunity to get ahead of the ‘curve’ on films, plays and actors that are destined to become successful in the coming year. I saw Murderball before everyone else, and it was festival audiences who provided a seal of approval for Black Watch before it went on a lengthy tour of Scotland, England, and television.
This year the gem was In the Shadow of the Moon, a documentary about the Apollo Project. It was actually made by a British film-maker, but features interviews with several of the astronauts who journeyed to the moon. It also includes some newly-released and restored NASA footage of the voyages. It is due for release in the US where it is set to be a success, one which encourages a little bit of patriotism in a country that has been hit with a bout of Iraq-induced self-doubt.
Noticeable by his absence from the film is Neil Armstrong, who is a notorious recluse. This is annoying at first, but when one ponders the enormity of what he did, I think it is an unsurprising result. Who could resist grabbing him by the collar and shouting “MAN, YOU WALKED ON THE FUCKING MOON!” He has probably been subjected to that kind of hysteria for many years.
And in retrospect, Armstrong’s non-participation is a blessing, in that it gives the other Apollo astronauts a chance to shine (no pun intended). Michael Collins, in particular, explodes the notion that he was somehow “unlucky” to be left on the Command Module while Armstrong and Aldrin made history. The intelligent musings of Collins and the other astronauts on the nature of their heroism and how they dealt with the enormous pressure to succeed is what makes the film so inspiring – After all, they have experienced the nearest thing to a Total Perspective Vortex that humans can create, and the footage they brought back from the moon is a delight to behold, especially on a large cinema screen.
My favourite quote is from Alan Bean, the fourth man on the moon.

Now, I never complain about the weather. I am just glad that there is weather.

Though the funniest is Charlie Duke’s once-and-for-all put down to conspiracy theorists:

We went to the moon nine times. Why would we fake it nine times?

He has a southern drawl that makes it work. Wise, yet human.

Astronaut Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin walks on the Moon, 1969.
Astronaut Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin walks on the Moon, 1969.


Edinburgh residents: Don’t forget the FEAST performance this evening.

FEAST is a unique Chinese intercultural event to encourage greater understanding between Chinese and Scottish communities through a creative exploration of food, film and music.
Edinburgh-based band FOUND and Chinese composer / musician Kimho Ip will be giving a special performance at Eating Place on Castle Street (off the West End of Princes Street), Edinburgh on Thursday 30 August at approximately 6 pm. They will also present other performances earlier that afternoon. Read More

Chili Bowl

The Clocks in Edinburgh Go Forward Tonight

Léonie is tired and emotional after the Edinburgh Fringe, not happy to be back in London.
Spare a thought for those of us still here. Although there is a week left to run on the International Festival, the chaos on the streets ends tonight as the Fringe finishes for another year. For us residents, it is nice to have the city ‘back’ (along with the keys to the flat we have so prudently rented out), but it also seems empty and lonely. During August, media focus is weighted heavily in our favour. As the cultural influence boomerangs back to London, I think we feel the loss.
No more late openings either. During the festival, it is as if the clocks in Edinburgh are put back a few hours, Edinburgh Daylight Squandering Time (EDST). In this local time-zone, 5am is the new 3am. Everywhere stays open later. This means parties and revelry finish later, which means bedtime is later, which means hang-overs are solved later… which means work starts later, which means work finishes later, which means parties and revelry start later, which means parties and revelry finish later. But the clocks go forward again tonight.

The Digital Vigilante

Jeremy Vine tells a story about watching someone get beaten up on a tube train:

I chose to sit there and watch. And I’ve replayed it many many times. I’m very unhappy that I did that, and I now have sort of resolved that if I see a similar kind of situation where I see someone being attacked like that, I will intervene with unmitigated ferocity.

A few months ago I experience a “lite” version of the incident Vine described. Two young whippersnappers were refusing to pay for their journey, or get off the train, causing a rather loud argument with the ticket inspector. It was initially just a verbal affair, until the guard threatened to call the police. They made a quick exit, and shoved him as they disembarked (the cowards). I never thought about getting involved physically, or indeed joining the argument, but I do remember being irritated that my mobile phone had run out of batteries. Rather than resolving to respond with “unmitigated ferocity”, I instead resolved to be quick to film any further incidents I might happen upon.
In late June, Edinburgh’s Pilrig Park hosted the Pride Scotia event. Marquees were erected on the field a few days before. Walking through the park one evening, I spotted a group of hooligans in a pitched battle with some security guards. Remembering my earlier vow, I whipped out my Nokia and began filming the incident for the police and posterity. We can’t be having that sort of homophobia in Edinburgh, not on my patch, no way.
The responses of the young tear-aways was varied and noteworthy. Some of them immediately realised the implications of being caught doing naughtiness on low-resolution video. They covered their faces and made a prompt exit, as illustrated below:
Homophobic Hooligans on Pilrig Park
Ah, digital technology! The citizen’s non-intrusive weapon against Anti-Social Behaviour…
Meanwhile, one fool became rather irritated with my brazen filming. His anger became directed at me, throwing a bottle and a punch in my direction (as illustrated below).
Hooligan throws a juice bottle
The fact that he stayed behind to throw stuff at me proved his undoing of course, because the police arrived shortly after.
“They’re making it all up!” said the kid, when asked to account for the multiple assaults of which he stood accused.
“Well, we do actually have you on film, assaulting people…” replied the officer. The accused kept quiet after that.
Meanwhile, I was getting an earful from my girlfriend, who had not appreciated me provoking the scallywag to further violence with my rampant phone-filming. I could have been seriously hurt. She also accused me of only capturing the footage only so that I could put it into some kind of blog post afterwards. I assured her that this was not my intention, and that I could hardly stand by while bullies made threats. She pointed out that I had, effectively, filmed my own Happy-Slapping, and there was nothing brave or noble about that.
At the time, I was perfectly sure of my actions, but now the correct course is much less clear. I think the problem lies in the act of making a ‘resolution’ to act, in advance of an incident actually occurring. I pulled out my camera-phone without thinking, and my proximity to the action made things worse. Perhaps I should have found a safe vantage point, and got ready to run away if someone approached me. Jeremy Vine resolves to respond with “unmitigated ferocity”, but that might not be the most appropriate action during the next tube-based assault he witnesses. He may end up making a fight worse, and end up beign assaulted himself. Worse, he may end up doing so much damage to the assailant, that he himself becomes culpable, and others have to intervene to stop him.
Each call to violence should be judged on its own merits, at the time. No two conflicts are alike, and intervention in one instance should not endorse similar actions at some other time. If you resolve in advance to go to war, or to get into a fight on a train, then the best outcome is unlikely to emerge.

St John's Church

Mural outside St John's Church, Edinburgh, August 2007

This is the latest in a long series of murals to appear outside St John’s Church in Edinburgh. Positioned at the corner of Lothian Road and Princes Street, the church and its paintings are a memorable sight for anyone who has lived in, or visited the city.
I’m not quite sure what Ahmadinejad is doing in the picture. I think maybe he is walking towards the table that Rev Paisley and Mr Adams have already reached.
It is because of places like St John’s that I can never quite get behind the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as they denounce religion. These authors rail against the intolerance and the dogma of religion… but the people who run St John’s church seem to be of a different ilk. When they campaign, their objections are not related to heavenly crimes like blaspheme, but against more human ills such as poverty and injustice. And where some fundamentalists encourage a divisive mentality, St John’s is a centre for interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism. It has a Fair Trade café, a bookshop, and a hall for meetings. It is a place where civil society actually happens.