Grant and Driverless

Last week I went to see John Grant in concert; it was him, together with a five-piece band performing a mix of numbers from his two solo albums, Denmark and Ghosts.
The Ritz is a small venue, and people were free to watch from the balcony or move down to the dancefloor; when Grant appeared on stage there was a burst of cheering. I was shocked at how physically big he seemed – maybe a result of having seen only a few video clips of him, alone on stage with no props to give a sense of scale. My Facebook posting, when I returned home, read:
“Just been to see John Grant at the Ritz…phwoar! Imagine one-and-a-half Jonny Wilkinsons welded together, with a magnificent baritone voice and a very hunky beard. He’s got great songwriting skills and terrific stage presence.”
I suspect that, like many of the audience, my first encounter with Grant’s music came from seeing Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend. I had glanced at one of the newspaper reviews of this film, and decided that it was probably a worthy, cliché-ridden drama. Still, when it appeared on the listings at the Cornerhouse I thought it might be worth a look.
Afterwards, I was convinced that this was one of the most important films I had ever seen; a distinct voice about two lives that were real, complex and awkward. A year later, browsing the web, I came across Tim Teeman’s review of the movie for the Times newspaper, and was horrified: in his eagerness, TT had given away some of the film’s most tender and significant plot elements.
Perhaps there should be a European Standard for film reviews and trailers…provide enough information to let people know what the film is about but withhold any details that would spoil the plot for an audience. In his book ‘Making Priscilla’ the producer Al Clark gives a witty account of how studio executives can totally misunderstand the role of a movie trailer; one of them even proposed including the critical plot twist as part of the advertising.

For the past couple of years the Daily Telegraph has been singing the praises of driverless cars, which use Google technology and sat-nav to negotiate highways while you, the passenger, can relax with a gin-and-tonic and do the crossword or make those all-important phone calls about EastEnders and the X-Factor.
However, another recent news item concerned a driver who was fined for moving into a bus lane during her journey. The reason? To allow a fire engine to get past en route to an emergency. I’m not sure that a pre-programmed car would have been able to respond correctly to a situation like this.
Presumably there will be no need for police vans, fire engines or ambulances in the shiny happy future of Google-ville, since everyone will lead safe, orderly lives. And there will be no speed cameras, since vehicles will be programmed never to exceed the limits. And there will be no insurance firms, since the occupants of cars have no control over their journey and so there can’t be any mishaps due to driver error.


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