the day after tomorrow

The Malcontent on: Snow

Now, I’ve never met God, and I’m sure he’s a nice enough bloke, but what on earth made Him think it was a good idea to invent snow? He must have sat down in His meteorological planning committee, with the Angel Gabriel and Michael Fish, looked at some rain, and thought, ‘You know what? It just doesn’t make enough people slip over and break their ankles. Let’s make it colder, more irritating and more lethal to the elderly.’ At which point, the Angel Gabriel (whom I imagine as a heavenly version of Agony Lad) probably remarked: ‘Banter!’ But, I digress.

Snow lures us into a false sense of security. Like the baby Charlie in the YouTube video, it seems friendly, harmless. So, we rush outside, abandoning the warmth and comfort of our rooms. And then it bites our finger. Or, more properly, soaks us to the skin, destroys our possessions, hurls us to the floor, breaks our bones and gives us pneumonia. Why does snow exercise this control over us? No other atmospheric condition does. We don’t run out into rainstorms, or try to get struck by lightning. If it were raining meteors, you wouldn’t think, ‘I know, let’s sprint blindly outside and try to catch one in my mouth!’

So why snow? ‘Oh, it looks pretty,’ I hear you say. Poison dart frogs look pretty, but I wouldn’t want them falling from the sky. And what about the snow hangover; a city caked in filthy slush, dotted with eviscerated snowmen – is that picturesque?

The point is that snow is a bit like a mad axe murderer with a lisp, in that it’s dangerous, but also quite annoying. Snowballs, for instance. Somehow, the act of compacting snow produces a chemical reaction that turns a ball of fluff into a lump of concrete. Being hit by a snowball is like being hit by a depleted uranium anti-tank round.

Even the act of walking becomes a Herculean feat. No footwear is appropriate. Normal shoes just dissolve, whilst proper boots make you like a train-spotting child-abductor. And have you ever tried combining snow with alcohol? Frankly, you’d be safer combining a steak knife with your femoral artery. A night out clubbing in this weather will end in one of three ways. 1) You will freeze to death in the queue. 2) You will freeze to death on the way home. 3) You will be eaten by a wolf. Yes, that’s right. Snow equals wolves, as proved by the documentaries Frozen Planet and The Day After Tomorrow.

I was tempted to conclude with a niveous pun, such as ‘Snow: it’s snow joke.’ But something more direct is necessary. Snow: it will annoy you. And then it will kill you. And then your body will be eaten by wolves.

-James McKean

PHOTO/ Toby Ord

Much ado about no-one

Shakespeare’s tempestuous relationship with the cinema took another twist this week, as scholars turned on Roland Emmerich’s new film Anonymous. The film depicts Shakespeare as an imbecilic fraud, taking credit for plays written by the Earl of Oxford, and has been met with responses ranging from derision and disgust to comparison with Nazi propaganda.

Emmerich’s films thus far have seen him wreck Manhattan (Godzilla), Manhattan (Independence Day) and Manhattan (The Day After Tomorrow) without so much as a batted eyelid. His dalliance with Shakespearean conspiracy theory, by contrast, has incited vehement rebuke from Stratford to the States.

Fictionalised accounts of Shakespeare’s life are nothing new, Shakespeare in Love was hardly an accurate biopic, but the reason Emmerich’s clumsy foray has provoked such ire is not its inaccuracy but its pretence in posing a serious question to Shakespeare scholars. In a recent Guardian article screenwriter John Orloff countered the critics not by claiming that the movie was a blockbuster which should be taken with a pinch of salt, but rather by denouncing scholarship around Shakespeare’s life as ‘smoke and mirrors’ and his life as ‘a myth’.

Moreover, the movie’s tagline, ‘Was Shakespeare a Fraud?’, has all the subtlety one would expect from a director whose last move into literature was a tsunami hitting a library in The Day After Tomorrow. As such it shouldn’t be a shock that the reaction has been somewhat hostile. Perhaps the surprise is quite how much so.

The response in Warwickshire, home of both the bard himself and a fair slice of related tourism, has been public denouncement of the movie, as well as the slightly puerile step of taping over Shakespeare’s name on various road signs. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust clearly felt that such actions, alongside removing the signs from a number of local pubs, were a reasonable response to Emmerich’s provocation. The Trust not only argued that the film ‘flies in the face of a mass of historical fact’ but that ‘people…could be hoodwinked’ by its erroneous message.

However the most severe riposte came from Columbia professor James Shapiro, author, intellectual and, as the film’s production team found out, sworn enemy of conspiracy theorists. He labeled the film symptomatic of a society unable to distinguish between factual and irrational arguments, going so far as to call it ‘a hilarious and counter-factual presentation’, allegedly even likening the movie to Nazi propaganda.

Emmerich claims that his movie is ‘art’, and that ‘art should provoke’. Shapiro and his fellow Shakespeare acolytes beg to differ. Perhaps the old maxim is true, ‘all publicity is good publicity’; if it is then Anonymous has just bagged a few more cinema-goers. I just don’t think many will be from Stratford.

– Alexander Lynchehaun