Scotland’s White paper on Independence

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It’s not difficult folks.  Here’s the argument in a nutshell.

(Taken from Salmond’s opening remarks in the White Paper published this morning.)

“At its heart independence is not about this Government or any political party. (THIS IS A FUNDAMENTAL AND VERY IMPORTANT POINT) It is about a fundamental democratic choice for the people of Scotland. It is about the power to choose who we should be governed by and the power to build a country that reflects our priorities as a society and our values as a people.

I believe in independence because I believe it will be better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland – the people who live and work here. It is my absolute conviction that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands.”  (Alex Salmond)

Read it here.


And before you get all angsty about the SNP, consider this.

Post Independence it’s perfectly conceivable that there won’t even BE an SNP.  They may become, let’s say, the Social Democrats.  Right of Labour (which would be a good thing in my view.  ie Proper Liberals)

The counsellor


The Counsellor opens with Michael Fassbender underneath the sheets with Penelope Cruz having a little, erm shall we say, protein supplement?  Anyway, she’s lapping it up (strictly speaking though, he is.).

So far, what’s there not to like?  Cruz looks ravishing as she approaches 40.  My wife tells me Fassbender always looks ravishing.

It’s a gentle opening to a movie that at times is anything but.

It’s been deeply criticised in many reviews I’ve read for the quality of the stellar cast’s acting and commitment (Cruz, Bardem, Pitt, Fassbender and Diaz) but I enjoyed each and every performance.

It’s also been deeply criticised for the script.  Now that, to a point, I can hold sway with.

As the world’s greatest living fiction writer, frustrated by his screen adaptations (No Country for Old Men and The Road),  Cormac McCarthy felt it was time to put pen to screenplay paper for the first time.

In many ways he shouldn’t have because whole scenes are impenetrable guff.  And the plot is nothing short of labyrinthine.

And yet.  It works.

It’s a languid, stunningly shot (Dariusz Wolski Prometheus/Sweeney Todd) modern day mafia movie/Western set in El Paso,Texas and at times in Mexico.

The film’s plot centres on Fassbender (The Counsellor) who gets himself embroiled in a drug deal that essentially goes wrong.  It gets messy but that’s not really, for me, the soul of the film.

The soul of it is about female power; their power over men, both sexually and emotionally, and that’s what actually makes it both a superior movie but also leads to some of McCarthy’s excesses.  They might have worked in a novel but appear clunky on screen in places.

Diaz and Cruz present opposite ends of the female control spectrum (Cruz womanly and traditional, Diaz a ball breaker).  It’s interesting casting because Cruz smoulders in her advancing years and plays the “girl next door”; Diaz, by contrasts, often looks a bit blokey (yes – come on, she’s always been one of the boys – There’s Something about Mary)

She’s ageing (sorry to be so frank but she looks more than her two score years and one in this) but that kinds of adds to her menace.  For pets she keeps cheetahs.  Cheetahs that hunt Jack Rabbits on the Texan plains.  She likes the kills.

The scene by the pool in which Diaz grills Cruz oh her taste in men clearly positions Diaz as the Alpha female and so the movie goes on to prove.

There’s lots of aA list men in this movie but Diaz is the power broker.

In conclusion. Don’t believe all the negative reviews.  This is a flawed gem that has much to recommend it.




Oh come on!

This is a decent enough movie, I’ll give you that, but the outpouring of reverence over it is excessive.

It’s a chase movie in space.

In fact it’s Captain Philips in space (that too is somewhat over-rated).

I’m not going to go into great detail here because it would be too easy to spoil it for those of you who have yet to make up your own mind.

I saw it (on strong recommendation) on an iMAX screen.  (My first (and possibly last) such commercial exploitation.)

Sure, iMAX is bigger, and LOUDER.  But is it better?


Anyway, back to Gravity.

Sandra Bullock puts in a very good shift, but Oscar worthy?  Surely someone in the movie PR world is having a laugh about that.

Buzz Lightyear provides solid support.

The star of the show though are the special effects.  It is brilliantly realised.  Stunningly.  Almost unimaginably so.

But that doesn’t make it engaging.

It is exciting from time to time.  But in between the exciting bits (whisper this) it’s a little bit boring.

Just a little bit.  But.  It. Is. A. Little. Bit. Boring.

But hey, go see it, make your own mind up.  What do I know?  I’m in the minority on this one and people who’s creative judgement I trust implicitly have raved about it.

But me and my better half just thought it was good (but a little bit boring).

(Just a little bit.)

Captain Phillips


Paul Greengrass has nearly made a very good movie.  Tom Hanks puts in a lifetime best performance as the captain of a ship subjected to a fairly inept Somalian Pirate hijack.  The concluding scene is arguably worth the ticket price alone but we have a rather unevenly judged journey to traverse before we get there.

The opening scenes as the captain leaves his wife for a month at sea are unconvincing and not really very believably scripted but the film quickly settles into itself on board the Maersk container ship that Phillips has to steer Southwards along the Somalian Coast and around the Crook of Africa.

We are then, in cinema verite style, (ie shaky camera) introduced to a band of Somalian mercenary pirates, brilliantly cast by Francine Maisler.  The chief protagonist in this motley crew is Muse played by the raggedy and waif-like Barkhad Abdi.  Throughout he engages us with his his mix of vulnerability and venom.  It’s  another great performance.

Inevitably the pirates board the ship (well obviously – so hardly a spoiler) but both the build up and the time on board are strangely unexciting.

(Dare I say it, almost a tad dull?)

Without spoiling the plot the movie moves significantly through the gear box in the second half as things get a lot more claustrophobic and significantly more epic.

It nearly excites.

But it doesn’t really.

This movie feels like a missed opportunity.  Despite Hanks and Abdi it’s not a gripper and it needs to be.  It has no real political insight or judgement.  The ‘baddies’ are, aside from Abdi, caricatures; at times resonant of the Islamic terrorists portrayed so hilariously in Four Lions.  American imperialism is celebrated rather than challenged.

It has its moments (not least the magnificent closing scene) but overall it’s no more than a 6/10.

My Teenage crime years

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I might as well come clean before it’s too late.

My teenage years were riddled with crime.  Perhaps not of gangster proportions but my array of crimes included these sorry episodes;

  • I was directed by police to dismount from my unlit bicycle after a 12 pint three-legged fancy dress pub crawl dressed as the back to front man.  Having staggered round the corner I remounted said vehicle only to fall off it on a steep descent and broke my wrist.  Crime and punishment could rarely have been so closely enmeshed with one another.
  • I spent a night at the University of Stirling’s Student Union dressed in a very large Army great coat.  On exiting with a stash of 24 pint glasses hidden up the sleeves of said oversized garment I let one of them slip just as I passed the ‘bouncers’.  My haul was revealed in all its glory.  Again Crime and Punishment went hand in slippery hand.
  • My release of a giant sized bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk from the tyranny of life on a Woolworth’s shelf, unaided by a visit to the till area, met with the strong arm of the security man who let me go only on the promise that I’d ‘fess up to my parents.  This I did with the inevitable consequences which was maybe just as well as he called the house later that night to check if I’d turned self stool pigeon.  Small crime, significant punishment.
  • And yes, illicit drug use.  I confess I smoked cinnamon sticks.  Undetected.

It runs in the family because my father, as a youth, not only stole apples but mounted the fence of the Bon Accord Carbonated Drinks Factory at the place where returnable glass soda siphons were stacked.  He and his pals smashed dozens of them in a vain attempt to extract the glass ‘straw’ that sat inside.  (It would have made a great peashooter.)

It was only later, after many pounds of damage, that he realised he could have stolen just one of them, taken it to the local store and claimed a deposit refund with which he could have bought the shop out of ten-a-penny pea shooters.

I mention all this as preamble to a teenage crime of a highly laudable nature.

I can only tip my chapeau to this bunch of highly creative villains in total respect.

A group of five French teenagers went looking for fun after a night on the town.

In the early hours of yesterday morning they released a Llama from a visiting circus and took it on a tram ride of their city.

Simple, elegant, hilarious.

Release the Llama Five immediately.


Why I think, after considerable thought, that Independence could well be good for Scotland.

Think Hard


At no point in my adult life have I ever felt the compulsion to break free from the union of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.  My naive view has always been “what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixed”.

Even when the SNP smashed their way through an electoral voting system that was designed to favour coalitions over overall majorities (with my support – but check out the alternatives, both at the time and now, if you like) I was not even remotely interested in an independence vote.

Since their announcement that an independence referendum would be held at around the time that nationalism could be at an all time modern high (Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in close succession) I’ve failed, until recently, to have my fire ignited.

The reason for this disinterest, apathy actually, has been the quality of debate.  I’d heard little in the way of compulsive argument…

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