A review of the new movie “Spider-Man: Far From Home”

July 14th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This is the second film dedicated to the third representation of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and we have the same director (Jon Watts) and the same leading actor (Tom Holland) as well as a host of other returning stars including Spidey’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and teenage love interest MJ (Zendaya). It is actually the 23rd movie in the MCU and plot-wise comes hard on the heels of “Avengers: Endgame”, so you should see “Endgame” first and, if (like me), you’ve been at all the other works in the blockbusting franchise, you’ll enjoy some allusions to earlier films.

Whereas “Endgame” was big and bombastic, “Far From Home” is in many respects a gentler work with Peter Parker very reluctant to assume his super-hero persona, wishing only for a change of scene and a chance to romance MJ on a school trip embracing some of my favourite European cities in each of which a bridge has a role: Venice (Rialto Bridge), Prague (Charles Bridge), and London (Tower Bridge).

His plans are thwarted by the appearance of huge and destructure creatures called the Elementals and their seeming nemesis, the enigmatic Quentin Beck/Mysterio (the fine Jake Gyllenhaal who gets the opportunity to express a range of emotions).

It’s all immense fun with some new language, including the blip (explanation of how we cope with the five year disappearance of half the world’s population in “Endgame”), a set of glasses called E.D.I.T.H. (a special kind of weapon), and Illusion Tech (a very special kind of weapon). Be sure to stay for the two clips near the beginning and at the very end of the credits.

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Did you know about these air crashes?

July 13th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This week, I saw a really good play titled “Napoli, Brooklyn” which featured an air crash. Only when I went on the Net did I find that the crash really happened. If you’re an American reader of this blog, did you know about the incident?

On Friday, 16 December 1960, a United AirlinesDouglas DC-8, bound for Idlewild Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) in New York City, collided with a TWALockheed L-1049 Super Constellation descending into the city’s LaGuardia Airport. One plane crashed on Staten Island, the other into Park Slope, Brooklyn, killing all 128 people on both aircraft and six people on the ground.

This theatrical experience made me think about a time when there was a similar air crash close to my home city of Manchester. If you’re a British reader of my blog, did you know about this incident?

The Stockport air disaster occurred on 4 June 1967, when a Canadair C-4 Argonaut passenger aircraft owned by British Midland Airways crashed near the centre of Stockport, Cheshire, England. Of the 84 people on board, 72 were killed. It was the fourth-worst accident in British aviation history.[

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How far are the eight planets from the Sun?

July 12th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I’ve been watching the BBC series “The Planets” presented by Professor Brian Cox. It’s a fascinating series and seems to underline that everything is more complicated that you thought with tremendous changes over time.

For instance, the orbits of the planets round the Sun have changed dramatically over billions of years, especially that of Jupiter. But, if we look at the spread of the planets now, too often books represent pictorially the distances between the planets as similar.

That is more or less the case for the four inner-most planets with mean distances from the Sun in million of kilometres being: Mercury 58, Venus 108, Earth 150, and Mars 228.

However, when you look at the four outer-most planets, the distances are so much greater: Jupiter 778, Saturn 1,427, Uranus, 2,870, and Neptune 4,497.

That means that the furthest planet from the Sun is not seven times father away than the nearest, but 78 times .

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The world population of 7.7 billion forecast to reach 10.9 billion

July 11th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Today we mark World Population Day. As a recent article in the “Guardian newspaper put it:

“This will be the 30th anniversary of the annual event set up by the United Nations in 1989 – when there were a mere 5 billion people on Earth – to focus attention on the urgency of our impending population crisis. Today there are about 7.7 billion men, women on children on Earth, a staggering figure given that a century ago, there were only 1.9 billion.

And although populations have stabilised in many regions, in particular Europe and North America, figures released by the UN this month show global numbers are now growing at the alarming rate of about 100 million every 14 months. By 2050, the Earth’s population will have hit 9.7 billion and it will continue to rise, reaching a figure of about 10.9 billion by 2100.”

Posted in Environment, World current affairs | Comments (0)

How big (or small) are the eight planets?

July 10th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I’ve been watching the BBC series “The Planets” presented by Professor Brian Cox. It’s a fascinating series and seems to underline that everything is more complicated that you thought with tremendous changes over time.

Start with size. I think we grow up thinking that the planets are of roughly similar size with some a bit smaller and others rather bigger than Earth. But this is only true of Venus.

Mars is only about a tenth of the size of Earth and Mercury a mere 0.055. As for the giants, Uranus is 15 times the size of Earth, Neptune 17, Saturn a staggering 95, and Jupiter a mind-blowing 318.

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What’s in a name? Depends whether you’re called Craig and Gemma or Jaxon and Aria.

July 9th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

“It could be curtains for Craig. One of the most popular boys’ names of the postwar era is facing oblivion if current trends continue, as the speed with which parents tire of old names and rally around new ones appears to be accelerating.

Lee, Ross and Shaun are on their way out too, according to analysis of changes in baby names between 1996 and 2017, the latest year for which official data is available for England and Wales. The writing is also on the wall for Jodie and Gemma, with only 20 of each named in 2017 compared with well over 1,000 each in 1996.”

These are the opening paragraphs of an interesting article which appeared this week in the “Guardian” newspaper. If you’re interested in the choices of names in Britain and around the world, you’ll find a comprehensive analysis on my web site.

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A review of the award-winning novel “Normal People” by Sally Rooney

July 4th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I recently read “Ordinary People” by Diana Evans and now I have consumed “Normal People”, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, the second novel by Irish writer Sally Rooney. Of course, in a sense, nobody is ordinary or normal, but both these works deal with people who are living quotidian lives with which one can easily relate. 

Rooney’s beautifully written work tells the story of two young people from the West coast of Ireland who, over a narrative spanning four years, repeatedly become friends or lovers. Marianne is middle class and a loner with low self-esteem, while Connell is working class and has better social skills, but each is clever and goes to university and their repeated interactions lead to the conclusion of the penultimate sentence that: “People can really change one another”.

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A review of the Beatles-themed movie “Yesterday”

July 3rd, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Over the years, British writer Richard Curtis has scripted some wonderful romantic comedies: “Four Weddings And A Funeral”, “Notting Hill”, and “Love Actually”. And British director Danny Boyle has given us such work as “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire”.

So a pairing of the two in “Yesterday” promises much. Certainly Himesh Patel as pub singer Jack is cute and Lily James as his friend and manager Ellie is delightful as the inevitably romantic couple and, of course, the music – references to 15 classic songs – of the Beatles is simply glorious (I was in my early teens when they hit the charts and turbo-charged my adolescence). 

I struggled though with the contrived plot device: a worldwide power blackout that somehow selectively wipes the memory of 7.7 billion people and the data banks of the entire Internet while sparing those – like Jack – who were unconscious at the time.

As with “About Time” (another fanciful script from Curtis), this was just too silly for me. And, while I was happy to see Ed Sheeran playing himself, the surprise appearance of another performer seemed a bit insensitive. 

As a rom-com, it is not up there with “Love Actually” and, as a jukebox movie, it does not have the punch of recent hits “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Rocketman”. So a feel-good movie with plenty of humour and charm but ultimately over-hyped and under-performing. 

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Roger Darlington’s World is 20 years old today

July 2nd, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I suppose that, like most non-technical people, I first became aware of the Internet around 1995 when world-wide the number connected to the network doubled. Besides e-mail, for me the great benefit of the Internet was what we then called the World Wide Web (I was never interested in newsgroups or chat rooms or gaming). 

The more I used the web, the more I thought that I should like to generate my own content on my own site. Indeed I was convinced that soon most Internet users would want to have their own site and I’ve been surprised at how few people have a site.

So, on 2 July 1999, I started my own site with the help of my wife’s nephew Martin Rowe – the first piece of content was the Darlington newsletter for Christmas 1998. In succeeding months, I taught myself Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) with the aid of my CWU colleague Jane Taylor and developed the site with the encouragement of my good friend Eric Lee. 

From the beginning, I have believed in the principle of simplicity, so the site is designed that any part of it can be reached with just a few clicks from the home page. Also I firmly believe that content is king, so I have concentrated on adding well-written material rather than decorating the place with spinning symbols. Finally I’m a great believer that the web is all about links to other sites and therefore, throughout my site, there are lots of links to other sites relevant to the particular topic under discussion. 

I confess that my site has now become something of a passion and I’ve asked myself why I love the exercise so much. My answer involves the four Cs:

  • It is creative, encouraging me to develop my IT skills and my knowledge of the Internet, the links especially taking me to corners of the web that I might not otherwise explore.
  • It is continuous, enabling me to work on it whenever I have time and incrementally to build up the content and develop the format.
  • It is comprehensive, allowing me to bring together all my interests from aviation to the cinema, from technology to literature, from trade unionism to travel. 
  • It is cohesive, permitting me to bring into one place previous as well as current work, such as extracts from my book “Night Hawk”, earlier book and film reviews, and of course the one-time Darlington Christmas letters.

I called my site Roger Darlington’s World because I want it to be both about my life and interests and my take on various developments around the globe. I’m 71 now and I often wonder how long I will keep RDW going but, for the time being, I hope that you enjoy it.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (2)

Word of the day: irenic

June 28th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This adjective means “tending to promote peace or reconciliation; peaceful or conciliator’. So why do I choose to highlight the word now?

It’s because the frontrunner for the leadership of the Conservative Party and the post of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just used the word in the latest hustings with members of the Conservative Party who have the vote in the leadership election, as reported in this extract from a story in the “Guardian” newspaper:

Johnson got the loudest applause of the hustings by saying he would take a different approach to the negotiations than May had done. He claimed to be an “irenic person” and in favour of dialogue but argued that “a little bit more resolve is called for and a little bit more sense that we can actually get this done”

Ignoring for the moment the absurdity that a bit more resolve and a little bit more sense could change the fundamentals of the negotiations on Brexit, why is Boris using a word like ‘irenic’ – which at least 9 out of 10 of his audience would not understand – to seek votes?

Posted in British current affairs, Cultural issues | Comments (0)