Monday, 4 May 2015

Why You Should Vote UKIP on the 7th May

The Berlin Wall was an excellent idea - if the East Germans were free to leave to the West its population would have continued to dwindle, starving the state of resources and ending socialism with a prolonged whimper. This is because the only real constraint on the growth of the government is the size of its tax base – if a significant number of people emigrate its finances would be squeezed. The larger the geographical area of the government the relatively more authoritarian it will be since the costs of moving outside its jurisdiction will be higher than for a smaller country.

Imagine a scenario of modern city states. You live in Milan but the tax burden has increased and ID cards have been introduced, however the relatively more liberal Turin is under two hours drive away. You need not learn a new language, nor practically sever your ties with friends and family to live under a lighter yoke. In such a situation many would move to Turin putting strain on Milanese finances , effecting genuine pressure for a  less onerous overlord.  The smaller the state, the more similar it is to an actual business - if I don't like Byron Burger and frequent Hub Box instead, the former could eventually fold so they have to respond to consumer demand to stay afloat. Contrast this with voting within a large state - even if you voted for the winning party, which most people don't, there's no real pressure on them to follow their manifesto commitments as the money keeps rolling in: it's like signing a five year catering agreement with Heston Blumenthal to provide rib-eye steak every day and then for Heston to subcontract the deal to the Animal Liberation Front who will only make vegan sausages. All I can do in five years time is to vote for Gordon Ramsey and hope.

Now you may be thinking where does the UKIP fit in here? It's simple: the European Union. Under the European Communities Act 1973 European Law supersedes UK law: it has effectively declared itself sovereign over all the member states - it is an embryonic transnational state. The EU has a flag, an anthem, a president, a parliament and again wants an army. The project has always been primarily political, rather than economic - note the Treaty of Rome 1958, the founding treaty, goal of "ever closer union". The logic of the EU is a federal Europe: effectively a United States of Europe (USE). In such a situation you couldn't just jump on dingy to Dublin to escape the talons of Westminster, you'd need a plane to Paraguay.  As such, the USE would likely be as liberal as Uncle Joe's USSR. Therefore the primary present political goal is to leave the EU.

The only party with a chance of putting on pressure for a fair EU referendum is UKIP. Cameron is frankly a liar: when he was vying for the Tory leadership he gave a cast iron pledge to party members that as Prime Minster he would have a referendum on the Lisbon treaty; even before he became PM he reneged on his promise. All Tory PMs since 1970 have been radically pro-EU with the exception of the later Thatcher Prime Ministership at which point she was promptly stabbed in the back. If the Tories have an outright majority without any deal with UKIP, either the EU referendum won't happen or it will be so skewed as to make Saddam Hussein's Iraq elections look free and fair.

Now you may fear, and rightly, Red Ed's Labour Party and so wish to vote for the Tories as a lesser of two evils. However, the practical difference in the policies of both parties in government between 1979 and today is negligible. Vote for Red, Blue or Yellow and the ruling class wins. For instance, whoever is Home Secretary will continue to arrogate more power to the state in the name of national security: be it the Charles Clarke's Civil Contingencies Bill (aka Blair's Enabling Act) or Theresa May's Snoopers' Charter.

In the case of a Labour/ SNP coalition this does offer something genuinely different: a return to old school socialism. It would be a bleak time indeed, however it would foster such anti-Scottish sentiments that there could well be a referendum on England leaving Scotland! Not only would this reduce the jurisdiction of the state but also mortally wound the Labour Party.

Finally, if you want a genuinely less burdensome state in the long run your only option on May 7th is to vote UKIP. If you disagree on immigration, the NHS and defence it doesn't matter. The only structural limit on the power of the state is its geographical size - the SNP want to turn the area north of Hadrian's Wall into the People's Republic of Scotland; after a number of years so many would try to leave they'd either have to take inspiration from Berlin's Wall or become a half decent place to live, otherwise it would make Greece look like El Dorado.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Diamonds are LVG's Best Friend: The Way Forward for Utd this Season

Given all the ins and outs over the summer it seems clear to me that Utd ought to ditch the 3-4-1-2 and use a 442 diamond. They are in fact quite similar formations except the central centre back operates as an anchor in midfield, which should then allow the other central midfielders to push on more providing more options further forward. The lack of creativity has worried me much more than the defence. The defence have looked a bit shaky against mediocre attacks but they've only conceded three which is less than both Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. That said, they ought to be more confident when reverted to a back four; also a man just in front will prevent opposition players from moving between the lines.

Here's what my first choice line-up would assuming everyone is fit:

De Gea is obviously first choice. Rojo is there for physical presence plus it's always handy to have  a left footer on the left-side at centre-back. His partner is a bit trickier since its generally good to have a stopper/ ball-player combo a la Vidic and Ferdinand, so you have presence and the ability to begin swift and accurate transitions. We really only have two ball-playing centre backs in Evans, who is consistently injured and recently useless, and Blackett, whose composed on the ball with a surprisingly good passing range but is very inexperienced. I'd go for Evans based on his experience plus when he gets a good run of games I'd expect him to come good - Evans was largely the only constant in the Utd back four which broke the Premier League record for the number of consecutive minutes without conceding. I would though blood Blackett in a good number of games.

But what do we do with Jones and Smalling? I'd have Jones competing with Rojo. With a back-four I can't see any role for Smalling barring ridiculous amounts of injuries. Jones and Rojo are better as beastly CBs and Smalling's as good on the ball as Neville Southhall.

Shaw would act primarily as a more defensive left-back which plays to his strengths; if necessary Rojo can play there as could Blackett. Rafael on the other hand will own the right side of the field providing the width and  attacking options. Unfortunately the only replacement we have be him in this role is Antonio "Corner" Valencia.

Carrick would play his preferred screening role just in front of the back four linking the play in possession and closing the space without it. Blind is a possible alternative here although I'm not sure on his passing ability, both short and long. That said at the moment I'd throw Blind in and Fletcher out- he is so immobile he has less movement than like Han Solo entombed in carbonite.

Di Maria would play as a left-sided central midfielder, the same role he excelled in his final season at Madrid. Starting centrally but with licence to drift left, he's terrorise the right-back with his silky dribbling and put in pin-point crosses. Since Di Maria would likely drift leftwards in possession this means Shaw can stay relatively defensive without sacrificing width. With Rafael bombing up and down the right, Herrera can stay central, passing, moving and always providing options- something we have distinctly lacked in his absence. I've seen little of him but we created far more with him on the pitch primarily because the opposition players have to track his runs as opposed to just watching Fellaini and Fletcher. 

Mata will play in his best position, behind the strikers: it allows him full freedom to unlock the defence with penetrative through balls and chip in with some goals. Some may think Rooney is a better bet here but I'll deal with the Rooney issue below. At second-striker I actually think Januzaj is the best option. With no wingers at least one of the forwards needs to be comfortable out wide. Further he adds more pace and dribbling ability than Van Persie, Rooney or Wilson. Thus he can get in behind the defence thus stretching the play vertically. You may think that Januzaj is a winger but his temperament is always to cut inside onto his left foot- essentially it's similar to Robben's role for Holland. For the pure striker role Falcao is the obvious option. He's a pure number 9 and will dovetail brilliantly with Januzaj. He has a marginally better goal to game ratio in the past three seasons but its his predator instincts that make him the best option; Van Persie began as a quasi-winger/number 10 and likes to drop deep. In a 433 as a sole striker that extra all-round ability is incredibly effective, its just not as necessary in a front two.

Such a line-up would provide a solid defence, midfield control, sufficient width to stretch the play horizontally and penetration up front to stretch it vertically. Add to this the guile from the 10 and goals from the 9, this team should easily be able to hit top 4, probably at Liverpool's expense.

Now to the Rooney issue. Despite all the pundits claiming he is a versatile player, he actually requires the team to be built around him to achieve peak performance- he's more Riquelme than John O'Shea. As a proper striker his hampered by his lack of aerial ability and hold up play but more importantly  his natural tendency to drop deep than risk a run to the far post which can lead to playing with no striker at all especially when his service is limited- he'll become angry and run deep to make things happen; RVP's possitional sensibility is similar which is primarily why they'll never have a good partnership. As a playmaker his first touch and passing is way too inconsistent plus the fact that most of his passes are raking cross-field balls to the Valencia rather than intricate through balls. By far his best position is that of a creative, second-striker- a similar role to what Dwight Yorke played- in a 442- this formation prevents the need to drift wide, thus keeping him in his best position. Unfortunately however finding two quality box-to-box CMs ( as well as wingers) these days makes this somewhat challenging. Our best bet would be:

The main issues here are that Januzaj and Di Maria are starting too wide to be fully effective although more problematic is Blind not having a good enough engine to play the role to full effect. That said this would be a possibility since Herrera could provide sufficient creativity thus preveting Rooney from having to turn into a playmaker. If Mata were to be injured, I wouldn't mind seeing how this would work.

The only other way to fit Rooney in is a rather defensive looking 3-1-4-2 which isn't really an option except against the biggest sides- having Di Maria as the left CM should limit Rooney having to drift wide although this puts great pressure on Rafael to play very high up the pitch to prevent Falcao from moving into the wide-right area where he's obviously less effective.

If you play Rooney you have to give him the best platform and on a consistent basis, otherwise he's awful as we've seen over the past few seasons. Thinking about it, selling Rooney would have been much better business than selling Welbeck. NB. I'm not a Welbeck fan- he's a more skilled but much less goal rich version of Andy Cole. That said Welbeck is younger,  much more flexible than Rooney and would have provided something a little different upfront allowing him to form better partnerships with Falcao and RVP. Welbeck's much younger and on lower wages. We could have flogged Rooney for £50m, stopped paying £300,000 and removed a bad influence from the dressing room. Rooney does provide a lot of advertising and commercial revenue but I think the fee and loss of wage bill would likely more than compensated.

In summary, for this season at least, diamonds are LVG's best friend.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

All The Films We've Seen Since Being Married Ranked In Order

1Toy StoryThe Trial
2Toy Story 3Toy Story
3InceptionToy Story 3
4Batman BeginsLawrence of Arabia
5UpBarry Lyndon
6Kind HeartsMagnolia
8MagnoliaWild Strawberries
10Pan's LabyrinthMulholland Drive
11Mulholland DriveThe Island
12Jane EyreIn Bruges
13Les MiserablesThere Will Be Blood
15The Way BackUp
16The Wicker ManGran Torino
17Notes on a ScandalThe Tree of Life
18Lawrence of ArabiaBatman Begins
19Black SwanKind Hearts
20The Dark KnightPan's Labyrinth
22SolarisToy Story 2
23Toy Story 2The Wicker Man
24Wild StrawberriesDogville
25In BrugesInception
27Barry LyndonJane Eyre
28The IslandDon't Look Now
30The ShiningBlack Swan
31Seven SamuraiMetropolis
32The Imaginarium of Doctor ParnassusWall-E
33Don't Look NowLate Spring
34Monsters, IncThe Magician
35The MachinistPaths of Glory
36BigThe Way Back
37Home AloneA Prophet
38Willy Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryThe Shining
39Wall-EThe Cat Returns
40Enemy of the StateLes Miserables
41One Flew Over the Cuckoos NestMonsters, Inc.
42The Cat ReturnsAmerican Gangster
43Grave of the FirefliesSeven Samurai
44The King's SpeechSeventh Seal
45LOTR: Fellowship of the RingOne Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
46Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part IIBig
47Galaxy QuestHome Alone
48The Lion KingGalaxy Quest
49HellboyThe Machinist
50LOTR: The Two TowersThe Dark Knight
51LOTR: Return of the KingVertigo
52The IncrediblesFull Metal Jacket
53The Magician2001: A Space Odyssey
54Minority ReportBattle Royale
55Edward ScissorhandsNotes on a Scandal
56Casino RoyaleParis, Texas
57KnowingEdward Scissorhands
58Pirates of the CaribbeanPrincess Mononoke
59Throne of BloodGrave of the Fireflies
60MementoThe Dark Knight Rises
61VertigoFour Lions
62Nausicaa: Valley of the WindsThe Life of Brian
6310 Things I Hate About YouThe Lion King
64The OmenThe Incredibles
65The Hunger GamesCasino Royale
66Star TrekLOTR: Return of the King
67Laputa: Castle in the SkyLOTR: The Two Towers
68Vanilla SkyLOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
69Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1Pirates of the Caribbean
70Bride of Frankenstein10 Things I Hate About You
712001: A Space OdysseyThe Return
72Princess MononokeThe King's Speech
73Kiki's Delivery ServiceA History of Violence
74The Tree of LifeThe Mirror
75The Life of BrianThe Godfather
76Late SpringLA Confidential
77My Neighbour TotoroTotal Recall
78The Time MachineLaputa: Castle in the Sky
79Jane Eyre (2011)You've Been Trumped
80The ExorcistMagnificent Ambersons
81SpartacusBoogie Nights
82The Ring (USA)The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
83Rosemary's BabyWinter Light
84FalstaffEnemy of the State
85Brief EncounterThe Thin Red Line
86There Will Be BloodBlade Runner
87Fight ClubMinority Report
88The Sixth SenseKiki's Delivery Service
89The OthersThrone of Blood
90BadlandsThe Ring (USA)
91Total RecallThe Exorcist
92James and the Giant PeachThe Omen
93YojimboNausicaa: Valley of the Winds
94Pirates! An Adventure with ScientistsThe Hunger Games
95A Clockwork OrangeDr. Strangelove
96The Social NetworkHellboy
97Seventh SealHarry Potter Deathly Hallows Part II
98The GodfatherBrief Encounter
99SunshineHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
100The ReturnSuspiria
101Magnificent AmbersonsYojimbo
102ElizabethJames and the Giant Peach
103Logan's RunRosemary's Baby
104Blade RunnerSpartacus
10550 First DatesA Clockwork Orange
106Cast AwaySunshine
107AnastasiaBride of Frankenstein
108Boogie NightsPirates! An Adventure with Scientists
110The Sword in the StoneRear Window
111Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless MindMemento
112The Neverending StoryNo Country for Old Men
113Paris, TexasThe Social Network
114Despicable MeRed Desert
117Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With MeWaltz with Bashir
118The Little Norse PrinceEyes Wide Shut
119The TrialSubmarine
120Source CodeBattleship Potemkin
121MonsterHard Eight
122The Fly Fight Club
123Transformers: The MovieThrough a Glass Darkly
12421 GramsAlien
125Hard EightDespicable Me
126Crimes and MisdemeanorsAutumn Sonata
127Synecdoche, New YorkEternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
128The Straight StoryCrimes and Misdemeanors
129Wrath of KhanTwin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
130Act of ValorThe Long Day Closes
131If…The Others
132X-Men: First ClassVanilla Sky
133AirplaneThe Sixth Sense
134Napoleon DynamiteUnforgiven
135Cast Away
136The Straight Story
137Transformers: The Movie
138The Sword in the Stone
139La Regle du Jeu
140The Fly
141The Godfather II
142The Bird with the Crystal Plummage
143Cries and Whispers
144Monty Python: The Meaning of Life
145A Matter of Life of Death
147Jackie Brown
149La Quatro Volte
150Synecdoche, New York
152X-Men: First Class
153Wrath of Khan
154The Neverending Story
155Act of Valor
156Source Code
15721 Grams
158The Silence

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Worst 20 Films Since Being Married

Following our Top 20 films since being married (for three years) here is our much more controversial bottom 20.

NB. Very mild plot spoiler warning.

No. 20  
  • Helen - Dogma (Cert. 18) 6/10: Trying to be funny and quirky but failing at times. The plot wasn't that interesting and I fell asleep before the end.
  • Swith - La Regle du Jeu 5/10: An un-engaging farce with too many characters and predictable plot about infidelity.
No. 19
  • Helen - Alien 5/10: Setting and alien looked good, but the plot was terrible.
  • Swith - The Fly 5/10: Overacted yet woodenly acted, contrived plot and very squidgy. The dissolve in the first scene was the best part of the film.
No. 18
  • Helen - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Cert.18) 5/10: Disappointingly dull. Laura Palmer seems out of character, wandering around aimlessly for most of the film and it doesn't seem to go anywhere. The usual quirky characters weren't present. The dream sequences didn't help redeem it enough and the beginning of the film was especially long and seemed pointless.
  • Swith - The Godfather Part II 5/10: The father son contrast simply doesn't work. Un-engaging from the outset with a sprawling and unfocused narrative. Way too long. Cinematography average.
No. 17
  • Helen - The Little Norse Prince 5/10: Cute in places, but there wasn't much of a plot and it was quite slow moving.
  • Swith - The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 5/10: A standard thriller with no characters nor substance of note.
No. 16
  • Helen - The Trial (Cert. PG) 5/10: Intriguing at the start, but gets weird, random and hard to follow later on. Not much of a plot, more a philosophical point. Liked the opening animation. Didn't find any of the characters likeable.
  • Swith - Cries and Whispers 5/10: A film about the lack of communication failed to communicate in terms of story and character. Acting was good though and Sven Nykvist's cinematography was excellent.
No. 15
  • Helen - Source Code (Cert. 12) 5/10: Looked promising at the start, but dull after that, as it didn't matter what happened to him. Characters were bad and there was a disappointing saccharin ending. The bad guy was terrible and not convincing.
  • Swith - Monty Python and the Meaning of Life (Cert. 15) 5/10: Occasionally amusing absurdist series of sketches on the meaning of life. No narrative of which to speak and many sketches are too long and try too hard.
No. 14
  • Helen -Monster 5/10: Boring and didn't like the characters.
  • Swith - A Matter of Life and Death 5/10: Interesting premise but went nowhere, pointed to nothing and was awfully predictable.
No. 13
  • Helen -The Fly 5/10: Far too unsubtle about everything. Grotesque costume was pretty good though.
  • Swith - Airplane 5/10: Not as funny as it thought it was.
No. 12
  • Helen -Transformers: The Movie 5/10: Not a very good plot, but some of the transformations were cool.
  • Swith - Jackie Brown 5/10: Too long, un-funny and shallow crime drama.
No. 11
  • Helen -21 Grams 5/10: Boring. Firstly, you had to figure out who everyone was, then nothing interesting happened.
  • Swith - If... 5/10: Saw what they were trying to do with authority vs rebellion but had too many characters and was rather slow and un-engaging.
No. 10
  • Helen -Hard Eight 5/10: Beginning looked interesting, then it was just dull. Didn't care about the characters.
  • Swith - La Quattro Volte (Cert. U) 5/10: The four lives of an old man, a goat, a tree and dust. Essentially the circle of life without plot, characters and literally no music. Some good technique in parts showing with the man and below from the goat. Pretentious but not as annoying as it could have been.
No. 9
  • Helen - Crimes and Misdemeanours (Cert. 15) 5/10: Dull, and hardly anything happened. Didn't particularly like any of the characters and didn't care what they did.
  • Swith - Synecdoche, New York 5/10: Occasionally amusing but subtext is a poor plot. Deliberately quirky in parts which had an uneven effect. Far, far too long. Watch Persona or Mulholland Drive instead.
No. 8
  • Helen - Synecdoche, New York 5/10: Too long and depressing. Didn't really like any of the characters.
  • Swith - Monster 5/10: Shallow, incoherent and dull.
  • Helen - The Straight Story 5/10: Slow and dull (fell asleep). The guy on the lawnmower seemed interesting at first.
  • Swith - X-Men: First Class 4/10: Too many characters, too little plot, clichéd and boring from start to finish. X-Men: Third Class.
No. 6
  • Helen - Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan 5/10: Extended dull Star Trek episode.
  • Swith - Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan 4/10: Extended dull Star Trek episode with some seriously bad dialogue and characterisation.
No. 5
  • Helen - Act of Valor (Cert. 15) 5/10: Really dull war movie. Predictable and I felt nothing for the characters, as all that seemed to happen was running around and shooting.
  • Swith - The Neverending Story 4/10: Humanist saccharine, plot-less, no-D characters. The music is reasonable in parts.
  • Helen - If... 5/10: Not that interesting, could've told the story in half the time.
  • Swith - Act of Valor (Cert. 15) 4/10: Seriously dull American propaganda film. No characters or plot, some nice edits though.
No. 3
  • Helen - X-Men: First Class 4/10: Barely any plot, cheesy and clichéd. Too long and too many characters plus they were bad characters.
  • Swith - Source Code (Cert. 12) 4/10: Putrid. No tension, no characters, no plot and no ideas. American ruling class propaganda against the "new threat"- "the right-wing WASP". Saccharin ending and "emotive" music.
No. 2 
  • Helen - Airplane 4/10: Not funny, tried too hard.
  • Swith - 21 Grams 4/10: Worthy, pretentious, irritating music, unengaging, poor characters, dire dialogue in parts and boring.
  • Helen - Napoleon Dynamite 4/10: Funny in places, but thinks it's funnier than it is.
  • Swith - The Silence 4/10: One note plod about the silence of God, the meaninglessness of life and the inability of communication. Needs to find a plot and some characters.

Honourable Mentions: Films We Didn't Finish

Pather Panchali
  • Helen - Very boring, nothing happened. Characters were dull; didn't finish (1st hour only).
  • Swith - Plotless, witless and dull. Also the mother character was immensely irritating.
  • Helen - Despite one good sequence, it was clichéd, dull and slow. Stopped watching an hour in.
Good Morning (An Ozu Film)
  • Both - Didn't finish - nothing happened.
Only Yesterday
  • Both - Didn't finish - Anime, nothing happened.

Stay alert in the next few days for the fully ordered list of all of the films we have seen since being married.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Top 20 Films Since Being Marrried

On the 12th June Helen and I celebrated our third Wedding Anniversary. Just after being married I began a rating regime- soon after watching a film (this then was later extended to TV series, restaurants, beer and cider) we would review it out of ten in our Film Ratings book. Then, with film only, we would rank the films in order with the score out of ten marking the boundaries in which they can be placed; after a film has been ranked it cannot be moved unless it is seen again or pushed up/down by a different film. This system has its limitations though: looking at the whole list there are films I would now move however it was designed with this type of inflexibility in mind. The spark for this idea came a few months after we watched Darren Aronofsky's Pi. At the time Helen seemed to really enjoy it but a few months later she remembered disliking it. Hence the rating and ranking scale was born.

So here comes the Top 20 with original short reviews attached (they typically become more insightful the more recently we watched them), plus our own version of the BBFC's certification scale but this was very much a recent addition so won't accompany many of the films.

NB - Very mild plot spoiler warning

No. 20
  • Helen- The Dark Knight (Cert. 15) 7/10:  Intense and terrifying. The Joker is scary and unpredictable. I felt the film however was too long and could have done with some editing , plus there were a few minor plot holes. Some of the action sequences looked good and Batman had some cool gadgets.
  • Swith - Pan's Labyrinth 8/10: Too predictable but well shot and acted with some interesting neo-Gnostic concepts.
No. 19
  • Helen - Black Swan 7/10: Excellent leading lady, gory and scary in places. 
  • Swith - Kind Hearts and Coronets 8/10: Slow start but picked up, good ending, funny.
No. 18
  • Helen - Lawrence of Arabia 7/10: Slow but engrossing
  • Swith - Batman Begins (Cert. 12) 8/10:  An exciting story with a strong theme although the latter is heavy handed in places. Batman's character is well drawn with extremely likeable characters played by Freeman and Caine. Surprisingly amusing throughout. Could have been trimmed somewhat.
No. 17
  • Helen - Notes on a Scandal 8/10: Interesting and built up well. Judi Dench acted well.
  • Swith - The Tree of Life 8/10: Interesting and visually stunning non-linear story about evolution, death and faith. Clearly way too long in parts though the family scenes and child acting were excellent. The music was great too. A shame the earnest voice-overs and somewhat pat-pantheism spoil the film.
No. 16
  • Helen - The Wicker Man 8/10: Great mystery revealed step by step.
  • Swith - Gran Torino (Cert. 15) 8/10: A very funny but sober tale of immigration, modern manhood and growing up. Possibly a little slow in places and some of the characters a little cliched but ultimately very rewarding. Eastwood's grumpy old man is very charismatic. 
No. 15
  • Helen - The Way Back  (Cert. 12) 8/10: An interesting film about journeying across countries. Great variety of back drops. Some good characters and funny in places.
  • Swith - Up (Cert. U) 8/10: A surprisingly profound tale of family and adventure. Excellent beginning but loses momentum in parts. Clever design but the music is just above average. 
No. 14
  • Helen - Aladdin 8/10: Entertaining, nice story and good music.
  • Swith - Rashomon 8/10: Great exposition of human nature and the nature of truth especially in the judicial context.
No. 13
  • Helen - Les Miserables (Cert. 12) 8/10: Excellent music. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway were excellent at acting whilst singing their parts. It was however a little one dimensional and could've been more cinematic. Brought back good memories of singing in a choir at school.
  • Swith - There Will Be Blood (Cert. 15) 8/10: Excellent dialogue free opening. An enigmatic contrast of a charismatic preacher and primarily an oil tycoon who will do anything to get to the top. Beautifully shot and had well crafted sequences. Also all the violence was painful. Music was intense but somewhat one note which could also be levelled at the theme. Narratively, loses its way in the third act.
No. 12 
  • Helen - Jane Eyre (1943) 8/10: Very good story and pace. Liked the characters. A tad predictable.
  • Swith - In Bruges 8/10: Funny black comedy with very believable characters and redemptive themes (also rather gory in places)
No. 11
  • Helen - Mulholland Drive 8/10: Bizarre, but very interesting - takes a while to figure out (watch again)
  • Swith - The Island 8/10: The bleak landscape is beautifully shot but is given warmth by the fire and humour. Richly textured, disturbing in parts but ultimately redemptive.
No. 10
  • Helen - Pan's Labyrinth 8/10: Full of suspense, fairy tale.
  • Swith - Mulholland Drive 8/10: Oblique deconstruction of the nature of acting, narcissism and Hollywood. Great visuals and scene composition.
No. 9
  • Helen - Dogville (Cert. 15) 8/10: Unpredictable. Seemed a little dull at first, but then became engrossing. The ending was also surprising and interesting.
  • Swith - Moon 8/10: Sam Rockwell gives a great performance and this is an intriguing film. Interesting take on what it is to be human.
No. 8
  • Helen - Magnolia 8/10: Great film, imaginative, interesting and moves quickly. Positive outlook on confession and forgiveness.
  • Swith - Wild Strawberries 8/10: Multi-layered portrayal of a man's life, great dream sequences, standard Bergman existentialism. 
No. 7
  • Helen - Moon 8/10: Sam Rockwell gives a great performance and this is an intriguing film.
  • Swith - Solaris 8/10:  Unnerving in parts and unpredictable. An interesting study of guilt and repentance. Great sci-fi and intriguing ending. Too slow in parts but good visuals. 
No. 6
  • Helen - Kind Hearts and Coronets 8/10: Funny and entertaining, good ending.
  • Swith - Magnolia 9/10: Operatic, cinematic take on truth and deceit.
No. 5
  • Helen - Up 8/10: Cute adventure story that is tear-inducing in places. Funny, but some of the humour is lost on a second viewing.
  • Swith - Barry Lyndon 9/10: Great visuals, music and stately but unpredictable and interesting. Stylishly directed but maybe slightly coldly.
  • Helen - Batman Begins (Cert. 12) 8/10: Interesting and exciting. Nice to see how Batman develops as a character. Plot though is over dramatic and unrealistic at times. Batman, Lucien Fox and Alfred are likeable.
  • Swith - Lawrence of Arabia (Cert. PG) 9/10: Before the intermission it is incredible: beautiful images of the desert, a sweeping journey of one man searching for meaning with a glorious soundtrack; it was also surprisingly amusing throughout. Excellently drawn supporting cast flanking the mesmerising O'Toole. After the intermission though Lawrence's fall is too quick and loses narrative cohesion.
  • Helen - Inception 8/10: Excellent action and intensity; as good as last time - worth the rewatch.
  • Swith - Toy Story 3 9/10: A great finish to a great trilogy. Not as efficient as the original and has an irritating plot contrivance: Mrs Potato Head's eye. Nice anti-communist film too plus a film about moving on.
No. 2
  • Helen - Toy Story 3 9/10: Didn't like it quite as much as last time, however, still an excellent story, funny in places with interesting characters. Great music once again.
  • Swith - Toy Story 9/10: Snappy plot and dialogue. Great characters and music. Very funny but also has great depth: realising that you were made for someone and that is where you find your true happiness. Lacks only visual flair.
No. 1
  • Helen - Toy Story 10/10: Snappy plot and dialogue. Great characters and music.
  • Swith - The Trial (Cert. PG) 10/10: Absolutely brilliant. Excellently shot, acted, edited and scored. A great exposé of the corruption of government and the place of sex in a meaningless universe.

Stay alert in the next few days for our worst 20 films.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Libertarianism, Christianity and Gay Marriage

The whole gay marriage push is historically interesting since 30 years ago most of the homosexual movement were and probably still are, bohemians who rather than get married would rather liberate heterosexuals from the bourgeois constraints of marriage. For an excellent discussion of this, listen to this podcast.

Given a libertarian society, i.e. no taxation, there would be no immediate financial for being married, although in the UK these days it actually pays to be unmarried in some cases due to the welfare system. So why would anyone get married? On the finance front the most obvious reason is children- if one party abandons the other then without a marriage contract the abandoned would be burdened with the costs of raising the children; it also helps in determining inheritance of property. Now for obvious biological reasons consistent homosexuals cannot reproduce. The homosexual libertarian Justin Raimondo makes a case against gay marriage mainly in regards the lack of children here.

Another reason would be love as such they want to objectify their life long love and relationship, which would include some homosexuals. The problem with this as it presently legally stands, at least in the UK, is that marriage is no longer for life. At a marriage ceremony there is no declaration of lifelong commitment, nor a vow of faithfulness.

However one of the major reasons for marriage, in the West, is the legacy, or belief, of the Christian doctrine that marriage is ordained by God between a man and women. It holds that men and women are equal in dignity, but different and complementary and that the proper place for sexual activity is in a life long marriage. Now since sex implies children this is all wrapped up together with God's command to Adam and Eve to multiply and subdue the Earth. Lest anyone argue that the Bible is anti-sex this quote from Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 will be of interest:

The husband must [a]fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a

time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and [b]come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The underlying problem of the whole gay marriage movement is its egalitarianism - men and women are essentially interchangeable. There's no need for fathers and mothers, or husbands and wives but of loving carers and life partners. This attitude reminds me of the male member of the People's Front Judea (I think) in The Life of Brian who wanted to bear children. Other members argued for his right to bear children when John Cleese's character responds something like he needs to sort his problems with reality. In a way it is directly related to the tabula rasa, nature vs nurture threads that have appeared recently: mankind is not infinitely malleable, he has a nature. It is obvious for anyone that men and women are different and that biological differences are an obvious pointer to that. In a way egalitarianism rejects the comparative advantages of the sexes and as such is destructive to civilisation. The present lack of specialsation of roles especially relating to children is due to the welfare system which encourages mothers to work outside the home; note also though the schooling system is one massive and expensive babysitting service.

Now given the reason of children and the innate differences between men and women the incidence of gay marriage, in a libertarian society would be rather low and as such the big push for it seems somewhat odd. There may be some genuine support for it but it seems as though it is a symbol of a liberal's purity at present. Further though it is being co-opted by the ruling class as a further means of egalitarian leveling which will make we the ruled easier to exploit when our natural allegiances have been weakened.

Now clearly gay marriage should not be illegal but it should not be promoted. Libertarians and conservatives should, rather than oppose the gay marriage, support and advocate parallel marriage contracts. In particular allowing Churches the power to make those, men and women, who marry in their buildings sign a weightier, more traditional contract which can be enforced in the courts. This essentially means divorce is harder and the obligations placed on both parties is higher- it would again be a serious commitment rather than the fleeting one it is increasingly becoming; this would require Christians to again look at what are legitimate grounds for divorce and remarriage which many thought we could forget after the controversies of the 80s and 90s.  If this is seen to be successful, which I expect it would given man's nature, then it would then displace the statist marriage we have at present. and result in a more stable and prosperous society.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Creation Museum in Kentucky

On my recent road trip around the USA I visited the Creation Musuem and here are my thoughts.

Firstly it is technically impressive. The animatronic exhibits are excellent and the feel of the entire place is one of quality; they’ve clearly spent a lot of money on the place. They also have many audio visual exhibits which cuts down on the amount of reading required; I really dislike museums that have walls and walls of text to read. The videos they play are normally rather short so you are constantly moving rather than stuck watching a video for half an hour. As an aside the more explicitly sciencey short videos were the most interesting item there. They also had some lovely gardens and a zoo but we didn’t see much of them due to time constraints.

The aim, as I understood it, was to show that everyone looks at the world with a particular lense which is non-neutral- the examples used were atheism and Christian theism- but with a greater emphasis on the Biblical narrative making sense of the universe particularly 6 Day Creation, Fall, the Flood, Babel and finally Christ. Consequently the amount of science content was proportional low; most of it was focused around geology which was quite informative.

It did not though succeed even on its own terms: the worldview analysis was rather shallow and misleading at times- it was hardly assumption quaking; the Biblical narrative exposition was good although it felt as it was focused towards Christians rather convincing others of it i.e. far too little of actual creation evolution debate (and anthropology). It took me a while to figure out the purpose of the museum.

If you are a Creationist or an Evolutionist of any stripe it doesn’t provide enough science to get your teeth into. If you are a non-Christian it won’t convince you of the Biblical narrative since it doesn’t adequately engage with non-Christian narratives.

All in all, a missed opportunity and an expensive one at that- not cheap especially if you took a family (it’s deliberately kid friendly but there are clearly adult exhibits). So if you are a Creationist or an Evolutionist I’d say go to some botanic gardens and read some books on the subjects.